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E05724: Anonymous Latin text describing how the prayers of *Honoratus (founder of Lérins and bishop of Arles, S00438) caused *Genesius (notary and martyr of Arles, S00263) to intervene to prevent disaster when the bridge of boats across the River Rhone at Arles (southern Gaul) broke up while a crowd of worshippers was crossing it on Genesius' feast day. Probably composed at Arles in the 5th century.

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posted on 14.06.2018, 00:00 by dlambert
Sermo seu narratio de miraculo s. Genesii martyris Arelatensis (BHL 3307, CPL 504)

Opera Dei narrare honorificum est: ergo operae pretium est, miracula divini operis, ad sancti martyris Genesii gloriam referenda narrare.

Natalis enim ipsius die frequens ille in civitate Arelatensi casus, pontis abrupti periculo, urbem totam nimio tremore concussit, et animis subiti pavoris discrimine concussis, solemnitatis laetitiam recepta salutis gratia laetiorem reddidit, iucunditate duplicata. Nam cum quos in hac celebritate plus etiam quam suos Arelas populus coegisset, quorum in illa die gaudiis ipsa civitas angusta erat, semitae et spatia camporum, surgente in agmine, et laborantibus sua cunctis densitate ibat in ulterioris fluminis ripam, in honorem martyris, Christo devotus exercitus cum charis coniugibus, dulcibus pignoribus, plura simul beneficia habere festinans. Nec contentus uno in loco vota perfundere, in ecclesia pervigil, antelucanus ad locum caedis et sanguinis festinabat; item ad sepulcrum gaudiorum immolans hostias, quasi occupaturus aures martyris properabat. Nec clericorum officia solemniter ordinata, nec ipsum denique lucis tempus exspectabat. Splendor siquidem festivitatis, collucente urbe tota, omnem omnimodis pepulerat noctis horrorem.

Interim via illa navalis, qua inter confoederatas sibi urbes, illius terribilis Rhodani terga calcantur, subito, aut sub iniusto fasce, aut nimio materiarum pondere, aut per obliquum amnis illapsum prona diffusa est. Incertum est quo casu: certum tamen cuius insidiis pretiosum onus, hoc est fidelium turmam in mediis fluctibus male pendula strata deposuit, adstante me, quod veraciter loquor, et pedem ab ipso, ut ita dixerim, ponte referente. Magnus illico fragor populi tam ruentis quam circumstantis exoritur; pavor tota urbe percurrit: hic coniugi, ille filiis, alii propinquis, alii amicis; omnes simul diversis affectibus metuunt; qui parum, civibus.

Inter haec sanctae recordationis antistiti Honorato, quo tunc ille populus pastore gaudebat, uni quidem pro omnibus metuenti, omne cladis pondus incumbit: quos tunc illa pietas stimulos accepit! Quam subita animi aegritudine aegris praesto fuit! Erectis confestim ad caelum oculis, intentione cordis luminibus exaequata, ita a nobis circumstantibus mentis excessu totus abscessit, ut nemo dubitaret quin tribunalibus Christi cum S. Genesio opem praesentis mali impetraturus astaret. Agebantur interim grandi tumultu miseranda naufragia: mixti hominibus phalerati equi, impedito indignantes natatu, altis pectoribus crura innotabant: quidquid obvium fuerat, seu admoniti periculo, seu pavidi instinctu, proculcantes pavida virtute; impliciti charis oneribus matrum ulnam, et pressi caucis matronalibus famuli, et tota itineris sui immixta fragminibus pompa solemnis. Nemo hoc loco malus interpres occurrat, nemo tantam martyris gloriam maligna obtrectatione obscuret, et ripae vicinam turbam nullus alleget, nemo vadis exceptos asserat, quos palam dextera divina salvavit. Depressa peregrinorum mercibus, quotidie iisdem ripis inaestimabilium onerum navigia junguntur: navem illic ferendis pontibus, tamquam iacere fundum desperaret aggeribus, ordinatio antiqua constituit. Tantum cum hoc vasto gurgite, stipati populi pondus exposuit, quantum longissimis validissimis, eodemque confractis pondere trabibus acceperat.

