Notes on the Life of Nicholas of Myra by John the Deacon

Frequently listed among the important sources for the legends of St Nicholas of Myra is the Life written in Latin by John the Deacon.  This is not printed in Anrich’s collection of Greek sources, which is a nuisance.  Various versions of John’s text were created in the Middle Ages, and there is a translation of something into English online here.  But where to find John’s text?

Today I happened on some useful information.  The old Catholic Encyclopedia article on John the Deacon tells us:

(2) John, deacon of Naples, d. after 910. This deacon, or head of a diaconia at the church of St. Januarius of Naples, flourished towards the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth century, …. A biography of St. Nicholas of Mira (ed. Cardinal Mai in “Spicilegium Romanum”, IV, 323 sqq.) is not by this John but by another author of the same name.

The volume of Spicilegium Romanum is here, in a poor-quality scan.  This is indeed a different text to that translated above.  It is on p.323-339.  But surely so widely known a text as John the Deacon has been printed before this?

This leads me, of course, to a text that I have never consulted before: the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina, whose volumes are online here: Vol. 1. A – I and Vol. 2. K – Z, although not to non-US readers because of the greed of German publishers. Thankfully a V1 is here and V2 can be found here.  On p.890 (=p.203 of the PDF), we find an entry for Nicholas of Myra.

In the BHL we find the Life of John the Deacon in first place (BHL 6104-9), and printed by Falconius in Sancti confessoris pontificis … Nicolai acta primigenia (Neapoli, 1751), 112-22, containing chapters 1-13, and also on p.126.  Falconius is here, and the text starts here.

After John’s work there follows in the BHL a mass of other Latin versions of the Life, too many to be of any interest.  But it might be interesting to translate John’s Life of Nicholas into English.

Nicholas of Myra in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca

The Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (3rd ed) gives a list of hagiographical texts about St Nicholas of Myra, the origin of our Santa Claus.

As I am commissioning translations, I thought that I would run through this, in an abbreviated way, and see just what there is listed.  Nothing like typing it out, to get a feel for the material!  But of course it may be rather boring to read!

