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Thayer's Note: Darley Dale's article, which I have transcribed on this page, has two very great merits: while it is not by any means a full translation of Agnellus' Book of the Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna ("Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis"), it is detailed enough for the Latin-challenged reader to form a very good idea of its contents, and it will be noted that no English translation existed when it was published, nor for another eighty years, until D. M. Deliyannis' translation in 2004; and additionally, our author has done a splendid job of very accurately capturing the flavor of Agnellus' work and the man's character, in a lively, entertaining way.
That said, Dale falls into a number of mistakes, mostly in understanding proper nouns and giving the correct forms of them, but sometimes in other respects as well. I've flagged the most consequential errors and fixed them in a few footnotes, but have let the others stand, not to burden the page. So, wherever fine detail matters, I would advise the serious student to check Dale's statements with the original text of Agnellus, online in full on this site in Holder-Egger's edition: the Latin, though pretty awful, is also rather easy reading except for the odd word here and there — which the editor's footnotes clear up each time.
Agnellus of Ravenna, the author of the "Lives of the Archbishops of Ravenna,"1 was not a great saint nor a great author, nor was he a great man, but his claim to our notice is that he was a very interesting character, he lived in an interesting city and he wrote a fairly interesting book. He was so exceedingly human that, although he lived over a thousand years ago, his faults and foibles cannot fail to amuse us, even if they do not endear him to us. He was happy, too, in his choice of a subject for his book; for to begin with, Ravenna itself was a most interesting city; the Church of Ravenna had a great name and a great history (into which we do not here propose to penetrate). The lives of its Archbishops throw many sidelights on the manners and customs and history of the times they lived in, remote enough from Agnellus himself in the ninth century, still further removed from one of his editors, Bacchinus,a in the eighteenth, and furthest from us in the twentieth century.
He has been very much edited and very severely criticized, both by L. A. Muratori and the learned Benedictine, Bacchinus. According to Muratori, Agnellus or Andrew of Ravenna seems to have been born about 805, for in the course of his Pontifical he mentions with characteristic self-importance a certain day as his birthday, and adds that his age was then forty-four years and five months.b He was well born, and does not forget to mention that his great grandfather was the celebrated scribe of the Emperor of Constantinople. He was educated by the Cathedral clergy of Ravenna and afterwards was ordained priest. It was the custom in those days to bestow benefices on mere boys,c and when he was only twelve years old he received the benefice of the monastery of St. Mary ad Blachernas from Archbishop Martin, and later that of the monastery of St. Bartholomew, in the same city of Ravenna. This probably accounts for his being sometimes styled abbot of both these monasteries, but he was apparently only the titular abbot. Many of the details of his own life are gathered from his own statements in his "Lives of the Archbishops"; for example, in writing the life of Archbishop Felix and mentioning his trials when he was abbot of this monastery of St. Bartholomew he says, "and thus it happened to me in this same monastery, for I was deprived of it after a few years by George, Archbishop of Ravenna."d
Muratori criticizes Agnellus severely, saying he was guilty of barbarisms and solecisms, part of which in editing him he means p384 to suppress; he also says that intolerable anachronisms occur in the text, and that he relates fables, which the age in which he wrote easily accepted, but which a later age either derides or accepts with difficulty. Another true bill of Muratori's is that Agnellus is fond of padding and sermonizing when matter fails him, and "that he detains the reader with foolish sermons and fills up vacant places lest some of his 'Lives' should appear barren."
On the other hand, he is never badly disposed to the Archbishops of his time; on the contrary he gives the title of saint to some of the prelates who were tainted with schism, or were even of loose character. He sometimes so applauds their actions that he rages against the Roman Pontiffs and their antique laws. "But," adds Muratori, "these things in no way frightened the most illustrious writer, Benedict Bacchinus, from editing the book which was never before given to the public." But although Agnellus may be called rude and barbarous, nevertheless since Italy can show so few historians of the illiterate ages, Muratori considers "that this book may be embraced with both arms, and we may congratulate ourselves that the whole has not been lost."
This tragedy very nearly occurred, for we learn from Jerome Rubeus in his history of the MS. of Agnellus that it was for a long time in the Library, but after many years it could not be found and much has certainly been thrown away. Fortunately a parchment copy had been preserved by the Librarian of the Duke of Este, and about 1510 this was copied by hand. In 1708 the learned abbot, Benedict Bacchinus, edited and published the MS. and dedicated it to the Duke of Este. Quite recently Muratori published it in Latin just as it came from Bacchinus, and it is from this copy that we shall now quote in this article.
Bacchinus wrote a long preface in which he is even less complimentary to the style of Agnellus than Muratori; he describes it as horrible, squalid and barbarous, and says
"he observes no grammatical rules; he confuses times, peoples and things; he introduces vain, unlikely and puerile circumstances; he tells us of his bad memory; he joins boots to heads and the square to the round most ineptly. He mixes up what he has seen, heard and read without discrimination and confuses the idle stories of ignorant people with the truth. Although he was brought up from childhood in the monastery of Ursi,e he seems to be as ignorant of sacred as of profane subjects. When he can find nothing to tell about the Archbishops whose lives he is writing, he fills in his pages with meditations, from which it is as difficult to derive any good as it is to get water out of flint. Sometimes he struggles to expound places of Scripture in such a ridiculous way that the gravest reader can hardly refrain p385 from laughing. At the same time he so rages with anger against the prelates of his time for simony and vice, that one can scarcely believe there could have been such infamous Bishops. But a true occasion having been given (either from nobility of race, from the offices conferred, from the excellence of the arts), greedy of a little glory, he does not once commend them, but laboring with an insane self-love, he pretends to dismiss them with himself in a few modest words."
Poor Agnellus! The learned Benedictine has hardly a good word to say for him, but he justifies himself for his severe criticisms in the following passage:
"It was necessary to advise the reader in the first place of the value of the work, that he may understand the detestable vice of this Agnellus, and that he may know what trust a writer of this kind deserves when he inveighs against the most holy Roman Pontiffs, because his great grandfather with others had plotted abominable things in the time of Paul and was taken to Rome and put into prison, where he died."
Bacchinus anticipates the question most of his readers will certainly ask, namely: Why take the trouble to edit this Agnellus, if he be as unreliable as he is here described? To this question he replies that in spite of all his many faults, poor Agnellus has some redeeming qualities and these induced him, apparently very much against the grain, to undertake the none too easy task of editing him. In this connection we are glad to learn from Bacchinus that as far as Ravenna is concerned, no sincerer nor more fitting writer than Agnellus can be found, and when he forgets himself, there is no danger of deception, "for those vices which most frequently infect the writer will be ignored by prudent men." We may add, especially when they have had the benefit of the criticisms of Bacchinus, for they will then certainly be aware that they must take Agnellus within a very large "grano salis."
Poor dear Agnellus! He had yet another critic in one Jerome Rubeus, described by Bacchinus as a most illustrious writer whose Latin was to be compared to Livy's for the purity of its style. He wrote a delightful history of Ravenna, but he, too, had his faults (we are rather relieved to hear); "he was a controversialist and in chronology and the criticisms of writers and things, he more often than not so added to the truth that he disguised it." And what is worse in the eyes of Bacchinus, he mixes up the true and the false things told by Agnellus, so that the reader cannot discover which are the true and which are the false. Also he appears to have praised Agnellus more than Bacchinus approved.
