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Persone, corpi e anime in movimento. Forme di mobilità tra tardoantico e alto medioevo (VI-X secolo)

On moving relics and monastic reform

The tenth-century Vita Probi and Patterns of Translatio in Ravenna
Edward McCormick Schoolman

Résumés

In Ravenna’s hagiographic traditions, including the Liber pontificalis of its bishops, the translations of relics within the city and its suburbs, as well as narratives of relics that departed, were important components not only for local cults, but as reflections of the city’s status and history, and witnessed renewal of its ecclesiastical and monastic institutions. In seeking to understand the relationship between translations and reform, this article first presents the history of relics translations in Ravenna from the sixth to the tenth century as contexts for the Vita Probi, a narrative commemorating the discovery and translation of the relics of Probus, one of the city’s early bishops. This text, written in the 960s as a celebration of the final translation of his relics into the city, incorporated narrative material about the saint’s life into a longer description about his relics and the misadventures and return to proper conduct of local religious communities, at a moment when new norms of reform were on the horizon.

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Introduction

  • 1 Because of their importance in not only establishing cult practices but in these other areas as we (...)
  • 2 Morini 1992; Orselli 1992.
  • 3 On the history of Ravenna during the late ninth and tenth century, see: Carile 1991; Warner 2006; (...)

1The translations of saints’ relics, long recognized as essential in the adoption, renewal, or restoration, of local cults, varied in their geographic scope; some relics travelled enormous distances, while others never left their cities or sometimes even their churches. Each journey was unique, and beyond reaffirming a relic’s sanctity and value to local communities, translations could have political, cultural, and social roles1. This article focuses on these roles, and in particular how the acts of translating relics within the city of Ravenna and the narratives written about them in the ninth and tenth century were not only used to elevate the status of relics or to explain the history or origins of the local calendar of feasts, but crucial tools in contemporary conceptualization of the city’s history and efforts in the renewal of its religious institutions and especially its monasteries, which were by the tenth century closely intertwined with the city’s clerics2. These translations occurred during an important transitionary period for the city, politically first under the Carolingian Kings and their later Frankish successors, and later under the Ottonians, and during periods of indepedence from and reconciliation with the papacy, moments that led the episcopal and monastic leaders of Ravenna to revisited its past to leverage elevated status3.

  • 4 He is the sixth bishop following Apollinaris; in some accounts and historiography he is numbered a (...)
  • 5 Marcianus vero post pontificalem infulam ecclesiae Ravennatis, Terdone martyrio coronatus est. Ele (...)
  • 6 …. quibus praesul cognitis eumdem Nathinaeum cum primatibus quibusdam illiusque affinibus civitati (...)

2An episode that embodies this phenomenon of the city’s leaders reengaging the past in efforts to both increase local legitimacy through demonstrations of antiquity, and crucially also to reflect on contemporary efforts at reforms is preserved in the tenth-century vita of Probus, Ravenna’s sixth bishop, who served during the second century4. This narrative hagiography was composed in the early 960s, and beyond a small introduction to Probus’s life based on the Liber Pontificalis of Agnellus, the text was primarily focused on the contemporary discovery and movements of the bishop’s relics, first translated from the decayed and abandoned church of Probus, and after a brief stop at the church in Sant’Apollinare in Classe, brought into the cathedral in Ravenna. In the final episodes of the vita after the translation of Probus’s relics was complete, the archbishop of the city, Peter of Bologna, began efforts to uncover the locations and recover the bodies of the other early members of Ravenna’s mythical first generation of Christians, again underscoring the rediscovery of Ravenna’s early Christian history in the tenth century. As the vita noted, the other relics recovered included the deacon Marcianus, who “had been crowned with martyrdom in Tortona” and “Eleucadius, [who had been] carried to Pavia by Aistulph,” the Lombard king from 749-756 who conquered Ravenna in 7515. Furthermore the bishop ordered a monk to track down the bodies of the other early bishops, and “while they were being actively sought in the previously mentioned shrine of the blessed Probus, they found two more tombs together with hard work”6. This activity was not to simply preserve Ravenna’s earliest Christian past, both overlooked and neglected (and even stolen) in previous generations, but elevated the role of the sitting archbishop by bringing the forgotten bodies of past church leaders and martyrs back into the city from its outskirts and neighboring community, and improved the status of the community of monks who were tasked with locating these relics.

  • 7 This in captured from the seventh-century work of Jonas of Susa (Helvétius 2012a) to the tenth-cen (...)

3Written to commemorate a specific set of events, the vita of Probus and the circumstances it recounts follow on patterns visible in other hagiographic texts focused on the social and religious power of relics and their relationship to reform movements in monastic communities. The work of Anne-Marie Helvétius has illustrated a number of examples where hagiographies and the relics they described served to specifically articulate resolutions to contested relationships (addressing ownership or attitudes), but also speak to larger issues of virtues and behaviours7.

  • 8 In Ravenna notions of reform were capped by the career of Romuald who would become the leader of a (...)

4Yet the most basic utility of the vita of Probus was twofold. The first was in recording efforts to discover, reclaim, restore, and protect Ravenna’s relics that began in the early ninth century, primarily preserved in Liber Pontificals of Agnellus and in other hagiography. The second was to highlight new emphasis on reform, especially in the monastic insitutions organized under the church of Ravenna, as part of a wider movement taking place in the second half of the tenth century, movements that were at once local but also imported through other activities (such as the adoptions of rules under the direction of the abbot of Cluny) and within the context of Ottonian Italy8. These two strands come together in the activities of Peter of Bologna in the 960s and of his immediate episcopal successors, who continued in the patterns of relics translation and institutional renewal. However efficacious, the vita of Probus also marked the decline in monastic reform centered around the impostion of rules or reorganization reflected in the movement of relics, as by the end of the tenth century Ravenna become the origin of new forms of eremitic monasticism championed by Romuald and Otto III.

