ALEXIUS

ALEXIUS 4th c.. Uncertainty surrounds the events related to this confessor, perhaps 4th c., whose legend originated late-5th c. in Syria 450 475. The protagonist of the story, a member of a noble Roman family, fled to Edessa on his wedding night to lead a life begging in front of churches, preaching and teaching virtue. For his ascesis and wisdom he is called man of God, Mar Riscia. Shortly before his death he reveals his story to the sacristan of the church where he had lived in poverty. Bishop Rabbula, hearing of his death, went to the cemetery where he was buried and did not find the body, but only the rags that covered him BHO, 10-11 n. 36-42. The nucleus of this legend, the first testimony of which is a late-5thearly-6th c. MS, spread widely among the Greeks, the story growing as it spread. The youth’s parents, Euphamianus and Aglara, enter the story; he is given the name Alexius; on his wedding night, in a detailed dialogue, he convinces his wife to live in continence, then leaves Rome and disappears. He returns there 17 years later and is received as a beggar by his parents, who do not recognize him, in the very house he had left. His life is exemplary: he accepts every kind of mortification, living beneath a stairwell from where he edifies all, completely unrecognized. The pope himself eventually recognizes him from a document clutched in the saint’s rigid hand after his death. In the Greek legend BHG I, 15-19, nn. 51-56 the pope is Marcianus, who never existed; in the Latin version BHL I, 48, nn. 286-291; p. 49, nn. 293-295, Innocent 401417. Spreading at Constantinople and among the Byzantines from the 6th-9th c., Alexius’s story inspired a hymn by Romanus Melodus; a second version of the text developed in Syriac regions. Criticism has shown the dependence of some basic elements of the story, such as the flight after the wedding from his father’s house and the return, on the model of the Life of John Calibytus Poncelet, 1890; the fact is emphasized that the conversation on the wedding night in which the husband convinces the wife regarding chastity is a topos of ancient hagiography De Gaiffier; finally, the reason for the intactam sponsam relinquens has been set in a larger context, typical of the 4th and 5th c., regarding the superiority of ascesis to marriage and the transformation of the nuptial bond into a relationship of spiritual friendship, imposed either by the husband on his wife or vice versa, with varying success, as well as a further development in the limits of the medieval romance Giannarelli 1980 and the symmetrical hagiographical uses of characters in the story see the analogous situation from the woman’s perspective in the Life of Saint Cecilia. The Byzantine legend centers on St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, where both wedding and funeral are to have occurred see the Menologia of Basil and the Arab legends documented by Vatican and Parisian MSS; in the Greek version the marriage takes place at St. Boniface, the burial in St. Peter’s; sometimes both Greek and Latin legends concur in locating everything at St. Peter’s, obviously to give more value and interest to the saint’s life, and esp. to the funeral, which took place 17 March for the Greeks, 17 July for the Latins, the dates of his feast. In the West the legend seems to have been attested for the first time in Spain in the first half of the 10th c., and in the region of Burgos L. Vasquez de Parga; BHL I, 48 n. 289 and De Gaiffier 1944, with some significant additions the inclusion of an announcement to the Romans about the saint’s death in domum sanctae Mariae and some geographic changes e.g., Laodicea of Syria rather than Edessa. At Rome the cult and the history spread thanks to Sergius, metropolitan of Damascus, an exile in the Urbe 977 who received from the pope the monastery of St. Boniface on the Aventine, where the monks began to venerate the saint. Because of the presence there of Alexius’s relics, the church added Alexius’s name to that of the original patron 986. It was from here that a Latin version developed, making the beggar a Roman saint in that he was born, died and buried in the city, and giving the pope a central role in events. In acknowledging Alexius’s greatness, the pope ratified the asceticism of the laity as superior to marriage, in accordance with a model of life following the church’s directives. In the Middle Ages Alexius became an authoritative saint Peter Damian preached a sermon on him, loved by the popes Leo IX dedicated a hymn to him. His Life spread in France in the 11th and 12th c. in relation to the reform of Cluny, thanks to the papal legate Leo; it was reelaborated in poetry and in prose, as shown in Italian and French poems and the Legenda aurea of Jacobus da Varagine. Alexius is widely present in literature: English, Flemish, German, Polish, Serbian, Russian and even Norwegian. In addition to Rome, his relics are at Montecassino, Prague, Bologna, Bergamo, Paris and Cologne. Even at St. Albans in England a chapel was dedicated to him. Iconographic depictions show him mainly in pilgrimmendicant dress he is their patron, with a staff, a staircase referring to the stairwell in which he lived and the letter in his hand by which he was recognized. Besides the pictorial cycle in St. Clement at Rome, there are the mosaic of the Cathedral of Monreale, the 12th-c. Stuttgart passionary, the relief of the cathedral of Strasbourg by Hans Himmerer 15th c., and the painting of A. Carracci at Bologna in the Church of the Mendicants 17th c.. A statue by Caccini adorns the fa§ade of Holy Trinity at Florence, evidence of the saint’s extraordinary popularity, enhanced by what his legend suggested to a popular imagination already sensitive, from Greek poetry and tragedy, to scenes of recognition and nonrecognition. It is significant that here the agnitio is made not by the father but by the pope, after the protagonist’s death, reaffirming the absolute superiority of spiritual affections and the ascetic life over carnal bonds and life in the saeculum. All of the events surrounding Alexius can be read as a narrative exegesis on this evangelical position. 

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Turkey Istanbul Emperor Alexius Comnenus detail of the mosaic in … travelquaz

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