The celebrated story concerning the supremacy exercised by the Emperor Valentinian III holds the first place in this sort of error, p386 in which it was said that the Emperor of Ravennaf had deposed twelve Bishops and had given the Pallium to be used in Mass. Baronius says that this Pallium granted by Valentinian was not that which the Pope only gives, but a certain military or princely garment, not an ecclesiastical one. An endless controversy ensued on this point, then Cardinal Baronius stepped in and castigated Rubeus severely, rejecting the apocryphal document quoted by Rubeus, who makes Agnellus responsible for it, saying that he himself took it from the book of the "Lives of the Archbishops of Ravenna," by Agnellus, and that as Agnellus was not only in Ravenna, but had charge of this document, he must know the truth about it. Bacchinus waxes very tedious on this subject. Agnellus in his life of Archbishop Felix mentions his father and mother and his family, showing that he was born at Ravenna of good family and brought up from his earliest years in the monastery of Ursi and that he is not to be confused, as sometimes happened, with Archbishop Agnellus, who flourished in the latter years of the Emperor Justinian. Vossius was guilty of this mistake.
The Church of St. Mary ad Blachernas, of which Agnellus was titular abbot, was outside the walls of the city of Ravenna, where the palace of King Odo had once stood, and had lasted into later times under the name of the Little Palace. Agnellus choice out materials from the rubbish of this old building to make himself a house at Ravenna, on the foundation of his old father's former residence. In the tenth century this Church of St. Maria of Palaiolog was the light of the abbot and monks of St. Paolo de Urbe; in the time of Bacchinus all these things were ruins in a wood round the monastery of the Benedictines of St. Vitalis.
There were two churches at Ravenna, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, one inside and one outside the city, and Agnellus was titular abbot of the one inside.
To return to Bacchinus, who says he has prefaced certain of Agnellus' "Lives of the Archbishops" by seven dissertations, which are to prepare the reader for what follows, and to point out some of the errors of the erring Agnellus. Bacchinus has divided the work into two parts: the first goes down to Archbishop Ecclesius from Apollinarius, the second takes us from Ecclesius to George, during whose lifetime Agnellus died and, let us hope, rests in peace, for he has had a sorry time with his critics.
Bacchinus further has divided the "Lives" into chapters and put the argument before each chapter, he has explained the more arguments and amended others. He describes the Codex as being by an ignorant amanuensis, made from a mutilated copy in the beginning of the fifteenth century. This amanuensis seems to have p387 made the incongruities of Agnellus more obscure than they originally were by his own mistakes. In short the learned Bacchinus has done his utmost, and taken infinite pains to preserve what was worth preserving in the work of Agnellus, and where he was in doubt as to his meaning has added original notes in the margin.
Agnellus prefixed some of his "Lives" with Latin verses, on which, as we might anticipate, Bacchinus makes observations. For example, in one verse Agnellus says the Ravennese had left the Lives and acts of their prelates, who had ruled the Church for 800 years in oblivion, and neglected to write their history, but now "in the evening, that is in later times he, Agnellus, called the Witty, undertakes to write this little work on the Patriarchs." Down comes Bacchinus upon him, for the Archbishops, as he says, were not Patriarchs, but only Metropolitans.
In another verse Agnellus asks what priest at Ravenna was wiser than all the others, and answers, with a singular lack of modesty, that it was "Agnellus, so called from a boy; and Andrew, a youth well-born and descended from a proud race, second to none in beauty of face, loquacious in speech, brilliant in conversation, small in body, great in mind like St. Paul.h As a nightingale in springtime, singing sweet melodies in the woods sitting under a green branch, charms the traveler, shepherds and knights, filling heaven with her song, so will Agnellus, sitting under the roofs of the proud in the suburbs of Ravenna, weave the long neglected story of the Archbishops in honor of the Mother of God, our Lady Mary."
After this we cannot feel surprised that Bacchinus was sometimes severe in his criticisms of his subject, whose trumpeter was certainly dead and buried. Lepidus, or witty, was the nickname of Agnellus, and he generallyi calls himself by it. As it also means conceited it suits him exceedingly well, as his best friends must concede. He is really delightful when he gets on the topic of himself. In his prologue to the lives he asserts, "that he, Agnellus, who is also called Andrew, which, by the way, would appear to be his baptismal name (Agnellus being a nickname), has followed the example of the most holy Moses in consulting his elders, for Moses said 'Ask thy fathers and they shall inform thee, thy seniors and they shall tell thee,' and Job, who consulted the earlier generations. In the lives of the fathers also this method was followed, for constantly it is said that a certain old man told me so." Accordingly, with these literary examples before him, Agnellus went about Ravenna and its neighborhood, consulting the old inhabitants, for which he has been blamed by some of his critics, who say he repeats the superstitious stories of ignorant peasants. At the same time there is a good deal to be said for Agnellus' method of following p388 oral tradition, for even in these days much may be learned of the past from old countrymen, who have often preserved traditions, old songs and folk-lore for many generations, especially in remote country villages.
Agnellus goes on to say that as a star placed in the light of the sun is obscured, so his pages are darkened in the light of so many philosophers. He feels like travelers in dark woods, who, seeing only dense thickets and brambles, do not know which way to turn, as he attempts to follow the history of these Ravennese Archbishops. But as his brother clergy have asked him to undertake the task, he does so, "God being with him, who is blessed forever."j
In spite of all the trouble Agnellus took in searching Ravenna for materials for his work, with the exception of St. Apollinarius, and he has not much that is new to tell us of him, he has very little to say of the first Archbishops, until we come to Severus (316‑391), the twelfth. Besides consulting the old inhabitants, Agnellus used to go about Ravenna and the neighborhood examining the churches and tombstones of the Archbishops and deciphering the inscriptions thereon, and those round the portraits of them in the walls of the churches and other buildings where they were sculptured in stone. He explored the ruins in which Ravenna was rich, and collected every scrap of information he could gather from them; in fact, he left literally no stone unturned which could add to his stock of materials for his book. Ravenna was a very beautiful city, rich in sculpture and mosaics, in which media many of the Archbishops were portrayed; rich in art of every kind, and it was from its art treasures that he had to dig out most of his material.
Nearly all the Archbishops are called saints and no doubt some of them merited the title. St. Apollinarius certainly did, and Agnellus begins his book by telling us that he was the disciple of St. Peter, that he was born at Antioch and came to Rome with St. Peter, by whom he was ordained. He was learned in Greek and Latin. He accompanied St. Peter to the Janiculum Hill and afterwards to a place called Ulm,k where in Agnellus' time there was a monastery dedicated to St. Peter. At this place the two saints slept and left the traces of their bodies on the stones, which in the time of Agnellus were, he says, still to be seen. Apollinarius then went on alone to Ravenna, and before he entered the city he restored the sight of the blind daughter of Herenus. He found the city given up to idolatry; he overturned the temples of the gods and smashed their images. Then he ordained priests and deacons, healed the sick, and cast out devils, cleansed lepers and baptized many in the sea and in the river Beccante. In the basilica of St. Euphemia he baptized his first convert and left the print of p389 his feet in the place where he stood. He raised from the dead the daughter of a patrician named Rufinus, who became a Christian. Theodoricus, Bishop of Bologna, took away the stone on which was the print of the feet of Apollinarius, and placed it in his church at Bologna, and when he died, if his intentions had been carried out, he should have been buried under it. "But," says Agnellus, "what good did it do him who turned others out, and after all was not placed there himself, because he had caused this stone to be so firmly fixed that there was difficulty in removing it?" Apollinarius is said to have demolished by his prayers a temple of Apollo, which stood by the Golden Gate at Ravenna, near the amphitheatre. The saint was ordained in A.D. 50 and died in A.D. 78. The materials which Agnellus, in spite of all his diligence in searching, found for the lives of the first twelve Archbishops were very scanty; he is always careful to mention where they were buried, when he knows, but it is not until we come to St. Severus (491‑498) that he is able to give any detailed information, but we are more concerned here with Agnellus himself and the times he lived in and the manners and customs he mentions, than with these early Ravennese Pontiffs.
