Are there any legends about the widow’s mite in medieval hagiography?

An interesting letter from a correspondent:

… We are working on a hagiographic project to uncover and develop the story of the poor widow who offered her two coins in Mark 12 and Luke 21. We have been exploring numerous Eastern Orthodox channels and so far have found no evidence of any preexisting tradition or story around her.  To be clear, we are looking for any information about any extant tradition around the poor widow in the story; for example if there are any traditions that give her a name or more context beyond scripture…

This refers to Mark 12: 41-44:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

The catena aurea here has some comments on the passage from Bede, Theophylact, etc; these I obtained by getting the Vulgate text and doing a google search on some of the Latin words.  But all that gives me mostly is bible stuff.

Does anybody know of a medieval legend about the widow?


Some primary sources for the later legends of St Hilda

The Anglo-Saxon Saint Hilda of Whitby is known to us, not from legendary material, but from a first-rate historical source, Bede’s History of the English Church and People.   The ruined medieval abbey still stands on the cliff-top above the town, and there is still an Anglican order of nuns with a priory in the town, the Order of the Holy Paraclete.  The modern name of Whitby is Danish; the Anglo-Saxon name was Streneshalc, or some variant thereof.  There is a useful article in the Tablet here, if one can get past all the advertising popups.

But what about later miracle stories?  Surely these must exist?  What is out there?

For hagiographical texts for any saint, one would naturally consult the Acta Sanctorum.  Unfortunately the editors  of that series, the Bollandist monks, have yet to get that far.  Volume 67 only takes us to November 10.  St Hilda is commemorated on November 17 in the Roman Catholic Church, so we get nothing from that source.

The Bibliographia Hagiographica Latina vol. 1, p.583 has only a very short entry:

Hilda abb. Streanaeshalcensis, + 680. — Nov. 17.
Beda, Hist. eccl. iv. 21 (23) ; || Hist. SS. (Colon. 1483), f. 373d-74d (prima sententia post reliqua omnia reiecta est) ; || id. (Lovan. 1485), f. 198v-99v (item) ; || Capgravius, f. 179-80T (quibusdam omissis, quibusdam etiam ex Beda, iv. 22 (24) insertis).

The “Hist. SS.” is Hystorie plurimorum sanctorum noviter et laboriose ex diversis libris in unum collecte, Colon (1483).  This may be merely a version of the Golden Legend, but I was unable to locate a copy.  At all events the Bollandists do not assign any of this material a BHL number.  The Capgrave item we will discuss below.

However there are indeed later medieval texts containing a Life of St Hilda.  These naturally build on Bede, but contain new legendary material.  Here is what I was able to find, scattered across other publications.

The 14th century John of Tynemouth’s Sanctilogium (found in the badly damaged MS British Library Cotton Tiberius E.1) is accessible in a revised form in Capgrave’s Nova Legenda Angliae.  The 1901 reprint by C. Horstman contains a Life of St Hilda in volume 2, pages 29-33.  (Online at here).

Another life of Hilda is preserved in the 14th century MS British Library Lansdowne 436, fols. 105v-7r.  This is independent of John of Tynemouth, but unfortunately is not accessible online.

A 15th century manuscript, Cambridge Trinity College O.9.38, contains on ff. 69r-76v a Latin poem written by a monk of Glastonbury, tells us that St. Hilda’s relics were taken to that abbey during the Viking raids.  This has been printed by A.G. Rigg, “A Latin Poem on St Hilda and Whitby Abbey”, Journal of Medieval Latin 6 (1996), 12-43 (JSTOR), to which I owe my knowledge of these other sources.  He also details the sources for the history of Whitby abbey.

In the 16th century John Leland, who called himself “the king’s antiquary”, made visits to all the soon-to-be-abolished English monasteries, and made notes of books in their libraries, plus other incidental information.  Although he never published anything, his tantalising handwritten notes survived, and they were published in the 18th century by Thomas Hearne: John Leland, De Rebus Britannicis Collectanea (1715), vol. 3, pp.39-40. (Online at Google Books here).   Page 39 begins his account of the Whitby area.  He gives extracts from a Life of St Bega, an Irish saint, who had a double monastery at Whitby of monks and nuns, according to Anglo-Saxon custom. There is mention of a “humilis” church of St Hilda at “Greveson”, standing on a prominence called “Sowter” locally, and, he thinks, perhaps once a cell of St Bega.  Then he gives excepts from a text, taken “ex vita S. Hildae”, “From a life of St Hilda”.  This text is otherwise lost.

Ex vita S. Hildae.

Monasterium S. Hildae apud Streneshalc penitus destructum fuit ab Inguaro et Hubba, Titusque Glesconiam cum reliquiis S. Hildae aufugit.

The monastery of St. Hilda at Streneshalc was completely destroyed by Inguar and Hubba, and Titus fled to Glastonbury with the remains of St. Hilda.

Restitutum fuit monasterium de Streneshalc tempore Henrici primum per Guelielmum Perse.

The monastery of Streneshalc was restored in the time of Henry I by William Percy.

Mira res est videre serpentes apud Streneshalc in orbes giratos et inclementia caeli vel, ut monachi ferunt, precibus D. Hildae in lapides concretos.

It is a wonderful thing to see serpents at Streneshalc turned into orbs, and by the judgement of heaven, or, as the monks say, by the prayers of Lady Hilda, into concrete stones.

Locus, ubi nunc coenobium est, videtur mihi esse arx inexpugnabilis.

The place where the convent now stands seems to me to be an impregnable stronghold.

Pictura vitrea, quae est in Streneshalc, monstrat, Scotos, qui prope fines Anglorum habitabant, fuisse vel ad Gulielmi Nothi tempora antropophagos, et hanc immanitatem a Gulielmianis gladio fuisse punitam.

A glass painting, which is in Streneshalc, shows that the Scots, who lived near the borders of the English, were cannibals even in the time of William Noth, and that this savagery was punished by the sword of William.

Eska flumen oritur in Eskdale, defluitque per Danbeium nemus, et tandem apid Streneshalc in mare se exonerat.

The river Eska rises in Eskdale, flows through the forest of Danby [Dalby], and finally empties itself into the sea at Streneshalc.

The “orbs” and “concrete stones” seem to be a reference to fossil ammonites, still to be found on the beaches north of Whitby.  I do not know who William Noth was, unfortunately.

An 18th century extract from John of Tynemouth’s Sanctilogium exists in MS British Library, Stowe 305, on fols. 316-7, which includes the story about the serpents, but also a note about the medicinal properties of the ammonites.  This does not seem to be online, and indeed is an odd collection of mainly early modern items.  Their rather useless catalogue lists this as the last item in the collection, an 18th century paper manuscript:

10. Account of the foundation of Whitby Abbey by Hilda, afterwards 1st Abbess. Lat. f. 316. Paper; ff. 325. xviith-xviiith centt. Folio.

The early 17th century English text follows John of Tynemouth directly, and may be found in C. Horstman, The Lives of Women Saints of Our Contrie of England, (1886) pp.56-58 (Online at here)

A.G. Rigg tells us that St Hilda was a popular saint, at least if dedications of churches and colleges are anything to go by.  If so, the above material seems like rather a meagre harvest of material.  Surely there must be more out there somewhere?


The Confession and Martyrdom of Cyprian of Antioch – translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock is continuing his series of translations of Coptic texts.  He has sent in a translation of a hagiographical text, the Confession and Martyrdom of Cyprian of Antioch, and provided a short introduction.  The text is translated from manuscript.

