Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happy feast of Antoninus

St. Antoninus

I was just reading that, according to the 13th-century chronicler Rodrigo Jimenez de Rada, the bishopric of Palencia, lost during the Muslim conquest, was refounded by King Sancho el Mayor of Navarre in the 11th century after a miraculous experience. He was hunting in the woods that covered the once prosperous Roman and Visigothic city and chased a boar into what appeared to be a cave. When he raised his arm to strike it with his lance, his arm became paralyzed. He had committed sacrilege, brandishing a weapon near the altar of the tomb of St. Antoninus. He only recovered when he promised to build a church on the site. That church would become the Cathedral of Palencia.

Cathedral of Palencia -- late gothic, not the one Sancho built.

None of the 11th-century documents refer to this legend, and although there was a Visigothic crypt on the site, it probably did not contain the relics of St. Antoninus, since the cult of that 4th-century Syrian martyr was not brought to Spain until the 11th-century. Now however the story of the boar is represented in Renaissance carvings next to the stairway that leads down to the crypt. Today is the feast day of another St. Antoninus. Happy feast of St. Antoninus.


cowboyangel68 said...

This is some kind of wicked mystical puzzle isn't it? You're posting a message entitled "Happy Feast of Antoninus" on the feast day of St. Antoninus, but the St. Antoninus you're writing about is NOT the St. Antoninus that is celebrated today. So identity is fluid here. There was a Roman city (named Pallantia), but it eventually became covered in woods (oh how brief is the time of man), until Sancho came along and eventually established a new city, now called Palencia? So it was, then it wasn't, then it was and is. Then Sancho gets his arm paralyzed because he's brandishing a weapon near the bones of St. Antoninus (the one not being celebrated today), only they can't be the bones of St. Antoninus, because they hadn't been moved there yet. From Syria. (Which brings us to the wonderful story you DON'T tell us - why on earth would anyone bother moving the bones of St. Antoninus all the way from Syria to some ghost town overrun with weeds in Spain?) Then Sancho builds a cathedral that becomes the cathedral of Palencia, and you show us a picture of the cathedral of Palencia, only it's NOT the cathedral you're writing about. (By the way, who did Sancho make his promise to? G-d? An angel? St. Antoninus? More unspoken stories. You're very good at allowing mysteries to occupy the unspoken parts of the tale - this expands the story infintely, gives it depth.) These events you're writing about occurred in the 11th century, but there was nothing written about them in the 11th century - the story comes from the 13th century. You mention a Visigothic crypot on the site, just kind of drop that little tidbit in, but never explain who wass actually in the crypt. Still more mystery. Finally, the story of Sancho and the not-yet transported bones of St. Antoninus becomes a legend that is represented up to modern times in a Reniassance carving, even though the story didn't actually take place. This seems crucial - a representation is made in STONE, something so permanent it has lasted until 2006, yet the event being represented didn't actually take place. Something that was NOT so indelible that it lasts (almost) forever. There are so many metaphysical layers to this seemingly simple post that I have to stop writing, go home, pour some wine and contemplate them all or I won't be able to sleep tonight.

The real clincher, though, the part that shows your true - almost diabolical - genius is (again) what you don't say about the St. Antoninus who IS celebrated today. He was an executioner. He went through a spiritual transformation and became a Christian. He was then executed for his faith. Man, you are one seriously righteous dude for capping off this story with something so . . . so . . . deeply ironic that it's like the Buddhist sandal slap in the face. And all in a few lines of text on a Tuesday afternoon. I bow at your feet, oh wise one.

cowboyangel68 said...

Okay, I got home and didn't have wine but am sipping at a Brooklyn Lager, listening to some Paolo Conte, still obsessed with your post, and I keep thinking that reading this was liking sitting through a Tarkovsky film scripted by Borges and Eco. Or a Fellini film. Or Bunuel. Or Bergman. I can't make up mind. I kept thinking about it on the bus ride home. Fellini and Bunuel obviously have the Catholic thing going, as would Passolini, but I don't like Passolini, so I don't consider him. Bergman and Tarkovsky have the whole metaphysical schtick, though Bergman has a better sense of humor, I think. Though that's saying Bergmnan has some small amount of humor versus Tarkovsky's dry cup. And your multi-layering and slightly mischievousness remind me a bit of Godard. I don't know - can't get the film analogy down right. Maybe it's like Snakes on a Plane scripted by Borges and Eco.

More importantly, I thought of the final untold story within your story, the one that haunts me - what happened to the head of St. Antoniuns? An executioner beheaded for becoming a Christian. There's got to be a head in some church somewhere, covered in silver plate, probably, that either IS or IS NOT the real head of St. Antoninus. And, if it isn't, whose head was it?

Life is nasty, brutish and short, as St. Tom said. Or, as Blaise quipped: "We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to keep from seeing the precipice." Our minds cannot fathom the nexus between being and nothingness. Are we really here? Will they carve a sculpture in stone of the people we were not?

Oh man . . . time for a smoke.

crystal said...

Well, I barely have the courage to post a comment, after the eloquence of your first commentor, but since the only Antoninus I know of was the roman emperor, it's ok with me if you interchange the saints. Interessting legend :-)

Aboyut angels - I
don't have an opinion on whther they exist of not, but if they do, I'd bet they're a little scary.

Liam said...

As Rikle said, "Every angel is terrifying."

Dude, it gets worse. I was reading about Palencia when I all of a sudden decided to see who the saints of the day were. Lo and behold, there was St. Antoninus! It was only as I was writing it that I saw that it was the wrong St. Antoninus. Not only that, but afterwards I began to wonder is "San Antolin" is St Antoninus, or is rather yet another Syrian martyr.

Still, your comment wasn't the strangest I have received. Some one named "World War Three" just left a very odd comment on a post I did last April: