Thomas of Maurienne

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An imaginary portrait of Thomas of Maurienne. Thomas of Maurienne.jpg
An imaginary portrait of Thomas of Maurienne.

Thomas of Maurienne (died before 720) was the first abbot of the Abbey of Farfa, which he founded between 680 and c.700. Although the sources of his life are much later, and he is surrounded by legends, his historicity is beyond doubt. [1]

Thomas is said to have hailed from Maurienne, where he was a monk before he travelled to Italy. [2] According to the twelfth-century Chronicon Farfense of Gregory of Catino, Thomas was on a pilgrimage when in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, he had a vision of the Virgin Mary, who told him to go to Italy and re-establish an abandoned basilica that had been founded in her name. With a small group of disciples and divine guidance, Thomas found the ruins of a basilica in a deserted region in the Sabina. [3] The reliability of this story is thrown in some doubt by the extensive use of topoi, such as the vision, the pilgrimage, the desert and "the reoccupation of an earlier Christian site". [4] It was believed in Thomas's day that the basilica had been founded in the sixth century by a certain Laurence of Syria, about whom nothing concrete is known. The church certainly stands on a terrace excavated in Late Antiquity and archaeological digs by the British School at Rome (1978–85) have uncovered a late antique wall enclosure on the site, although the church itself has not been excavated. [5]

Maurienne former Savoy province

Maurienne is one of the provinces of Savoy, corresponding to the arrondissement of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in France. It is also the original name of the capital of the province, now Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

Gregory of Catino Historian and monk of Abbey of Farfa

Gregory of Catino was a monk of the Abbey of Farfa and "one of the most accomplished monastic historians of his age." Gregory died shortly after 1130, possibly in 1133.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem, Israel

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a church in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, at a place known as "Calvary" or "Golgotha", and Jesus' empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. The tomb is enclosed by the 19th-century shrine called the Aedicule (Edicule). The Status Quo, a 260-year-old understanding between religious communities, applies to the site.

During Thomas's abbacy, three monks from Farfa established the monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno. According to San Vincenzo's historian Ambrosius Autpert, in his Chronicon Vulturnense, it was Thomas who directed the monks to "the oratory of Christ's martyr Vincent [where] on each side of the river is a thick forest (silva densissima) which serves as a habitation for wild beasts and a hiding-place for robbers." [6] Also during Thomas's tenure the abbey received a privilege from Pope John VII in 705, which also recognised that the abbey was founded by "Bishop Laurence". [7] This Papal privilege (privilegium) included a confirmation of the abbey's first (undatable) grant of land, from Duke Faroald II of Spoleto. The charter refers only vaguely to lands which were apparently demesne, quoting a letter the Pope had received from Faroald. [8] (Gregory made an effort to identify the extent of this donation by looking to oral sources, and he quoted "very old venerable elders, with true testimony related to them by their predecessors" who equated Faroald's donation to eleven curtes of about 11,000 modia in total. [9] ) Through his donations Faroald claimed to have "restored that place through Abbot Thomas and your [Papal] recommendation (commenditum)", thus placing the initiative in the original land grant with the Pope. Faroald seems to have desired the Pope to confirm—or "strengthen" (firmare) by exercise of his spiritual powers, namely, the "chain of anathema" [10] —Faroald's own conditions of the grant. [11] The Pope went further, he "established and decided" (statuimus et decernimus) that nobody should place any exactions on the abbey and he severely limited the role of the "neighbouring bishop" (vicinum aepiscopum). [12] Thomas was ordered to put the Papal privilege on display. [13]

San Vincenzo al Volturno

San Vincenzo al Volturno is a historic Benedictine monastery located in the territories of the Comunes of Castel San Vincenzo and Rocchetta a Volturno, in the Province of Isernia, near the source of the river Volturno in Italy. The current monastery, housing a group 8 benedictin nuns, is located to the east of the river, while the archaeological monastery of the early Middle Ages was located on the west.

Pope John VII pope

Pope John VII was Pope from 1 March 705 to his death in 707. The successor of John VI, he was of Greek ancestry. He is one of the popes of the Byzantine Papacy.

Faroald II was the duke of Spoleto from 703, when he succeeded his own father Thrasimund I.

According to the eleventh-century martyrology of the abbey, the Martyrologium Pharphense, Thomas was buried at the thirtieth milestone, as later was Abbot Hilderic (died 857). [14] Thomas had been succeeded by Aunepert by 720. [15]

A martyrology is a catalogue or list of martyrs and other saints and beati arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts. Local martyrologies record exclusively the custom of a particular Church. Local lists were enriched by names borrowed from neighbouring churches. Consolidation occurred, by the combination of several local martyrologies, with or without borrowings from literary sources.

Milestone numbered marker along a road or boundary

A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile. They are typically located at the side of the road or in a median or central reservation. They are alternatively known as mile markers, mileposts or mile posts. Mileage is the distance along the road from a fixed commencement point. Commonly the term "milestone" may also refer to markers placed at other distances, such as every kilometre.

Hilderic was the fifteenth Abbot of Farfa from 844. In 842 Abbot Sichard died, and the Emperor Lothair I (840–55) intervened to appoint Bishop Peter II of Spoleto in control of the abbey in the interim. Peter organised an election, in which the monks chose Hilderic, and convinced Lothair to confirm him in the abbacy in 844. From his death in 857 the history of the abbey falls into relative obscurity until about 920. The anonymous Libellus constructionis Farfensis, which in its original form was composed in the late ninth century, relates the history of Farfa from its foundation by Thomas of Maurienne down to the death of Hilderic.

Notes

  1. The earliest source on his life is late ninth-century the Constructio monasterii Farfensis . For its (un)reliability, cf. Marios Costambeys, Power and Patronage in the Early Medieval Italy: Local Society, Italian Politics, and the Abbey of Farfa, c.700–900 (Cambridge: 2007), 13–14.
  2. The Constructio describes his origins thus: “Fuit namque in Gallia vir vite venerabilis, Thomas nomine, ut alii ferunt Maurigena exortus provincia”, in Costambeys, 2 n5. On the religious situation in Thomas's homeland at about the same time, cf. Costambeys, 2–4.
  3. On the (historical) establishment of monasteries in frontier regions, such as that of Farfa on the frontier between the Duchy of Spoleto and the Duchy of Rome, cf. Costambeys, 4–6. On the (literary) establishment of monasteries in "deserted places far from habitation", cf. Costambeys, 7. For the status of the Sabina in the early eighth century, cf. Costambeys, 8 and 184–207.
  4. Costambeys, 7–8. Although it has long been known that pilgrimage to Rome was commonplace by the eighth century, it is only now being revealed how prevalent were pilgrimages further afield, to the Holy Land. It is also now evident that non-Italians made up a significant portion of the monastic population in Italy at this time, cf. Costambeys, 149. Thomas's five successors in turn were either Provençals, like himself, or from Aquitaine, both in the south of the Merovingian realm, but neither region was Frankish.
  5. Costambeys, 9. Cf. O. Gilkes and J. Mitchell, "The Early Medieval Church at Farfa: Orientation and Chronology", Archeologia Medievale 22 (1995) 343–64.
  6. San Vincenzo was actually founded in a former villa in a well-settled area. For the forest as a topos in monastic literature, cf. Chris Wickham, "European Forests in the Early Middle Ages: Landscape and Land Clearance", L'ambiente vegetale nell'alto medioevo, Settimane di studio del CISAM, 37 (Spoleto: 1989) 479–548, republished in Wickham, Land and Power: Studies in Italian and European Social History, 400–1200 (London: 1994).
  7. Costambeys, 9. The charter was twice copied by Gregory of Catino: in the Prae-Regestum and the Regestum Farfense.
  8. The wording in the letter is “aliquas donationes nostras in cespitibus vel servis et coloniciis” (some donations of ours in lands, slaves and bondsmen), cf. Costambeys, 74 and 254–55.
  9. Costambeys, 74–76, has a little more to say on the identity of these curtes.
  10. In Faroald's words: “Et qui hoc praesumpserit sub anathematis vinculo vestra almitas eum alligare iubeat”, cf. Costambeys, 254 n14.
  11. Which were that nobody should commit insolentias aut concussionem ("novel practices or threat of violence") or deprive the abbey of its property, cf. Costambeys, 254.
  12. Costambeys, 254. Either the Bishop of Rieti or a possible bishop in the Sabina either at Cures or Vescovio is meant.
  13. Costambeys, 255: "Therefore your religious will display this obtained tuitio (protection) of apostolic privilege, the fruitful and praiseworthy conceded benefit" (Iccirco vestra religio hanc apostolici privlegii tuitionem indeptam, fructuosum atque laudabile concessum beneficium demonstret).
  14. The twentieth-century abbot Ildefonso Schuster, "Martyrologium Pharphense ex apographo cardinalis Fortunati Tamburini OSB codicis saeculi XI", Revue Bénédictine 26 (1909) 432–36 and 27 (1910) 75–94, 365–85, published this martyrology.
  15. Costambeys, 150.

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