The story is known to 4th century authors but is purely fictional, and perhaps based on earlier pagan stories including Lucian.  The saint is also known as Cyprian the Magician, and he is described as a pagan magician who converts to Christ.  The Wikipedia article on Cyprian and Justina is here.  It has been suggested that the text may have inspired the modern legend of Faust, the man who sold his soul to the devil.  A blog article here gives some interesting information about the text and its transmission in Greek from L. Radermacher, Griechische Quellen Zur Faustsage. Der Zauberer Cyprianus. Die Erzählung Des Helladius. Theophilus. (Anthemius.), 1927.  Unfortunately I have no time to go into any of this now.

Here is the translation of the Coptic texts:

Thank you, Dr Alcock.


The “Vita Sanctae Keynae”, an extract from the “Vita S. Cadoci”, and a modern myth about the year 490 at St Michael’s Mount

One of the Cornish saints was a woman.  Her name was Saint Keyne, or Keyna – there are various spellings – and she is known from a number of hagiographical texts.  She flourished in the late 5th century, and is connected to St Michael’s Mount.  Indeed there are various places on the web that make claims such as:

Legends tell of a visit by St. Keyne and a spring that miraculously gushed forth when she set foot upon the rock in 490 AD.[1]

The precise date of 490 AD is curious.  Other sites mention a meeting between St Keyne and her nephew, St Cadoc.  Let’s look at the actual origin of these stories, which is two medieval saints’ lives.

The Latin text of the medieval saint’s Life of St. Keyne (=BHL 4653) was written in manuscript by John of Tynmouth in 1366.  He produced an edited and abbreviated version.  It is this version that was printed by John Capgrave, an Austin Friar, in his Nova Legenda Angliae in 1516.  In the 1901 reprint by C. Horstman (online here) it can be found in volume 2, on pp.102-104.  A footnote in Horstman states that the text was reprinted in the Acta Sanctorum for October, vol. IV, for the 8th October, on p.276-7, and also that the same text can be found in MS. Bodleian 240, a manuscript from the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds dated 1377.

Let me give the Latin text first, and then an English translation.  Note the medieval spellings, notably “terre” for “terrae”, etc.  I have normalised a few “v” and “u” where it will make the text easier to read, but left most of the medievalisms.

¶ De sancta Keyna virgine.

Beata enim Keyna virgo de regali prosapia in occidentali parte Maioris Britannie oriunda extitit. Cuius pater rex Breghenocensium nomine Braghanus erat. Fuerunt autem regi illi filii duodecim et filie totidem, omnes deo placentes et vite sancte. Primogenitus eius erat sanctus Canochus; primogenita filia Gladus, mater sancti Cadoci; secunda Molari, mater patris sancti David meneuensis archiepiscopi. Ceteris vero propter prolixitatem omissis, ad beatam Keynam stilum convertimus. Antequam enim nasceretur, mater eius in visione vidit sinum suum mirra et balsamo plenum, et mamillas suas celesti lumine radiantes. Vidit et niveam se pro prole peperisse columbam. Cum vero enixam filiam mater diligenter educaret, mira quedam spiritualis gratie venustas in facie virginis apparebat, ita ut quandoque sicut nix, quandoque sicut solaris claritas refulgeret. Cumque ad annos nubiles pervenisset, et multi nobiles eam in conjugium affectarent; virgo sancta, virilem copulam omnino recusans, virginitatem suam voto perpetuo domino consecravit. Ob hoc enim, que prius Keyna vocabatur, postea britannice ‘Keynwiri,’ id est ‘Keyn virgo’ dicta est. Proposuit tandem patriam deserere et locum desertum, ubi contemplationi vacaret, querere: et arrepto itinere, ultra Sabrinam veniens, repertis quibusdam locis silvestribus, a rege illius provincie solitudinem illam in qua deo servire posset expetiit: cui, quod petiit hilariter se concessurum respondit, nisi quia locus ille tanta serpentium multitudine repleretur, quod tam hominibus quam iumentis et feris inhabitabilis extitisset. Virgo vero constanter respondit, se confidere in adiutorio altissimi, et in eius nomine se velle et posse omnem illam virulentam multitudinem effugare. Concesso igitur virgini loco, ad solitas preces se prostravit et omnia illa mox genimina viperarum mortificata in lapidum duritiem commutavit. Lapides enim usque hodie imaginem serpentinam exprimunt per campos et vicos, quasi arte lathomi sculperentur. Elapsis autem multis annis, cum fama sancte virginis ubique divulgata esset, et visitatis multis, oratoria multa construxisset, sanctus Cadocus Montem sancti Michaelis peregrinationis gratia visitans, sanctam Keynam, materteram suam, ibidem repperit, et magno repletus gaudio, cum illam ad terram propriam reducere vellet, a populo terre permissus non est. Admonitione demum angelica virgo sancta ad patriam suam rediens, in quodam monticulo ad radices cuiusdam montis magni habitationem sibi faciens, fusa ad deum prece fontem de terra produxit, qui multis infirmitatibus meritis virginis sancte salutem prebuit. Cum autem, spiritu sancto revelante, dies consummationis eius appropinquaret, vidit in visione noctis columpnam quasi igneam usque ad lectuli eius pavimentum descendere—in nudo enim pavimento ramusculis arborum superiectis dormire solebat. Et angeli duo sibi apparebant; quorum alter reverenter ad illam accedens, cilicium quo induebatur leniter exuit, et casula bissina una cum tunica coccinea, cum clamide quoque auro contexta decenter illam ornans, dixit: ‘Parata esto et veni nobiscum, ut introducamus te in regnum patris tui.’ Que, cum pre gaudio flens angelos sequi vellet, evigilans sensit corpus suum febribus aggravari et finem suum imminere : accitoque sancto Cadoco ait: ‘Locus iste est quem pre ceteris diligo : hic erit memoria mea: locum hunc sepius in spiritu, si licuerit, visitabo: licebit autem, quia dominus hunc mihi locum jure hereditario possidendum concessit. Futurum est autem quod locus iste inhabitabitur a gente peccatrice, quam ego violenter ab hiis sedibus extirpabo; iacebitque tumulus meus multis diebus incognitus, donec veniant alii quos ego precibus meis huc adducam, protegam et defendam, et in hoc loco benedicetur nomen domini in eternum? Et cum anima a corpore egredi festinaret, vidit ante se angelicum exercitum, intra celi palatium sine metu et periculo animam illius cum gaudio suscipere paratum. Quod cum astantibus indicasset, sancta illa anima [a] corpore soluta est, octavo idus octobris. Que cum egrederetur a corpore, subrisit sancta facies ipsius, roseum induens colorem, tantaque suavitatis fragrantia ex corpore virgineo procedebat, quod omnes qui aderant, se cum ipsa putarent in paradisi gloria collocatos. Sepelivit autem eam sanctus Cadocus in oratorio suo, ubi in sancta conversatione multis annis vitam artissimam et deo placentem duxit.

Now the English, translated by Gilbert H. Doble.   This was printed as a single paragraph, but I have split it up.

De Sancta Keyna Virgine.