  • BHG 1347. Vita. Printed in G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos I (Leipzig, 1913), 3-55; cf. 56-59. Also in N.C. Falconius, Sancti Nicolai … acta primigenia (Neapoli, 1751), 1-29. (Falconius is online here). But … this work is actually the Vita of Nicholas of Sion, not of Nicholas of Myra.
  • 1348. Vita by Michael the Archimandrite. Anrich I, 113-139.
  • 1348b. Vita praemetaphrastica. Inc. aceph. Anrich I, 268-275, but omitting most of a speech. Cf. Anrich II, 127-128.
  • 1348c. “Vita compilata”. Anrich I, 211-233, but with significant omissions.
  • 1348d. Miraculum de tribus filiabus. Chapters 25-28 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1348e. Miraculum. De muliere sanata. Chapter 47 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1348f. Nativitas. Chapters 1-13 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1349. Vita by Simeon Metaphrastes. Anrich I, 235-267; Falconius t. c. 86-108; PG 116, 317-356.
  • 1349a. Vita “Lycio-Alexandrina”. Anrich I, 301-311.
  • 1349b. Vita. Mentioned in Anrich II, 566; not printed but a manuscript given.
  • 1349c. Vita or Periodoi. Anrich I, 312-332.
  • 1349d. A related text, somehow printed in the same place in Anrich.
  • 1349e. Vita, like c and d. Not printed.
  • 1349k. Vita, inc. aceph. Not printed.
  • 1349s. Synaxarium et miracula. Anrich I, 205-209.
  • 1349t. Synaxarium brevius. Anrich II, 300, ann. 1.
  • 1349u. Epitome. Anrich I, 277-288.
  • 1349z. Acta seu Praxis de stratelatis. Anrich I, 67-77.
  • 1350. Second version of the same. Anrich I, 77-83; Falconius t.c. 30-34.
  • 1350a. Another version again. Anrich I, 83-91.
  • 1350b-k. The same story in various other forms, none available in printed form, and so of no immediate interest here.
  • 1351. Praxis de tributo. Anrich I, 98-102; Falconius 34-38.
  • 1351a. Second version of same. Anrich I, 102-110.
  • 1351s. Unpublished version of same.
  • 1352. Miraculum de imagine. Anrich I, 339-342; Falconius 82-86.
  • 1352a. Miracula sex. Anrich I, 168-197.
  • 1352b. Miracula duo. Anrich I, 361-363.
  • 1352c. Miraculum de navibus frumentariis. Anrich I, 288-299.
  • 1352d. Miraculum de arbore. Anrich I, 333-330.
  • 1352e. Miraculum de presbytero Siculo. Anrich I, 343.
  • 1352f. Another version. Anrich I, 344-345.
  • 1352g. Miraculum Catanense. Anrich I, 345-347.
  • 1352h. Same again. Anrich I, 347-349.
  • 1352i. Miraculum de Nicolao claudo. Anrich I, 349-352 ; cf. II, 567.
  • 1352j. Miraculum de Leone paralytico. Anrich I, 353.
  • 1352k. Miraculum Euripense. Anrich I, 354-357.
  • 1352m. Miraculum de pastore fure. Inc. aceph. Anrich I, 359-361, omissa clausula; cf. II, 133, 145.
  • 1352n. Miraculum de thesauro imperatorio. Anrich I, 365-368.
  • 1352p. Miraculum de colybis. Anrich I, 368-371.
  • 1352q. Miraculum de tribus pueris Cretensibus. Anrich II, 557-563, omisso prologo.
  • 1352r. Miraculum de Arnabandensibus. Anrich I, 59-61.
  • 1352s. Miraculum de Nicolao Presbeiensi. Anrich I, 61-62.
  • 1352t-x. Various excerpts and unpublished items.
  • 1352y. Vita a. Methodio (postea patr. CP.). Inc. prol. ad Theodorum. Anrich I, 140-150 ; iterum II, 546-556. — Emend. A. Brinkmann in Rheinisches Museum 69 (1914), 424-426.
  • 1352z. Laudatio a. Methodio patr. CP. (vel Basileo ep. Lacedaem.). Anrich I, 153-182. Insunt miracula tria illa de tribus filiabus, de navibus frumentariis et de stratelatis, deinde miracula tria post mortem patrata (= 1357-1360).
  • 1353-6. Thaumata tria, including prologue. Falconius t. c. 56-66; Anrich I, 185-197.
  • 1356y-z. Miracula tria post mortem patrata a. Methodio patr. CP. B. 7 (b) (vel Basileo ep. Lacedaem.). Anrich I, 167-168. Cf. II, 87-88.
  • 1357-60. I. De Ioanne auctoris patre. II. De sacerdote. III. De Petro scholario. Epilogus. Falconius t. c. 66-74; Anrich I, 169-182 (altera pars laudationis 6z = 1352z).
  • 1360a. Miracula VII. Not printed. See Anrich II, 91.
  • 1360b. Miracula VII post mortem patrata. Excerpts in Anrich I, 357-358 (de Antonio monacho naufrago). — Cf. Anrich II, 94-95.
  • 1360c,de, f. g. k and m. More unpublished miracles.
  • 1361. Miracula metrica a. Nicephoro Callisto. Inc. prol. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Analecta Hieros. stachy. IV, 357-366. — Excerpts in Anrich I, 352-353, 363-364, 456-457.
  • 1361b. Translatio Barim sub Alexio Comneno. Anrich I, 435-449.  English translation here.[1]
  • 1361z. Prologus metricus in sequentem orationem a. Manuele Phila. E. Miller, Manuelis Philae carmina II (Parisiis, 1857), 337-339.
  • 1362. Laudatio a. Andrea Cretensi. Combefis, S. Andreae Cret. orationes 188-196; Falconius t. c. 75-81 (ubi Leoni VI imp. adscribitur); P.G. 97, 1192-1205 ; Anrich I, 419-428.
  • 1362b-c. Two more unpublished versions of the Laudatio of Andrew of Crete.
  • 1362z. Prologus metricus in sequentem orationem (a. Manuele Phila). Unprinted.
  • 1363. Laudatio a. Leone VI imp. P. Possinus, Leonis Augusti oratio in laudem S. Nicolai (Tolosae, 1644), 7-40; P.G. 107, 203-228 ; Akakios 145-159. — an except in Anrich II, 165-166.
  • 1364. Laudatio a. Neophyto incluso. Anrich I, 392-417, omissa maiore perorationis parte.
  • 1364a. Oratio a. « Theophane Cerameo». Scorsi 347-353; Palamas 218-222; P.G. 132, 905-917.
  • 1364b. Laudatio a. Georgio chartophylace. Excerpts: Anrich I,92-96.
  • 1364c. Laudatio a. Proclo ep. CP. Anrich I, 429-433.
  • 1364d. Laudatio a. Niceta Paphlagone. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 163-165.
  • 1364e. Laudatio. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 166-167, 568.
  • 1364f. Laudatio. Anrich II, 167-168.
  • 1364g. Laudatio a. Nicolao Cabasila. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 168-169.
  • 1364h. Laudatio. Anrich II, 568.
  • 1364i, k, and m. Various Laudationes. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 169, 568.
  • 1364n. Homilia. Unpublished.

