Manuscripts and text of the Vita S. Valentini: a review of the article by Edoardo D’Angelo

I’ve started to look at the photocopies that I obtained three days ago of articles in the Bassetti volume of papers about St Valentine.[1]  Naturally my first interest is the paper by Edoardo D’Angelo, “La Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460-8460b): Un ‘martirio occulto’ d’età postcostantiniana?” (p.179-222), as it contains a discussion of the manuscripts and a new critical edition.

The first thing that struck me about the paper was its position.  If I were doing a volume of papers centred around a single literary text, and one of those papers was a critical edition of the text, then I would most certainly place it at the front.  I would also insist on a translation.  Doing so would be the natural way to begin such a volume and present it to the public.  Instead it is the seventh paper in the volume, and relatively one of the shortest.

The paper starts with a list of manuscripts containing the work, which is really very useful considering the small space in which it has to appear.  There are 118 manuscripts in all, and two of a slightly modified  version of the text identified as BHL 8460b.  Seven of these date from before 1000 AD, two before 900; and a further thirty-seven from before 1200.  These are all given.[2]  The remainder sadly are not; but of course there is no space.

The origins of each manuscript are not given, but we learn that nearly all of these are Italian, and all of the early ones.  D’Angelo infers from this that the text has an Italian origin.  It is always risky to argue from survivals, but it is not improbable in any way that the Life of St Valentine of Terni should originate close by, in Lazio.  The other content of the manuscripts likewise relates to Umbrian saints.

The 37 manuscripts include a manuscript from South Africa, from the “Grey collection”.  I don’t think that I have ever before seen reference to a medieval manuscript held in South Africa.  I would hope that the remaining South Africans are photographing the manuscripts as fast as they can before the barbarian rulers of that unhappy land destroy them.

The wide diffusion of the text and the Carolingian date of some of the copies tends to suggest an early date.  The quotation of two sentences verbatim by Bede in his Martyrology (CPL 2032) in the early 8th century provides a terminus antequam.  The text is most likely therefore of the 6-7th century.

The standard reference edition of the text is still that of the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum (AASS), under February 14.  This was printed in 1658, yet D’Angelo tells us that “Tale edizione seicentesca, fondata su una base decente di codici, ha retto tutto sommato all’urto del tempo e dell’avanzamento della ricerca.” (“This seventeenth century edition, founded on a decent base of manuscripts, has all in all survived the impact of time and the progress of research”), which is fair comment.  The AASS introduction states that it was based on five mss plus the Mombritius edition; but the footnotes to the text come from three manuscripts; “S. Maxim.”, “Regium.” and “Gladbas.”, six breviaries, and two printed editions, the Mombritius and Surius.  D’Angelo has clearly not had the chance to pursue this very far, but suggests that the “Regium” must be one of the 8 mss in the Royal Library in Brussels – reasonable, considering that the Bollandists were working in that area – and the “Gladbas” is probably ms. 72 in the library of the Bollandists, previously from the monastery of St Vitus Martyr in Gladbach.

The editor has produced his new edition based on the earliest manuscripts, plus a handful from the next 37, which he believes to be from the same geographical area.  This is reasonable up to a point; but what we do not see is proper stemmatics.  We all know that late manuscripts can contain truth which is not found in surviving earlier manuscripts.  There is also the problem that this is not a literary text, but a hagiographical one, where the copyist may feel free to alter the text.  The article is not nearly long enough to explore these questions properly, and so the new edition is not really as critical as it could be.  All the same it involves various small changes to the text printed by the Bollandists.

One decision made by the editor seems to me to be absolutely mistaken.  He has not normalised the spelling: we have “michi” rather than “mihi”, for instance.  The logic here seems to be faulty: we are told that the mss vary wildly, that we have no idea what spelling the author might have used (although I do not see why we care), and so he has compromised between the spellings of the manuscripts, in order to avoid “alle pericolosissime tentazioni di classicizzazione forzata” (the most perilous temptations of forced classicization”).  But we do not do this in our literary editions.  The variable spelling of Shakespeare, or even Jane Austen, are not respected in modern editions.  Spelling was not standardised in the past.  This was an evil, not a good, and it was a barrier to communication.  The editor should have used the standard spellings, and noted anything he felt was significant in the apparatus.

Short though the paper is, the author has also been obliged to discuss whether the content of the Life of St Valentine is in some way historical.  The attempt is made to show that it might be.