For the Blessed Keyna, Virgin, sprang of royal stock in the western part of Greater Britain. Her father, king of the Breghenocenses was named Braghanus. Now that king had twelve sons and the like number of daughters, all pleasing to God and of holy life. His first-born was Saint Canochus; his first-born daughter Gladus, mother of Saint Cadocus, the second (daughter) Melari, mother of the father of Saint David, Archbishop of Menevia. But omitting the rest, on account of the great length (of the list), we begin at once to write the Life of Blessed Keyna. For before she was born, her mother saw in a vision her bosom full of myrrh and balsam, and her breasts shining with heavenly light. She saw also that she had given birth to a snow-white dove. And afterwards when she (Keyne) was born and her mother was training her with great care, a certain wonderful beauty of spiritual grace appeared in the virgin’s face, which shone— sometimes like snow, and sometimes like the brightness of the sun.

And when she had reached the age when she might be wedded, and many noblemen sought her hand in marriage ; the holy virgin, refusing altogether to be joined to a husband, consecrated her virginity to the Lord by a perpetual vow. For this reason, she who before was called Keyna, was afterwards called in the British language Keynwiri, i.e., Keyne the Virgin.

She finally resolved to leave her native country and to seek a desert place where she might devote herself to contemplation; and setting out on her journey she came beyond the Severn, and finding certain wooded places, she asked the king of that province to give her that solitary place so that she might serve God there; He answered that he would gladly give it, but that the place was filled with such a multitude of serpents that neither man nor beast might live there. The virgin however replied with steadfast courage that she trusted in the help of the Most High and in His Name was willing and able to drive out all that poisonous multitude. The place was therefore given to the virgin, and, after prostrating herself in prayer, as she was wont, she quickly changed all that offspring of vipers into hard stones. For the stones in the fields and villages there even to this very day bear the form of serpents, as if they had been carved by the sculptor’s art.

Now after many years had passed, when the fame of the holy virgin had been everywhere spread abroad, and she had visited, and also built, many oratories, Saint Cadocus, visiting Saint Michael’s Mount on a pilgrimage, found his aunt Saint Keyna there, and filled with great joy desired to bring her back to her own land, but the people of the land would not permit it.

At last, warned by an angel, the holy virgin returned to her native land and made for herself an habitation in a certain hillock at the roots of a certain great mountain, and after pouring forth prayer to God, she caused a well to spring out of the earth, which has given health to many infirm persons (lit. infirmities) by the merits of the holy virgin.

And when the day of her consummation approached, which had been revealed to her by the Holy Spirit, she saw in a vision of the night as it were a fiery column descending to the floor on which her bed lay—for she was accustomed to sleep on branches of trees laid upon the bare floor. And two angels appeared to her; one of which, coming up to her with great respect, gently took off the hair shirt which she wore and clothed her with a linen chasuble, together with a scarlet tunic, and arraying her as became her dignity with a cloak woven with gold, he said, “Prepare thyself and come with us, that we may bring thee into the kingdom of thy Father.”

And she, weeping for joy, and wishing to follow the angels, awoke and felt that her body was oppressed with fevers and that her end was near: and calling for Saint Cadocus she said: “This is the place which above all others I love; here shall be my memorial; I will often, if it be permitted, visit this place in the spirit; and it shall be permitted, because the Lord has granted me this place to possess by hereditary right. But it will come to pass that this place will be inhabited by a sinful race, whom I will violently root up from these seats ; and my tomb shall lie unknown for many days, till other men shall come whom I by my prayers shall lead here, and whom I shall protect and defend, and in this place the Name of the Lord shall be blessed for ever.”

And when now her soul was hastening to leave her body, she saw before her the angelic host ready to receive her soul without fear or danger within the palace of Heaven, And she signified this to those who stood by, and straightway that holy soul was loosed from the body, on the eighth of the Ides of October. And when it left the body, her holy face smiled and assumed a rosy hue, and so great fragrance of sweetness proceeded from her virginal body that all who were present deemed they had been transported with her into the glory of Paradise.

Now Saint Cadocus buried her in her oratory, where she (had) lived a life most strict and pleasing to God in holy conversation many years.

Now for some very necessary bibliography, the gathering of which consumed some hours today.

The translation that I have just given was made by Canon Gilbert Doble; a High-Church Anglican clergyman of the first half of the 20th century, who collected an enormous amount of lore concerning Cornish saints.  His publications were slight and made in obscure places, and sometimes more than once. Accessing them is not a trivial enterprise, and even the bibliography can be confusing.  He produced around 40 pamplets on various saints in his “Cornish Saints” series.

One of these was  G.H. Doble, “S Nectan, S Keyne and the Children of Brychan in Cornwall”, Cornish Saints series 25, Exeter: Sidney Lee, 1930, which contained this translation.  After his death this was included in a 6 volume compilation “The Saints of Cornwall”; but sadly abbreviated.  Thus St. Nectan appears in volume 6, but I find that St Keyne has got lost along the way.  A reprint of the complete article, which was 60 pages long, was produced in 1990 by Oakmagic Publications.

Fortunately I was able to access a two-part article by Doble, also titled “S Nectan, S Keyne and the Children of Brychan in Cornwall”, in the Downside Review, volume 48 (1930) and volume 49 (1931).  The latter article contains the translation above.

    *    *    *    *

The other half of the story about St Michael’s Mount given in the Life of St Keyne is to be found in the Life of St Cadoc, which exists in two versions.

One version of this is was printed with English translation[2]  This text is BHL 1491, incipit “Quondam in quibusdam finibus Britannicae regionis”.

The Life is long, but we are only concerned with chapter 27.  According to the editor (p.22), the text was printed from MS Britsh Library Cotton Vesp. A. xiv, p.17, and collated with Titus D. xxii, p.51.

27. Quomodo Sanctus Cadocus in Cornubia fontem salubrem precibus de terra produxit.

Necdum Dei bonitatem mirabilibus mirabiliora adicere piget; verum ejus clarum vernulam signis clariorem miraculisque celeberrimum humane debilitati remedium atque solatium prebendo libet efficere. Nam dudum cum idem vir illustrissimus de monte Sancti Michaelis venisset, qui in regione Cornubiensium esse dinoscitur, atque illius provincie idiomate, Dinsol appellatur, et ibi idem arcbangelus ab omnibus illo adventantibus veneratur estuans ex itinere fatigatus, valde sitivit. Locus autem quo hoc accidit vehementer aridus extitit; beatus ergo Cadocus humum baculo pepugit, ac continuo illic fons largifluus de solo scaturiit; indeque tam ipsi qui sibi comitantes affati quoque potaverunt, in similitudine Israelitici populi sitientes in deserto, cum Moises virga petram percussit, et fluxerunt aque in habundantiam. Ut autem omnes limpha satiati sunt, dixit ad socios suos, “Oremus, fratres, divinam obnixius benignitatem, quatinus cuncti, qui ad hunc sacrum fontem languidi venerint, ex eo diversorum morborum medelam, Dei gratia annuente, recipiant; et sic nostram flagrantem sitim, ita corporum venenosas pestes extinguat. Si quis namque egrotus, ab ipso fonte firmiter in Domino confidens bibit, ventris ac viscerum sanitatem reciperet, cunctosque virosos vermes ex se perficiet.” Postquam autem Cornubienses crebra sanitatum remedia utriusque sexus apud eundem fontem indeficienter fieri divina pietate conspexerunt, in honorem Sancti Cadoci ecclesiolam juxta fontem edificaverunt.

The English:

27. How Saint Cadoc by his prayers produced from the earth, in Cornwall, a health-bearing fountain.

Nor it is unpleasant to mention the goodness of God in his more wonderful miracles, but it is agreeable to make his eminent servant more celebrated in miracles, by his affording a most excellent remedy, and comfort for human infirmity. For lately, when the said most illustrious man came from the mount of St. Michael, which is known to be in Cornwall, and in the idiom of the district, is called Dinsol, and there the same archangel, who was venerated by all who came there, being hot, and fatigued from his journey was very thirsty. And the place where this happened was very dry; therefore the blessed Cadoc struck the ground with his stick, and immediately a full flowing fountain sprang from the ground, and therefore they who accompanied him, also drank like the Israelites athirst in the wilderness, when Moses struck the rock with his stick, and the water flowed in abundance. As all were satisfied with water, they said to their companions. “ Let us earnestly beseech the divine goodness that all such persons, as shall come to this sacred fountain, may therefrom, with the favour of God, receive the cure of divers diseases; and as it extinguished our raging thirst, so let it heal the painful disorders of bodies.” For if any sick person, having firm confidence in God, shall drink of that fountain, he will receive the cure of his belly and bowels, and he will drive all venomous worms from his body. And after the men of Cornwall saw that frequent cures of the disorders of both sexes were constantly effected at that fountain by divine piety, they built a small church in honour of Saint Cadoc, near the fountain.

The other version of the Life of St. Cadoc is a much shorter Life printed by Capgrave (vol. 1, online here, p.167 f.) and reprinted in the Acta Sanctorum January vol. 2, 603-6.  This has the code BHL 1493, with incipit “Gundlei filius cum in utero matris…”.  The portion relating to St Michael’s Mount begins on p.171:

Dum autem de monte sancti Michaelis in Cornubia venisset et sitim maximam passus esset, in loco arido baculum fixit: et statim fons largifluus de terra scaturire cepit. Oravitque ut cuncti languidi illuc accedentes suorum morborum medelam reciperent, venenosas pestes illa aqua extingueret, vermesque cunctos de ventre potantium proiiceret. Juxta enim fontem illum in Cornubia in honore sancti Cadoci fundata est ecclesia magna.

A quick translation by me.

But when he had come away from St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, and suffered very great thirst, he set up a stick in the dry place: and at once a free-flowing spring began to gush forth from the earth.  And he prayed that all who were faint coming there should receive a cure of their malady, that  the water might extinguish toxic illnesses, and drinking it would expel all worms from the stomach.  For near that spring in Cornwall in honour of St Cadoc a great church was established.

As far as I know, these are the only sources for St Cadoc and St Keyne at St Michael’s Mount, and what they did there. These are medieval legends, quite literally, and their historical value is low.  They are also very much later than the events that they purport to record by many hundreds of years.  They post-date the establishment of a Benedictine priory on the Mount, recorded in charters of the Norman period.

The date of “490” for these events, which we see online, seems to be a guess.  I have read suggestions that these saints were active in the late 5th century.  No doubt somebody with a web page to write turned that into “490”.

Update 28 May 2021: A query on the “Gender Desk” blog produced a long and very interesting post in reply – Monastic Matrix.  This includes the interesting information that a 1516 abbreviated translation exists of the Life of St Keyne.  This is Edmund Pynson, Kalendre of the New Legende of England, 1516, which is in EEBO: Early English Books Online (Only At Wealthy Universities).  This is drawn from Capgrave.  Luckily it is transcribed at;idno=A17943.0001.001, and the St Keyne portion is here.  Let me modernise the spelling a bit (where I can understand it) for ease of reading:

¶De sancta Keyna virgine.

Saint Keyne virgin was daughter to the king of Breghenoke in the West part of Great Britain and nigh of kin to Saint David, and aunt to Saint Cadoc when her mother was with child with her, she saw in vision her bosom full of myrrh and balm, and her teats shining of a heavenly light, and she thought that instead of a child she was delivered of a fair wight, and when she was first born her face was sometimes white like snow, sometimes bright shining like the sun at her years of marriage she forsook all marriages advowing to keep virginity, & lived in a desert beyond Severn, where by her prayers serpents that before that time had made the country inhabitable turned into stones. Saint Keyne made many oratories & after she went to Saint Michael’s mount and there she met with Saint Cadoc, & by monition of an angel she went into her country again and dwelled at the foot of a hill, where by her prayers sprang a fair well whereby many have been healed. She saw in her sleep a beam of fire descend there where as she lay on a bare pavement with green boughs under her & two angels appeared unto her & one of them reverently did off a heer that she had used to wear & apparelled her with goodly apparel,  & bade her be ready to go with them into the kingdom of her father, & when she gladly would have followed them she awoke feeling her self sick of the Axes, and then she called Saint Cadoc to her and told him she would be buried in that same place, which she said she would in spirit often visit.  Before her death she saw a great company of angels ready to take her soul with great joy without fear or pareil, and when she had told them that stood about her thereof she departed the viii. Idus of October.  And anon her face was of a colour like red roses and a sweet savour was about her that all that were there thought it like a joy of paradise.  And Saint Cadoc buried her in her oratory where she had lived a hard and a blessed life many years.

I found the actual Monastic Matrix site ( very hard to use, but a search is the right way to do so.

The blog author drew my attention to Polwhele’s History of Cornwall (1816), where in book 2, p.126 (here), I find a mass of stuff about St Keyne, including this:

The first time I find this hill upon record as a place of devotion is in the legend of St. Keyne, a holy virgin of the British blood- royal, daughter of Braganus prince of Brecknockshire ; she is said to have gone a pilgrimage to St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, she lived about the year 490, and her festival is celebrated on the 30th of September. Now it must be concluded that St. Michael’s Mount was before of great repute , either for the residence of some saint or working-miracle hermit, or celebrated for some supposed angelic vision, as was the humour of those times, otherwise one of St: Keyne’s dignity and eminence would not have undertaken a pilgrimage thither ; St. Keyne made no short visit, she stayed long enough by the sanctity of her life and the miracles she was thought to have performed , to ingratiate herself with the inhabitants. For some years after this , St. Cadoc making a pilgrimage to this same place found here, to his great surprize, St. Keyne his aunt by his mother’s side, at which rejoicing he endeavoured to persuade her to go back with him to her native country Brecknockshire (the intercourse between Cornwall and Wales being then frequent and familiar ) but the people of the country interposing would not endure her removal ; at last having had an express command from above the saint obedient to the heavenly monition retired to her own country. Let it be observed here, that although there may be somewhat of the fabulous in these, as there is in most legends, yet that here are two pilgrimages of the same age, which mutually confirming each other, add tolerable support to the story in general.

This footnote is, I suspect, the origin of the date of 490 AD for the visit of Cadoc to Keyne at St Michael’s Mount.

Update (2nd June 2021):  Further discussion at GenderDesk here reveals a claim by Rice Rees, An essay on the Welsh saints, 1836, p.154 here, that in the Life of St Cadoc,

The Mount of St. Michael is the name of a hill near Abergavenny, which still maintains its sacred character.

The hill of Skirrid Fawr near Abergavenny is indeed said to have some form of association with St Michael on  various websites, although I have not investigated this very far.  The “Last Welsh Martyr” blog here offers various statements, calling it “St Michael’s Mount”, all post-Reformation and all unreferenced, unfortunately.  But the Life of St Cadoc  explicitly names Cornwall as the country in which the events took place.  In the Life of St Keyne, the Mount is said to be outside “her own country”, whatever that is; probably Wales, as this is a text written in the medieval period.  So I think it is safest to disregard the claim of Mr Rees.

  1. [1]
  2. [2]W. J. Rees, Lives of the Cambro British saints: of the fifth and immediate succeeding centuries, from ancient Welsh & Latin mss. in the British Museum and elsewhere, Llandovery (1853) (online here).  The Latin is on p.22-70; the English on 309-395.