For example, St. Severus was a married man with one daughter; his election took place about A.D. 346, just twenty‑one years after the first Council of Nicea, at which an attempt was unsuccessfully made to impose celibacy on the clergy. Agnellus describes a miracle which took place at the election of St. Severus, and a second which happened at the death of his daughter, but he confesses that he is here writing from oral tradition, which he had picked up by talking with some old Ravennese men; he had here no documentary evidence to go upon. He tells us that one day when Severus and his wife were busy spinning wool, which seems to have been their original occupation, he said to his wife that he was going for a little while, for it was the day of the election of a new Archbishop, and he would see a wonderful vision, in which a dove would descend upon the head of the elected Bishop. His wife laughed at him and told him with conjugal frankness not to be lazy, but to go on with his spinning, for whether he went to the election that day or not, the people most certainly would not choose him for their Archbishop. It is the unexpected, however, that sometimes happens. Severus begged his wife, who would seem to have been the senior partner, to let him go, and he hastened to the place where all the clergy and people were assembled for the election, but as he was wearing his working clothes, he was ashamed to appear before so many, so he hid himself behind the place where they were all praying, and when the prayer was finished a dove which was whiter than snow descended upon the head of Severus, and although driven off two p390 or three times returned and settled there. The people, astounded at the miracle, declared he was elected by the Holy Spirit, and he was chosen. When he returned home with the astounding news, his wife, who had before laughed at him, now congratulated him.
On another occasion after his election, when he entered the pulpit to preach, while celebrating Mass, he was accompanied by two deacons, and during the sermon he fell into an ecstasy, and when the people were getting tired of warning for him to continue, the deacons, thinking he was asleep, nudged him, and when he recovered consciousness he reproved them for disturbing him, saying he was not there with them, but he had been in the Church of Modena and was celebrating the funeral of St. Geminianus the Bishop, whose soul he had commended to God. The Ravennese people, desiring to know if this was true, sent horsemen post-haste to Modena, and learned that at the very hour in which Severus had been in his ecstasy, he had stood by the body of St. Geminianus, and as soon as the tomb was closed, he had disappeared; and from that day forth he was venerated in Ravenna for his sanctity. Another miracle recorded of him is a gruesome one: his wife appears to have died some years before his daughter, and on the day of the latter's funeral, when they opened the grave of Vicentia, his wife, there was not room for the body of Innocent, their daughter. Thereupon Severus expostulated with his wife, and told her to make room for the child she had borne him, and immediately her body turned on its side, and made room, as Agnellus was told by some of his gossips.
When St. Severus himself was about to depart this life, he celebrated Mass and then, clad in his pontificals, he commanded the tomb of his wife and daughter to be opened, and lying down in it, he commended his soul to God and ordered the tomb to be closed.
Agnellus' comment on this courageous act is "in such peace and tranquillity did he die." We can but hope that the bystanders ventured to wait until the good Bishop was actually dead before they closed the grave. Apparently from these incidents coffins were not used in Ravenna at this time.
Agnellus, although an interesting writer, is not an ideal biographer. He has no idea of writing a concise account of St. Severus or any one else, but rambles on without any regard for the sequence of events; he begins with the middle of a life and ends with the beginning, and in this particular case moralizes as a finale on the wisdom of the serpent and the dove, without showing very much of either himself.
The sixteenth Archbishop was St. Ursus, who built the beautiful p391 church at Ravenna known as the Ursine Church. Before this was built Agnellus says the Ravennese Christians wandered about worshiping in cottages, but as he describes Severus, who died nine years before the consecration of St. Ursus or Orsus, as preaching in a pulpit in a church, we must presume that he meant that the Ursinian Church, which is really the Cathedral, was the first one built at Ravenna worthy of the name of a church.
St. Ursus, who was a most holy man, did his utmost to raise a beautiful building to the glory of God. Agnellus says that he inlaid the walls with most precious stones, meaning probably malachite and marble and lapis lazuli, and he designed various figures in colored tiles in the roof, and all the people worked joyfully to beautify the church. Agnellus gives a list of the names of the principal laborers, which Bacchinus says is most probably incorrect, so it need not trouble us. Incidentally we learn that the men sat on one side of the church and the women on the other for on the men's side, he says, the wall was decorated here and there with allegorical goes of men and animals cut in metal, possibly medallions inserted in the wall.
This Cathedral is still one of the sights of Ravenna,l and has been enriched from time to time by paintings by celebrated artists. One of the most celebrated of Guido's paintings, "The Fall of the Manna," is here, and there is a fine painting by Camuccini of the consecration of church by St. Urso, evidently a very grand function. The chapel of the Madonna del Sudore contains an urn in which are the ashes of St. Barbatian. In the vestibule is another beautiful painting by Guido, the subject of which is the angel offering bread and wine to Elijah. Here is kept the Paschal Calendar, which is very remarkable as throwing light on the astronomical knowledge of the early centuries of Christianity. There was a celebrated door of vinewood, some fragments of which are preserved behind the grand door. In the sacristy is also kept the pastoral chair of St. .
The life of the Archbishop St. Peter contains an incident in Agnellus' career as an author which shows his methods of obtaining information were occasionally somewhat drastic. One day when he was in his monastery of St. Mary ad Blachernas, hesitating, as he tells us, about the tomb of this holy Pontiff St. Peter, whose life he was writing, and wondering where he was buried, of the boys of the monastery, whose duty it was to be at hand daily, announced that George, Bishop of Classis, had called. After the Bishop was seated, Agnellus asked him if he knew anything about the tomb of St. Peter, either from hearsay or from some of the old inhabitants or from anything he might have seen on old inscriptions. p392 The Bishop at once joyfully exclaimed: "Come with me and I will show you where this precious treasure rests."
Accordingly they ordered their horses to ride to Classis, and when they reached the place, they ordered their grooms to go away into the town while they entered the crypt below the monastery of St. James, which stands lower than the church of Classis. There they found a tomb cut out precious marble, and with difficulty they raised the lid a little way, and found below a coffin of cypress-wood, and when they had lifted up the cloth with which the body was covered, they saw the holy body lying as if it had been buried that very hour. "It was," says Agnellus, "that of a tall man, and the skin was pale and all the limbs and the rest of the body were all intact; nothing was wanting except a small pillow for the head."
The odor from the spices with which the body had been embalmed was so strong that they could not get it out of their nostrils for a week!
They were seized with such terror and such sadness that they were hardly able to close the tomb, which they had opened with such joy! Seeing that St. Peter had been dead about four hundred years, their emotion must be rather attributed to fright than grief. The inscription upon the coffin of "Dominus Petrus Archiepiscopus," made assurance doubly sure, but Agnellus was an enthusiastic historian. Sad to say, Rubeus doubts whether, after all, this body was that of the Archbishop Peter I, but believes it was that of Peter III, who lived one hundred years later.
How Agnellus would have argued the point with Rubeus could he have met him! Bacchinus, however, inclines to think that Agnellus was right in this instance, because an image of Peter I, placed by the Empress in the Church of St. John the Evangelist at Ravenna, represents him with a long beard, which, as the Church of Ravenna was then under Greek influence, was permissible to a Bishop, whereas in the day of Peter III the bearded portrait would have been an anachronism; moreover it could not have been made by the command of the Empress Galla Placidia, who had long been dead when Peter III lived. We do not quite see the force of this argument, unless the body they found intact had a beard.
That Agnellus erred in the sequence of the Archbishops Bacchinus agrees with Rubeus in thinking. This St. Peter I of Ravenna and all his predecessors were Syrians.
St. Peter I was succeeded by St. Neon, who finished and decorated the Petrine Church at Ravenna, the foundations of which Peter I had laid and Neon had decorated with tesselated tiles. He p393 also built below the Cathedral at Ursi a place called the "triclinium," a sort of dining-room with reclining places and some wonderful windows, and he enriched and embellished the pavement of this place with various stones. He commanded the deluge to be painted on one side of the wall of the church, and a river on the other side, and the miracle of feeding the five thousand people with five loaves and two small fishes to be depicted. Agnellus calls this dining-room a "Dagubita," which Bacchinus explains to be a corrupt Latin word meaning an "accubito," or reclining-place. It seems that the Eastern custom in the time of Our Lord of reclining during meals prevailed also in the early middle ages in Ravenna, or at any rate at the time this church was built. It also seems that in the early Church on great feasts it was the custom in Ravenna for the Archbishop to entertain at dinner some of the dignitaries who had been present at the function in the church in a room adjoining or forming part of the church and there they rested.
