St Thomas Aquinas and the Feast of Corpus Christi

Yesterday, we looked at the origin of the feast of Corpus Christi, and a legend about its origin which is edifying, but rests on very weak historical foundations. There is another legend, one which makes for a great story, but is certainly untrue, concerning the composition of the liturgical texts for the feast. The story […]

The Institution of Corpus Christi

The feast of Corpus Christi which we celebrate today is popularly said to have begun with a Bohemian priest named Peter, who was suffering from grave doubts about the doctrine of transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. While on pilgrimage to Rome, he celebrated Mass at the town of Bolsena, and […]

Medieval Latin Science Fiction

In Ireland, today is the feast of a Sainted monk named Brendan, who is traditionally said to have been born in Clonfert in the year 484, and to have died in 577 at the age of 94. He is sometimes called “the Younger” to distinguish him from another Brendan, of Birr, or “the Elder.” They […]

A Homily by St Gregory the Great Carved in Stone

Today is the feast of two Roman Saints named Nereus and Achilleus. An inscription placed over their burial place by Pope St Damasus I (366-84) tells us that they were soldiers who were forced to participate in the persecution of the Christians, but threw away their weapons and armor, and were in turn martyred for […]

The Prodigious Memory of St Antoninus

Today is the feast of St Antoninus, a Dominican friar who became archbishop of Florence in 1446, and died in that office in 1459. He was born in Florence in 1389, and christened “Antonio”, but because of his small stature, was always known by the diminutive form “Antonino.” The bull of his canonization, issued by […]

Treasures of the Cotton Library

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1631 of Sir Robert Cotton, the creator of a famous and very important collection of books and manuscripts. On Wednesday, we described the arrangement of the collection, and how the items were given call numbers based on the busts of the Roman emperors mounted above the bookcases. […]

The Great Rogations and Plague-Causing Dragons

Today is traditionally both the feast of St Mark the Evangelist, and the observance known as the Greater Rogations. The latter is a penitential procession instituted by Pope St Gregory the Great at the very beginning of his reign (590 A.D.), to beg God’s mercy for the end of a terrible plague that struck Rome […]

Studium Urbis – The Foundation of the University of Rome

On this day in the year 1303, the last of his reign, Pope Boniface VIII issued the bull “In supremae praeeminentia dignitatis”, establishing the University of Rome. The university’s official motto is “Studium Urbis – the study of the city”, “studium” being the word most broadly used in the Middle Ages for academic institutions; since […]

Paul the Deacon

Today marks the anniversary of the death of one of the most important literary figures of the Carolinigan era, a monk who is generally known as Paul the Deacon; the exact year of his death is uncertain, from 796 to 799. Born ca. 720, and originally called Winfrid, he was descended from a noble family […]

Vocabula Mira: “Glossator”

Since yesterday we looked at the Emperor Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis, today we turn to the foundational role which this text played in the intellectual life of the medieval West. During the reign of Justinian (527-65), the Eastern Roman Empire (as historians now call it) regained control of most of Italy, which it had lost […]