St George, 5th century “Passio” – English translation now online

The earliest account of the martyrdom of St George is palpably fictional, and probably Arian in origin.  It was composed in Greek, probably by an Arian.  It was a rather embarrassing work, and later versions remove much of the rubbish.  For this reason Matzke, who reviewed the tradition, referred confusingly to the original as the “apocryphal version” and the revised version as the “canonical version”.

Only a few leaves of the Greek of the original version exist in palimpsest.  A Latin translation of the whole does exist, however, dating from the 5th century.  An English translation of this has now been prepared.  Here it is:

The files are also available from here.

As usual, the file is public domain.  Make whatever use of it you like, whether personal, educational or commercial.


An early printed hagiography – the volumes of Aloysius Lippomanus

First came Mombritius, probably in 1480, who printed his Sanctuarium in the incunable era.  This was essentially a two volume version of a late medieval collection of Saint’s lives.

But next came Luigi Lippomano, or Aloysius Lippomanus, (Wikipedia article) with his vitarum Sanctorum priscorum Patrum, 1551-1560, in 8 volumes in Venice.  The links to the volumes are as follows:

I spent some time locating these volumes, which was less easy than you might think, so it’s worth giving the links.

After Lippomanus came Surius, with his De probatis Sanctorum histories (Cologne, 1570-1577); an expanded edition by his colleague Mosander, published as De vitis sanctorum omnium nationum, ordinum et temporum, (Venice, 1581); and a still more expanded version in twelve volumes was printed in Cologne in 1617-18.  These I leave for another time.

After that, the Bollandists started up the Acta Sanctorum.

The trouble is that we don’t have a complete set of critically edited Saint’s lives.  So these early collections still have value.  Which is bizarre!


Bits and bobs

Here’s some stuff that’s wandered into my in-tray.

Google is becoming a useful tool for biblical quotations.  While checking some of these by googling, I found myself looking at at several volumes of the critical text of the Vetus Latina.  A search on Vetus Latina brings up quite a number here.  I hope that Archive have checked the copyright tho.

How people find the energy to scan books I do not know.  I’m sitting here with a volume of St Augustine, and having to pause for breaks.  I know that I did a lot of this ten or twenty years ago.  How on earth did I do it?

It’s been a while since I get out my Plustek Opticbook 3600, and I couldn’t remember if it worked with Windows 10 or not.  At first try it didn’t work.  Looking at the manufacturer site did not look good either.  But there was a Windows 8 driver, which I installed.  Still nothing.  Anyway I rechecked the cables and… um, the cable was half-unplugged at the scanner.  When pushed in firmly then it all worked.  I’m using it with Finereader 12 at the moment.

Next up is a photograph of one of the lost streets of Rome, the Via Bonella, from 1907.

The now-lost Via Bonella, with the so-called Pantani Arch. Photo taken in 1907.

I plucked from here this modern image:

The columns are those of the forum of Nerva, to the left of the temple of Mars Ultor.  The modern street behind the arch, running left-right, is the Via Tor di Conti.  The orange building behind the arch is today the Forum Hotel, complete with a rooftop restaurant at which I had a terrible dining experience on my only visit to the building.

I do quite a bit of translating, so I was interested to come across an article, Translating for a Digital Archive.  This shows how the professionals do it, rather than people like me, alone in a room with a pile of dictionaries.  The project is to put British Library Arabic manuscripts online, and make the titles etc searchable in either Arabic or English.

As part of the BL’s [British Library] translation team, I work to produce and edit the Arabic language content for the QDL [Qatar Digital Library]. While the collection items themselves are displayed solely in their original language, all of the portal’s supporting and descriptive content is translated, as are the expert articles, meaning that the catalogue can be searched and used just as easily in Arabic as in English.

Our Toolbox: Translation management software

Like many large-scale translation projects, ours involves multiple translators, and several rounds of proofing and quality checks to ensure accuracy and consistency. To manage this, we use a piece of software called memoQ that includes two essential tools: a translation memory (TM) and a term base (TB). The TM functions as a bilingual database of previously translated segments of text; it works by storing pairs of original source-language content alongside its approved translation. When a new text is imported, memoQ breaks it into smaller segments on the basis of punctuation and line breaks, and automatically conducts a search for exact and partial matches. These are then presented to the translator for approval and/or review.

While a human expert still has the final say on whether to accept any suggestion from the TM, frequently only a minor edit is needed to make the old translation suitable for the new context. This serves the double purpose of saving time and maintaining consistency across the catalogue as a whole. Translation memories tend to prove their worth the larger they are and the more repetition there is in the content. Having grown over the years since the start of the project, our TM now routinely recognises a third of content in a new file, and often much more.

While the TM grows organically over time by compiling and storing translation segments, the term base is maintained manually. It works as a glossary for key terms, allowing us to suggest preferred equivalents for individual words or phrases, and/or to blacklist translations that should be avoided. As the TB is visible to all parties at all stages of translation and proofing, it helps to ensure the consistency of these terms in Arabic.

Authorities: making the most of memoQ

The TB has proved especially useful when it comes to translating authority files. An authority record serves to identify and describe a person, corporate body, family, place name, or subject term that is featured in a catalogue description. Each term is authorised and unique. As every record and every expert article on the QDL is linked to at least one authority file, they form an index through which users can search for all the content related to a specific term.

Read the whole thing.  I was unable to find an author’s name on it, curiously.

This idea of “Translation Memory Tools” sounded interesting to me.  I quickly found that several seem to be proprietary and expensive.  I did come across OmegaT, which is not, here.  But I suspect that none of my projects are large enough for me to use it.

Another interest of mine is hagiography, about which I know very little.  So I was interested to come across a seminar description (Seminar VII: Hagiography) at Lancaster University, with bibliography, and the following interesting introduction:

Hagiography, the historical genre which is the subject of this week’s seminar, comprises narratives concerned with the saints and their achievements, especially the miracles which God has performed through them and on their behalf. Six basic types of hagiographical ‘story’ or ‘scenario’ may be distinguished:

  • first, the vita, the story of the achievements that a saint performed in his or her lifetime;
  • second, the passio, similar to the former, but about a martyr who has died a violent death for the faith or for some other God-arranged reason;
  • third, the inventio or revelatio, the story of how a new saint or more often a saint’s bodily remains were discovered;
  • fourth, the translatio, the story of how a saint’s relics were brought to a church or moved to a new shrine;
  • fifth, the visio, the story of how a saint appeared to someone in a vision;
  • and sixth, the miraculum, the story of how a miracle was performed on the saint’s behalf by God.

Miracula are typically concerned with the wonders that were performed after the saint has died and become a resident of the heavenly kingdom. A hagiographical text might well combine many of these stories or ‘scenarios’. Many vitae continue on, for example, well-beyond the scene of the saint’s death to describe how his or her corpse was lost, re-discovered and then brought and enshrined in the church where it now rests. In these texts the true climax comprises the saint’s translatio and enshrinement. Miracula, furthermore, were often combined to form libri miraculorum, ‘books of miracles’, which sometimes (but not usually) extended beyond the usual few dozen items to encompass hundreds of episodes.