It is not very clear whether this dining-room ("triclinium") and the "Dagubita" were one apartment or two; probably one only, and the "dagubita" were reclining-places round the table of the dining-room. Bacchinus says that Ducange in his Glossary mentions a similar place at St. John Lateran in Rome, which is used by the Cardinals on Easter‑day.
Agnellus has not much else to tell us about St. Neon, except that he was a most holy man with a beautiful face, so he fills up his account of him with a long legend or story picked up from some old Ravennese men of a place called the Strong Arm, whether the body of St. Neon was translated in the time of Agnellus, so he would be sure to tell the story, which is too long to quote here in full, but one or two incidents in it are interesting as showing how strong the faith was in those days, and how highly they valued the sacrament of baptism and of spiritual relationships. Two men were great friends and one of them had an infant son and the other begged to be the child's godfather, and was accepted by his friend, and, says Agnellus, "thus they both became fathers, one according to the flesh and the other according to the spirit, and from the time the godfather received the child from the font, he was the greater father, as you know, because the child was born in sin of the first father, whereas the spiritual father received him washed from the devil and his pomps, and born of the Spirit."
Later a cloud overshadowed this friendship and money, the root of all evil, was the cause of the misunderstanding. It appears that one of the fathers, which we are not told, borrowed a large sum of money from the other, and at this place of the Strong Arm made the p394 picture of Our Lord the surety for the borrower, who went abroad and made his fortune, and did not return to Ravenna until the other had made many prayers at the shrine. However, it all ended happily, for after the absconding father had had several visions and warnings, he finally returned, and we are glad to learn repaid the money, and his friend refused to take any interest, considering that to do so would, according to the mediaeval idea, be usury.
The next Archbishop rejoiced in the name of Exuperantius, probably only a name given him in reference to his preëminent virtues. He was a very old man and meek and humble. He built but did not finish the palace of Tricoli. In his time the Church of St. Agnes was built by Gemello, sub‑deacon of the church at Ravenna. He seems to have been a very rich man, for he built the city of Argenta, which lasted till the time of Agnellus. In another place Agnellus calls this city of Argenta Rus, and Bacchinus inclines to think that was its name, for no other writer mentions a place called Argenta.m The Empress Eudoxia, wife of the Emperor Valentinian III, began to reign about this time, and came to Ravenna in A.D. 457. This is about all Agnellus could find to tell us about Exuperantius, so he says he had not a memorable history, and fills up his life by writing a chapter, lecturing his hearers on his methods of obtaining information. It seems that Agnellus had the habit of reading his MS. to his brother clergy and other friends, and when they pressed him for further information, he gets so angry with them when he has no more to give them, and asks if it is not sufficient that he has searched all the walls and pavements, the arcades and churches of Ravenna, the old palaces, and the church-treasures, the chalices for inscriptions, the chrismatories and the covers of the Gospels, all the archives of the Cathedral and the churches; and, having done all this they ask him for more details? Having no more to give them, he quotes the old prophets to them, Ezekiel, David and Samuel, till they are weary of listening. He was evidently an exceedingly vain man and sometimes bored his audience to distraction.
Exuperantius was succeeded by John I, surnamed Angeloptes, described as a small man, thin and emaciated from fasting, with black hair and very few gray ones; he was most charitable to the poor and orphans. Agnellus has written a long account of this Archbishop, but Bacchinus says he has mixed up events which happened in the life of John II with those which occurred in the time of this John Angeloptes. For instance, Agnellus describes the invasion of Italy by Attila and his Huns as happening in the time of John I, but it did not happen till the time of his successor, the Archbishop Peter Chrysologus. The chief event in the reign p395 of John Angeloptes seems to have been the building of the basilica of St. Laurence the Martyr at Caesaria, by the architect Lauricius, who got into hot water with the Emperor Honorius (384‑423 A.D.), because when he ordered him to build a palace he built a church. However, when Honorius saw the magnificent building he was pacified, and Lauricius fell into an ecstasy at the Emperor's feet and was pardoned.
The battle between Odoacer and Theodoric, described by Agnellus, took place at Ravenna, where he had besieged Odoacer for three years (A.D. 493), but our author gives a very much confused account of it, and it belongs to the reign of John II, not to that of John Angeloptes, where he places it. He concludes this "Life" by describing a vision which was seen by a catechumen at the last Mass celebrated by this Pontiff shortly before his death. As the Archbishop John was about to make the sign of the Cross over the host, an angel descended from heaven and stood on the other side of the altar in full sight of the Pontiff, and when the deacon could not reach the chalice to hold to him, the angel pushed him aside and held it to the lips of the Archbishop.
It seems from this to have been the custom for the deacon to hold the chalice for the Archbishop, when he communicated himself. The priests and people present were all terrified when they saw the chalice raised to the lips of the Archbishop, and afterwards he himself was raised in the air above the altar. And the angel stood by the holy man for a long while. Some people said the deacon was not worthy to hold the chalice and so an angel came to do so, others more charitably said that it was a visitation from Heaven.
Soon after this vision had taken place, "the Pontiff blessed his sons and died happily and cheerfully as if he were going to a feast." He was called Angeloptes because he had the grace of seeing his guardian angel.
We must pause a moment here to explain that the marshes round Ravenna made it very strong as a fortress; as long ago as the time of the Emperor Augustus it was made the headquarters of his Adriatic fleet, and from that time it became one of the chief cities of Italy. The Emperor Honorius in 404 came to live here, and it was then considered the capital of Italy until the middle of the eighth century.
From 589 when it was taken by Belisarius it became the seat of the Ravennese exarchs, who were the viceroys of the Emperors of the west, but before the time of Agnellus the exarchs also had disappeared, and the city had been seized by the Lombards.
p396 The Empress Galla Placidia mentioned above was the daughter of Theodosius I, and the sister of Arcadius and Honorius. In the year 409 she was taken prisoner by Alaric, King of the Goths, and married a Gothic prince. Her second husband was the Emperor Constantine III, by whom she had one son, Valentinian. She was an ambitious woman, very greedy of power, and it was really she who governed under the reign of her brother Honorius, and also under that of her son Valentinian. She died in 450 A.D. She built the Church of St. Nazario e Celso at Ravenna, where she is buried with the three Emperors, her husband, her brother and her son.
To return to Agnellus and his Archbishops, he tells us that the Archbishop John Angeloptes was succeeded by Peter Chrysologus, so called on account of his oratorical gifts, for he was a great preacher, and according to Agnellus none of the Archbishops before or after him ever were so wise as he. He began to reign in 429, so he was a contemporary of Galla Placidia; he is described by Agnellus as being a handsome man with a fine figure. He was the author of many books. He lived in the time of Pope Leo I and Eutyches, and by the request of the Pope opposed the Eutychean heresy, and wrote many letters to Eutyches on the subject, but according to Bacchinus, Agnellus misrepresents the part taken by the Archbishop in this matter, magnifying it as usual to glorify the Ravennese Church and its Archbishops at the expense of Rome.
Little is known by Agnellus or any one else of the successor of Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop Aurelian, so Agnellus takes occasion to write a long description of the psalm "Tu dirupisti," so that, as he says, his readers should not be disappointed. We trust our readers will not be disappointed if we pass over this homily, which concludes the first part of the Liber Pontificalis. We learn from the appendix to the work in Migne's "Patrologia Latina" that Archbishop Aurelian died young; but that although he was young in years he was old in wisdom.
