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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


Hymn in honour of *John, the Apostle and Evangelist (S00042), composed in Latin presumably in Spain in the 7th c.

Evidence ID

E06533

Type of Evidence

Liturgical texts - Hymns

Literary - Poems

Hymnodia Hispanica, Hymn 139

IN SANCTI IOHANNIS EVANGELISTAE

AD VESPERAS

'In honour of saint John the Evangelist'

Strophes 1–2 (vv. 1–6) praise John as a chosen one who obtained eternal life and as the one who received a prophecy when living in the island of Pathmos. Strophes 3–5 (vv. 7–15) praise him as the one who took care of *Mary, Mother of Christ (S00033). In strophe 6 (vv. 16–18) it is said that John had foreknowledge of the moment of his death and therefore prepared a grave which he entered while still alive.

(7) Te rogamus, te precamur, sancte Xristi apostole,
20 tolle pestem, aufer ulcus et fobeto languidos,
pelle morbum, cede hostem et remobe scandalum.

(8) Non adurat terram ignis, aerem non sauciet,
non refundat ultionis triste celum turbines,
non reclinet in ruinam orbem ira funditus.

(9)
25 Decidat delictum omne, subsequatur gratia,
auferatur culpa tota, sit salutis copia,
sit remota cuncta lues, augeatur caritas.

'(7) We ask you, we beg you, o holy Apostle of Christ, take plague and disease from us, help the weak, repel diseases, keep enemies away and remove scandals.

(8) Do not let fire scorch the earth nor damage air, and may the stern sky not pour forth hurricanes of vengeance nor let the wrath bring the world to complete ruin.

(9) Let all offences go away and let grace follow. Let all guilt be taken away and let be there abundance of salvation, let all calamity be far away and let charity increase.'

Here follows the strophe with the doxology.

Text: Sánchez 2010: 471-73. Translation and summary M. Szada.

Liturgical Activities

Service for the saint
Chant and religious singing

Festivals

Saint’s feast

Non Liturgical Activity

Prayer/supplication/invocation
Composing and translating saint-related texts

Source

The hymn, written in quantitative trochaic septenarii, has been dated by Pérez de Urbel (1926, 124) to the 7th century on stylistic grounds. This dating was accepted by Szöverffy 1998, 37. Fábrega Grau (1950, 201) called the Hispanic origin of the hymn into question, especially since it can be found in non-Hispanic manuscripts (see Blume 1897, 198). There are epigraphic ($E###, $E###) and liturgical ($E###) traces of the cult of John the Evangelist in Hispania in the 6th and 7th century but they do not provide independent confirmation that the Latin version of the Martyrdom of John, translating the Greek text included in the Passionaries of Cardeña (10th c., British Library, London, ms. 25600) and of Silos (11th c., Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. 2179), was already known in the 7th century.

From among the Hispanic manuscripts, the hymn is preserved in
Psalmi Cantica et Hymni, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional ms. 10001 (9th-11th c.); Varia Officia et Missae, Toledo, Archivo Catedral 35.7 (9th-11th c.); Officia Toletana, London, British Library ms. 30844 (9th-11th c.); and Psalmi Cantica et Hymni, London, British Library ms. 30851 (11th c.).

Pérez de Urbel's method of dating hymns:
Josef Pérez de Urbel's method is based on two preliminary assumptions:
a) that the bulk of the Hispanic liturgy was composed in the 7th century, the 'golden age' of the Hispanic Church, and that important intellectual figures of this period (Braulio of Saragossa, Isidore of Seville, Eugenius of Toledo, et al.) participated in its creation;
b) that the liturgy was, nevertheless, still developing and changing in the period after the Arab invasion, and therefore, many texts which we find in 9th, 10th, and 11th century liturgical manuscripts might be of more recent date. Some hymns can be dated to the period after 711, for instance if they mention 'hagaric oppression' or if they are in honour of saints whose cult was imported later to Spain (they do not feature in earlier literary and epigraphic evidence, nor are attested in the oldest liturgical book from Hispania, the
Orationale Visigothicum).

It is more difficult to identify the hymns which are certainly from before 711. To this group Pérez de Urbell usually attributed hymns with a probable attribution to an author from the 7th century (like Braulio of Saragossa or Quiricius of Barcelona), and those which were stylistically close to the poetry of Eugenius of Toledo from the 7th century.

Pérez de Urbell then compared two groups of the hymns and noticed the following:
a) late hymns contain 'barbarisms' and solecisms, while early ones are written in correct classical Latin;
b) late hymns are composed in rhythmic metres, early ones are frequently in the correct classical metres; that, up until the end of the 7th century, people still could compose in e.g. hexameters is confirmed by epigraphical evidence; these metric inscriptions disappear from the 8th century onwards; the 8th and 9th century authors who make attempts at writing in classical (quantitative) metres, always make mistakes;
c) some rhythmical poetry could nevertheless be early;
d) although both early and late hymns sometimes have rhymes, perfect rhymes occur only in late hymns.

In the absence of any certain indications for dating, Pérez de Urbell assumed that a hymn is early if at least two requirements were met: the Latin is 'correct' and there are no perfect rhymes. He also considered early every hymn composed in a quantitative metre.


Bibliography

Edition:
Castro Sánchez, J.,
Hymnodia hispanica (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 167; Turnhout: Brepols, 2010).

Castro Sánchez, J.,
Hymnodia hispánica (Corpus Christianorum in Translation 19; Turnhout: Brepols, 2014). Spanish translation.

Further reading:

Blume, C.,
Die Mozarabischen Hymnen des alt-spanischen Ritus (Leipzig, 1897).

Diaz y Diaz, M.C.,
Códices visigóticos en la monarquía leonesa (León: Centro de Estudios e Investigación "San Isidoro", 1983).

Fábrega Grau, Á.,
Pasionario hispánico (Madrid, Barcelona: Atenas A.G., 1953).

Férotin, M.,
Le Liber Mozarabicus sacramentorum et les manuscrits mozarabes (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1912).

Norberg, D.,
An Introduction to the Study of Medieval Latin Versification (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2004).

Pérez de Urbel, J., "Origen de los himnos mozárabes,"
Bulletin Hispanique 28 (1926), 5-21, 113-139, 209-245, 305-320.

Pinell, J. M., "Fragmentos de códices del antiguo Rito hispánico,"
Hispania Sacra 17 (1964), 195-229.

Szövérffy, J.,
Iberian Latin Hymnody: Survey and Problems (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998).


Record Created By

Marta Szada

Date Last Modified

05/11/2019

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of Christvirgo, materCertain
S00042John, the Apostle and EvangelistIohannes EvangelistaCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Marta Szada, Cult of Saints, E06533 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E06533