In its various manifestations hagiography was the mode of historical discourse most frequently deployed in the Middle Ages, generating many thousands of vitae and miracula and contributing substantial passages to many chronicles and rhetorical histories. The similarities (and sometimes, the lengthy verbal affinities) between these narratives naturally lead to the suspicion that most, if not all, instances contain much that has been borrowed from earlier examples or which has been re-fashioned so as to resemble the scenes found in key archetypes—such as the late fourth-century Life of St Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus—which exerted great influence over the development of the genre. This conclusion seems inescapable; but the process might sometimes involve an oral phase, prior to the writing up of the legend, in which the hero’s story assimilated many standard elements or was gradually re-fashioned with each act of re-telling, bringing it ever closer to the recognised archetypes. The few texts which admit importing episodes from the lives of other saints invariably claim that the story was true of some saint if not of the saint with whom the text is chiefly concerned or that there is so little doubt about the subject’s sanctity that the mis-attribution of a few stories will scarcely make any difference to his or her cult. As such admissions show, hagiography’s claim to authority rested, as in the case of ecclesiastical history, on its claim to record actual events—actual moments of divine intervention in the world.

I’d like to know which texts include those admissions of borrowing material.  I wonder how one could find out.

That’s enough for now.  I find that I have 197 items in my backlog folder, so perhaps I should have a push on getting them out!


The “Acts of Mark” and the “Martyrdom of Mark” – an unnecessary confusion

There is a certain confusion in online resources between two late apocryphal texts, the so-called Acts of Mark and the Martyrdom of Mark; and that there is a connection from this material to a spurious Encomium in XII Apostolos attributed to Severian of Gabala.

This I discovered in response to an enquiry about the Encomium; and then discovered that confusion even extends to the excellent NASSCAL site which tries to index the apocrypha.  This is all caused by a certain D. Callahan who, writing about or editing or translating the Martyrdom, proceeded to entitle his several publications Acts of Mark.[1]  (My thanks to Dean Furlong, who made the enquiry, and supplied several useful documents for this article.)

Fortunately Schneemelcher’s classic tome, New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, does not share this confusion.  Let’s discuss these two obscure texts, neither of which was familiar to me before today.  Most of this is summarised from Schneemelcher, of course.

Before we do so, a warning.  Neither of these should really be considered as New Testament Apocrypha.  They are really hagiographical works, “Christian novels” as a recent publication called such things.

The Martyrdom of Mark / Martyrium Marci / Martyrion tou agiou apostolou kai evangelistou Markou (NTA 2, p.461 f.)

The story is in 14 chapters and inter alia relates to Mark’s disciple, Anianus.

This work is preserved in a number of Greek witnesses, two of which have been printed, and are clearly related (BHG II, 1035-1036).

  •  Codex Vaticanus gr. 866.  This text was printed in the Acta Sanctorum, April vol. III, Antwerp 1675, XLVI-VII.
  •  Codex Parisinus gr. 881.  This text was printed in the Patrologia Graeca 115, cols. 164-9.  Note that although the PG prints the text among work of Simeon Metaphrastes, it has no connection with him.  Many of the translations into other languages seem related to this text.  English translation from the PG by A.D.Callahan, The Acts (sic) of Mark, diss. Harvard, 1992, appendix (p.119 f.)

The story must have been translated into Latin early, as a version is embedded in Prudentius (end of 4th c.).  A number of Latin versions of the story do exist (BHL 5276-5280).  An example is printed in the Acta Sanctorum (April III, Antwerp 1675, 347-349).

A Coptic version or versions also exist.

  • The Amherst Morgan 15 papyrus (7th century) is online here.  This was printed and translated in W. Crum, Theological Texts from Coptic Papyri, Oxford 1913, 65-68, also online here.  Schneemelcher lists a couple of other papyri.
  •  The Morgan Coptic Codex 635, fol. 24r-33v, contains an episode from the same narrative as part of a series of homilies or encomia.  These are the Encomia in XII Apostolos mentioned among the spuria of Severian of Gabala by the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, as CPG 4281.  This material has been published in the CSCO, and even translated into English (CSCO 545, 1992, homily 4, starting p.65), where it is headed “On St Peter and St Paul”. The homily or encomium is intended for the feast which marks the martyrdom of these two saints and the twelve apostles.  Being delivered in Egypt, it naturally devotes space to St Mark, the evangelist of Egypt.
  •  There is also a publication which I have not seen, A.D.Callahan “The Acts of Saint Mark: an introduction and translation.” Coptic Church Review 14 (Spr 1993), pp. 3-10.

There are also at least two Arabic versions.  The first (BHO 597) was published by Agnes Smith Lewis in Horae Semiticae III-IV, London 1904, 126-9, 147-151.  Another heavily reworked version (BHO 598) is incorporated in the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria.  I have not seen it, but there is also A. D. Callahan “The Acts of Mark: tradition, transmission, and translation of the Arabic version.” In: F. Bovon (ed), Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, Harvard, 1999, pp. 63-85.  This I assume again relates to the Martyrdom, not the Acts.

Several copies of an Ethiopic version have reached us; and there is an Old Slavonic version.

Acts of Mark / Acta Marci / Praxeis kai Thaumata kai martyrion tou agiou evangelistou Markou (Schneemelcher, p.464)

This work in 35 chapters is a massively expanded reworking and paraphrase of the Martyrdom, drawing on material about St Mark from all sides, including the Acta Barnabae.  The text is preserved in Greek in a 13th century manuscript from the Stavronikita monastery on Mt Athos, Codex Athonensi Stauronicetae 18, fol. 175v-189. (BHG II, 1036m).  It was edited by F. Halkin, Analecta Bollandiana 87, 1969, 346-371.  An English translation is in progress by Mark A. House.  A draft of 5 chapters can be found in Salm’s paper, although 9 have now been translated.

A similar attempt to expand the Martyrdom can be found in the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, prefaced to the Arabic version of the Martyrdom.  It was edited with English translation by B. Evetts, Patrologia Orientalis 1, 1904, 134-40.

    *    *    *    *

The relation between these two works is now a lot clearer to me.  Let’s finish by giving Dr Callahan’s translation of the Martyrdom of Mark, as few will have access to it.

    *    *    *    *

Translated from Par. Gr. 881 = Paris Greek 881, entitled “Martyrdom of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark of Alexandria,” in Patrologia Graeca 115, cols. 164-69.


Section 1: Saint Mark’s Lot to Preach in Egypt

At that time when the apostles were being dispersed throughout the inhabited world, it was the lot of the most holy Mark to go into the environs of Egypt by the will of God, where also the blessed canons of the holy and apostolic Church decreed that he be the first evangelist in the entire region of Egypt, Libya and Marmarice, Ammaniace and Pentapolis to preach the gospel of the visitation (epidemias) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Section 2: The Idolatry of the Inhabitants

For throughout the land were people uncircumcised in heart, idolaters, full of every uncleanness and worshippers of unclean spirits. For they furnished consecrated enclosures and sacred precincts for every house and street and province; and fortunes as well as magic, and every angelic power. Moreover, demonic [power] was among them, which the visitation of our Lord Jesus Christ arrested and destroyed.

Section 3: The Evangelist in Pentapolis

Then, after the oracularly announced evangelist Mark arrived in Cyrene and Pentapolis, speaking the word of the ruling power of Christ, and performing stunning miracles among them (healing the infirm, cleansing lepers, exorcizing fierce spirits by the word of his grace), many people, believing in our Lord Jesus Christ through him, threw their idols to the ground, were enlightened and were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Section 4: The Call to Alexandria

It was then revealed to him there by the Holy Spirit to go up to the Alexandrian lighthouse [lit., Pharite] and spread the good seed of God. The blessed evangelist Mark, eagerly stepped up to the contest like a brave athlete and, greeting the brethren, said, “The Lord has told me to go to the city of Alexandria.” And the brethem escorted him to the boat. And after tasting his bread they sent him forth saying, “May the Lord Jesus Christ make your way go well.”