Before we continue the "Liber Pontificalis," it may be as well to explain that the city of Classis sometimes alluded to was a sort of suburb of Ravenna, a town which sprung up near the sea when the Emperor established his fleet there, hence its name. It was here that the beautiful Church of St. Apollinarius, so often mentioned, was built. Between the two towns of Classis and Ravenna was a road called the Via Caesaria, and as houses soon sprung p397 up on each side of the road, another town or suburb arose which was called Caesaria. In the year 404 the Emperor Honorius took up his abode at Ravenna. The best mosaics now in Ravenna are in the mausoleum of the Empress Galla in the Church of SS. Nazarius and Celso. In Agnellus' days Ravenna was on the coast; the sea formed lagoons and canals and real rivers, so it resembles Venice. Aurelian was succeeded by St. Ecclesius, who was consecrated in 524. Agnellus has evidently very little to tell us about this Archbishop, so he spins out that little and fills up his life by quoting a long letter from Pope Felix to the Archbishop. He begins his account by calling Ecclesius a holy vessel, and then says he was of middle stature, neither tall nor short. He had a fine head of hair and he had white eyebrows and a handsome face. In his time the Church of St. Vitalis the Martyr was founded by Ecclesius and Julian, the banker and money-lender. And Ecclesius also built with his own money a church dedicated to the "holy and ever Virgin Mary." "This church," says Agnellus, "was very large, as you may see, and in a chapel with a vaulted roof was an image of the Mother of God the like of which no human eye ever beheld. If any one dared to look for a long time on this image he would see at the foot of it these metrical verses" — which he proceeds to quote.
Bacchinus adds a note to say that there was no church in all Italy like this one of St. Vitalis, and in a chapel therein is a chapelº called the Holy of Holies, with a Greek inscription, which, as few people could understand it, he translated in full. It was the tomb of one Strategus, a defender of Rome. Agnellus says the building of this church was begun by Julian after Ecclesius returned from Constantinople with Pope John, whither he had been sent with a legation by King Theodoric. He continued the building of the palace of Tricoli, but did not finish it. Here Agnellus fills up his space by improving the occasion and telling his listeners, the clergy of Ravenna, what pastors were in those days, and how different they themselves are: those old ones were true lights in the Church, which shone daily, etc. He then goes back to the Church of St. Vitalis, and says as Bacchinus does also, that there was no church in Italy like it for architecture and mechanical work, and it cost 2,600 golden coins. Ecclesius was buried in this church before the altar, and his two immediate successors were buried on either side of him.
During this pontificate a quarrel arose between him and his clergy, entirely all went to Rome to Pope Felix for him to adjust their quarrel, which, from the Pope's letter quoted by Agnellus, appears to have been about money, but the Pope made peace p398 successfully. Agnellus, to fill up his chapter, gives us not only the letter of Pope Felix in full, but also a long list of the names and ecclesiastical rank of all the clergy who accompanied Ecclesius to Rome. The judgment of Felix appears to have been in favor of the clerics, for though he upheld the authority of the Bishop most strictly Agnellus says that Ecclesius ruled in peace afterwards, and never was a word of anything but praise heard of him afterwards from his clergy, whom he ruled as a father rules his sons. He died in 534, and was succeeded by St. Ursinius or Ursicinus.
He is described as a humble, holy man with a ruddy countenance and large eyes, tall and thin. He also in mentioned as a builder of this wonderful palace called Tricoli, but he did not finish it. Agnellus evidently knew little or nothing about this Pontiff, so he gives us a little secular history of his time, which Bacchinus contradicts. After this historical digression he says he must return to , and unfold his life, but all he has to unfold is that he ordered Julian the money-ender to finish the Church of St. Apollinarius at Classis, and saw that he did it. This church was built of Italian marbles, some very precious, and he says that no church was like it, because by night it could be lighted almost as well as by day. He then tells us that Ursicinus said Mass daily, as we should expect a holy Archbishop should do, and he concludes his account with a long sermon on Mass and Holy Communion.
Ursicinus was succeeded in 540 by St. Victor. His name, we learn from our author, was given him by his parents, as we should imagine would be the case, but it was merited by himself for his victories gained by prayer and fasting over the devil. He had a beautiful face and a cheerful countenance. He is the fourth Archbishop who is said to have built Tricoli but did not finish it. He made a silver ciborium over the altar in the Ursinian church, that is the Cathedral; he took away the old wooden tabernacle and had a new one made with twenty pounds of silver. He also made a golden "endothim" above the altar in this church with silk cloth-of‑gold, exceedingly heavy, having a scarlet centre, and among the five figures embroidered upon it his own is to be noticed, and under the feet of Our Saviour woven in purple are these words, "Victor Bishop, servant of God, offers this ornament on the day of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the year of his ordination."
Ducange tells us that this "endothim" was probably a kind of veil for the altar, as the Greeks called a cloth covering the altar an "endoten," and he adds that the one described by Agnellus was p399 no doubt a covering for the front of the altar, in which opinion Bacchinus agrees with him.
St. Maximian succeeded St. Victor. He was a Polen and was ordained deacon by his own Bishop. Agnellus describes him as tall and thin, with a thin face, bald head, and blue eyes and adorned with every grace. But he asks, why should a foreigner be chosen as a Ravennese Archbishop? He will not hide the reason, he will make it publicly known, and there is no doubt of the truth of the story, which is briefly as follows: One day Maximian was digging before sowing some cereal, he found a large vessel full of gold and many other kinds of riches. After due consideration he ordered an ox to be brought and killed, and, its insides removed, he then filled the carcase with the golden coins, but as it would not hold them all, he sent for a cobbler and ordered him to make certain garments out of goatskins, and these he also filled with the gold, and what remained over he took with him, when he set out for Constantinople, and offered this surplus to the Emperor Justinian, who asked him if he had any more. Maximian swore that he had no more except what was in the carcase and these leathern garments, and the Emperor thought he meant food in his own body and his own clothes, but he meant what he had hidden. Justinian was so touched by his apparent generosity to himself, that he offered him the Archbishopric of Ravenna, Victor having just died. According to Agnellus the Ravennese clergy came to Constantinople, and asked the Emperor for an Archbishop and the Pallium, but Bacchinus warns the reader to beware of this statement, because the Pallium could not be given by the Emperor, but only by the Pope. Agnellus does say that Maximian was consecrated by Pope Vigilius, but he adds by the consent of the Emperor in Patras. The Ravennese people "with atrocious pride were unwilling to accept him, but he conciliated them, sending a faithful messenger to invite the principal citizens and clergy to dine with him, and then he offered them gifts of the gold which he had hidden from the Emperor, and he did this several times and succeeded in winning their loyalty." His craftiness does not strike us as worthy of the title of saint, which Agnellus gives him.
He built the Church of St. Stephen and the monastery by the side of it, the materials for which, according to Agnellus, were all miraculously provided in one night. This monastery of St. Stephen, Bacchinus says, was inhabited by nuns at this time. In Maximian's days, we are glad to learn, this palace of Tricoli was at long last finished. He also built a church dedicated to Our Lady, called the Beautiful, in Pola, and a house for the priest; he gave all his p400 riches to the Ravennese, who in our author's days still possessed them.
He restored the Church of St. Andrew in Ravenna, and attempted to bring back the body of the Apostle with him to Ravenna from Constantinople. It seems certain that the body of the Apostle Andrew, who is believed to have suffered martyrdom at Patras in , was translated to Constantinople by the authority of the Pope, and was ultimately translated again to Amalfi, in Italy, in the thirteenth century, where it now is.o Maximian found the Emperor was unwilling to part with this precious relic, but at the Archbishop's request he allowed him and some of his clergy to visit the tomb one night and say prayers there. The Archbishop craftily took advantage of this privilege to seize the opportunity of opening the tomb and cutting off the Apostle's beard, and bringing it back with other relics to Ravenna. On this action Agnellus says: "And truly, brothers, the body of the Apostle ought to have been buried here, if the Roman Pontiffs had not put us so under their yoke." Bacchinus is very angry at this schismatical remark and characterizes it as "savoring of the horror of the darkness of schism," and asks by what new law of the Ravennese Church could Maximian have arrived at Ravenna with the body of St. Andrew, which by the authority of the Pope had been sent to Constantinople?
