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SS. Antonio e Antonino:
Consecration of the Church

[image ALT: A small Maltese cross]
	September 3rd, 1262


[image ALT: A more or less square stone plaque mounted in a wall; the upper corners of it have ornamental volutes; the text is 16 lines of highly abbreviated Latin. It is an inscription in the church of SS. Antonio e Antonino in Gualdo Cattaneo, Umbria (central Italy); the text is transcribed, translated, and commented on in this webpage.]

The 17c inscription we see here, on an interior wall of the church of SS. Antonius and Antoninus of Gualdo Cattaneo, is a handsome object: and that's very likely as far as many of us who look at it will go; Latin, abbreviated, with a variety of odd squiggles — at first glance, quite opaque. But a stone so carefully carved surely means something, and is worth trying to read, as intended by those who set it up; all the more so that, as we will see, this plaque replaces another that was nearly four centuries older, that must have got damaged. If people living twelve generations after the event it records thought it good to preserve the information; another twelve generations, and why shouldn't I share it in turn with you?

As it turns out, most inscriptions after the Middle Ages aren't so hard to read; it's just a question of getting the hang of them: after a while even the casual tourist will be used to the standard abbreviations and the often repetitive phrases, and here we have an opportunity to learn a number of them, all nicely collected on one tablet, well preserved, clearly readable and comfortably out of the sun or rain. After looking at it carefully — a bare transcription first, with the ligatures marked, then a disabbreviated version, and finally my translation — we'll be rewarded with a glimpse of life in medieval Umbria.

Consecratio hvivs
ecc · facta fvit tepre
Vrba · IV · A·D · MCCLXII ·
die dominico II 7bris cvi interfver ·
D · Bartolomevs ep̅s Spols · et Fr Nicols ·
Eps · Asisies · qvi singvli posverv̅t indvlg ·
hvc venientibvs et mittentib. in ipsa
die et per totā octavā undecī an̅o℞
et vndecim qvarant. et ep̅s Evgvbins.
ep̅s Fvlginaten. ep̅s. Nvcerenen. et ep̅s
interan. singvli indvlg. an̅orv̅ CL.
ep̅s avtem Tvdertin . CXXX et hoc an
nvatim ad honorē Dei et B. Maræ
s. v. et S.S. Antoni et Ātonini Ma℞
quo℞ corp. hic qviescv̅t et corp. B. Vgolini ·
Xenodochii Caritate restavratæ · MDCXXXV.

Consecratio huius
ecclesiae facta fuit tempore
Urbani IV A.D. MCCLXII
die dominico II Septembris cui interfuerunt
Dominus Bartolomeus episcopus Spoletinus et Frater Nicolaus
episcopus Asisiensis qui singuli posuerunt indulgentiam
huc venientibus et mittentibus in ipsa
die et per totam octavam undecim annorum
et undecim quarantenas, et episcopus Eugubinensis
episcopus Fulginatensis episcopus Nucerenensisº et episcopus
interamnensis singuli indulgentiam annorum CL,
episcopus autem Tudertinorum CXXX et hoc an
nuatim ad honorem Dei et Beatae Mariae
semper virginis et Sanctorum Antoni et Antonini Martyrorum
quorum corpora hic quiescunt et corporis Beati Ugolini.
litterae Xenodochii caritate restauratae MDCXXXV.

The consecration of this church was effected in the time of Urban IV, A.D. 1262, on the Lord's day September 2d.a

Among the officiants, Fr. Bartolomeo bishop of Spoleto and Br. Niccolò bishop of Assisi, who each promulgated an indulgence for those coming in person or by proxy on that day and during the entire octave, of eleven years and eleven forty-day periods; and the bishop of Gubbio, the bishop of Foligno, the bishop of Nocera, and the bishop of Terni who each promulgated an indulgence of 150 years; and the bishop of the people of Todi 130; and the same every year.

In honor of God and of the Blessed Mary Ever Virgin and of Saints Antonius and Antoninus martyrs, whose bodies rest here, and of the body of the Blessed Ugolino. This inscription restored thru the kind offices of the Hospital, 1635.

A few easy principles of reading old inscriptions can all be applied here:

As with us, a period (sometimes raised, sometimes not) often marks an abbreviation.

A bar over a vowel usually means a missing letter, and very very often, an m or an n.

Bars over consonants, or over more than one letter, also mean missing letters, although many more possibilities. In practice, mind you, common words get common abbreviations: ep̅sepiscopus, bishop.

Expect Latin, of course — but not very hard Latin, and even sometimes not very good Latin.

Most inscriptions are about commemorating people, places, dates: if you learn to recognize dates and if you have a good stockpot of Latin placenames, especially those in the surrounding area, you'll get the gist of what's being communicated. Here, some placenames don't even need that: Assisi and Spoleto will be guessed by anyone (and they're about 19 km and 24 km away respectively); the others may require you to do your homework before your trip — but a list of no more than about twenty names will cover all the main places in Umbria; with the resources now available online, how much work is that?

The bishops assembled at Gualdo to consecrate the church.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

So now you can tear yourself away from all this Latin — yours is not much worse than the 17c carver's (who wasn't too sure how to spell Nucerinensis, and had an outright bout of dyslexia with the rare and pedantic xenodochii, spelling it at first *xedonochii) — close your eyes, and imagine what a grand event it must have been for the little village of Gualdo in the late summer of 1262: no bishop of their own, but they borrowed seven of them, from Gubbio and Assisi, from Nocera and Foligno, from Spoleto, Terni, and Todi, to consecrate their brand-new church. Travel was slow, so the prelates must have stayed in town at least two nights: maybe some social jostling to see who would host each of them; which monastery, which influential family? The bishops of Perugia and Orvieto didn’t attend: but those were more important church dignitaries, and must have sent their regrets that their presence was unfortunately required elsewhere; we've all received letters like that.

On the day itself, already a Sunday but surely made an even more festive holiday by the occasion, there would have been High Mass and a procession, singing and the signing of registers; and probably a good meal for the clerics and even tables set up in the streets for the rest of us plain Joes. I'd guess there even was a little play in honor of the good saints (Big Tony and Little Tony) and the Blessed Ugolinus, a local boy. I hope the weather was good.


Note:

a September 2, 1262 was a Saturday, not a Sunday. Two solutions present themselves.

1. The church was in fact consecrated on Sunday July 2, and that the people who wrote up the 17c inscription carelessly turned something like mensis VII in the original inscription into 7bris.

2. The church was in fact consecrated on Sunday September 3, and the carver omitted a downstroke. (NB: The mistake wasn't made by the person who lined out the inscription with the red paint; a close look shows no third downstroke.)

The second solution is to me the much likelier, since the patronal feast of Gualdo, as celebrated today at any rate, is September 3. The heat of summer is already also winding down; our bishops would have had more agreeable travel.


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Page updated: 21 Sep 11