Section 5: St. Mark Arrives in Alexandria

And the blessed Mark arrived in Alexandria on the second day, and after disembarking from his boat came to a place called Mendion. Entering the gate of the city, immediately his sandal broke. But learning [this], the blessed apostle said, “Indeed, the way is well resolved.”

Section 6: The Evangelist Heals a Cobbler

And seeing a cobbler, he handed over the sandal to him. The needle in the hole pierced his right hand and he said [lit., says], “God is one!” And the blessed Mark, hearing “God is one,” said to himself with a laugh,” The Lord has made my way go well.” And he spit on the ground and made clay from the spittle and anointed the hand of the man, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the eternal living God, be well.” And immediately the man’s hand was healed.

Section 7: The Cobbler Invites St. Mark to His Home

The cobbler, having become acquainted with the power of the man and the efficacy of his word and ascetical appearance (or, “attire”), he said to him, “I beg you, 0 man of God, come, lodge today in the house of your servant and let us eat a morsel of bread together, and have mercy on me today.” But the blessed Mark said with glee, “May the Lord give you living bread.” And the man prevailed upon the apostle, and joyfully brought him into his house.

Section 8: At the Cobbler’s Home

The blessed Mark entered the house and said, “The blessing of the Lord [be upon] this place. Let us pray, brethren.” And they prayed together, and after the prayer they were summoned. As they made merry, the man said, “0 father, what is your name? Who are you, and whence this powerful word in you?” The holy Mark said, “I am a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God.” The man said, “I wish to see him.” And Mark the holy martyr of Christ said, “I am showing him to you.”

Section 9: Anianus, His Family, and Others are Converted

And the holy Mark began to relate [lit., ‘perform’] the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God, son of Abraham, and showed to them the matters concerning his prophets. But the man said, “I beg you, lord, I have not once heard of the writings of which you speak, but [only] the llliad and the Odyssey, and such things as make wise the children of the Egyptians.” Then the holy Mark [began: supply exate] to proclaim Christ to him and to demonstrate to him that the wisdom of this world is foolishness according to God. And the man believed in God because of the signs and wonders mentioned by Mark, and he and his entire household were enlightened along with a great multitude in that place. And the name of the man was Ananias.

Section 10: The Evangelist Ordains Clergy

As there came to be a multitude of those believing on the Lord, the people of the city heard that some Galilean had come there and was overturning the sacrifices of the gods and hindering their worship, and hatching plots against him they sought to kill him. But perceiving their designs, the holy Mark, after selecting Ananias as bishop and three presbyters Milaios, Sabinus and Kerdon, and seven deacons, i.e., eleven others for service to the church, fled and departed again for Pentapolis.

Section 11: St. Mark Returns to Alexandria

And after spending two years there, establishing the brethren and appointing bishops and clergy for each region of the countryside, he returned to Alexandria and found the brethren growing in the grace and discipline of God. And they built a church for themselves called the [places of the] Boukalou by the sea, beneath the steep banks. And the righteous one rejoiced greatly, and on bended knee glorified God.

Section 12: The Jealousy of the Pagans

But as enough time passed, the Christians multiplied, laughing the idols to scorn and ridiculing the Greeks. The Greeks learned that the saint and evangelist Mark had returned, and hearing of the wonderful deeds he was performing they were filled with jealousy. For he healed the infirm, cleansed the lepers, proclaimed the gospel to the deaf, and bestowed sight to many of the blind.

Section 13: The Pagans Seek to Capture the Evangelist

And they sought to capture him and could not find him. And they gnashed their teeth against him, and in the festive processions of their idols they shouted at him saying, “Many [are the] powers of the sorcerer!”

Section 14: St. Mark Arrested During the Passover

But it happened [that] our blessed feast of Passover fell on the holy Sunday, Pharmouthi 29th, from the eighth Kalend of May, i.e., April 24th, which coincided with the festive procession of Serapis. Finding such an opportune moment, they deployed spies; they fell upon him saying prayers of the divine offering. And seizing him, they threw a mooring rope around his neck and dragged him, saying, “Let us drag the antelope to [the places of the] Boukalou.”

Section 15: The Evangelist is Tortured

But while the holy Mark was being dragged along, he offered up thankgiving to the savior Christ, saying, “I thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that I have been counted worthy to suffer these things on behalf of your name.” And his flesh was falling to the ground, and the stones were stained with his blood.

Section 16: St. Mark is Incarcerated

When evening had fallen, they threw him in prison, and deliberated upon the manner of death by which they should destroy him. But in the middle of the night, after the doors had been shut and the guards stationed at the doors, behold, a great earthquake occurred. For an angel of the Lord, coming from heaven, touched him saying, “O Mark, slave of God, chief of the saints in Egypt, behold your name has been inscribed in a book of eternal life and counted along with the holy apostles. Behold, your memorial shall never be forsaken. You have become a companion of the powers above in heaven. Archangels shall receive you and your remains on earth shall not perish.”

Section 17: The Lord Appears to the Evangelist

Having seen this vision, the blessed Mark, his hands outstretched, said, “I thank you, my Lord Jesus Christ, that you did not desert me, but you have numbered me with your saints. I beseech you, O Lord Jesus Christ, to welcome my soul and not reject me from your grace.” And after he said these things, the Lord Jesus appeared to him in the form [that he bore] when he was with his disciples, the very form [he bore] before his suffering and entombment, and said [lit., ‘says’] to him, “Peace to you, our own Mark, my evangelist.” And Mark said, “Peace to you, my Lord Jesus Christ.”

Section 18: St. Mark is Tortured to Death

But early in the morning, the multitude of the city returned and removed him from the prison. They again threw the rope around his neck and dragged [him about], saying, “Let us drag the antelope to [the places of the] Boukolou.” But the blessed Mark again offered up thanks to the creator of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Into your hands, Lord, I commit my spirit.” And after he said this he surrendered his spirit.

Section 19: The Pagans Attempt to Burn His Remains

But the multitude of impious Greeks kindled a fire in the so-called Angels, and incinerated the remains of the righteous [one]. Then, by the foreknowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a squall arose, and a great windstorm came along, and the sun ceased shining, and there was a great roar of thunder and heavy rain with lightening until evening, so as to knock down many dwellings and kill many. Afraid, they released the corpse of the saint and fled. But others sneered and said, “How their thrice-blessed Serapis made a visitation to the man on account of his birthday festival!”

Section 20: The Evangelist is Buried

Then devout persons came and wrapped up the body of the righteous one from the ashes and bore it to where they finished their prayers and hymn-singing, and dressed him [i.e., his body, for burial] according to the custom of the city, and laid him out in a place that had been splendidly hewn. They completed his memorial prayerfully and decorously; they valued him as the first treasure in Alexandria. They laid him to rest in the eastern section [of the city].

Section 21:Conclusion

The blessed Mark, the Evangelist and first martyr of our Lord Jesus Christ was laid to rest in Alexandria in the Egyptian month of Pharmouthi 30th, but according to the Romans before the Kalends of May; according to the Hebrews the 17th of Nisan, during the reign of Gaius Tiberius Caesar, but according to us the Christians during the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

  1. [1]This I learned from independent scholar Rene Salm, The Acts of Mark: An important discovery, online at here.