There’s quite a lot there, but probably much of it is the same stuff again and again.  Good to see the full extent of it, tho.

  1. [1]“An anonymous Greek account of the transfer of the Body of Saint Nicholas from Myra in Lycia to Bari in Italy.” Translated by J. McGinley and H. Mursurillo in: Bolletino di S, Nicola, N. 10, Studi e testi, Bari: October 1980), 3-17

Legends of St Nicholas of Myra: the miracle of the tax (Praxis de tributo, recension 1) now online in English

Considering how important Santa Claus is to our culture, it has always seemed remarkable to me that the medieval sources for whatever stories we tell about him – or rather St Nicholas of Myra, his prototype – remained untranslated.  I’ve had a few translations made, and here is another.  This is a short medieval story about how St Nicholas got an unfair tax remitted.  David J. D. Miller kindly did the translation for us all.  This exists in four manuscripts, in two different versions.  This is the shorter first recension.

  • Nicholas_of_Myra_Praxis_De_Tributo_rec1_2015 (PDF)
  • Nicholas_of_Myra_Praxis_De_Tributo_rec1_2015 (Word .doc file)

As usual this translation is public domain – do whatever you like with it.

I have commissions out for two other short texts at the moment, so there will be more of these.

UPDATE (10 Feb 2016): updated version with numbering.

From my diary

Two long works of Methodius of Olympus (d.311 AD) are preserved only in Old Slavonic: De Autexusio (=On Free-Will) and De Resurrectione.  Yesterday I applied for some grant money to get these translated and put online.  Wish me luck!

I’ve never applied for grant funding before.  The price is just beyond my means to do; but on the other hand, who knows when someone with the skills to create such a translation will be available again?  Not for a century, that we know.

I find the process rather intimidating.  The online application is straightforward enough.  But the regulations impose barriers to normal people.  For instance, the grant body require that more than one source of funds is used – presumably to avoid them being blamed alone for a daft grant.  But I actually don’t know any other body that might fund translations.  Indeed I only discovered that they did so by accident!  So this policy excludes people other than those with access to databases of grant-making bodies.  It’s one more way in which the charitable sector exists for itself, rather than the public.    However I have offered to put in some money myself, and with luck that will be enough for them.  I must say that they have been reasonable enough to deal with so far.

I’ve also commissioned a translation today of Proclus’ Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra.  It’s another source of the legends which became Santa Claus.  If this is really by Proclus of Constantinople, then it will be a 5th century source.  Frankly I doubt that it is, despite my negligible knowledge of that author!  It’s bound to be later.  It’s only 5 pages of Anrich’s edition, tho.

Andrew of Crete, Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra – now online in English

Happy new year to you all!  Here’s a belated Christmas present – a translation of Andrew of Crete’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra, otherwise known as Santa Claus!  It would have appeared for Christmas, except for email communication difficulties (and believe me, we had a few!).  It was kindly translated for us all by Dr Jaakko Olkinuora of the University of Eastern Finland.[1]

As I’ve remarked before, considering all the talk about Santa throughout the world every year, it is remarkable that the legends of Nicholas of Myra – the basis for it all – do not exist in English.  Last year we managed to get a couple online, so this is another addition.

I’ve also placed copies of these files at Archive.org.