The movement of relics in Ravenna’s episcopal history

  • 9 Caroli 2005.
  • 10 Picard 1988, p. 173-4. The church of Sant’Andrea was rebuilt in the eleventh century by Archbishop (...)

5As in most communities in Italy, the discovery and translation of relics was not out of the ordinary, and for those leading the medieval excavations and re-sanctifications, this activity provided a welcome opportunity to revive neglected responsibilities and redirect to new practices. In Ravenna, interest in relics, and their discovery, translation, and even theft, began in the sixth century, but had become common during the ninth century9. As recorded by the cleric Agnellus in the Liber pontificalis of Ravenna, written sometime in the 840s, the author himself had been commissioned by the archbishop to oversee the recovery of specific relics. During the episcopate of Petronax, who served as the archbishop of Ravenna from 818 to 837, Agnellus was charged with retrieving the bones of Maximianus, the sixth-century bishop who was known to have played an important role in the history of late antique Ravenna as either sponsor or facilitator for many of the period’s church building projects. Agnellus oversaw the workmen as they removed the lid of a large stone sarcophagus belonging to Maximianus that had been buried in the church of Sant’Andrea (or had been deposited in the church’s subterranean crypt). The ground beneath the church had become inundated with water due to the subsidence of the surrounding land, making the recovery and reinstallation of the relics of immediate practical concern. Yet equally relevant was the elevation of Maximianus to a position of visibility within the same edifice and during a period when bishops could once more appeal to imperial support (in this case Carolingian rather than early Byzantine)10.

6Agnellus recorded his memories of the events and his participation in the final acts of Maximianus’s life in the Liber pontificalis of Ravenna. After finding the bones and offering a prayer for relics of the deceased bishop, and with the water draining from the sarcophagus, Agnellus lamented the condition of the remains, and went on to record the first steps of the translation:

  • 11 … ossa beati Maximiani, numero .cxv., quos ego ipse palam omnibus ore proprio <numeraui>. Ablata uero omnia </numeraui> (...)

the bones of the blessed Maximianus, 115 in number, all of which I myself counted in front of everyone out loud. All the raised bones were wrapped in a shroud, which was on the altar of the blessed apostle Andrew, and with the shroud tied up, the bishop marked the seal from his ring. After this the sarcophagus was cleaned and washed…. the bones, washed with choice wine, honorably embalmed in spices, with chanting of psalms, in the presence of the bishop [Petronax], all were placed in the same sarcophagus and with great grief were lovingly enclosed within the tomb. To those of us who saw it, for many days there was such fear and trembling, as if blessed Maximianus himself stood in our sight11.

7This act, of recovering the remains and moving them (or in the case of Maximianus, shifting the relics from different locations within a single church), served as one well-remembered example of how the recovery and translation of saints within Ravenna rehabilitated their status and simultaneously reaffirmed moments of ecclesiastic renewal. While for Agnellus and those around him, this act had the effect of bringing into the present a past holy bishop, but this was just one outcome, and just one of the many recoveries and translations that took place in the ninth and tenth centuries, when Ravenna was revisiting its past while its archiepiscopal see, and the monasteries that had developed under its authority, sought to reforms their legacies.

  • 12 On his episcopate and the monuments constructed in the period, see Deliyannis 2010, p. 210-218; on (...)
  • 13 An overview of various modern interpretations of the panel appears in Andreescu-Treadgold – Treadg (...)

8Despite the two hundred and fifty years that had passed since his death, Maximianus’s historical legacy remained visible because he had served the city at an important juncture following the conquest of Ravenna by Justinian’s generals and its reintegration into the eastern Roman Empire (where it would soon become the capital of the Byzantine Exarchate); and it was under Maximianus that many of Ravenna’s late antique churches were completed, dedicated, or rededicated12. In the mosaic depicting the imperial retinue in San Vitale, he was depicted as leading the procession of religious officials, and became the only labeled figure, serving in the sixth century to reinforce the importance of church hierarchy, and in the the ninth and tenth centuries serve as a powerful reminder of Ravenna’s once-lofty position within the constellation of imperial capital cities13.

  • 14 Ad cuius structuram cum columnas et marmora aliunde habere non posset. Roma atque Ravenna devehend (...)
  • 15 Codex Carolinus, no. 81: In quibus referebatur, quod palatii Ravennate civitatis mosivo atque marm (...)

9Much had changed between the mid-sixth century and first half of the ninth century, and in the intervening time, Ravenna had suffered politically and physically. The absence of an exarch after 751 meant a loss of importance as military center and the end of its connection to Constantinople and the Eastern Empire, leaving the city politically isolated. Physically, the shifting of the built landscape was slower, exemplified in the decay and degradation of its Roman and late antique structures. In the late eighth century, the city fell under the authority of either the papacy or the Carolingians depending on perspective and subject, the latter seeing Ravenna not as a city for patronage but as one worthy of spoliation. At least according to his biographer Einhard, it was Charlemagne who took marble and columns from Ravenna as well as Rome for his chapel in Aachen14. The treatment of Ravenna as quarry for materials is further echoed in a letter from 787, when Pope Hadrian offered the Frankish king the opportunity to take marbles and other furnishing from an unspecified palatium in Ravenna15.