Looking at Aufhauser’s 1913 “edition” of miracle-stories of St George

A couple of years after his 1911 publication on the miracles of the Dragon and the Demon, Aufhauser went on to publish the text of 19 miracle stories or other pieces about St George, in the Teubner series in 1913.  (Online at here).

The book contains text(s) taken from several manuscripts.  Unhappily these include the codex Athous Ioasaphaion 308, written on paper so late as 1878.  Yes, that is right – only 35 years before the Teubner, and written, much of it, in modern Greek.  The stories agree on content, but little else; so, mysteriously, Aufhauser edits two or three or more versions in parallel, in a hard to follow manner.

Here are the items in it (I’ve translated the Latin titles given by Aufhauser).  Aufhauser gave summaries of the first 13 items in his 1911 book, which I have already given here.  Items 14-19 he prints for the first time.

1. De columna viduae – The column of the widow
2. De imagine perfossa – The stabbed image
3. De iuvene Paphlagonensi – The Paphlagonian young man
4. De filio ducis Leonis – The son of Duke Leo
5. De bubus Theopisti – The runaway oxen of Theopistus
6. De visione Saraceni  – The Saracen’s vision
7. De imagine – The image
8. De milite interfecto – The murdered soldier
9. De iuvene Mytilenaeo capto – The captured young man of Mytilene
10. De libo – The pancake
11. De Manuele – Manuel
12. De dracone – The dragon
13. De daemone – The demon
14. De zona S. Georgii – The belt of St George
15. Apocalypsis S. Georgii – The apocalpyse of St George
16. Hymnus in honorem S. Georgii – A hymn in honour of St George
17. De mansionario – The inn-keeper
18. De statua marmorea – The marble statue
19. De voto coram imagine – The vow before the image

The contents of items 14-19 are not given except in the text.

I understand that a number of these items exist in French translation, in A.J. Festugiere, Saint Thecle, saints Cosme et Damien, saints Cyr et Iean (extraits), Saint Georges (Paris 1971), 33-82.  That’s a lot of pages; maybe he translated the lot!  I shall place an ILL and see.

I find that various of these miracles are recounted online on orthodox pages.  I don’t know if they have much connection to the texts published by Aufhauser.

My purpose in investigating all this has been to discover if there are literary texts which should be translated into English.  But it seems more than doubtful that any of this deserves translation, at least by me.  A summary of the contents of each story would serve for most purposes; for none of these texts are canonical, or literary, or form any kind of collection.  They are just stories, legends, that circulate.  So why spend much time on translating one of the many forms in which a given story exists in the manuscripts?

The passio of St George is another matter, as there is clearly a literary history involved.  It is possible that the materials around St George and the dragon might usefully be put into English, because of the importance of that myth to the English-speaking world.

But all in all, it’s some distance from what I want to be doing.


From my diary

So much is online these days, that I hardly use my local library any more.  Also I have rather more money than I did thirty years ago, and the temptation is strong to simply order any book that I want, and have it appear at my house – or my hotel room – the next day.

It is, of course, terribly wasteful to do this.  But I admit to having succumbed twice in recent weeks, once for Christopher Walter’s The Warrior Saints – a fine book indeed, and absolutely critical for anyone interested in the St George literature – and also for the Ashgate Research Companion to Hagiography volume 2.  The latter was probably a very expensive mistake, for I have still not opened it.

Another text was not online, nor readily available for purchase.  So I sent an email to my local library asking them to get it for me.  I was mildly surprised to be told that my library card had expired.  After using the same card for over thirty years, this seemed very odd!  But they ordered it anyway, and it arrived today.  For $8 I can have the use of it for two weeks.  That’s not very long; except that, of course, I always intended to scan it and create a PDF which would always be with me.  As the item was published before WW1, and is therefore out of copyright in the USA, I also intended to put it online.

This morning I collected it, on a steaming hot grey morning.  It was good to see  that my PC copy of Abbyy Finereader Pro 12 and book scanner still worked.  The small size of the volume, and small text size, meant that I had to scan it at 600dpi, which of course meant very large bitmaps.  These were almost 20mb per page in .png colour format; half that, on average, in jpg.  And they had to be colour, because the spine was tightly bound and the shadow in the spine covered some of the text.  Peculiarly the yellowed paper scanned as a faint pink.

Anyway the scan is certainly good enough for my purposes, although I do wish somebody would find a way to produce monochrome scans of tightly bound books!

I’ve been thinking about the legends of St George.  A remark by Christopher Walter has resonated.  These are not literary texts, where the specific words of the story matter.  These are folkstories, where the story is all, but the precise words nothing.

It’s like the legends of King Arthur.  There actually is no original text for these.  Instead there are the legends, in ever-changing forms, and any two recitings may be cast in quite different words.  Such written forms as exist are derivative from this process.

The same is true of the legends of Robin Hood.  There are the medieval ballads, but nobody pretends that these are definitive.  The story will feature Robin, and Little John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham; and at the end the Sheriff will be foiled and the Merry Men will celebrate in the greenwood.  The rest is mere scaffolding, temporary and of no permanent importance.

The same must be true of the stories of St George.  Nobody ever cared about the precise words.  It is the story that matters.  Consequently almost every other copy is quite different.  It is qualitatively a mistake to try to trace a stemma in the way that we might for a literary text.

The legends of St George, like those of Robin Hood, have an oral element.  On the feast day of St George, it would be necessary to give an account of the saint.  Collections of brief accounts of saints exist, in the synaxaries, compiled for just this purpose.  But longer accounts would naturally be given, sermons might well incorporate other material, and so tellings of the legend would extend.

I’ve also been mulling over the question of whether St George is English.  This sounds like a strange question!  But today English nationalism is held in great suspicion by the British ruling class, who rightly see it as a threat to their internationalist policies, and attacks on English institutions are encouraged.  St George as a symbol of England, wearing the red cross, is therefore suspect.

On twitter I saw a jeer that St George was a Palestinian immigrant.  Much nationalism has been excited by the settlement of more than five million immigrants in the last decade, which gives the jeer its point.  Like most good jeers it is designed to be hard to respond to.  But we instinctively know that something is wrong.  And it gives us the chance to clarify what we mean by a nation’s patron saint.

St George was adopted as the patron saint of England by the crusader kings of England.  The invincible warrior on horseback was about all they took from earlier Greek legends.  But saints of that period belonged to all of Christendom.  Possibly this is still true even today, for Catholic saints.  St George was not a Palestinian, even if his shrine stood in Lydda.  The original St George, if he existed, was a Greek or a Roman.  Like the heritage of antiquity, like the Holy Roman Emperor, he belonged to all Christians everywhere.  Any nation was at liberty to adopt a saint, and customise him for their nation.  And that is what kings like Richard the Lionheart and Edward III did.  In a sense, they created St George of England, from a mixture of existing materials – this linked him to the cult of the saint – and their own contemporary need for a hero-saint.  St George is not an immigrant, but a home grown expression of what the English wanted.

Is this perhaps some sort of reply?  At this point we pass rather beyond my period, so I can’t say how accurate all this is.  But it is certainly more true than the gibe of St George the immigrant, which nobody ever heard of until these unhappy days.

I confess that many of the working class nationalists that one sees depicted on the television are wildly unattractive.  But if we must have such people, would it be such a bad thing for them all to revere St George?!

That said, it seems most unlikely that anybody will.  I am the last person to predict how things will be.

That said, I have nagging doubts about the direction of modern life…!