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E06094: Adomnán, in his On the Holy Places, relates two stories the Franco-Gallic bishop Arculf heard, during his recent visit to Constantinople, about an image of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259) in Diospolis (Palestine), which Arculf had himself visited. Written in Latin at Iona (north-west Britain), possibly 683/689.

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posted on 05.08.2018, 00:00 by bsavill
Adomnán, On the Holy Places - Book Three

IIII. DE GEORGIO CONFESSORE
1. Arculfus homo sanctus [...] nobis de alio confessore Georgius nomine relationem contulit, quam in Constantinopoli urbe a quibusdam expertis dedicit ciuibus, qui hoc modo narrare soliti eidem dicebant: 2. In Diospoli ciuitate cuiusdam confessoris Georgii in quadam domu statuta marmorea in columna, contra quam alligatus persecutionis tempore flagellatus est, formola depicta est; qui tamen post flagellationem e uinculis absolutus multis uixit annis. 3. Quadam uero die cum quidam duricors et incredulus homuncio in equo sedens eandem intrasset domum, eandem uidens marmoream columnam ab his qui ibidem inerant interrogat dicens: 'Cuius est haec imago in marmorea columna formata?' 4. Quibus respondentibus et dicentibus: 'Georgii confessoris haec figura est, qui ad hanc uinculatus et mastigatus est columnam' - quo audito ille stolidissimus homunculus ualde iratus contra insensibilem rem sancti confessoris formulam instigante diabulo lancea percussit. 5. Quae uidelicet eiusdem aduersarii lancea quasi per globum niuis mollem mirum in modum facile penetrans lapideam illam peforauit columnam exteriore parte eius; 6. cuius ferrum interius inherens retentum est nec umquam quo modo retrahi potuit [...] 7. Illius quoque misselli homuncionis aequus in quo sedebat eodem momento sub eo in pauimento domus cecidit mortuus; ipse autem simul missellus in terram cadens manus in illam marmoream misit columnam eiusque digiti quasi in poline uel luto intrantes et eadem inpressi inheserunt columna.

8. Quod uidens miser [...] nomen Dei aeterni eiusdemque confessoris agiens paenitudinem inuocat [...] 9. Quam eius lacrimosam paenitentiam misericors Deus suscipiens, qui non uult peccatoris mortem sed ut conuertatur et uiuat, non solum ab illo praesenti marmoreo uisibili absoluit uinculo sed etiam a peccatorum inuisibilibus alligamentis fide salutatum subueniens misericorditer liberauit. 10. Hinc itaque manifeste ostenditur quantae et qualis fuerit honorificantiae apud Dominum Georgius suus inter tormenta confessor [...] 12. Mirum dictu, usque in hodiernum diem eadem bis quinorum eius uestigia digitolorum apparent usque ad radices in marmorea insertorum columna; in quorum loco sanctus Arculfus suos denos proprios digitos similiter ad radices usque intrantes [...]

[...]

14. Aliam quoque de eodem Georgio confessore certam relationem nobis sanctus Arculfus intimauit, quam ab expertis quibusdam satis idoneis narratoribus in supra memorata Constantinopolitana urbe indubitanter dedicit [...] 15. Quidam homonculus saecularis Diospolim ciuitatem in equo sedens ingressus eo in tempore quo ad expeditionem faciendam multa populorum milia undique conueniebant collecta illam accedens intrauit in domum in qua supra memorata marmorea exstat columna in se sancti confessoris Georgii habens depictam imaginem; 16. ad quam quasi ad praesentem Georgium loqui cepit dicens: 'Me tibi Georgio confessori et meum commendo aequum, et per orationum uirtutem tuarum [...] ambo ad hanc usque urbem post expeditionis tempus incolomes reuersi perueniamus; 17. et si tibi ita Deus misericors nostram reuersionem donauerit prosperam secundum obtionem nostrae paruitatis, ego hunc meum quem ualde amo ippum tibi pro munere donandum offeram in conspectu tuae adsignaturus formulae' [...]