As usual I make these files and their contents public domain – make whatever use of them you like, personal, educational or commercial.

  1. [1]Dr O. asked me to revise it for English style, so any errors are probably down to me. I also added a lot of the notes from our email discussions.

From my diary

Just small stuff lately, as I am rather busy with real life.

The sample page of the translation of Andrew of Crete’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra has arrived.  I have passed it to Andrew Eastbourne for comment.  I’m optimistic about this one.

A post I did ages ago on whether Pythagoras ever went to India – or rather, whether any ancient text says so – has had a long and dreary series of comments from Hindu chest-beaters with no evidence.  But a commenter today pointed out a passage in Apuleius’ Florida 15, which would naturally be read as showing that he did.  So … that’s rather pleasing.

A lady in Australia has been working on the story of the Three Generals, also from the legends of St Nicholas of Myra.  We discussed the first section at some length via email, and I think it’s looking rather good.

An order via my local library for English, The Saint who would be Santa Claus, which may contain English translations of some of the Nicholas material, was rejected.  It turns out that no UK library has the book for loan.  Of course I could buy a copy: but when I recover from my cold – the seasonal joys! – I will drive over to Cambridge University Library and look at theirs.  Never buy an academic book unless you have acres of bookshelves empty!

I wonder when I shall get the chance to do some translating myself…!  I do want to do more of Eutychius.

From my diary

Autumn has arrived very early this year, with its quota of draughts in the office, and consequent colds and chills and air-conditioner wars.  I am rather preoccupied with some work-related nuisance of just this kind, so don’t expect too much from me for a bit.  But things are moving slowly forward anyway.

I’ve been corresponding with Dr Mary B. Cunningham of Nottingham University, who has translated a number of pieces by Andrew of Crete.  I had hoped that she might translate Andrew’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra, but sadly she is otherwise engaged.  That is perhaps unsurprising at the start of a new academic year!

However she has given me the name of a gentleman who might be interested and qualified to do it instead.  So I have written this evening to offer a commission to him.  Let’s hope that it works out.  The work is about 11 pages of Anrich, so far from huge (thankfully).

I have also commissioned a translation of another piece by Severian of Gabala: CPG 4201, “In illud: Quomodo scit litteras (John 7:15)”, text in PG 59. 643-652 = Montfaucon; Savile edition, vol. 5, 752-761.  This is rather more meaty.  But I am hoping to use the translator for the Greek side of several works by Methodius of Olympus preserved in Old Slavonic, so I do need to know that she can handle the task.

The application for grant money to translate two large works of Methodius of Olympus from Old Slavonic (and Greek where it exists) is stalled until I have sorted out a Greek translator.  However one query on the form was resolved this week by a query to the grant body.  But I need to revisit the form entirely – my answers are rather waffly at the moment, and not especially focused on answering the specific question.

Methodius “on the Leech” is still on my hard disk, and the subject of some debate between the translators of the Greek and the Slavonic.  I will try to finalise this in a few days, depending on the crud at work.

A prediction of mine, that the availability of online PDFs would lead to libraries selling off their physical books, appears to be coming true.  A correspondent drew my attention to this item. A book dealer in Oxford is advertising a complete set of the printed 19th century Patrologia Latina, all 221 volumes of it (!), for £6,000 (about $9,000).  The source is “an English cathedral library”.  The volumes have apparently hardly been opened; probably the library never allowed clergy to look at them without onerous conditions.  Now … they’ve been sold off.  Clerical libraries have often been knocked down for cash in times of decay, such as our own, to the rage and chagrin of subsequent generations, and it seems those days have come again.

But did they get very much money for it?  Well, I myself once sold a load of patristic books to that bookseller. I can tell you that I got really very little money for them (but I did get the blasted things off the floor).  We may sure that the cathedral got much less than the sum demanded; probably a couple of thousand, if that.  Ten pounds per volume?

But we may wonder who might have the shelf-space for such an item?  And … considering that they are all online, why would anyone buy it?

Notes on Andrew of Crete’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra

In all the Methodius stuff, I have not forgotten that there are many untranslated hagiographical texts about St Nicholas of Myra, or Santa Claus, which are still on my hit list.  A correspondent has written to offer help with translating Greek texts, and I recalled that the Encomium by Andrew of Crete (BHG 1362, CPG 8187) might be a possible starting point.  The work dates to the beginning of the 8th century, so might be a little early for that translator.  But we will see.