  • 16 Geary 1978, p. 58-59. The identity of Felix is made more complicated by a note from another record (...)
  • 17 Aput Ravennam Italia urbem positus, diligenter investigare studui de vita sanctorum, Severi videli (...)

10But this was not the greatest indignity suffered by the city; while its stones were valuable as political symbols, equally as important were its relics, which offered a different type of symbolic value and were far easier to surreptitiously take. The best known example of furta sacra concerning Ravenna appears in an account written by a monk from the imperial monastery at Fulda named Liutolfus in the ninth century in a vita et translatio of Severus of Ravenna. Liutolfus began his inquiry collecting first-hand the story of the relics of one of Ravenna’s early bishops, Severus, which had travelled from Ravenna to Mainz (and then later to Erfurt), and undertook a reconstruction of the events that led them to Germany: these cherished bones had been taken during the time of archbishop Petronax or his immediate predecessor by a supposedly Frankish professional relic-thief named Felix16. Armed with this information, Liutolfus took it upon himself to travel to Ravenna, the original home of these relics, as he “desired to carefully study the life of the saints, and specifically Severus, Vincentia and Innocentia, whose bodies had been carried from that place all together to this parish,” which was then Mainz17. Arriving to Italy, he went to speak to the monks at the monastery of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, where the monks confirmed both the sanctity of the relics and the feast day dedicated to Severus. Although they did not specifically discuss the loss of the relics with Liutolfus, they were aware of the theft, and efforts to preserve other relics are alluded to in both Agnellus (as in his handling of the bones of Maximianus) and in the vita of Probus.

11Liutolfus goes on to describe how the relics were stolen, and details how Felix pretended to be a pilgrim and ingratiatied himself with the monks and the keeper of the relics in order to gain access and steal them:

  • 18 Fuit quidam clericus de Galliae partibus nomine Felix, utrum factis necne, non est meum iudicare. (...)

There was a certain cleric from Gaul named Felix, either true or not, it is not for me to judge. I remember him from when I was still a youth. When he was wandering in various provinces, it was his practice to steal the relics of the saints where and when he could, complaining about their condition. He came to the above-mentioned monastery, which we say is on the site of the church of Sant’Apollinare and in the city of Ravenna, with some certain associates. There, acting like he was a pilgrim and demonstrating such great character to those monks, he accepted their daily rations as if he belonged to their community. Furthermore, those brothers suspected nothing sinister about him, as he declared over the sacrament that he would never depart from that very monastery. After this, he met with the custodian of the church and showed him extreme deference, so that at the opportune moment when he venerated it, the bones of the above-mentioned saints were stolen and he immediately took to flight with his accomplices. When the brothers had discovered the theft, they sent messengers to the nobles of Italy, in order that they all might seize him going along the roads of Italy lest he might slip away18.

12Coincidently Felix met with the bishop of Mainz during his escape and passed on the relics to him.

  • 19 Augenti – Cirelli 2016. The monastery of San Severo was also politically important, as it was the (...)

13Whether or not Felix actually took relics (or all the relics) of Severus is unclear, but it was less important than the perception of their value, and by the middle of the ninth century Liutolfus’s own account of his trip to Italy demonstrated that the saint and his remains still meant a great deal to the members of religious communities in Ravenna. Although a slightly later witness to the saint's stature, recent excavations suggest that the monastery dedicated to Severus (San Severo) in Classe reached its greatest extent in the end of the ninth or early tenth century19. In the longterm, however, the monks of Sant’Apollinare and the other monasteries in Ravenna would be shaped by the changing patterns of veneration of other saints, and the reforms and lapses of their own communities.

Relics and renewal and the Vita Probi

  • 20 While this was a sanctioned release of relics, the century of Ottonian rule was complex, especiall (...)
  • 21 Puhle 1992.
  • 22 Helvétius 2012b.

14More than a century after the theft of the relics of Severus under radically different circumstances, more of Ravenna’s relics moved across the Alps. In this case relics and materials from Ravenna’s cathedral were sent to Magdeburg in 967 to help legitimate and celebrate its elevation to an archbishopric the following year under the orders of Otto I20. Magdeburg had already received the relics of Maurice from Regensberg in 961, which had become immediately central to the city’s identity to the point that by the eleventh century this saint appeared on silver coins (bracteate) minted in the city and known as moritzpfennig21. Originally a Roman soldier from Egypt martyred in the third century, Maurice became the eponymous and central figure of veneration at the monastery established in the sixth century in Roman Agaunum (now Saint-Maurice, Switzerland)22. Their translation from the monastery of Saint-Maurice was recounted in Thietmar of Merseburg’s chronicle, which highlighted the city-wide celebration:

  • 23 Anno dominicae incarnationis DCCCCLXI., regni autem eius vicesimo Vº , presentibus cunctis optimat (...)

In the year 961 of the Incarnation and in the twenty fifth year of his reign, in the presence of all the nobility, on the vigil of Christmas, the body of St Maurice was conveyed to him at Regensburg along with the bodies of some of the saint’s companions and portions of other saints. Having been sent to Magdeburg, these relics were received with great honor by a gathering of the entire populace of the city and of their fellow countrymen. They are still venerated there, to the salvation of the homeland23.

  • 24 Ultimately the accumulation of relics for the Ottonians was not simply about “devotion to the sain (...)

15Although Maurice was elevated to the patron saint of the city, and his relics became the touchstones for Ottonian efforts at reform and symbols for military campaigns against pagan enemies in the east, he did not remain alone in Magdeburg24.