We learn that many people suppose the events in the story to belong to the reign of Claudius II Gothicus (268-270), because that is the setting for the martyrdom of Valentine the Roman in the Passio Maris et Martha, which may or may not be the same saint as our St Valentine of Terni.  The logic of this is poor: there may be two separate St Valentines, or they may be the same one.

The Prefect of the City of Rome in the Life is given as “furius Placidus”, “the furious Placidus”.  The Bollandists treated this as a joke by the author, but D’A. identifies him as a certain absurdly named Marcus Mecius Memmius Furius Baburius Cecilianus Placidus, praetorian prefect from 342-4 and prefect of the city from 346-7.  Other not very distinctive names are adduced to suggest that the story should be set in the same period.  None of this seems much more than speculation.  Nothing compels us to believe that these are anything but coincidences.

  1. [1]M. Bassetti &c, San Valentino e il suo culto tra medioevo ed età contemporanea. Uno status quaestionis, Terni, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-8879885713.
  2. [2]The numeral for the shelfmark for the early MS in the Arch.Cap.S.Pietro has been omitted; unfortunate considering that there are 470 such mss.

From my diary

Today I had to drive for three hours each way for a job “interview” of around twenty minutes.  I already had a job offer, but I thought it wise to have a face-to-face meeting, and it proved very wise indeed.  The job looks like a stress-fest.  Not for me.

But I redeemed the travel time somewhat.  The road passed close by Cambridge University Library, so I stopped off on the way.  The volume that I wanted was waiting, for I had ordered it last night using the internet.  This was the Bassetti volume, San Valentino e il culto, on St Valentine of Terni, to which I referred in this post.  My intention was to photocopy the key articles within it, which I did, and then went on my way.

The most important article was Edoardo D’Angelo, “La passio sancti Valentini martyris…”, which contains a critical text of the Life of St Valentine that I have been translating, together with a list of manuscripts and an attempt at a stemma.  I have extracted the Latin text  of the Life, this evening, using my trusty Finereader 14.  It will be most interesting to see how and where it diverges from the text as given in the Acta Sanctorum, which I have been translating.  I’ve not seen any obvious changes so far.

One deviation is regrettable.  D’Angelo has decided to number the individual sentences of the Life, which is fine. But he also decided to ignore the section/chapter numbers from the Acta Sanctorum.  This is not fine.  It means that anyone with his text before them cannot locate material mentioned in any prior scholarship; they will have to find the Acta Sanctorum text.  Likewise any subsequent scholarship using his edition and numbering system will force the reader to obtain access to an obscure Italian volume of collected papers, held in relatively few research libraries.

D’Angelo is not the only editor to commit this sin. A little while ago I found that Zacharopoulos, a modern Greek editor of Theophanes of Nicaea (see here), did exactly the same.  This was even more of a problem because the Sotiropoulos editio princeps is almost completely inaccessible without an international flight.

Every new edition should always indicate the divisions or page numbers of the very first edition, the editio princeps.  It’s only considerate towards those who will use your work.

For Valentine, I might see if I can rectify this problem myself somehow, by giving a concordance or something on this blog.

    *    *    *    *

It’s slightly odd to think that I have made brief raids up to Cambridge like this for more than twenty years now.  It means that I have witnessed a lot of change there.

In fact every time I visit Cambridge University Library something is different.  It is not always better.  For instance some strange person has moved the photocopiers out of a dedicated room and scattered them around the building.  Staff are becoming used to bewildered visitors hunting for a machine.

Likewise I am not an alumnus of Cambridge.  It is merely the nearest research library that I can use.  Because of this, I have to pay a fee to use the library, and outsiders like myself are second-class readers in many little ways.

This time the change was about photocopying.  In reception I asked to put some money on my library card in order to pay for photocopies at the machine.  To my surprise they deducted some odd amount, on the pretext of the VAT tax.  A notice in the photocopier room in the West Room informed me that university members got their photocopies ex-VAT.

I confess that I wasn’t aware that national taxes on the supply of goods and services do not apply if you are a member of certain universities.  This sounds unlikely, in fact.  I suspect that the taxman will take a dim view of this approach, once he becomes aware.  But of course he shall not learn it from me.

The other thing that made me smile was that they made me fill out a paper form, in order to add money to my card.  I suppose we must expect pettifoggery from library staff.  The more conscientious they are, the better for the books, but the worse for low-status readers like myself.