19. Qui post multa et diersa bellica pericula [...] ipse in eodem suo sedens dilecto aequo ab omnibus infestis cassibus [...] Diospolim prospere reuertitur (20.) illamque domum in qua eiusdem sancti confessoris habebatur imago secum defferens aurum in equi praetium sui daudenter intrat sanctumque Georgium ac si praesentem alloquitur dicens: 21. 'Sanctae confessor [...] hos tibi xx solidos auri adfero equi pretium mei[' ...] 22. Haec dicens supra discriptum auri pondus ante pedes sancti formulae confessoris deponit, plus equum amans quam aurum, et egressus foras ingeniculatione expleta tale iumentum supra sedens ad emigrandum instigat quidem sed nullo modo mouere potuit. 23. Quod ille homunculus uidens discendit de equo reuersusque domum intrat, alios x adfert solidos inquiens: 'Sanctae confessor, mansuetus quidem mihi aequitati tutor in expeditione inter pericula fuisti, sed tamen, ut uideo, durus et auarus es in commercio equi.' 24. Haec dicens x super xx adiciens solidos ad sanctum [...] 25. Hoc dicto egressus iterum ascendens aequum ad meandum incitat; qui quasi infixus in eodem stabat loco nec etiam unum poterat mouere pedem.

25. Quid plura? Post equum ascensum discensum per .iiii. singulas uices intrans in domum x secum solidos adferens et ad immobilem reuersus aequum iterum in domum regressus huc atque illuc currebat et tamdiu illius ippus nulla instigatione remoueri poterat usquequo numerus solidorum lx adimpleretur simul congregatorum [...] ad ultimum hoc modo sanctum alloquitur Georgium dicens: 28. 'Sanctae confessor, nunc tuam pro certo cognosco uoluntatem. Hoc itaque iuxta id quod desideras totum auri pondus, uidelicet lx solidos, tibi munus offero. 29. Ippum quoque meum, quem tibi prius comisseram post expeditonem condondandum[' ...] 30. Hoc terminato sermone egressus domum eodem horae momento absolutum repperit ippum, quem secum deducens in domum sancto donatum adsignauit confessori in conspectu imaginis ipsius indeque letabundus Christum magnificans discessit. 31. Hinc manifeste collegitur quod omne quodcumque Domino consecratur, siue homo erit siue animal, iuxta id quod in Leuitico scriptum est libro, nullo modo redemi possit aut motari [...]


'(4). CONCERNING GEORGE THE CONFESSOR
'The holy man Arculf ... brought us another story concerning a confessor, George by name. This he learned in the city of Constantinople from some well-informed citizens, who used to tell it to him in the following terms: In the city of Diospolis, in a certain house, the likeness of the confessor George is depicted set on a marble column. He was bound to the column and flogged during the time of persecution. After the flogging, however, he was released from his bonds and lived for many years. Now one day a hardhearted wretch, an unbeliever, entered that house mounted on horseback, and on seeing the marble column he questioned the inmates saying, 'Whose image is depicted on this marble column?' They answered, saying: 'It is the image of the confessor George who was bound to this column and flogged.' On hearing this the stupid fellow became very angry with the insensible object, and at the instigation of the devil struck at the likeness of the holy confessor with his lance. And the lance of the adversary easily penetrated the column, passing through the outer surface as if it were a soft mass of snow. Its point stuck fast in the interior and could not possibly be withdrawn ... Simultaneously the miserable fellow's horse too, on which he was mounted, fell dead under him on the pavement of the house; and as he was falling himself he placed his hands against the marble column and his fingers sank into it as if it were fine dust or mud and remained fast.

When the unfortunate fellow perceived this ... he did penance and invoked the name of eternal God and of the confessor ... The merciful God, who does not wish the death of the sinner but that he be converted and live, accepting this tearful repentance, released him not just from the visible marble bond of the moment, but absolved him also from the invisible fetters of sin, mercifully succouring him now saved by faith. This clearly shows the character and magnitude of the honour George, His confessor amid tortures, had before the Lord ... Wonderful to relate, to this day there remain in the marble column the prints of his ten fingers inserted up to the roots, and into their place Arculf inserted his own ten fingers, they likewise penetrating up to the roots ...

***

The holy Arculf gave us another true story also about this confessor George, which he learned accurately in the above-mentioned city of Constantinople from some well-informed and quite reliable narrators ... At a time when many thousands from every quarter were coming together to form an expedition, a certain fellow, a layman, mounted on horseback, entered the city of Diospolis. He approached the house where the above-mentioned marble column is, which has depicted on it the likeness of the holy confessor George, and entering it began to address the image as if George were present, saying, 'I commend myself and my horse to thee, George the confessor, that by virtue of your prayers we may both return safe ... And if, according to the prayer of our littleness, the merciful God grant to thee our successful return, I will bestow on thee as a gift this steed of mine, which I love exceedingly, assigning him in the presence of thy image ...'

