From my diary

It’s hard to say what I have done this year, yet I have been very busy with personal stuff.

The low-level disruption of life caused by the plague, and by the measures taken to avert it, has tended to drain my energies.  I keep reminding myself that this is true for all of us, and we cannot expect to achieve what we might normally do.  I think we must take care to avoid feeling guilty at doing less.  It is inevitable.  Thankfully the darker evenings and colder nights will help.

I wish that I had done some travelling this year.  But it is still very hard.  The ever-changing entry and return requirements are quite a barrier, except to those happy folk who have a PA to do the hard work for them!  I did consider going to Rome, but the urge went away when I looked at the obstacles.  I gather Malta might be easier.

At long last I am starting to feel an urge to get back to Latin translation.  Various part-done projects sit on my desktop, looking at me.  It is a good feeling to want to do some of that again.


12 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. You’ve gotten a lot done this year, even if it wasn’t the stuff you planned to do.

    Oh, hey, and I just found a “St. Mitre” of Aix-en-Provence (Aquae Sextiae), who might have been named Mithras (doesn’t seem likely) or Demetrios (but him being the martyr Demetrius of Perinthus seems unlikely).

    He was Greek, from Thessalonika, and of good family. He came to Gaul to live a humble life. He ended up working a vineyard for a Roman praetor named Arvendus, who wasn’t living rightly, and took it upon himself to admonish his boss. Mitre also gave away lots of alms to the poor, which was presumably seen as trying to take Arvendus’ place as a patron.

    Arvendus didn’t take this kindly, and told other servants to sneak into his own vineyard and sneak out all of his grapes, so that he could frame Mitre for being a thief. But when Arvendus showed up, the vineyard was full of even better grapes that had miraculously appeared overnight.

    Not to be discouraged by this, Arvendus accused Mitre of witchcraft and threw him into jail, tried him, and executed him by beheading. (Which argues that Mitre was also a Roman citizen.) Mitre then picked up his head and walked off to the church where he was buried, like a lot of French saints. Notre Dame de la Seds was right next to the Roman theater, and gradually took over its space.

    St. Gregory of Tours apparently talks about him, so he really is an early Christian saint.

  2. Interesting – thank you! Can I ask… where did you get this account of his life from? To people like me, simply finding out stuff like this is difficult.

  3. Sorry to take so long to reply — I just was searching around on something totally different, and St. Mitre pages showed up. I’m still trying to find more source material stuff, rather than mostly tourist info. French-language pages seem to have more info, and there’s Wikipedia stuff.

    I’m surprised I didn’t find this guy when I was looking for wine saints, but there seems to be an endless supply of wine and vineyard worker saints in winemaking country, especially in France and Belgium.

  4. Went to look up the primary sources – it’s not History of the Franks — it’s “De gloria beatorum confessorum,” chapter 71. Gregory calls him “Metrias,” and then says he was a “vir.” So definitely a weird name, from his POV!

    It’s not about Metrias himself, but about miracles associated with him. But still, that’s pretty early.

    I hadn’t read Gregory before, so I have been surprised to find out that he includes a lot of personal stories about his Christian Roman/Galllic family in all his books. It’s a shame that his books are mostly read only by scholars, because they seem very much tuned to general interest.

  5. You’re welcome. Migne 71, 879-880.

    Dang, there are a lot of early Christian, Gallic, saints. Lots.

  6. Hm. Pretty standard “Don’t steal from the Church” story. Leaving thorns or caltrops all over the shrine tomb and the church entrance was new to me! Sort of the opposite of leaving the new ownership a fruit basket, I guess. I also liked the bishop pointing out to the saint that there’d be no church until the church got returned.

    Childeric I (Clovis’ dad) wasn’t involved with Sigebert I, so it must be talking about Sigebert’s brother Chilperic? But with all the repeats of Frankish names, who knows?