In this reign the Manichaean heresy broke out in Ravenna, but the orthodox Christians cast the heretics out of the city and stoned them near the river. Agnellus quite approved of this drastic treatment of heresy, and says "they died in their sins and the evil was removed." Maximian enriched the churches of Ravenna with many ornaments and treasures. He died in A.D. 552 and was buried in the Church of St. Andrew near the altar, where the Apostle's beard had been buried. Agnellus with his usual disregard of dates here gives an account of the translation of this Archbishop's body, which took place in his own lifetime and in which he played an important part. He describes the scene with characteristic vanity. It took place in the fifteenth year of the reign of Archbishop Petronacius, who on a certain day had the body taken up from the grave to be put in a higher place. "He went thither himself," says our author, "and commanded all of us priests to go with him to St. Andrew's Church, and we having prayed silently, he told the masons to lift up the stone, but they acting incautiously, it was broken, and the Archbishop, being angry, threatened the masons. Then he said to the tenth priest in order of his seat, by name Agnellus, who was called Andrew (for he was at that time capable exceedingly in all kinds of workmanship): p401 'Come here and teach these workmen what they ought to do, lest they break the coffin and the stone placed over it.' The workmen then removed the stone and did everything according to this priest's orders, and when the lid of the coffin was taken off the Archbishop's bones appeared under water and the coffin was full of water, and as we looked we began to weep loudly together with our Archbishop, and weeping we said to each other: 'Where are thy sheep, O Pastor Maximian, where is thy flock, where is thy people, where thy counsels, thy sweet eloquence, thy holy preaching, thy doctrine? If we call thee our pastor do we undervalue our present one? Behold, you are both pastors, thou who liest here and he who weeps, and it behooves us to obey him.' "
After more and bitter weeping and lamentation they took the vessel, which, says Agnellus, is commonly called a pail and emptied the water out of the coffin which was above the bones of B. Maximianus. "I myself counted the bones aloud before them all with my own mouth, and the number was 116.º They wrapped the bones in a winding-sheet and the Archbishop sealed it with his ring, and then they carefully placed them in the coffin and moved it to a higher position. They then examined the coffin and found all the bones, which were thin and long, arranged in their joints as if the flesh had only just been taken from the bones. And they who saw this were terrified, and for several days it seemed to them as if B. Maximianus had stood before them." We have dwelt rather long on this Archbishop, because this scene of his translation happened in Agnellus' own time, and he was, as we have seen, one of the chief actors in it.
Maximianus was succeeded by the namesake of Agnellus, with whom he has sometimes been confused. He was consecrated in 553. He was previously a soldier and a married man, but when he became a widower, he left the army and was ordained deacon in the days of Archbishop Ecclesius, who began to reign in 524, when this Agnellus was forty-four years old. According to Bacchinus he must have been an old man of seventy when he was consecrated Archbishop, but there is a good deal of discrepancy about his age. Agnellus tells us he was eighty-three when he died, Rubeus says he was ninety-four, and Bacchinus keeps an open mind on this point. At any rate, whatever his age, he appears to have been a fine old man, hale and hearty, with a ruddy complexion and a double chin under his beard; he was bald with a handsome face and haughty eyes. He was a very rich man of high birth; he left his wealth to his daughter. Agnellus says his granddaughter, but Bacchinus, as usual, corrects him.
p402 The Emperor in Archbishop Agnellus' time gave a great many churches of the Goths to Ravennese Church, not only those in the city but in the villages and towns; he gave altars and temples and slaves also, and as some of the churches had been Arian, the Archbishop reconciled them to the Church. Among these churches was that of St. Mary in Cosmedin. This gives our Agnellus an opportunity of explaining the word Cosmedin, and as he thinks, of showing his own learning. He says it may be a Latin word, but it is derived from the Greek word "cosmos" (the world); and therefore it means ornamented. Not knowing very much about his namesake, but anxious to spin out his life, he enters into a long mystical interpretation of the pictures in the Church of St. Martin, with which we need not trouble ourselves. More interesting is an extraordinary hurricane, which he says occurred in Ravenna and swept through the Church of St. Martin, making a terrific howling, and there was an earthquake the next day, after which it was found the marbles in it were broken to pieces, as if they had been smashed with a hammer.
Peter Senior was the next Archbishop, but Agnellus, knowing but little about him, fills up his account with secular history, and the story of Rosmunda, wife of the king of Lombardy, who caused her husband to be slain, and incidentally gave Agnellus occasion to preach a sermon on Jael, Vashti and Herodias. This Peter IV was an old man and was consecrated in Rome "without fasting." Bacchinus explains that this means he was consecrated just before Holy Cross day, when fasting-time begins; in this year of his consecration it fell upon a Sunday. Mabillon tells us that it was the custom for Bishops to be consecrated at night, so Bacchinus concludes Peter Senior was consecrated after Vespers on the Saturday preceding Holy Cross day.
John Romanus, the next Archbishop, was, as his name suggests, a Roman. Agnellus, with his usual attention to details of personal appearance, says he had curly hair, but white, that he was of middle stature, neither stout nor thin. He completed the building of the Church of St. Severus, which his predecessor began, and took away the saint's body from the monastery of St. Rufinus and placed it in the church dedicated to him. A comet appeared morning and evening in the month of January, and John died in the same month, and that was all Agnellus knew about him, but Rubeus had much more to say.
He was succeeded by Marinianus. Here we may say that after Archbishop St. Agnellus, none of the Archbishops are honored with the title of Saint till we get to St. Felix.p Marinianus had been a monk and a priest, and accepted the Archbishopric very unwillingly p403 from Pope Gregory the Great, who consecrated him in Rome, and sent him to Ravenna and wrote him a consoling letter, which Agnellus quotes. Bacchinus gives extracts from a series of letters by this Pope to Marinianus and his successors, John II and John III. There is some doubt whether John II and John III were not the same person. Rubeus thought they were not; Bacchinus is inclined to agree with Agnellus for once, thinking they were the same. They were succeeded by Bonus, and as there was nothing worthy of remark in his life, Agnellus lectures his audience on the vices of his own times. In the next life of Maurus, the schismatic, Bacchinus turns the tables on Agnellus, and "warns the pious reader to detest the abominable wickedness of the Ravennese Archbishops, than which nothing in all history is wickeder, and see the kind of language which Agnellus uses with regard to it, showing himself to be a schismatic."
The truth is that the Ravennese people and the Archbishops were great supporters of the Emperors, who had made Ravenna their capital, and they all sided with them against the Papacy. Maurus was one who was nominated by the Emperor, and received the so‑called Pallium from him, and was consecrated in Ravenna instead of in Rome, and it was then decided that the Ravennese Archbishops should never go to Rome for consecration, but should be consecrated at Ravenna by three Bishops and receive the Pallium from the Emperor at Constantinople. Agnellus says he should waste paper and ink if he were to record all the altercations, storms, struggles and vexations Maurus had with the Pope on this subject.
His successor, Reparatus, was consecrated by three suffragans at Ravenna, as, says Agnellus, is the custom of the Roman Pontiffs in Rome. He was originally abbot of the monastery of St. Apollinarius in Classis. He went to Constantinople and obtained many favors from the Emperor Constantine; among others, a decree that the Ravennese Archbishops should be consecrated in Ravenna and receive the Pallium from the Emperor. On his return to Ravenna he placed statues of the Emperor and himself in the Church of St. Apollinarius in Classis, where he was afterwards buried.