Occurrat nunc animis atque oculis ista replicantium, simul totum Rhodanus, ruina, naufragium, implicanda turba miserorum diversa, in unum diaboli insidiis conglomerata pernicies. Nihil periculo defuit ut ad gloriam martyris nil deesset. Quando enim alumnos ipsius mergeret fluvius, quem eodem die piis natalibus consecrasset? O magna Dei gloria! Erupit e vasto gurgite gloriosus exercitus. Iordanem iterum crederes, rupto divinitus amne, patuisse; aut iterum maria populo Dei, sicut sub Moyse quondam duce, in virgae imperio iter inter fluenta solidum praebuisse. Neminem ruina quassavit, neminem gravatum vestibus fluvius involvit, nemini haustum suum fluvius incessit. Illaesos omnes atque incolumes vernacula ac familiaris ripa suscepit. Pompa omnis, sicut ingressa fuerat, egressa est. Materfamilias ex profundo famulorum suorum cervicibus mobilium cubiculorum secreta viderunt. Comptae in honorem Dei virgines, nulla fluitantium monilium detrimenta senserunt; acus ipsae, ut ita dixerim, sicut affixae fuerant maternis manibus, haeserunt. Nemo damnum aliquod rei, nemo dispendium salutis accepit. Occurrunt pignora chara pignoribus: unusquisque proximum suum, cui plurimum timuerat, laetus amplectitur. Cuius hic nisi Christi per intercessionem martyris sui praesens virtus operata est? Convenit utique episcopus martyrem, et dominum martyr. Ostensum est salute dignum fidelis populi officium.

Et denique plurimi (quod mecum forsitan, et cui fecistis agnoscitis) illico, ne vel leviter turbare devotionem sanctam liceret inimico, vestibus ut erant madidis navigia conscendunt, et matutinum rigorem fluvii spe fervente contemnunt; festini quo intenderant, ad locum scilicet caedis, animo victore perveniunt, alacritate majori post periculum recens vota fusuri. O dignae audiri preces, quae non fractae iniuriis, imputare nesciunt quod periclitati sunt: grates referre sciunt quod evaserunt. Omnes gaudio tripudiant: assistunt denique solemnibus laeti, interfuisse periculis iuvat: quia conspicabile interfuisse miraculis: tanti cuique fuit de salute dubitasse, ut salutem suam mirabiliter acquireret.

Integro suorum numero Honoratus pastor exsultat: qui quidem haec manu politiori, majorique gratia mansuris perpetuo saeculo scriptis mandare potuisset, nisi divini muneris conscius in legatione sancti martyris particeps designatus, quod se praesule Dominus haec contulisset, insolentius exsultare timuisset. Et quidem ad nos beneficia per plures diffusa perveniunt. Caeterum quanti in se privata cognoscunt? Quod soli Deo ascribimus, qui omnium conditor et conscius colitur, et vivit cum Filio et Spiritu sancto per infinita saecula saeculorum. Amen.


'It is a praiseworthy thing to narrate the works of God: therefore the value of the work is to tell of the miracles of the work mentioned, to be ascribed to the glory of the holy martyr Genesius.

For on his feast day, that frequent accident in the city of Arles, the danger of a broken bridge, struck the whole city with a great shudder, and when minds were struck by the danger of sudden fear, the grace of safety received rendered the joy of the rite more joyful with doubled pleasure. For since the people of Arles gathered together in this celebration more people than their own, their city on that day was constricted with the celebrations, [as were] the paths and open spaces, with the crowd surging into a column, and, with everyone struggling with its density, it was moving to the bank on the far side of the river, in honour of the martyr: an army devoted to Christ with loving couples and sweet children hurrying to gain more blessings. Not content to pour out their prayers in one place in a vigil in church, the crowd was rushing before dawn to the place of his slaying and blood; also making sacrifices of joy at his tomb as if it was hurrying to gain the ears of the martyr. It waited neither for the solemnly ordained duties of the clergy nor even the light of day itself. The splendour of the festivity, illuminating the whole city, completely dispelled the horror of night.