I confess that, in my exasperation at all this tomfoolery, I expressed myself less politely than I might have done.  Luckily there was no harm done this time.  But it is always a mistake, as well as uncharitable.

I shall see what Bassetti’s volume looks like tomorrow!


Will the real St Valentine please step forward? – A look at the BHL

Valentine’s Day has just passed.  In honour of the day, I thought that it would be interesting to look in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina vol. 2, and see what it says about saints named “Valentinus”.

Rather to my astonishment, Abbyy Finereader 14 seems to be very good at OCRing Latin.  So here it is:

  • Valentinus presb. Ecclesiolae prope Molismum, ante med. saec. V. — Iul. 4.

Vita. Inc. B. Valentinus in Laticensi suburbano Lingonensium oriundus — Des. facile intelligatur. [8457

Act. SS. Iul. II. 41-42.
Exc. Bouquet, III. 410-11.

  • Valentinus ep. Ianuensis, saec. IV in. — Mai 2.

1. Vita. Inc. B. Valentinus, bonae indolis puer — Des. sine quo nullus nostrum esse potest, ipso adiuvante… Amen. [8458

Act. SS. Mai VII. 544; 3a ed. 535-36.

2. Inventio, elevatio, miracula. Inc. Huius talis ac tanti V~i praesulis, unde superius — Des. praesentem sentiret. Hoc quoque ad laudem et gloriam Christi… Amen. [8459

Act. SS. t. c. 544-46; 3a ed. 536-37.
Exc. Ughelli, IV. 1151-54; 2a ed. 837-38.

  • Valentinus ep. Interamnensis, m. Romae, sub Claudio. — Febr. 14.

1. Vita. Inc. Propheta loquitur ad Deum… Unde b. vir Interamnensis ep. — Des. a s. Abundio non longe a corpore s. V~i sunt sepulti, collaudantes Dnm… Amen. [8460

Mombritius, II. 343-44; || Surius, I (1570), 984-86; (1576), 1014-16; II (1618), 145-46; II (1875), 349-52; || Act. SS. Febr.II. 756-57; 3a ed. 757-58.

2. Epitome.

Petrus de Nat. iii. 122.

3. Translatio capitis Gemmeticum et miracula auct. Baldrico ep. Dolensi. Inc. prol. Qualiter bb. V~i caput Gemmeticum usque — Inc. Quidam qui sacerdotio fungebatur — Des. ab infirmitate illa curatus sanus egressus est. [8461

Act. SS. t. c. 758-62; 3a ed. 759-63; || P.L. CLXVI. 1153-64.

  • Valentinus ep. Raetiarum (al. ep. Pataviensis), saec. V. — Ian. 7.

1. Vita et translatio. Inc. In civitate Pataviensi inventum est sub nostro aevo — Des. ubi adhuc plurima fiunt miracula, quae facit… Amen. Celebratur autem festum etc. etc… [8462

Act. SS. Ian. 1. 1094-97; 3a ed. 728-33. — (Mut.) Surius, IV (1573), 474-477; (1579), 506-9; VIII (1618), 43-45; || Act. SS. t. c. 369-72.
Exc. Reschius, Annales eccl. Sabionensis, 282-86, 290 (partim ex libello genuino, partim ex Surio).

2. Epitome.

Bartholomaeus Tridentinus, Gesta Sanctorum (Lutolf, in Theologische Quartalschrift, LXIII, Tübingen, 1881, 469).

  • Valentinus presb. m. Romae, sub Claudio. — Febr. 14.

1. Passio. Inc. Tempore quo persequebatur Claudius Christianos, tenuit quendam presbyterum — Des. a) et sepelivit in eodem loco ubi decollatus est. [8463

vel β) ubi decollatus est, accipiens coronam vitae quam repromisit Deus diligentibus se. [8464

vel γ) diligentibus se. Ibi postea a Iulio papa fabricata est ecclesia… usque in hodiernum diem. [8465

Act. SS. Febr, II. 753-54; 3a ed. 754-55. — Excerpta est haec Passio ad verbum ex Passione SS. Marii, Marthae et soc. In quibusdam codicibus, servatis etiam primis verbis cap. 6 Passionis SS. Marii etc., Passio Valentini inc. “ Tunc tenuit Claudius quendam ven. virum…, [8466.

In aliis codicibus tamquam Passio S. Valentini profertur vel integra, vel paene integra Passio SS. Marii etc.