    Chilperic got stabbed to death in 584, about 10 years before Gregory of Tours bit the dust. He was sort of a patron of Venantius Fortunatus, so he wasn’t all bad, but he was known for grabbing Church properties all the time.

    I guess “breathed out his spirit” is a nicer way of saying “got assassinated.” Unless it’s really another guy.

    The “field” and “villa” thing sorta suggests that downtown Aix en Provence had become deserted, like a lot of Roman town centers. I wonder what Chilperic wanted the church for? Did he want to use the old theater for a fortress, or something like that? Did the church just come with a really nice profitable Roman villa and farm, and he didn’t care about the church part?

  7. Okay, I popped over to History of the Franks at Internet Sourcebook, and by chance picked out a bit not long after Chilperic’s death. It’s freaking hilarious, in a dark sort of way, because apparently everybody including the king had wanted him dead, but the king also wanted to avenge him! Book 8, Chapter 5:

    Then [King Gunthram] said much against Bishop Theodore, protesting that if he came to the synod he would thrust him off again into exile and saying: “I know it was for the sake of these people [note: Gundovald and his followers.] that he caused my brother Chilperic to be killed. In fact I ought not to be called a man if I cannot avenge his death this year.”

    But I made answer: ” And what killed Chilperic, unless it was his own wickedness and your prayers? For he laid many plots for you contrary to justice and they brought death to him. And, so to speak, it was just this that I saw in a dream when I beheld him with tonsured head being ordained bishop, apparently, and then I saw him placed on a plain chair hung only with black and carried along with shining lamps and torches going before him.”

    When I told this the king said: ” And I saw another vision which foretold his death. He was brought into my presence loaded with chains by three bishops, of whom one was Tetricus, the second Agricola, and the third Nicecius of Lyons. And two of them said: ‘Set him free, we entreat you, give him a beating and let him go.’ But bishop Tetricus answered harshly, ‘ It shall not be so? but he shall be burned with fire for his crimes.’ And when they had carried on this discussion for a long time, as if quarreling, I saw at a distance a caldron set on a fire and boiling furiously. Then I wept and they seized unhappy Chilperic and broke his limbs and threw him in the caldron. And he was immediately so melted and dissolved amid the steam from the water that no trace of him at all remained.”

    The king told this story and we wondered at it, and the feast being finished we rose.

    I also like the interesting Frankish geopolitics, where they talk about all the Syriac-speaking refugees/immigrants and also all the Jews who lived up in Gaul. There were a ton of Syrian refugee/immigrant popes elected in Rome during these centuries, and it’s when the Kyrie was added to the Roman form of Mass, basically as a shoutout to all the Greek-speaking refugees/immigrants.

    I mean, of course it’s not exactly nice about everything, but it’s not what we think about when we think of typical Dark Ages problems for Frankish lords.

  8. Re: lots of saints, I’d be all in favor of having my local saint in a book. And so would the guy in the next town over. So of course Gregory probably had lots of material — and frankly, it was probably nice to have a neutral topic to talk about, as he traveled around and negotiated with various lords and bishops. And once people knew that he was a bishop who wrote books, it probably snowballed.

    The other factor was that he was bishop of Tours, and pilgrims from all over the place came to visit Martin’s bones. So he had a lot of material coming to him, from all levels of society.

    The interesting point with Gregory’s story of Metrias is that he’s pretty clear on the guy being a slave, although “a free man according to justice.” The story that he’s maybe not a slave originally could be just a story, or could be the sort of thing that happened to travelers in a time of civic disturbance.

    I like hagiography; there’s a lot going on at all levels. And it usually illuminates a lot of what’s going on in other areas. For example, it makes me very happy to have found out that Padre Pio had a lot of connections to people in the USAF, because I couldn’t figure out how a (rather small) local population of Italian-Americans had turned into a lot of local folks being Padre Pio fans. Whereas it makes perfect sense if it’s an Air Force thing, and especially a bomber guy thing, because this used to be a big SAC base and it’s still a big logistics, big cargo aircraft base.

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