Monday, July 04, 2022

Interesting Saints on July 4th

In the Middle Ages, very few churches celebrated July 4th as a day within the octave of Ss Peter and Paul as Rome itself did. In most places, it was kept as a secondary feast of one of Western Christianity’s most popular Saints, Martin of Tours, commemorating the anniversary of both his ordination and the translation of his relics. The origin of this commemoration is narrated by the famous historian St Gregory of Tours, who succeeded to that see about two centuries after Martin did. The following excerpt from his book “On the Miracles of St Martin” was read at Matins of the feast in the breviary of Sarum.
The modern basilica of St Martin of Tours, built between 1886 and 1924 to replace a great medieval basilica which was destroyed during the Revolution. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by rene boulay, CC BY-SA 3.0.)
“In the 64th year after the passing of the most glorious lord Martin, the blessed Perpetuus obtained the dignity of the See of Tours… and decided to set the foundations of a church over (Martin’s) blessed body greater than that which has had been. … When the desired time came for the priest (i.e. bishop) to dedicate the church, and translate the holy body from where it had been buried, Perpetuus brought together to the feast day the nearby bishops, and no small multitude of the abbots are various clerics. And because he wanted to do this on July 1st, after they had kept a vigil through the night, in the morning, they took a hoe, and began to dig out the dirt which was over the sacred tomb. Once it was uncovered, they put their hands to it to move it, and the work of whole multitude could do nothing at all (by way of moving it) for the whole day.
(This happens again the next day, after which) of the clerics said, “You know that after these three days, was the beginning of his episcopacy, and perhaps he is admonishing us that it is on that day that he wishes us to move him.” Then giving themselves over to fasting and pray and continual silence day and night, they passed the three days … but on the fourth day, coming and putting their hands (on) it, they were completely unable to move the sarcophagus. Being all then thoroughly terrified, and ready to cover over the vessel which they had uncovered, there appeared a venerable old man with hair, and white like snow in his appearance, saying that he was an abbot, and he said to them, “How long will you be confused and (thus) delay? Do you not see the lord Martin standing there, and ready to help you if you put your hands to it? Then casting aside his cloak, he put his hand on the sarcophagus with the rest of the priests… and (thus) at last at the attempt of the old man, the sarcophagus was moved with the greatest ease, and brought to the place where it is now venerated by the Lord’s favour. And being set in its place as the bishop wished, when the Mass was said, they went to a banquet, and looking diligently for the old man, they did not find him anywhere. Nor was there any man who had seen him leave the church. I beieve that it was some angelic power, which proclaimed that it saw the blessed (Martin), and thereafter appeared no more.”
The tomb of St Martin in the crypt.
The Use of Sarum also kept feasts of the four other relic translations in July: St Thomas of Canterbury on the 7th, St Benedict on the 11th (this feast was kept in many other parts of Europe), St Swithin and Companions on the 16th, and St Osmund on the 17th. For this reason, a general feast of all relics was also instituted for the Sunday following July 7th.
In many parts of Germany, however, July 4th is the feast of St Ulrich. He was born in the Bavarian city of Augsburg in 890, and studied at the famous monastery of St Gallen in Switzerland; in 924, was appointed to succeed his own uncle as bishop of his native place. The Magyars, not yet converted to Christianity, frequently attacked the southern and eastern parts of the Holy Roman Empire, and shortly before his appointment had raided Augsburg and destroyed its cathedral. Ulrich built a temporary church to replace it, and devoted himself entirely to divine services, beginning with Matins in the early hours of the morning, and the caring for the people both spiritually and temporally. In 955, he successfully preserved the city from another Magyar assault, personally taking charge of the defences until an imperial army could relieve it. He died on July 4, 973, and has the distinction of being the first Saint canonized by the Pope through a formal process.
St Ulrich, ca. 1510, by the painter Leonard Beck (1480 ca. - 1542) a native of Augsburg. Ulrich is often show holding a fish, inference to a legend that he once was traveling, and forgot to eat his meal until it had gone past midnight of a fast day. On opening his container of provisions, he found that the meat had been miraculously turned into fish so he could eat it.
In some parts of Eastern Europe, especially Bohemia, today is the feast of a Saint called Procopius, not to be confused with the 4th-century martyr of the same name noted in the Martyrology on July 8th. He was a married man who later became a hermit, and like so many truly holy hermits, attracted many disciples (thereby effectively ceasing to be a hermit). After his death in 1053, this community was organized into a Benedictine monastery that celebrated the liturgy in Church Slavonic. I have not been able to find a source to verify whether they were using it for the Roman Rite, as was done in some parts of Croatia even until modern times, or if they were of the Byzantine Rite, but in any case, the tradition ended at the end of the 11th century. Procopius was canonized in 1204 by Pope Innocent III, and has long been venerated as one of the patrons of the Kingdom of Bohemia.
UPDATE: My thanks to Mr Jiří Emmer, who kindly inquired with some knowledgeable persons in Prague, and informs me that there are no records of how the liturgy was celebrated in St Procopius’ monastery. Circumstantially, it seems more likely that it would have been the Roman Rite in Church Slavonic, since the Byzantine liturgy was not used by any of the monastic communities with which he was associated, or which evangelized the region.
St Procopius, together with St Vicent Ferrer, on one of the decorative pillars of the Charles Bridge in Prague. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by ZP, CC BY-SA 2.5)
In the treasury of the cathedral of Reims in France there is kept a Gospel book written partly in the Cyrillic alphabet, and partly in the early Slavic script known as Glagolitic. The Glagolitic parts are pericopes that follow the tradition of the Roman Rite. The true origin of this manuscript is unknown, but it was long attributed to the hand of St Procopius. After being lost during the Hussite wars of the 15th century, it passed through various hands until it was acquired by a French cardinal and donated to Reims cathedral in 1574. By that time, the legend was current that St Jerome himself (who was in fact a native of the Balkan peninsula) has made the first translation of the Gospels into Church Slavonic, and this manuscript was believed to be his original of this (non-existent) translation. It was therefore incorporated into the coronation ritual of the French kings, which was traditionally held there. Unfortunately, the cover, which was covered with jewels and small relics, was destroyed during the Revolution.
A page of the Reims Gospel book, with a picture of St Jerome in an illustrated letter. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

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