Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Saint Vincent Diacre et Martyr: Culte et Legendes Avant l'An Mil

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Saint Vincent Diacre et Martyr: Culte et Legendes Avant l'An Mil

Article excerpt

Ancient Saint Vincent diacre et martyr: Culte et legendes avant l'An Mil. By Victor Saxer. [Subsidia Hagiographica, Vol. 83.] (Brussels: Societe des Bollandistes. 2002. Pp. vii, 372. euro65 paperback.)

The universal saints of the Church are characterized not only by heroic sanctity but also by overwhelming paper trails. The world's longest-lasting scholarly research project, the Acta Sanctorum (1632-1940), ground to a halt when it reached November 11, the feast of Martin of Tours. When Pierre Petitmengin and colleagues devoted years of a Paris seminar to Pelagia, two huge volumes of papers failed to exhaust the riches of her cult. Thus it is astonishing to find Monsignor Victor Saxer, now in his mid-eighties, attempting to master the dossier of Vincent of Saragossa (d. ca. 303), a martyred deacon commemorated in more than forty separately numbered items in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina, texts which one inventory claims survive today in at least 354 medieval copies.

Saxer, as he explains in his introduction, recognized in the 1960's that early Christian Spain lacked an integrated study of its saint cults and archaeology, a study he presumably originally envisioned along the lines of his Morts, martyrs, reliques en Afrique chretienne aux premiers siecles (1980). Although his initial survey of the ecclesiastical province of Tarraconensis went well enough, he then entered Carthaginensis and met St. Vincent, whose complicated dossier required an ever-lengthening series of articles and editions. Saxer consolidates these here, providing an unprecedented overview of the early medieval dossier of one of the West's more popular saints.

The volume contains articles, nine in French and one in German, published between 1989 and 1998, as well as two lengthy, hitherto unpublished textual analyses and Latin editions. The first section studies the cult of Vincent in Spain, France, and Italy, a cult that spread early into Visigothic Septimania (Provence) and also into northern France thanks to relics obtained by Childebert in his 541 siege of Saragossa. The next section examines texts. Saxer attempts to discover the contents of the lost original passio by comparing the six sermons on Vincent given by Augustine (d. 430) with the two poems honoring him by Prudentius (d. ca. 410), although ultimately he concludes, based upon divergences and omissions, that slightly different versions of the text may already have been circulating at the start of the fifth century. …

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