Thursday, August 30, 2012

Santa Sabina and Ss. Felix and Adauctus

 Santa Sabina

Yesterday was the Beheading of John the Baptist, but it was also the feast of St. Sabina, a Second Century Roman matron and senator's wife. The Fifth Century basilica built on the site of her house on the Aventine Hill is one of Rome's most pristine examples of early Christian architecture and is a particular favorite of mine. It is also the stational church for Ash Wednesday.

When I was there a few summers ago, I had the good luck of having the church almost entirely to myself--there was one other person praying at a side altar. These more out-of-the-way churches are always my favorites, whether they are on the back streets of a city or the back roads in the country. Unlike the crowded jostling of a St. Peter's or a Notre Dame, here there is time and leisure to take in the place, to remember that this building stands as a witness to a particular event rather than as a cleverly arranged museum display, and even to have a pious thought or two.

More photos here>>>

Ss. Felix and Adauctus

In the old calendar, today is the commemoration of Ss. Felix and Adauctus, early 4th century martyrs, whose story, like so many from that era, is a bit confusing.  Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia has to say:
Martyrs at Rome, 303, under Diocletian and Maximian. The Acts, first published in Ado's Martyrology, relate as follows: Felix, a Roman priest, and brother of another priest, also named Felix, being ordered to offer sacrifice to the gods, was brought by the prefect Dracus to the temples of Serapis, Mercury, and Diana. But at the prayer of the saint the idols fell shattered to the ground. He was then led to execution. On the way an unknown person joined him, professed himself a Christian, and also received the crown of martyrdom. The Christians gave him the name Adauctus (added). These Acts are considered a legendary embellishment of a misunderstood inscription by Pope Damasus. A Dracus cannot be found among the prefects of Rome; the other Felix of the legend is St. Felix of Nola; and Felix of Monte Pincio is the same Felix honoured on the Garden Hill. The brother is imaginary (Anal. Boll., XVI, 19-29). Their veneration, however, is very old; they are commemorated in the Sacramentary of Gregory the Great and in the ancient martyrologies. Their church in Rome, built over their graves, in the cemetery of Commodilla, on the Via Ostiensis, near the basilica of St. Paul, and restored by Leo III, was discovered about three hundred years ago and again unearthed in 1905 (Civiltà Catt., 1905, II, 608). Leo IV, about 850, is said to have given their relics to Irmengard, wife of Lothair I; she placed them in the abbey of canonesses at Eschau in Alsace. They were brought to the church of St. Stephen in Vienna in 1361. The heads are claimed by Anjou and Cologne. According to the "Chronicle of Andechs" (Donauwörth, 1877, p. 69), Henry, the last count, received the relics from Honorius III and brought them to the Abbey of Andechs. Their feast is kept on 30 August.
Many of you know that I particularly like these stories of the barely or misremembered, whose cultus never the less rocked along through the centuries, like old family photos of relatives no one could any longer identify.  They are part of our history, even if that history is not clear and, as with those photos, we could never bring ourselves to throw them out of the shoebox of unsorted photos, even if we could not quite say how they fit into the story.  Well, at least we couldn't before the Sacramentary of 1970