Since I have to look this up, here’s some bibliography.

Greek text:

G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos, der Heilige Nikolaos in der Griechischen Kirche; Texte und Untersuchungen, 2 vols, Leipzig: Teubner, 1913-17. Volume 1, p.419-428.

Patrologia Graeca 97, col. 1192-1205, where the work is given as “oration 18” of Andrew of Crete.  With Latin translation.

Translations:

German translation:  L. Heiser, “Die Festrede des Andreas von Kreta,”  in idem, Nikolaos von Myra. Heiliger der ungeteilten Christenheit, Trier, 1978, p.80-89.  I do have a copy of this, it turns out.

Partial English translation: I find by looking online that someone has made an English translation of a slab of it here, although who and from what is not clear.  There is a link at the end to the PG text, so presumably that was used, or the Latin of it.

Let’s see what comes of this.

UPDATE: I came across a useful article on Andrew of Crete this morning, which gives us a little more information.[1]

The best study of Andrew and his work is apparently S. Valhé, “Saint André de Crete“, Echos d’Orient 5 (1902), 378-87.  There are some modern articles in Greek also.  Also M.-F. Auzépy, “La carriere de André de Crete”, BZ 88 (1995) 1-12.

The Encomium may not, in fact, be by Andrew of Crete.  It seems that Anrich expressed doubts on this (154-60, 339-56) which were endorsed by N. Sevcenko in The Life of St Nicholas in Byzantine Art, Turin, 1983, p.26.  Apparently Auzépy fails to mention this question, tho.

UPDATE: Now translated.

  1. [1]Mary B. Cunningham, “Andrew of Crete: a high-style preacher of the eighth century”, in: M. Cunningham and P. Allen, Preacher and His Audience: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Homiletics, 1998, 267-294.

Anrich online at German site

I keep losing these links, so perhaps a post will help.

Most of the literary sources for St Nicholas of Myra were published by G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos. Der heilige Nikolaos in der griechischen Kirche, in two volumes before WW1.  These are online at Hathi Trust, for US readers only – in case worldwide rioting breaks out at seeing these books online -, but an online version does exist on a German site at Gottingen, the Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrums (Göttingen Digitisation Centre).  The quality of scans at this site is better than those at Google, and, where they have something, it’s best to use their site.

Here are the volumes of Anrich:

You can download an (excellent) PDF of each volume.  The link to the PDF of the complete volume is the first one:

gottingen_anrich_pdfThe other links are to sections of the work.  I must say that I have myself found this presentation quite useful.  This is because I am working on individual slices of the work at the moment, when I really don’t want the whole PDF.  It has been very convenient to have this table of contents online too.  That said … I think most people might not realise that the whole work can be downloaded.

Note: Post substantially reworked 16/2/16, after GDZ site structure changed.

St Nicholas of Myra, “Life” by Michael the Archimandrite (Vita per Michaelem) now online in English

We all know who Santa Claus is.  Some of us may even know that he is derived from St Nicholas of Myra, who threw three bags of gold through the windows of three poor girls, so that they could have a dowry and get married.  But none of the medieval literature about St Nicholas – who may be a Dark Ages invention anyway – has been translated into English.

I became aware of this a few months ago, and also that a translation of the earliest Life – by Michael the Archimandrite, the Vita per Michaelem – had been started by Prof John Quinn and was online at the St Nicholas Center website.  Unfortunately he only completed 11 chapters before his untimely death.

Thankfully Bryson Sewell has come to the rescue and has translated 12-52.  The St Nicholas Center have kindly agreed to allow Dr Quinn’s translation to be made Creative Commons-NoCommercial-NoDerivative4.0, thereby allowing the whole item to circulate.  They’ve completed Dr Quinn’s translation on their own site in a rather splendid way; and I am uploading my version of the thing here.  The text is the same, but this version has less pictures and more footnotes, and also my introduction.

Here are the files:

I’ve also placed these files at Archive.org here.

Bryson’s portion of the work, and my introduction, are public domain.  But you can circulate these files are you like for non-commercial usage.