  • 25 No. 410 in MGH DD O I, 558-9.
  • 26 Two lists from 1166 include the same information. See: Wentz – Schwineköper 1972, p. 223.
  • 27 The connections between Ravenna and Magdeburg include relics and spolia, but extend far beyond it; (...)
  • 28 Multa sanctorum corpora imperator ab Italia ad Magadaburg per Dodonem capellanum suimet transmisit(...)

16Later in the same decade, some of the relics of Apollinaris were incorporated into the church at Magdeburg, and served a very different purpose, as they connected the newly elevated archbishop of that city to a follower of St. Peter and patron saint of a former imperial capital. The connection seemed in evidence in the following decade, as both Otto I and Otto II attend to the needs of the monastery in Classe when they issued a confirmation of the rights of the community of Sant’Apollinare while visiting Ravenna in 97225. By the twelfth century, the calendars of Magdeburg include the feast day for Apollinaris, and acknowledge that the church still possessed his relics26. While this highlighted a longstanding connection between the two cities, it was just one of a number of translations made into Magdeburg during the 960s and 970s, and the evidence from the monuments in the church itself points to this flow of material north27. The chronicler Thietmar references these translations from Italy to Magdeburg when he wrote that “the emperor had many bodies of saints brought from Italy to Magdeburg by his chaplain, Dodo,” in which instance the relics of Apollinaris were just one of the many that were brought to celebrate the elevation of the episcopal see and the empire that supported it28.

17The events surrounding the removal of relics to Germany represents not only the Ottonian efforts of imperial renewal, but for Ravenna it was also a renewal of the city’s importance within the context of the Ottonian world in its role as a past imperial city and one with a worthy Christian heritage. At the same time that the city was being swept into the orbit of the Ottonian empire, Ravenna’s archbishop sought to elevate those same early saints who had become both visible and valuable within the framework of the city’s own transformation. One example of how relic translations reflected changing political dynamics and the history of internal reform and renewal appears in the vita of Probus.

  • 29 Agnellus, 8. The reference to the Basilica dedicated to Probus in Agnellus also suggests its proxi (...)

18The earliest source that survives on the life of Probus comes from the short biography in the ninth-century Liber pontificalis of Agnellus. In sparce detail, Agnellus described Probus as the “sixth bishop,” and placed a significant emphasis on a church was dedicated to him that had maintained a unique liturgical practice, despite the fact that the structure had been demolished or abandoned by the time Agnellus was writing29.

19The tenth-century vita contains this same core material from the Liber pontificalis, adopting it as the first chapter, but continues and elaborates in ten further chapters on the state of Probus’s cult and translation of his relics over time. It concludes with details of the efforts to collect the relics and translate them, moveing them from the basilica dedicated to Probus in the southern suburbus of the city first to the monastery of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, and then to the cathedral of Ravenna, all under the instruction of the long-serving archbishop Peter of Bologna (927-971). While there is some disagreement about the dating of the vita (the edition in the Acta Sanctorum posits the writing to 963, immediately after the translation of the relics), a strong terminus ante quem would be the installation of the relics in an altar in 972, an act preserved in a charter from the first year of the archbishop Honestus, successor to Peter of Bologna, an event absent from the vita but both visible and important.

  • 30 The two earliest manuscripts containing the vita are from legendaria of the twelfth century that w (...)

20The reception of the text of the vita of Probus beyond the city, and beyond the Middle Ages, was limited, and it is only known from manuscripts with clear connections to Ravenna30. This is unsurprising; the vita was clearly written for Ravenna and its monastic communities by someone familiar with both the text of Agnellus and, more importantly, with the theft of the relics of Severus. In its aims, the vita not only records the life and movements of the relics of Probus, but places them within the context of the communities charged with overseeing the relics, their failures, and their reforms.

  • 31 On the history of the “basilica” of Probus and its communities, see: Farioli Campanati 1961; Bovin (...)

21These are epitomized in three episodes of the vita of Probus that were tangentially related to the inventio and translatio of his relics. In the first, the implementation of rules for the monastic community at the church of Saint Probus in the middle of the eighth century is described31; the second contains the response to a sack of Classe in the early ninth century; and third narrates the actual tenth-century efforts to locate and translate the relics of Probus and the other bishops interred with him.

22Although the original material of the vita describes the role of Maximianus (546-556) in building the church of Probus and installing his relics there along with those of other early bishops, Aderitus and Calocerus, it continues in the following chapter to describe the efforts of the bishop Sergius (774-769) in reforming the monastic community that had formed at the church of Sant’Apollinare. In this case, the episode was included because it helped to explain the unique traditions that had developed in the churches dedicated to Probus and Apollinaris, but the narration turned its focus to reforms by the bishop. The anonymous hagiographer wrote:

  • 32 Hic tandem beati Apolenaris ecclesiam monachorum ordine, quae canonicorum prius constabat, cum coe (...)

it began with an order of monks at the church of blessed Apollinaris, where first these kinds of clerics or canons had become established; [Sergius] established there the practice of the coenobitic monks, and to that place he left many estates… including households of men and women. But it seems to us out of place that an order of canons is mixed with the monks, because to the greatest extent the canons lived an active life, while the others truly in the monastic life were scorning the worldly life as impure; one embraced a contemplative heavenly life, while the other hurried to the country with the greatest devotion. Therefore, at the churches of Probus and Eleucadius, the order of the canons was devoted to offering the divine offices with unwearied watchfulness, and on the other hand at the same time those in compliance with the monks of God operated in the church of the blessed Apollinaris separately32.

