Karma Zain (karmazain) wrote,
Karma Zain
karmazain

Recommended Reading - St Cyprian and St Michael

Conjureman Ali on St. Cyprian's Feast Day and Miss Bri on St. Michael the Archangel's Feast Day.  I have recently seen some well-meaning devotee refer to Sep 29 as St. Michael's birthday, which made me spew my tea all over the monitor. Sep. 29 is the anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Michael. As an angel, St. Michael doesn't have a birthday (and birthdays are rarely saints' feasts days anyway - it's more often the death day, though of course as an angel, St. Michael wouldn't have one of those either). So the feast day has to come from somewhere else; in this case, its origins are tied to landmarks of terrestrial devotion.

Also, in honor of St. Mike (as my daughter calls him), an 11th century prayer to St. Michael, an Old Irish prayer to the archangels, a 15th century prayer to St. Michael, St. Michael and St. George from Hyatt's material, a snippet from a pre-Vatican-2 St. Michael service, and hopefully tomorrow if I have time after doing several readings, i will get around to finishing and posting a translation of a nice little apocryphal legend about St. Michael's role as a psychopomp (bearer of souls). Or maybe the Mt. Garganus story - that would be cool too. Sigh... we'll see.



Anyway, St. Michael is a powerful and beloved patron of many, so light a little candle for him (or have Miss Bri light one for you! click the link above for details!)  Here's a snippet from an article I wrote a good while ago; since it got rejected (again) in some pretty blunt terms, I will probably not do anything else with it, so I can cannibalize a bit on how angels got to be so mixed up with martial imagery in the medieval European imagination:

Angels in medieval France were portrayed as terrible, albeit beautiful, beings as often as they were portrayed as smiling, benevolent messengers; they were not pictured as the cute little infant-like cherubs familiar to us from Christmas cards until the Italian Renaissance.[1] In medieval French manuscript illuminations during the Crusades, angels were often portrayed in military uniforms or in shining golden armor. [2]  David Keck explains, “connections between angels and war have scriptural origins, in particular, in the great war between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his followers” in the book of Revelation.[3] Military leaders invoked Michael’s and other angels’ aid in terrestrial warfare as well; Count Robert of Mortain’s standard depicted Michael in the Battle of Hastings, and Joan of Arc’s depicted Michael and Gabriel.[4] Angels were intimately tied to the Christianization of warfare in medieval Europe, and the French were particularly enamored of their warrior angels, as the history of Mont-Saint-Michel and Michael’s patronage of Normandy attest.[5] In the Oxford manuscript of the Chanson de Roland, even the usually peaceful Gabriel appears in a dream to urge a reluctant Charlemagne to battle in the land of Bire.[6] In the rich folkloric and popular traditions emerging from scriptural reference to warrior angels, Keck argues, angels became a “powerful image and paradigm for the holiest of warfare” in the medieval imagination;[7]  figures such as St. Michael in Normandy were an “iconographic representation of angelic warriors [which] helped to legitimize revolutionary and military activities.”[8] These associations “made it possible for some to locate the origins of chivalry itself in the angelic realms.”[9]  Warrior angels made it possible to be both a Christian and a knight, both an earthly warrior and a servant of God; in Keck’s words, the warrior angel “allowed military men to have both their Christianity and their swordplay.”[10] This was particularly the case at the beginning of the twelfth century; as John Edward Damon remarks of the era that followed the first Crusade, the concept of “[s]oldier sainthood would move to the center of theology and culture” as the Christian knight rode East, to holy war.[11] This convergence of terrestrial and celestial also made it easy for knights to demonize their political opponents, casting them as the satanic enemy upon whom St. Michael tramples in his most familiar iconography.


[1] Patricia Gathercole, The Depiction of Angels and Devils in Medieval French Manuscript Illumination (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), 5. 

[2] Gathercole 21.

[3] David Keck, Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 201.

[4] Ibid., 202.

[5] Ibid., 201-203.  For Michael’s warrior role, see Richard Johnson, Saint Michael the Archangel in Medieval English Legend (Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, Inc., 2005).  For a discussion of angelic appearances in the context of marvels, dream-visions, and other “specular encounters,” see Donald Maddox, Fictions of Identity in Medieval France (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000), esp. 201-215.

[6]  La Chanson de Roland, ed. Gerald J. Braut (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1984), ll. 3990-4000.

[7]  Keck 201.

[8] Ibid., 202.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 203.

[11] John Edward Damon, Soldier Saints and Holy Warriors: Warfare and Sanctity in the Literature of Early England (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003), 277.

Tags: angels, saints, st. cyprian, st. michael
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