, the next Archbishop, was consecrated in Ravenna, but afterwards submitted to the Pope, and for this reason was calumniated by Agnellus, who is positively spiteful in his remarks. He describes him as a young man, terrible in appearance, with a horrid countenance and full of falsehood. He endeavored to reform p404 the manners of the Ravennese clergy, but Bacchinus says Agnellus forth in a fury against him, but Rubeus vindicated him from the calumnies in which our author indulged against him.
Damianus, who succeeded him, was consecrated in Rome. He is said to have recalled a child to life at the beginning of his episcopate. The story is very naïvely told by Agnellus, who says a certain woman brought the dying child to be confirmed, and the Bishop's attendants told her she must wait till the Bishop had finished shaving, "What, madmen!" said the woman, "the boy is dying and you are unwilling to call the Archbishop, and shall I be silent? Run and tell the Lord Bishop to come at once, and confirm the boy who is dying, or he will have to be buried with maimed rites." The Bishop's servants delayed, not liking to interrupt him; meanwhile the child died. The woman then began to scream and cry with a loud voice, and spread abroad the news on the trumpet which was used at funerals. The Archbishop, hearing this, asked what was the matter, and his attendants, fearing his anger, were afraid to tell him, but the mother told him she had been waiting for him to confirm the child for hours, but that the attendants would not fetch him, and now the child was dead and how could he confirm a dead boy?
The Bishop began to weep, and, taking the child in his arms, went inside the apse, and, prostrating himself, prayed, and the soul of the child returned, and the Archbishop confirmed him, and he died again immediately. says that a similar story is told of John Angeloptes.
The next Archbishop, St. Felix, was abbot of the monastery of St. Bartholomew, when Agnellus was abbot in the time of Archbishop George, and Hellene begins his life of St. Felix by telling us how Archbishop George deprived him of the monastery for no reason, and how before George had reached this high dignity they were like brothers, but after he became Archbishop he offended God, and removed all the priests from their benefices and occupied their monasteries, and spent all the ecclesiastical riches which his predecessors had acquired on vestments (reatus) for his own body.
Felix was consecrated at Rome, but Bacchinus complains that Agnellus omits to tell us this, and he also says nothing concerning the quarrels the Archbishop had with the Holy See at the beginning of his reign. He tells us that the soldiers of the Emperor Justinian II revolted against him on account of his cruelty and cut off his nostrils and ears and deposed him, and how, later on, with the assistance of the Bulgarians, he returned and conquered the Ravennese, and behaved with the most atrocious cruelty, murdering, p405 massacring and mutilating many of the citizens. He was warned in a vision or a dream to spare this holy man, Felix the Archbishop from the sword, so he blinded him instead of murdering him.
Agnellus thus describes his method: He commanded a dish of some precious metal to be heated in the hottest fire, and then the strongest vinegar or other acid to be poured upon it, and he then forced the Archbishop to gaze upon it until he lost the sight of both his eyes. Felix had written many homilies and other works which appear to have been schismatical, for after his blindness he repented of all his sins, and commanded his writings to be burnt, saying perhaps now that he was blind his amanuensis might deceive him by not deleting the parts that he wished to retract.
Agnellus has a good deal to say here about one George, the son of Joannicus, an ancestor of his, who in this reign died of tortures inflicted by the fiend in human form, Justinian,q and when dying he prophesied that the Emperor would be murdered himself shortly, and on the day he foretold the soldiers rose and put Justinian to death.
After Justinian's death the new Emperor, Philip, recalled Felix from exile, and restored all the ecclesiastical treasures his predecessor had stolen from the churches, and he did this so thoroughly that Agnellus says that only one candlestick was missing. St. Felix collected the writings of St. Peter Chrysologus. He reigned eight years and was succeeded by John V, a most patient, humble, meek man. In this reign the Petrine church at Ravenna fell in an earthquake, which took place one Sunday just after Mass.
The city was taken by the Lombards under Liutbrand, during this pontificate, and the Archbishop was calumniated and afterwards exiled to Venice for a year, when Epiphanius, keeper of the treasures, recalled him, or rather induced the exarch of Ravenna to do so. The exarch was the viceroy of the Emperor, and the exarchate was established about 540 and lasted till A.D. 752.
Sergius succeeded John V. He was a young married man and a layman, but after he received the government of the Ravennese Church he consecrated his wife a deaconess, and she remained in that state. He was consecrated himself at Rome, but the Ravennese clergy despised him and separated themselves from him, so that there was not one to serve his Mass. Agnellus supposes they were angry at having a married man for their Archbishop. Sergius, finding the old clergy would not receive him, or work with p406 him, created new priests and deacons, and the old clergy, hearing that he had done so, came to Mass with him on the following Sunday and pushed aside the newly created clergy, who thought they ought to go first. The Archbishop spoke gently to the old priests and calmed their anger and restored them to their position. Peace was then established on condition that the newly ordained deacons should wear the dalmatic superhumeral in the Greek fashion, and assist round the altar,
Pope Zacharias came to Ravenna and celebrated Mass when he had been to France to anoint King Pepin. The next Pope, Stephen, was, according to Agnellus, very angry with Sergius because he did not go to meet him when he was visiting a certain monastery, and declared that his ordination was illegal, and deprived him of his bishopric, but the next Pope, Paul, when he visited Ravenna, restored him. Agnellus gives a garbled account of this action of Pope Stephen, colored by his schismatic tendencies. Of the succeeding Archbishop, Leo, nothing interesting is recorded, and the first part of the life of John VI is missing. He was abbot of St. Donatus, a monastery, "not far from the monastery of St. Maria ad Blachernas, where I am abbot, Deo volente." From Rubeus we learn that Leo was a holy man, but Agnellus' account of him does not exactly agree with Rubeus, but as Deodatus was a connection of our author, his version of the story we are about to tell is probably a prejudiced one. It seems that this Deodatus was the son of a very rich man, Peter the Tribune, an uncle of Agnellus' mother, and the owner of the monastery of St. Martin. After the death of Peter the Tribune, the abbot John tried by every means to get the possession of this monastery, and because he could not, cursed and slew Deodatus with the sword of his tongue, and refused the offering which the boy brought him, and also refused to give him Holy Communion, saying, "After this curse, I shall see your death, and then I shall die." Shortly after Deodatus was taken ill and died, says Agnellus, by divine command in a town twelve miles from Ravenna, and Agnellus gives in barbarous language a long account of his funeral and of the grief of his mother, and the sudden and suspicious death of the Archbishop. When a messenger brought him the news of the death of Deodatus, as he sat at table, he raised his eyes to the Crucifix and thanked God for hearing his prayer. He then ordered his butler to mix him some wine, and the butler, taking a cup from a place, called by Agnellus the "calicodinio," and explained by Bacchinus to be the place where the wine cups were kept, filled it with pure wine (?) and handed it to the Archbishop, who drank half of it, and was immediately seized with violent pain in his side, and returned the cup to his servant quickly, and commanded them to clear away, "and p407 the joy of the feast turned into mourning." The Archbishop went to bed and died a week later. And the mother of Deodatus rejoiced as greatly over the Archbishop's death as he had done over her son's, so neither of them exactly qualified for canonization. Agnellus' comment on this not very edifying story is "Behold the divine vengeance."
Gratiosus was the next Archbishop. He was a humble, meek man, small in stature and very simple, but very eloquent. He was formerly abbot of the famous monastery of St. Apollinarius in Classis. Of his simplicity there is not any doubt, for the only incident recorded of him savors of his simplicity more than of his eloquence. We are told that when King Charles came to Ravenna, the Archbishop invited him to dinner, and before he came the clergy warned the Archbishop to retain his simplicity, and be very careful what he said. Gratiosus told them not to fear, and all he said to the King was "Pappa, Domini mi Rex, Pappa?" The King asked the other guests what their Archbishop meant, and they assured him that he meant no disrespect; all he intended to do was to honor the King, who replied, "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile."