  • 33 On the eighth century rules, see Kramer 2020, p. 434-435.
  • 34 This episode seems to be included in the vita perhaps as a reponse to the “monasticization” of Rav (...)

23While this account in the vita records nothing about the relics of Probus, it does underscore that in the church dedicated to the saint the monastically inclined clerics formed an outwardly-facing community, while those seeking a contemplative experience remained in Sant’Apollinare. This activity was not without parallel: as middle of the eighth century was marked by a number of reforms recorded in contemporary hagiography, and the beginning of Carolingian efforts to organize the diversity of monastic practices in their realm33. Although the effect of this reform in Ravenna was to divide a community by its practices, it did so without the relics as active participants but rather witnesses to these important changes to Ravenna’s monastic and clerical communities34.

  • 35 … qui super aram sanctissimi civorium, ut ipsius meretur Probi dignitas fieri iussit. VP 5.
  • 36 The sack of Classe took place in 854 and was the direct impetus for the removal of some of the rel (...)

24The relics were only in the background of the next episode presented in the vita as well, referenced only in that the bishop Valerian (789-810) built a ciborium so “that the position of Probus was honored,” and he returned the canons to Sant’Apollinare35. Dispite the attention paid to the saint by Valerian , the complex at Sant’Apollinare was sacked during an attack on Classe and the silver ciborium stolen away, leading to the relics of Apollinaris being translated into the city during the time of bishop John VII (850-878), who ran afoul of the papacy with the elevation of pope Nicholas I and was himself excommunicated in 86136.

25While the church of Ravenna was locked in a contest with the papacy over ecclesiastical rights, according to the vita of Probus the territory of Sant’Apollinare had been despoiled and what remained was rendered valueless on account of the raid. Worse still, perhaps, was the fate of the monastic community that once called Sant’Apollinare home. The vita reports that:

  • 37 In hiis enim pressuris atque angustiis nullus ex omnibus [se] toto nisu conamineque Deo adhaesit, (...)

in these disasters and dangers, no one among them adhered with any exertion and strength to God, but more and more they fell to wicked actions, so that all the public would carry on illicit acts. The monks, for whom it was not permitted to offer even their lips [for a kiss], hung up their frocks in the monastery and were enjoying cohabitation with women, whom they were able to carry back to the brothers of the monastery with the children born of these nefarious and illicit unions, as they secretly brought with them their beloved consorts37.

  • 38 The abandonment and degredation of community because of ninth- and tenth-century raids was frequen (...)

26Along with the violations of monastic oaths, a trope that often appeared in the monastic histories as a result of destruction or disruption, this period saw the neglecting of the maintenance of the buildings themselves, with Sant’Apollinare being used as a sheep pen and the church of Probus long forgotten38. Through the violence, abandonment and disrepair wrought upon the buildings themselves, the relics of Probus remained intact and unmoved, although according to the vita also unvenerated. This decline proved to be essential for the translation of the relics a century later, as their “rescue” from both damaged buildings and anonymity could be performed by the community as a means of restoration of sanctity and a rehabilitation of behavior.

27Like the translation of Maximianus and the theft of Severus, the final episode of the vita underscores the power of the translation of Ravenna’s relics, especially in punctuating moments of reform. Set in the tenth century, the remaining six chapters narrated the rediscovery, translation, and miracles associated with Probus’s body during the episcopate of Peter of Bologna, when the monastic community of Sant’Apollinare had been reformed and reestablished.

  • 39 Summa igitur cum devotione sanctorum corpora ex arca sustulerunt. VP 8.

28According to the vita of Probus, Peter of Bologna assigned the monks of Classe to assist in the translation of the relics of Probus from the abandoned church to one within the city. It was from Sant’Apollinare that the monks and clerics left and walked to the remains of the church of Probus, on which occasion an elderly brother had a vision that served to help locate the bodies. After great difficulty in excavating the floor of the church, the team of priests and a local stonemason located the lid of an enormous stone sarcophagus. After opening the tomb, they found three bodies, one identified as Probus and the others as fellow early bishops Adhertius and Calocerus, and they “raised up the bodies of the saints out the sarcophagus with the greatest devotion”39. Like with Agnellus’s treatment of Maximianus, the relics of Probus and his colleagues were wrapped in a linen shroud and given to the bishop for safekeeping, curing the fever of a monk in that process before moving them back to the church of Sant’Apollinare.

  • 40 On the episcopal relics as foundations for the cult, see Schoolman 2013.

29Although now recovered from their forgotten tombs, their journeys were not complete. The remains still had to reach Ravenna by way of Classe, an event which offered an opportunity for the hagiographer to connect these saints to the episcopal cult of the city40. Indeed, the connections were heightened by the date of their discovery, January 31, the evening before the feast of Severus. This point was emphasized by the vita reflecting the heavy weight of theft of the relics of Severus in Classe. As an eye-witness, the author of the vita described that:

  • 41 Tunc cum hymnis laudibusque sacris beatorum corpora ad Sancti Apolenaris delata sunt ecclesiam. Il (...)

Next, the bodies of the saints were carried to the church of Saint Apollinaris with holy hymns and prayers. There, the proper songs were sung by the novitiates with wailing and lamenting. From that point, on the eve of the feast of the blessed Severus, we set about strenuously with a quick pace filled with joy. When these rituals and evening offices of the masses were completed solemnly, the people were revived from their labor by food. But in precaution against a clandestine act, in which something could be stolen by a thief from the bodies of the saints, they were guarded with honor by the Christian faithful41.

