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E04651: The Martyrdom of *Fidelis (martyr of Summus Lacus, S01484), written in Latin, is perhaps a fragmentary version of a wider hagiographical cycle centred around *Alexander (martyr of Bergamo, S01121), including the martyrdoms of *Alexander and *Exantius and Carpophorus (E01915 and E04652), perhaps written in the 8th c. It narrates the journey to Como of Fidelis, Exantius and Carpophorus; Exantius and Carpophorus’ execution in Silvula near Como; Fidelis' travel to Vicus Summolacanum where he is found and tortured; the beheading of Felix in a place called Turriculus and a miraculous exorcism referring to the building of his tomb.

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posted on 22.01.2018, 00:00 by mpignot
Martyrdom of Fidelis (BHL 2922)

Summary:

When the emperor Maximian resides in Milan, he orders that his army be brought back from Gaul to the province. The soldiers Fidelis, Exantius and Carpophorus travel to Como and stop around one mile away from Como, in a place called Silvula. While Carpophorus and Exantius stay there in hiding, Fidelis continues to the lake (lacum qui vocatur Collerii) and sails on a small boat.

Maximian hears that the three soldiers are Christians and have deserted the army, and orders them to be chased and killed with tortures. Carpophorus and Exantius are found in Silvula and executed. Then the persecutors go after Fidelis in a boat on the lake; they find him at the Vicus Summolacanum. They summon him to sacrifice or die, but he replies that this is the place where he will rest and that he fears nothing. He is Christian since his childhood, and although a soldier, in fact he fights for the king of heaven; his mission is to bring pagans away from the cult of idols and lead them to the truth.

Fidelis is beaten with sticks, but he attempts to convert the persecutors. One of them is troubled and says that if they let Fidelis go the emperor will punish them, but if they kill him they will be responsible for the death of a brother. The man leaves in secret, builds a tomb (sepulchrum), then comes back trying to persuade Fidelis to sacrifice to the gods. Fidelis tells him that believing in Jesus Christ and dying for him earns eternal life. The torturers take Fidelis to the place called Turriculus, where a pine tree has grown beneath the street, and behead him. The sky becomes dark and glittering, showing that God received his soul.

One of the persecutors is possessed by a demon and asks Fidelis to free him, promising to bury Fidelis’ body with great honours in a tomb (sepulchrum). He touches Fidelis’ body and is freed from the demon. The persecutors see this, flee on a boat, and tell Maximian. The emperor summons them to keep silent about these wonders. Fidelis was beheaded under Maximian on the 5th day before the Calends of November [= 28 October].

Text: Zaccaria 1750, 43-46. Summary: M. Pignot.

History

Evidence ID

E04651

Saint Name

Fidelis, martyr of Summus Lacus near Como : S01484 Exantius and Carpophorus and Companions, martyrs of Como : S01485

Saint Name in Source

Fidelis Exanthus, Carpoforus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

400

Evidence not after

1200

Activity not before

285

Activity not after

305

Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous sound, smell, light Exorcism Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Soldiers Torturers/Executioners Demons

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Source

Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Fidelis is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs. These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints. The Martyrdom of Fidelis There is one main version of the Martyrdom, BHL 2922, found in 4 preserved manuscripts according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (bhlms.fltr.ucl.ac.be), the earliest from the 12th c.: Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, E 84 Inf, f. 245r-245v. The Martyrdom includes the prologue “Omnia quae a sanctis gesta sunt vel geruntur” in a variant version (BHL 2922b) found in a single manuscript from Ravenna (see De Gaiffier 1964). The prologue also introduces a number of other Italian martyrdom accounts among them the Martyrdom of Alexander (E01915, version BHL 277). The edition of BHL 2922 (which he have summarised here) produced by Zaccaria, compared Mombritius’ text with the oldest manuscript from Milan.

Discussion

The Martyrdom corroborates evidence about the veneration of Fidelis in Summus lacus (modern Samolaco) on the Lake Como (see S01484) and provides interesting place names relating to Fidelis’ cult. Following the hypothesis put forward by Savio and adopted by Lanéry, the Martyrdom would be a fragment part of a wider hagiographical cycle centred around Alexander, of which the Martyrdom of Alexander (BHL 277) and the Martyrdom of Exantius and Carpophorus (E04652) would also be fragments (see our discussion: E01915). If this hypothesis is accepted, the Martyrdom could date from the 8th century.

Bibliography

Editions (BHL 2922): Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), I, 554-555. The original edition was published c. 1480. Zaccaria, F., De’ santi martiri Fedele, Carpoforo, Gratiniano, e Felino (Milan, 1750 reprinted Arona 1976), 43-46. Further reading: De Gaiffier, B., “Un prologue hagiographique hostile au Décret de Gélase,” Analecta Bollandiana 82 (1964), 341-353 at 342. Lanéry, C., “Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie,” in: Philippart, G. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 322-323. Savio, F., “La légende des SS. Fidèle, Carpophore et autres martyrs,” Analecta Bollandiana 21 (1902), 29-39.

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