2. Epitomae.

Leg. aurea, c. 42. — Petrus de Nat. III. 123.

  • Valentinus ep. Terracinensis et Damianus eius diae., mm. in territorio Teatino, + sub Iuliano. — Mart. 16.

Passio et inventio.

I. Passio. Inc. Temporibus Magni Constantini piissimi imp. erat quidam vir — Des. usque in hodiernum diem. Passi sunt autem… Amen. [8467

II. Inventio, translatio, miracula. Inc. Postquam divina ordinatione — Des. Deum et ss. mm. eius V-um et D-um glorificavit. [8468

Ughelli, VII. 1351-60 ; 2a ed. I. 1284-89; || Act. SS. Mart. II. 428-31; 3a ed. 423-26: || Contator (D. A.), De historia Terracinensi (Romae, 1706), 493-502.

Exc. (ipsa pars ii) Act. SS. Mai III. 569-70 (3a ed. 566-67), n. 3 et 5.

  • Valentinus et Hilarius mm. Viterbii, sub Maximiano. — Nov. 3.

1. Passio,

a. Inc. Temporibus illis, quo Maximianus augustus regnavit post obitum patris sui Diocletiani augusti, ipso tempore interfecit sororem suam — Des. Qui ita martyr Christi effectus est in Dno N. I. C… Amen. [8469

Appendix. Inc. Supradictorum vero mm. corpora — Des. de Roma adduxerat; cuius… celebratur m kal. ian., ad laudem… Amen. [8470

Act. SS. Nov. I. 626-29, col. 1. — (Mut.) Nardinus (N.), Acta ss. mm. Valentini praesbyteri et Hilarii diaconi (Viterbii, 1684), 7-11; || Pennazzi (S. A.), Vita dei glorioso S. Eutizio (Montefiascone, 1721), 324-28; || Andreucci (A. Gir.), Notizie istoriche de gloriosi ss. Valentino prete ed Ilario diacono (Roma, 1740), 61-64; || Bussi (F.), Istoria delta citta di Viterbo (Roma, 1742), 444-45; || Assemani (I. S.), De SS. Ferentinis in Tuscia Bonifacio etc. (Romae, 1745), 169-72.

Exc. (ex libello genuino) Act. SS. Mai III. 459 (3a ed. 457-58), n. 4. — Pennazzi, t. c. 339-40. — Andreucci, t. c. 44-46, 56-57.

b. Inc. Tempore quo Maximianus augustus regnabat, misit edictum — Des. Qui inventus martyr effectus est in I. C. Dno N… Amen. [8471

Appendix. Inc. ut in 1a. — Des. de Roma addux., ad laudem… [8472

Andreucci, t. c. 51-55; || Bibl. Casin. III. Floril. 158-60; || Act. SS. Nov. I. 626-29, col. 2.

2. Epitome. Inc. ut 1b. — Des. et sepulti sunt in locum qui vocatur Cavillarius. [8473

Pennazzi, t. c. 333-35; || Andreucci, t. c. 48-49; || Act. SS. t. c. 625.

3. Inventio saec. XIV in. Inc. Gloriosus Deus in sanctis suis — Des. fidei postulantium impendebat, ad laudem… Amen. [8474

Act. SS. t. c. 632-34.

My what a lot of abbreviations!  For the newcomer, a couple of important ones.

  • Act. SS. is of course the Acta Sanctorum. This is organised into months, and then by the saint’s feast day date.  So saints related to Feb. 14 is in the “February volume 2” volume.
  • Inc = Incipit and Des = Desinit – the opening and closing words of the text.  Texts in manuscripts don’t tend to come with identifiers, so the start and end is useful.
  • The number after the bracket, “[8474”, is the reference number.  Refer to your chosen saint and the specific text about him as “BHL 8474”.

So… there are a bunch of saints here, commemorated on various days.

Only two of these are celebrated on Valentine’s Day, February 14th; Valentinus of Interramna (two texts, BHL 8460, 8461), and Valentinus of Rome (BHL 8466).  The rest we are not concerned with here.

Well, once we have the BHL number, we can do some useful Googling!  And … by golly it is useful!