Agnellus fills up another long chapter with a disquisition on prophecy, and some prophecies concerning the Ravennese, but, as Bacchinus says, it is not clear whether the prophecies were his own or whether they were the Archbishops', but as they were in no sense real prophecies it does not matter whose they were.
Agnellus omits the next Archbishop altogether (one Valerian). He was followed by Martin, an old man, nearly eighty when he became Archbishop. He was formerly archdeacon of the monastery of St. Andrew. He was ordained at Rome; he conferred on Agnellus the monastery of St. Maria ad Blachernas while he was still a boy, as our author does not fail to tell us, calling himself Andrew. He also gave him gold for his church. He offended Pope Sergius, who ordered him to come to Rome with John, Bishop of Arles, and Martin sent word that he was ill and could not ride, and partly he feigned illness; eventually the Pope permitted him to return to Ravenna. Pope Leo was succeeded by Stephen, who went to Ravenna and celebrated Mass there, and showed the sandals of Our Lord to the people. Much of this Life has been lost.
Of the next Archbishop, Petronacius, there are no details, but of his successor, George, Agnellus, who died during his reign, gives some short account. We have already been told that originally Agnellus and George were like brothers, and how completely George changed when he was raised to the episcopate. He was consecrated by Pope Gregory IV; he seized and wasted the riches of the Church, broke open the crypts of the churches and squandered the ecclesiastical p408 treasures of his predecessors, and spent vast sums of money on the baptism of Ermengilde, daughter of King Louis the Pious, of France, which was a tremendous function. The spite of Agnellus comes out in relating an incident which occurred at this august ceremony. George was very thirsty, for it was very long and he drank waterr from the pilgrims' bottles, and afterwards celebrated Mass, although he had thus broken his fast.
On King Louis' death, war broke out between his sons, and George obtained leave from the Pope to go to France to make peace between the new king and his brothers. He took much gold and silver and church treasures with him, and traveled in great pomp with 300 horses, but his pride was destined to have a fall, for he was taken prisoner and treated with the greatest ignominy, and when he refused to walk before his horse, the soldiers goaded him with their lances and darts. The King's mother interceded for him, and he was allowed to return to Ravenna, where he behaved with great cruelty to his clergy, despoiling them of their benefices. Our Agnellus, who was one of the sufferers, died before George, and his book ends abruptly. This George was a vain, arrogant man; he rebelled against Pope Gregory IV and probably deserved the criticisms of his former friend.
Agnellus was also a vain man, as we have seen, but he had something to be vain of, for he was certainly a man of great and varied talent; he was clever in many ways: he appears to have had a good deal of architectural and artistic skill and he must have had some literary ability or the other canons of Ravenna would not have chosen him, one of the youngest among them, to write the lives of their Archbishops. His Latin may have been atrocious, but his zeal in collecting material for his book was indefatigable; he pursued his quarry among the stones of Ravenna with enthusiastic ardor. He had no doubt the defects of his qualities and must have annoyed his brother clergy excessively by his long-winded sermonizings and digressions as he read his book to them, but he seems to have had some personal charm which made his contemporaries more patient with him than his more modern editors have been.
Books Consulted — L. A. Muratori: "Scriptores Rerum Italicarum," Pars I. Benedictus Bacchinus. Hieronymus Rubeus. Catholic Encyclopedia. "Liturgica Historica": Edmund Bishop. Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Dictionnaire Historique": Bouillet. See Migne Patrologia Latina, CVI.
1 Liber Pontificalis Agnelli Abbatis. Migne Patrologia Latina, Tom. CVI.
a Dom Benedetto Bacchini, O. S. B. (in Latin, properly, Benedictus Bacchinius, as he himself writes it on the title page of his edition) was the first to publish Agnellus' Liber Pontificalis, in 1708, as will be stated by our author on p384. Father Bacchini's edition was printed with minor changes by Muratori in Vol. 2 of his Rerum Italicarum Scriptores and by Migne in Vol. CVI of his Patrologia Latina; but was followed in the late nineteenth century by a more accurate critical edition by Oswald Holder-Egger which supersedes it. Holder-Egger's edition was published several decades before this article was written, but our author appears not to have used it.
b In Holder-Egger's edition the passage (ch. 54, q.v.) makes Agnellus not 44 years and 5 months old, but 32 years and 10 months old. To let him speak for himself though, in his own inimitable style — you will have remembered of course that a lustrum is five years:
Today in sum I bear six lustra, with two years more and twice five months, since I received the light, having come out of my mother's vulva.
The last datable event in Agnellus' Liber Pontificalis is the death of his last archbishop, which occurred in 846. If Agnellus was born in 805, he would only have been 40 or 41 at the last notice he gives us.
c And for many centuries after Agnellus: Durastante Natalucci (1687‑1772) for example, the scholar of Trevi in Umbria, received the benefice of a church when he was just seven years old.
e Rather, of Ursus (i.e., Bishop Ursus); also called the Ursinian church, etc.
f The Emperor was properly the (Eastern) Roman Emperor, and had his capital at Constantinople; only in the loosest way can he be called "the Emperor of Ravenna" — much as if the President of the United States of America were to be called "the President of Arizona".
g S. Maria de Pala(t)iolo, that is, St. Mary of Palatiolum (i.e., the little palace). In modern Italian, Palaiolo or often Palazzolo.
h A howler of a mistranslation, presumably by the author of our article; although Agnellus might have approved, had he thought of it. The passage, somewhat condensed here, is found in Agnellus' verse Prooemium, vv. 30‑50; what Agnellus actually says at this point is
Quam magnum sensum, quamquam de corpore paulum
or in English,
As great is his intellect as he is small (paulum) in body.
i In fact, only twice in the whole work, in his verse prologue (vv. 18, 51). Awkward and vain maybe, but bad poetry is to blame in the former (he needed a filler word); and in the latter, bad versification gets a boost, so to speak, from the vagaries of Latin prosody, since neither Agnellus nor Andreas would fit the meter.
k Not Ulm, but ad Ulmum: "by the Elm Tree".
l The cathedral is still one of the sights of Ravenna, it does occupy the place of St. Ursus' church which was the cathedral in Agnellus' time, and the later paintings mentioned by our author are indeed there; but our author's phrasing is misleading, since St. Ursus' church and almost all its beautiful art was sadly demolished in the 18c and a new church built in its stead; those few paintings are a poor consolation for what has been lost. Only the unchanged site qualifies the cathedral as being in some way the Ursinian basilica.
m Rich for sure, since Agnellus says he gave the church a good deal of gold and silver and vestments; but maybe not to the point of building a whole city, although that is how the text could appear to read, given the ambiguity of Agnellus' prose (civitatem argenteam). While Rubeus and other commentators think he actually did build a small fort or walled village, Bacchini thinks the city was just a picture of one. In his note, Holder-Egger merely calls the passage "difficult" (ch. 31).
There is, mind you, a small town called Argenta 36 km NW of Ravenna, which has existed since well before Agnellus' time. On balance though, I'm with Fr. Bacchini: what seems most likely to me is that we're talking about a representation of Ravenna — a bas‑relief or maybe even a three-dimensional model — made of silver (argenteus): a closely guarded objet d'art but one that a high-ranking clergyman like Agnellus would have been likely to see.
n Another serious mistranslation. Polensis = from Pola (a town in nearby Istria).
o Not quite accurate. Setting aside the actual identification of the relics (always problematic), the city of Amalfi only lays claim to a substantial portion of Saint Andrew's body, not its entirety.
p In Holder-Egger's edition, all the bishops are given the title of Saint, even when Agnellus heartily disapproves of them.
q Perfectly accurate; but for the unwary, this is Justinian II, not Justinian the Great.
r Holder-Egger's text has wine, not water.
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