  • 42 TP 9.

30The following day the relics were moved to the basilica within the city, and continue to perform miracles, including curing the deafness of our unnamed and presumably monastic author42.

31What is exceptional here is the emphasis on the loss of the relics of Severus and its ramifications in the need to protect the relics of Probus, an element that also connected the saints together – in the church of Sant’Apollinare, dedicated to Ravenna’s first bishop, the city's other important early episcopal leaders were celebrated. Once the relics of Probus and the others were removed from the church of Probus to the monastery of Sant’Apollinare, protecting these relics offered an important extra-liturgical role for the members of the community to perform, as defenders of the body of the saint in that sacred space.

Conclusion

32Together, these descriptions of translations, thefts, and rediscoveries were not simply about saints and their relics, or about the miracles they performed, but about their cultural and political importance at that moment. In the case of the relics of Severus stolen away to Mainz, they were passive objects that reflected interests in connecting relatively new institutions to a deeper, and foreign, Christian past. In the case of the relics of Apollinaris that were sent to Magdeburg, Thietmar’s description made them part of an anonymous group of relics that reflected imperial piety and the construction of empire through their symbolic integration into the Ottonian capital. In both those instances, the translation of the relics itself was not as important as their earlier history or their ultimate functionality.

  • 43 This period of the late tenth century was also one in which churches and monasteries sought to reg (...)

33In the case of the vita of Probus, despite the many disasters that befell the communities, the relics served to witness and later reinforce efforts to reform and regularize monastic practice, especially at the Basilica of Probus (when it functioned) and later at Sant’Apollinare in Classe; and it was the action of moving the bodies that demonstrated the efficacy of reform43. What makes the vita of Probus unique in this regard is that it was one of the last attempts in a local hagiographic setting in which relics served to buttress reform through the imposition of new rules, as within a few decades following the recovery of the relics of Probus, emphasis shifted to new kinds of organizations and eremitic traditions.

  • 44 On Maiolus in Ravenna see Schoolman 2016, 33-36; on his activities in Italy, see Barret 2003, p. 1 (...)
  • 45 Schoolman 2017.
  • 46 On the movement of “new heremitism” inspired by Romuald, see Jasper – Howe 2020.

34There were both internal and external forces at play in these new efforts, such as those of Maiolus of Cluny, who visited the monastery of Sant’Apollinare in Classe and revised its rules on the invitation of Otto II in 971 or 2 (among a number of other imperially sanctioned activities in Italy), and after that moment the community seemed to have been at the forefront of a local monastic movement44. It was in the church of Sant’Apollinare in Classe that Romuald of Ravenna found the inspiration to turn to a monastic life, as I have written elsewhere in part motivated by the presence of relics and the image of Apollinaris45. Yet Romuald’s vision of a new type of eremitic monasticism rose to significant importance in part because of the monks' relationship to Otto III, but more broadly a new emphasis on solitude and spirituality disentangled the need for the intercession of relics or their role in facilitating reform46.

35Ultimately, the purpose of the vita of Probus was not simply to record the translation of one set of relics, but about many bodies in motion. The relics bore silent witness to periods of hardship, but the effects of seeking out, finding, and moving these relics, brought communities together and served as a touchstone for renewal in Ravenna, just as their dereliction would degrade them or their theft would deprive a community of that which unified it. The history of the relics of Probus offers a mirror on the institutions that would be connected to them, and how the relics’ rediscovery and translation made equal to their revival.

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Notes

1 Because of their importance in not only establishing cult practices but in these other areas as well, the translation and the circulation of relics, and their larger social and political functions, have gained a great deal of scholarly attention as part of the interest in the roles of the cult of saints in the Middle Ages, for example in: Geary 1978, 1988; Heinzelmann 1979; Brown 1981; Angenendt 1994; Bozóky – Helvétius 1999; Caroli 2000; Goodson 2005; Vocino 2008; Goodson 2010; Vanderputten 2010; Smith 2012. On recent examples specific to northern Italy in the eighth to tenth centuries, see Caroli 2006; Vocino 2010; Veronese 2012, 2015.

2 Morini 1992; Orselli 1992.

3 On the history of Ravenna during the late ninth and tenth century, see: Carile 1991; Warner 2006; Brown 2016; Schoolman 2016, p. 21-48. More broadly: Roach 2018.

4 He is the sixth bishop following Apollinaris; in some accounts and historiography he is numbered as the seventh when Apollinaris is counted. There have been no major studies of what is described as vita et inventio anno 963 in the BHL (6946) and simply as vita Probi in its published editions and vita santi Probi in its two earliest manuscripts. The text, its dating, and the authenticity of its description of the translation have been discussed in Ropa 1991, p. 345-346; Tomea 2001, 136; Schoolman 2016, 60-66. To avoid confusion, hereafter the appearance of the term vita will signify this tenth century text, while references to the life of Probus will refer to the short biography included in chapter 8 in the Liber pontificalis of Ravenna that formed the first chapter of the tenth-century vita. A second bishop also was named Probus, serving as the thirteenth bishop in the mid-fourth century; Agnellus 20. The history and importance of the basilica dedicated to Probus and described in Agnellus is examined in Picard 1988, p. 123-131.

5 Marcianus vero post pontificalem infulam ecclesiae Ravennatis, Terdone martyrio coronatus est. Eleuchadius autem ab Ytalorum rege Aistulpho ad Ticinensem delatus est civitatem. VP 11.