It turns out that there was a conference in Terni (=Interramna) back in 2010, and the papers were published as M.Bassetti & E.Menestò, San Valentino e il suo culto tra medioevo ed età contemporanea: uno status quaestionis (Terni, 9-11 dicembre 2010), CISAM: Spoleto 2012, 368 pp.[1]  This includes a paper by Edoardo D’Angelo with a critical edition of BHL 8460![2]  There is another paper with a description of the manuscript tradition.  Sadly none of this is online, and I don’t have any access to it at the moment, but I know where a copy can be found.  Clearly I need to look at this.

The search also reminded me of the marvellous Cult of the Saints in Late Antiquity database.  They have a page with all the data on Valentine of Rome here; and another on Valentine of Interramna here.  There is even a summary of the content pf BHL 8460 here.  All of this is massively useful.

But the most useful item that I found was a page in Walter Pohl &c, Transformations of Romanness: Early Medieval Regions and Identities, ., p.200-201.  This is worth reproducing as a handy summary of the Valentine material:

The earliest hagiographic text associated with a city within the duchy of Spoleto is dedicated to St Valentine, martyr and bishop of the church of Terni. Already known to Bede who borrowed from it in his Martyrology, the Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460) was written between the late sixth and the early eighth century.13 The existence of two different Valentines, one celebrated in BHL 8460 as the bishop of Terni and the other, a Roman presbyter, mentioned in the Passio sanctorum Marii, Marthae et filiorum (BHL 5543), still makes it difficult to assess who the ‘original’ Valentine was and where he was first venerated.14* However, the existence of two cults and two distinct hagiographic traditions hints at two different centres of promotion belonging to two separate ecclesiastical and political spaces: the episcopal city of Terni in the Spoletan duchy on the one hand, and Rome on the other.15

The entire narrative of the Passio Valentini (BHL 8460) takes place in Rome. The city as described by the anonymous hagiographer is an imperial capital with a strong cultural appeal: three noble students from Athens reach Rome to complete their education in Latin and, in order to do so, they choose magister Craton, an orator practising both in Greek and Latin (orator utriusque linguae). After witnessing the miraculous healing of the young scolasticus Cerimon at the hands of Valentine, the three Athenian students decide to give up on their education in human wisdom (studia humanae sapientiae) and to engage in spiritual studies (spiritalibus studiis) because, as the saint had reminded them, ‘worldly wisdom is deemed foolish in the eyes of God’ (sapientia mundi stulta est apud Deum).16 A multitude of students and the son of the prefectus urbi also publicly adhere to the Christian faith. The outraged senators then proceed to arrest Valentine, who is tortured and eventually beheaded at the order of the city prefect. His body is brought back to Terni by the Athenians who are themselves captured by the consularis Lucentius, sentenced to death and buried close to the saint.

[13] Emore Paoli, “La ‘Passio sancti Valentini’ (BHL 8460)”, in Bassetti 2012, 177. For the edition of the text see Passio sancti Valentini martyris, ed. D’Angelo, 211-222. Details from the text are recorded in the manuscript that has been acknowledged as the closest witness to Bede’s original martyrology (St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek 451,15-17).

[14] In the early Middle Ages, Valentine was commemorated on the same day in a basilica near Terni and in a sanctuary close to Rome, both located on the Via Flaminia. This would suggest that the same saint was at the origin of two cults, cf. Claudia Angelelli, “Roma o Interramna Nahars? Le più antiche testimonianze del culto di S. Valentino e il problema della “priorità””, in Bassetti 2012, p.127-158. Online at here.

[15] Susi 2012, 291-299. = Eugenio Susi, “Il culto di san Valentino in Italia nel medioevo”, in the same volume.

[16] Passio sancti Valentini martyris, ed. D’Angelo, 218.

This summary again indicates the importance of the Bassetti volume.

Searching Google books for BHL 8460 brought up massive numbers of manuscript library catalogues, all in snippet view.  It’s clear that this Life of St Valentine appears in collections of Saints’ lives (Vitae Sanctorum) or “Legendaries”, in library after library.  An online manuscript is Paris latin 18305, details at the BNF here, and a monochrome set of images here, life on foll. 63-66v.  It starts thus, clearly with red lettering:

There are undoubtedly others online, if I looked further.

What I learn from today’s effort is the importance of the BHL for looking into Saints’ Lives.  A Google search is futile until you have the BHL number.

  1. [1]For sale at a “modest” 60 euros from the publisher here: there is also a lengthy description of the contents
  2. [2]“La Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460-8460b). Un ‘martirio occulto’ d’età postcostantiniana?”.  It’s on pp.179-222.