Then after many and divers dangers of war ... he got back safely to Diospolis mounted on that same beloved horse of his ... He joyously entered the house where the image of the holy confessor was, bearing with him gold as the price of his horse, and he addressed the holy George as if he were present, saying: 'Holy confessor ... I give thee twenty gold sovereigns as the price of my horse ...' While saying this he laid the said sum of gold before the feet of the holy confessor's image, loving his horse more than the gold. His devotions completed, he went out, mounted the beast in question, and spurred him onward. But nothing would induce him to move. Realizing this the fellow dismounted, went into the house again, and offered ten more sovereigns, saying, 'Holy confessor, thou was indeed a gently protector to me as I rode amid the perils of the expedition; but nevertheless, I see, in horse dealing thou art hard and greedy.' With this he added 10 sovereigns to the 20 ... Then he went out again, mounted the horse, and urged him forward; but he kept standing as if fixed in that place, and could not move even one foot.

To
Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

History

Evidence ID

E06094

Saint Name

George, soldier and martyr : S00259

Saint Name in Source

Georgius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

683

Evidence not after

689

Activity not before

679

Activity not after

689

Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Iona

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

Iona St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Major author/Major anonymous work

Adomnán

Cult activities - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Pilgrimage

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/humiliation of images

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Other forms of veneration of an image

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous behaviour of relics/images Punishing miracle Miracle with animals and plants Power over objects

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Soldiers Animals

Source

On the Holy Places records across three books the travels of Arculf, an otherwise unknown Gallic bishop (sanctus episcopus gente Gallus), through diverse sacred sites in Jerusalem (Book one); Palestine, Syria, and Egypt (Book two); and Constantinople and Sicily (Book three). In the preface, Abbot Adomnán of Iona (ob. 704) explains that ‘in response to my careful enquiries he dictated to me … this faithful and accurate record of all his experiences … first I wrote it down on tablets (tabulis): it will now be written succinctly on parchment (in membranis breui)’. Bede, writing in 731, would lreport that Adomnán gave a copy of the volume to King Aldfrith of Northumbria (northern Britain) on a visit to his kingdom (Ecclesiastical History, 5.15). We know from Adomnán himself and other Irish sources that at least two such visits took place, in 687 and 689, thus establishing the latter date as the probable terminus ante quem for the work. Its terminus post quem is more difficult to determine. Meehan supposed that the Third Council of Constantinople (680-81) might have occasioned Arculf’s visit to the imperial capital. This is attractive, although ultimately conjectural. Yet if it were the case, we might – helped by Adomnán’s claim that the bishop spent nine months at Jerusalem – date Arculf’s adventures to around 679-82, and thereby the composition of On the Holy Places to no earlier than about 683. The work appears to have been popular. It survives in 22 manuscripts, the earliest of which are 9th century continental productions. Bede spoke of its ‘many readers’ (legentibus multis), and produced his own abridged version of the text in around 703. On the Holy Places is more, however, than a straightforward itinerary. Adomnán embellishes and adapts Arculf’s account throughout with his own authorities on the Holy Land: chiefly the works of Jerome, but also texts such as Sulpicius Severus’ Chronicle, Hegesippus’ Histories, Iuvencus’ History of the Gospels, Eucherius of Lyon’s On the Layout of Jerusalem, as well as the Bible. Recent scholarship has also identified the degree to which the narrative of On the Holy Places is highly controlled and exegetical; this has asserted the text’s sophisticated theological qualities and, significantly, the authorial primacy of Adomnán, raising him above his status in older studies as merely Arculf’s amanuensis or ‘stenographer’ (O’Loughlin 2007). This has led in turn to the radical proposition that Arculf may perhaps have never existed, and been only a literary device of Adomnán. It appears strange, O’Loughlin has suggested, that Arculf’s journey appears to have accorded so well with Adomnán’s literary and theological interests; besides, the bishop is unheard of elsewhere, and the probability of him coming to Ireland or north-west Britain via a shipwreck (as Bede claimed), after a journey around the eastern Mediterranean, seems doubtful. This may go too far. Further work has now reasserted the degree to which – in addition to, and in dialogue with, its literary models – Adomnán’s text does contain important evidence for the later 7th century Near East, which must have almost certainly come from a recent, eyewitness account (Hoyland and Waidler, 2014). The arguments against Arculf’s existence are in any case not compelling. Franco-Gallic episcopal lists survive patchily enough from the 7th century to account for his disappearance from his homeland’s records, while the suggestion he came directly to Britain through a shipwreck, after being swept away by storms, is made only by Bede, writing some years later: Adomnán and Arculf’s encounter could well have involved less drama than the Northumbrian monk imagined. Other sources show that connections between Gaul and the 7th century Irish church were relatively strong. It should not seem too surprising that the abbot of Iona might have found the opportunity to interview a figure such as Arculf at some point, shipwreck or not. Adomnán’s account focuses almost entirely on biblical sites – many of his titular Holy Places are those directly associated with the life of Christ, and therefore not included in our database. Beyond these, the cult activity he reports almost exclusively revolves around Old and New Testament figures, most prominently Mary: of the post-biblical saints, only Jerome (E06084) and George (E06094) receive mention. Although Adomnán reports that Arculf visited a cult site of the latter in Palestine, he saves this story for his third book, set predominantly in Constantinople. This is noticeably distinct in tone from those that precede it, and the only part of the work to feature miracles, two of which explicitly involve the veneration of images and the gross ill-doing of those who offend them (E06094, E06117). If Brubaker and Haldon (2011) are correct in arguing that neither the Byzantine cult of images, nor the controversy over them, predated the period c. 680, then these closing passages of On the Holy Places would seem to confirm that Bishop Arculf’s journey was indeed a real one, and cannot have long preceded Adomnán’s adaptation and propagation of his account.