6 …. quibus praesul cognitis eumdem Nathinaeum cum primatibus quibusdam illiusque affinibus civitatis ad horum corpora indaganda direxit. Quae strenue inquirentes in praedicta saepius beati Probi aede, duo multo tandem sudore sepulcra repererunt diversoque cum studio latentia ingenioseque aperta et in altero horum tria, in altero duo humata videre corpora. VP 11.

7 This in captured from the seventh-century work of Jonas of Susa (Helvétius 2012a) to the tenth-century vitae of Humbert of Maroilles (Helvétius 2003).

8 In Ravenna notions of reform were capped by the career of Romuald who would become the leader of an eremitic community at Camaldoli and the emperor Otto III with his devout interest in monasticism and own pledges to become a monk (see D’Acunto 2003); yet earlier efforts at renewal in monastic institutions had been set in the tenth century, as surveyed in Wollasch 2000.

9 Caroli 2005.

10 Picard 1988, p. 173-4. The church of Sant’Andrea was rebuilt in the eleventh century by Archbishop Gebhard (1027-1044), who may have also understood the value of the imperial connections, as had been a canon of Eichstätt who was appointed to the position by the emperor Conrad II. He retired to monastic community of Pomposa before his death.

11 … ossa beati Maximiani, numero .cxv., quos ego ipse palam omnibus ore proprio <numeraui>. Ablata uero omnia ossa uoluta sunt in sindone, quae erat super altarium beati Andreae apolstoli, et ligata sindone, sigillum ex latere suo pontifex anulo signauit. Post haec uero arca excussa est absque ulla lesione et lauata…. Igitur lauata ossa cum uino electo, condita aromatibus honorabiliter, cum psallentia <in> praesentia praesulis, omnia in eadem arca posita sunt et cum ingenti luctu amabiliter sepulchro clausa sunt. Nos qui uidimus per multos dies fuit talis timor et tremor, uelut ipse beatus Maximianus conspectui nostro staret. Agnellus, 83. Trans. after Deliyannis 2004.

12 On his episcopate and the monuments constructed in the period, see Deliyannis 2010, p. 210-218; on the possibility of his authorship of a chronicle quoted by Agnellus, see Hoof 2016.

13 An overview of various modern interpretations of the panel appears in Andreescu-Treadgold – Treadgold 1997, which also suggests that the depiction of Maximian was part of an amendation of the mosaic in 548.

14 Ad cuius structuram cum columnas et marmora aliunde habere non posset. Roma atque Ravenna devehenda curavit, Einhard, 26. On Charlemagne’s relationship to Ravenna, see: Savigni 1992; Deliyannis 2010, p. 277-299; Nelson 2016.

15 Codex Carolinus, no. 81: In quibus referebatur, quod palatii Ravennate civitatis mosivo atque marmores ceterisque exemplis tam in strato quamque in parietibus sitis vobis tribuissemus.

16 Geary 1978, p. 58-59. The identity of Felix is made more complicated by a note from another record in Fulda which suggested that he was an Italian cleric; Caroli 2005, p. 78.

17 Aput Ravennam Italia urbem positus, diligenter investigare studui de vita sanctorum, Severi videlicet, Vincentiae atque Innocentiae, quorum corpora inde sublata, in istam versis nominibus translate sunt parrochiam. Vita Severi 2.

18 Fuit quidam clericus de Galliae partibus nomine Felix, utrum factis necne, non est meum iudicare. Quem, dum puer essem, me vidisse memini. Huic erat consuetudo per diversas vagari provincias et sanctorum reliquias, ubicumque potuit, furari questus causa. Hic ad praedictum monasterium, quod inter urbem Ravennam et Sanctum Apollinarem situm esse diximus, cum quibusdam sociis venit. Ibique quasi peregrinus susceptus est tantamque illorum fratrum expertus est humanitatem, ut cottidiana quasi unus ex ipsis acciperet stipendia. Qui etiam, ne illi fratres aliquid de eo suspicarentur sinistrum, sacramento firmavit, se numquam de eodem monasterio discessurum. Postea iunxit se custodi aecclesiae eique sedulum exhibebat obsequium. Tempus autem oportunum ad id propter quod venerat nanctus, ossa praedictorum furatus est sanctorum et cum suis complicibus fugam iniit. Quod cum fratres comperissent, miserunt nuntios ad optimales Italiae, ut omnes exitus viarum de Italia praeoccuparent , ne inde labi potuisset. Translatio Severi 1.

19 Augenti – Cirelli 2016. The monastery of San Severo was also politically important, as it was the location that hosted the imperial court when Otto II came to Ravenna as part of his Italian itineraries.

20 While this was a sanctioned release of relics, the century of Ottonian rule was complex, especially later in the relationship between the city’s inhabitants and the imperially appointed bishops; Brown 2016.

21 Puhle 1992.

22 Helvétius 2012b.

23 Anno dominicae incarnationis DCCCCLXI., regni autem eius vicesimo Vº , presentibus cunctis optimatibus, in vigilia nativitatis Domini corpus sancti Mauricii et quorundam sociorum eius cum aliis sanctorum porcionibus Ratisbone sibi allatum est. Quod maximo, ut decuit, honore Parthenopolim transmissum unanimi indigenarum et comprovincialium convent ibidem susceptum est et ad salutem patriae tocius hactenus veneratum est. Thietmar, 2.17. Trans. Warner 2001.