Meanwhile the road of ships, by which, between the confederated cities, the surface of the fearsome Rhone is trodden, suddenly, either under the excessive burden, or through too much weight of materials, or through an oblique movement of the river, was spread out forwards. It is uncertain by what accident, but certain through whose tricks, the precious weight, that is, the crowd of the faithful, was thrown down in the middle of the river by the badly hanging road. It was in my presence, which I say truthfully, with me drawing my foot, I would say, from the bridge itself. Instantly a great noise arose from both the people falling and those standing by; fear ran through the whole city; this person for their spouse, that one for their children, one for their relatives, another for their friends, all were afraid at the same time for their different loves, who were citizens of all equally.

In the midst of these things, the whole weight of the disaster fell on Bishop Honoratus of holy memory, who the people then rejoiced to have as their pastor, with him alone fearing for all: how spurred was his piety then! How readily in the sudden distress of his mind he stood with the distressed. Instantly lifting his eyes to heaven, he made the direction of his heart the same as his eyes, he so completely departed from those of us around him by the withdrawal of his mind that no one doubted that he was present with St Genesius at the tribunals of Christ to beg for relief from the present evil. Meanwhile the miserable shipwreck took place amid great tumult: people were mixed with ornamented horses, indignant at how their swimming was impeded, with their legs overwhelmed but their chests high: trampling down whatever had been in the way with the boldness of fear, whether warned by the danger or frightened by instinct; the arms of mothers were tangled up with their dear burdens, servants were weighed down by the matrons’ drinking cups, and the whole solemn procession was mixed up in the ruin of its path. Nobody appeared in this place as a bad interpreter [of the event]; no one obscured the great glory of the martyr with malicious objections, and no one stirred up the neighbouring crowd on the bank, no one seized particular people in the shallows, whom God’s right hand manifestly saved. Weighed down by the goods of foreigners, ships of inestimable weight are daily joined to these same banks: an ancient decision established a ship there for bearing bridges, as if it despaired of laying a foundation w

History

Evidence ID

E05724

Saint Name

Genesius, notary and martyr of Arles : S00263 Honoratus, founder of Lérins and bishop of Arles, ob. 429/30 : S00438

Saint Name in Source

Genesius Honoratus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts Literary - Sermons/Homilies (?)

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

429

Evidence not after

500

Activity not before

426

Activity not after

429

Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Arles

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

Arles Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miracle during lifetime Power over objects Miraculous protection - of people and their property Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds

Source

The Sermo seu narratio de miraculo sancti Genesii martyris Arelatensis ('Sermon or narrative of the miracle of St Genesius the martyr of Arles') was probably originally composed as a sermon, delivered at Arles on the feast of Genesius (25 August) some time (but not very many years) after the event it describes. The text is anonymous, but has most frequently been attributed to Hilary, Honoratus' successor as bishop (429/30-449). Assuming that the author's claim to be an eyewitness is genuine, Hilary would be an obvious candidate both as Honoratus' successor and as someone who is known to have been at Arles for much of Honoratus' time as bishop (see E06026). On the other hand, Hilary makes no mention of this event in the Sermon on the Life of Honoratus, which is striking in the light of his evident unease at Honoratus' lack of miracles (see E06098). Cavallin (1945, 172) notes that in the manuscript the text appears among works by Eucherius of Lyon, who was also a contemporary and a friend of Honoratus. There appear to be two known manuscripts of this work. Cavallin states (Cavallin 1945, 72, n. 5) that he was able to find only one manuscript: Vienna, Nationalbibliothek Codex 964 (9th-10th c.); however, BHLms (bhlms.fltr.ucl.ac.be), which does not list the Vienna manuscript, includes another: Douai, Bibliothèque municipale 837 (12th c.). There is no critical edition.

Discussion

This incident took place during the episcopate of Honoratus (426/7-429/30). The text is most important for its depiction of the celebrations of the feast day of Genesius (see E00486, E00795). This drew together the two halves of the city, which were separated by the River Rhone: the central element of Genesius' martyrdom story was that he had tried to escape his persecutors by swimming from the eastern side of the river (location of the monumental centre of Arles and its official buildings) to the western side, where he was captured and martyred. His body was then taken back to the eastern side for burial (on the role of the cult in Arles, see Loseby 1996, 64-67). His feast (25 August) is depicted as bringing large crowds to Arles from outside the city, as well as its own citizens. They spend the night in a vigil at Genesius' shrine, on the east side of the river, then at daybreak cross to the western side where his martyrdom had taken place, using the bridge of boats that joined the two halves of the city. The weight of the crowd apparently caused the bridge to break apart, causing the two halves to swing apart with the current, and tipping many of those on the bridge into the river. Given the occasion, the fact that everyone escaped unharmed would naturally be attributed to the intervention of the city's patron saint, but the author was clearly concerned to give an important role in the event to Honoratus, the bishop at the time, whose prayer is depicted as bringing about Genesius' intercession. This incident is described by Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Martyrs 68 (E00480), and the present text may be his source. Gregory's account omits any mention of Honoratus, however, attributing Genesius' intervention to the prayers of those in danger.