Discussion

These stories have interesting implications for ideas about the veneration of images in the period c. 680. Brubaker and Haldon have made particular note of Adomnán's repeated emphasis that the soldier in the second story spoke to the image of George as if the saint were present (quasi ad praesentem): he 'appears to find the approach to the portrait unusual and worth remarking twice, and it is likely that his account reflects a tale circulating in Constantinople in the early 680s. If so, the identification of image and prototype were complete by this time' (Brubaker and Haldon 2011, 59). Comparable stories of immobility miracles caused by George, although not involving images, are found in Gregory of Tours (E00653) and – very similar to that told in this passage – in the 7th century Iranian Chronicle of Khuzistan. It is quite possible that these stories reflect a widely-circulating, perhaps non-textual motif about George (which also made its way to Arculf), rather than any direct borrowing from literary sources on Adomnán's part (Hoyland and Weidler 2014, 804-5).

Bibliography

Editions: Meehan, D.M., Adamnan’s De locis sanctis (Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 3; Dublin, 1958), with English translation. Bieler, L., Adamnanus, De locis sanctis libri tres, in: Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, 175; Turnhout, 1965), 175-243 (see also 249-80 for Bede’s version). Further reading: Brubaker, L., and Haldon, J., Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680-850: A History (Cambridge, 2011), 50-68, 781-2. Hoyland, R.G., and Waidler, S., "Adomnán’s De Locis Sanctis and the Seventh-Century Near East," English Historical Review, 129 (2014), 787-807. Ní Dhonnchadha, Máirín, "Adomnán [St Adomnán], (627/8?-704)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004), https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/110 O’Loughlin, T., Adomnán and the Holy Places: The Perceptions of an Insular Monk on the Locations of the Biblical Drama (New York, 2007).

Continued Description

cut the story short: after mounting and dismounting fully four times, going into the house with 10 sovereigns, coming back to the immovable horse, and again back to the house, he kept running from one point to the other, and all the time nothing could succeed in moving his steed, until finally the collected sum of sovereigns amounted to 60 ... On the final occasion he addressed the holy George as follows: 'Holy confessor, now I know thy will for certain, and accordingly I offer thee as a gift the whole sum of gold thou askest, that is 60 sovereigns, and my steed too which I originally promised to donate to thee after the expedition ...' After these remarks he went out of the house, and that moment found his steed released. He led him into the house and assigned him as a gift to the holy confessor in the presence of his image and he went away from there joyfully, magnifying Christ. The clear conclusion from this is that whatsoever is consecrated to the Lord, whether it be man or animal, according to what it written in the book of Leviticus, can by no means be redeemed or changed ...'Text and translation: Meehan 1958, 110-17.

Licence

Exports

Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

Licence

Exports