24 Ultimately the accumulation of relics for the Ottonians was not simply about “devotion to the saints” but “the aggressive creation of empire by the accumulation of symbolic capital” Smith 2010, 82 and Oberste 2003. On the lance of Maurice specifically, Blough 2016.

25 No. 410 in MGH DD O I, 558-9.

26 Two lists from 1166 include the same information. See: Wentz – Schwineköper 1972, p. 223.

27 The connections between Ravenna and Magdeburg include relics and spolia, but extend far beyond it; Huschner 2003, p. 624-657. On the relics in Magdeburg, see: Huschner 2003, p. 685-710.

28 Multa sanctorum corpora imperator ab Italia ad Magadaburg per Dodonem capellanum suimet transmisit. Thietmar, 2.16. Trans. Warner 2001, p. 103.

29 Agnellus, 8. The reference to the Basilica dedicated to Probus in Agnellus also suggests its proximity to the church of Sant’Eufemia ad marem, although their location remains unknown. Cirelli 2008, p. 207; Cortesi 1970.

30 The two earliest manuscripts containing the vita are from legendaria of the twelfth century that were compiled in Ravenna: Vat. Lat. 1190 (with the text appearing 189r-193r) and Vallicell codex H. 08. 1 (f. 345-347). The Vatican manuscript was the only medieval codex consulted in the edition of the text made in 1925 by Hippolyte Delehaye and Paulo Peeters and incorporated in the Acta Sanctorum.

31 On the history of the “basilica” of Probus and its communities, see: Farioli Campanati 1961; Bovini 1965; Deliyannis 2010, p. 258-259.

32 Hic tandem beati Apolenaris ecclesiam monachorum ordine, quae canonicorum prius constabat, cum coenobitarum officinis statuit, multaque ibidem praedia cum utriusque sexus familiis reliquit. Sed nobis absurdum quod permisceri canonicorum ordinem videtur, quia activam summo tenus peragunt vitam, cum coenobitis, qui coenosam, videlicet mundanam spernentes vitam, si veri coenobitae sunt, contemplativam caelestem <amplectuntur>, scilicet properant summis ad patriam studiis… Ad beatorum igitur Probi ac Eleuchadii ecclesias canonicorum indefessis ordo excubiis divina impendebat officia, simulque etiam cum coenobitis Dei seorsum peragebat obsequia in beati ecclesia Apolenaris. VP 4

33 On the eighth century rules, see Kramer 2020, p. 434-435.

34 This episode seems to be included in the vita perhaps as a reponse to the “monasticization” of Ravenna’s clergy in the tenth century. Morini 1992, p. 313.

35 … qui super aram sanctissimi civorium, ut ipsius meretur Probi dignitas fieri iussit. VP 5.

36 The sack of Classe took place in 854 and was the direct impetus for the removal of some of the relics. What exactly was moved was debated between Sant’Apollinare in Classe and Sant’Apollinare Nuovo into the twelfth century, and was reflected in a number of texts related to the cult of Apollinaris. Schoolman 2016, p. 57-60. On John VII’s excommunication and the aftermath, see Belletzkie 1980.

37 In hiis enim pressuris atque angustiis nullus ex omnibus [se] toto nisu conamineque Deo adhaesit, sed magis magisque ad peiora delapsi publice cuncta sunt illicita perpetrati. Coenobitae, quibus fas non est ulli osculum praebere, monasterium flocci pendentes, mulierum consortiis utentes, quaeque poterant a fratribus monasterii auferentes, nefariis illicitisque natis, consortiis etiam sibi caris ferebant latenter. VP 5.

38 The abandonment and degredation of community because of ninth- and tenth-century raids was frequently described in the monastic histories, for example those of Montecassino and Novalese, but the impacts of these are contested: Howe 2016, p. 30-34. In the case of the abbey of Farfa, the Destructio monasterii farfensis composed by Abbot Ugo (998-1038) denounced similar patterns of behavior amoung the monks follow sack of the institution in 899, in this case to highlight his own reforms of the monastery: D’Acunto 2018, p. 67-69.

39 Summa igitur cum devotione sanctorum corpora ex arca sustulerunt. VP 8.

40 On the episcopal relics as foundations for the cult, see Schoolman 2013.

41 Tunc cum hymnis laudibusque sacris beatorum corpora ad Sancti Apolenaris delata sunt ecclesiam. Illic a discipulis digna cum fletibus ac lamentis modulate sunt carmina. Inde ad comparem beatum Severum, cuius sequentem festa diem radiabant, cum ingenti properavimus laetitia. Peractis rite missarum solempniis ac vespertinis, ob laborem refocillata sunt corpora cibis. Sed ne a clandestino quid fure raperetur de sanctorum cadaveribus, debito custodita sunt honore a christianis fidelibus. VP 8.

42 TP 9.

43 This period of the late tenth century was also one in which churches and monasteries sought to regain lost property, the original post-Carolingian definition of reformare. Howe 2016, 75-78.

44 On Maiolus in Ravenna see Schoolman 2016, 33-36; on his activities in Italy, see Barret 2003, p. 191-194.

45 Schoolman 2017.

46 On the movement of “new heremitism” inspired by Romuald, see Jasper – Howe 2020.

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Référence électronique

Edward McCormick Schoolman, « On moving relics and monastic reform », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge [En ligne], 132-2 | 2020, mis en ligne le 21 décembre 2020, consulté le 26 mai 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/mefrm/8438 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/mefrm.8438

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Edward McCormick Schoolman

University of Nevada, Reno, Department of History - eschoolman@unr.edu

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