Bibliography

Edition: Migne, Patrologia Latina 50, 1273-1276; reprint of the text of L. Surius, De probatis sanctorum historiis, vol. 4 (Cologne, 1573), 892-3. Further reading: Cavallin, S., "Saint Genès le notaire," Eranos 43 (1945), 150-175. Février, P.-A., “Arles,” in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 3: Provinces ecclésiastique de Vienne et d'Arles (Viennensis et Alpes Graiae et Poeninae) (Paris, 1986), 73-84. Loseby, S.T., "Arles in Late Antiquity: Gallula Roma Arelas and Urbs Genesii," in: N. Christie and S.T. Loseby (eds.), Towns in Transition: Urban Evolution in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Aldershot, 1996), 45-70.

Continued Description

ith earthworks. The weight of crowded people together with the broad current showed how much weight it had received with its beams that were the longest and strongest yet were broken by this same weight. This now meets the minds and eyes of those falling: at once the whole Rhone, the shipwreck, the diverse crowd of miserable people tangled up, destruction gathered into one thing by the tricks of the devil. No danger was lacking, so that nothing should be lacking to the glory of the martyr. For when the river submerged its children, who did it not consecrate on the same day by pious [re]births? O great glory of God! The glorious army burst out of the vast flood. You would have thought a second Jordan had opened when the river was divinely broken; or that the seas had again offered a solid path between the waves to the people of God at the command of a rod, just as once when Moses was leader. The ruin broke nobody, the river pulled in nobody weighed down by their clothes, the river filled nobody with its draught [i.e. drowned them]. The homely and familiar bank received all, wounded and unwounded. The whole procession came out just as it had gone in. Mothers of families saw the secrets of their mobile bedchambers [litters] carried from the deep on the shoulders of their servants. Virgins dressed in honour of God felt no losses of jewellery floating away. The very hairpins, I would say, just as they were fixed by maternal hands, stayed in place. No one received loss of any thing or any diminution of safety. Children met dear children; each gladly embraced the neighbour for whom they had feared the most. Of whose present virtue was this achieved except that of Christ through the intercession of the martyr? The bishop met with the martyr and the martyr with the Lord. The duty of a faithful people was shown to be worthy of salvation.And at last very many there (which they did perhaps with me, and those who did it will acknowledge it), on the spot, so that it should not be granted to the enemy to disturb sacred devotion lightly, with their clothes wet as they were, climbed into ships and despised the morning cold of the river with their burning hope; swiftly they arrived with a victorious soul where they were heading, the place of martyrdom, to pour out prayers with greater eagerness after their recent danger. O prayers worthy to be heard, which, not broken by injuries knew nothing of blaming for the fact they had been in danger: they knew to give thanks because they had escaped. All danced with joy. They rejoiced to be present at last at the ceremonies; it was good that there had been danger because it showed that there had been miracles: so many had been in doubt about their safety in order that they should miraculously gain safety. Honoratus the shepherd exulted in the untouched number of his flock, who indeed would have been able to entrust these things with a more polished hand to writings which, through greater grace, would remain for all time, except that, conscious of being chosen as a participant in the divine gift of the mission of the holy martyr, because God had conferred these things when he was bishop, he would have been afraid to exult himself insolently. And indeed God’s gifts reach us spread through many. But how many perceive these as things private to themselves? Which we ascribe to God alone, who is the founder and conscious of all and is worshipped, and lives with the Son and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever Amen.'Text: PL 50, 1273-6 (corrected by reference to Migne's source, Surius 1573, 892-3). Translation: David Lambert.

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