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St Felician (24th January)


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Detail of the statue (1733) that is the focus of

the annual celebration of the feast of St Felician.

Duomo (on display only during the celebration of the feast)

Entries in the Roman Martyrology record: 

  1. under 24th January:

  2. “At Foligno in Umbria, St Felician, consecrated bishop of that city by Pope St Victor I.  After many labours, in extreme old age, he was crowned with martyrdom in the time of [the Emperor] Decius.”

  3. under 20th October:

  4. “At Minden [sic] in Germany, the translation of St Felician, bishop of Foligno and martyr.  From his holy relics a portion was placed in an urn and brought to Germany from the city of Foligno in Umbria, where he had died on the 24th of January.”

Legend of St Felician (BHL 2846-51)

The legend of St Felician is recorded as BHL 2846-50, with BHL 2846 (search on ‘2846’ in this link) generally accepted as the earliest known version.  (A copy of BHL 2846 is preserved under 24th January in the Leggendari del Duomo of Spoleto). 

The legend relates that St Felician was born into a Christian family in the Roman city of Forum Flaminii (at modern San Giovanni Profiamma, some some 6 km north of Foligno - see the pages “Around Foligno” and the church of San Giovanni Profiamma).  He studied in Rome and then returned “ad patriam”, which presumably meant to Forum Flaminii.  Since there was no bishop ‘per Thusciam Picenumque’, where the people were still pagan, his fellow-clerics elected him as bishop and he was ordained by Victor, who had replaced Eleuterus as bishop of Rome.  Thus:

  1. Felician’s episcopal territory included Tuscia (which probably meant Tuscia et Umbria) and Picenum (which took his territory across the Apennines to the Adriatic coast).

  2. The Roman bishops mentioned in the text were probably Pope Eleuterus (died in 189) and Pope Victor I (189-99).

As bishop, Felician began his evangelical work in ‘his city’, Fulginia:

  1. He then successfully evangelised many other cities in Umbria, including Spello, Bevagna, Nocera, Plestia and Trevi.  Even more significantly:

  2. he converted a group of Jews at Norcia to Christianity  and ordained one of them, Pisentius, as a priest, ‘in basilica quae appellatur Argente’ [later the cathedral of Santa Maria Argentea].

  3. Victor I gave him the authority to ordain other bishops, and he duly ordained the deacon St Valentine as Bishop of Terni.

  4. He did not enjoy universal success:

  5. The Roman governor of Assisi expelled him from that city after he had preached in the forum.  He continued to attract converts there and such was his success that he was beaten and forced to return to Foligno. 

  6. The people of Spoleto, who were devoted to the worship of Diana, would not  receive the sacrament of salvation at that time.

  7. The people of Perugia were similarly devoted to Mars, although some of them succumbed to the preaching of St Felician and came to have faith in the Lord.

In 250, the Emperor Decius arrived at Forum Flaminii, en route for Rome, bringing with his as prisoners SS Abdon and Sennen.  He had St Felician arrested while he was praying in basilica quae appellatur palatina  (in the palatine basilica, presumably the church attached to the episcopal palace) and imprisoned him with SS Abdon and Sennen.  The future St Messalina was recognised as a Christian when she visited St Felician in prison, and was clubbed to death.  (Her feast day is 19th January.) 

SS Felician, Abdon and Sennen were taken in chains towards Rome:

  1. St Felician did not survive the journey: he died, aged 94 and in the 56th year of his episcopate, on 24th January at the ‘Mons Rotundus’, which was three Roman miles from ‘his city’ (which could mean  Forum Flaminii or Fulginia).  This location is traditionally (although not necessarily correctly) thought to be future site of the church of San Feliciano di Mormonzone.

  2. He was buried:

  3. “... in agello ipsius ubi ipse iusserat, iuxta Fulgineam civitatem, super pontem Caesaris”.

  4. This ‘agellus’ (small field), which belonged to St Felician and in which he had ordered that he should be buried, was thus located near civitas Fulginia, above a bridge known as the pons Caesaris.

Date of BHL 2846

It is often pointed out that BHL 2846 has close similarities to the legends of St Brictius and of  SS Carpophorus and Abundius, both of which were incorporated into the Legend of the Twelve Syrians (BHL 1620):

  1. Both BHL 2846 and BHL 1620 revolve around episcopal politics: St Felician in BHL 2846 and St Brictius in BHL 1620 were both bishops on whom metropolitan authority had been conferred (as discussed below).

  2. Two locations are common to BHL 2846 and the part of BHL 1620 that relates to SS Carpophorus and Abundius:

  3. In BHL 2846, St Felician died at the ‘Mons Rotundus’, which was three Roman miles from “his city” (Forum Flaminii or Fulginia), and he was buried “iuxta Fulgineam civitatem”.

  4. In BHL 1620, SS Carpophorus and Abundius were beheaded outside the walls of civitas Fulginia, and a Christian lady called Eustochia retrieved their bodies at “Thanaritanus”, at the foot of the ‘Mons Rotundus’, which was a Roman mile from the city. 

Thus we might reasonably assume that BHL 2846 and BHL 1620 were written at about the same time.

Date of BHL 1620

It might be possible to date BHL 1620 with reasonable precision, since separate entries in the Martyrology of Florus (written in the period 825-40) relate to its leading characters:

  1. St Brictius of civitas Martana (9th July); and

  2. SS Carpophorus and Abundius of ‘Hispoliatno’, which was almost certainly a corruption of ‘Spoleto’ (10th December).

Emore Paoli (referenced below, at p. 486) assumed that Florus had derived his information from BHL 1620, and thus that Florus’ martyrology provided a tempus ante quem for the legend.  However, Florus made no connection between the two entries in his martyrology, and in neither case did he make any reference to the Syrian origins of the protagonists (the unifying feature of BHL 1620).  This suggests (at least to me) that the separate entries of Florus were later incorporated into BHL 1620, for which Florus thus provided a tempus post quem.  Edoardo d’ Angelo (referenced below, 2015, at p. 108), who was of this opinion,  dated BHL 1620 t0 about the middle of the 9th century. 

A more precise date might be derived from a consideration of lines 100-6 of BHL 1620, the purpose of which seems to have been to change the place of the martyrdom of SS Carpophorus and Abundius from Spoleto (as in Florus) to civitas Fulginia.  As discussed below, we know that Bishop Domenico of civitas Fulginia claimed that the relics of SS Carpophorus and Abundius (and of those who had been martyred with them) were in Foligno in 850, the year in which he agreed to the translation of relics of St Abundius to Berceto.  It seems to me that lines 100-6 were added to BHL 1620 (presumably at the request of Bishop Domenico) in order to add credibility to his claim.  If this is correct, then BHL 1620 was written in or shortly after 850.

Chronological Sequence of BHL 2846 and 1620

Emore Paoli (referenced below, at pp. 503-4) suggested that the appearance of SS Abdon and Sennen in BHL 2846 was inspired by the appearance of St Abundius in BHL 1620.  He therefore concluded that BHL 1620 was the earlier of the two legends.  Albert Dufourcq (referenced below) argued for the reverse sequence, a deduction that he made from the apparent political messages in the respective legends (touched on above):

  1. in BHL 2846, Pope Victor I ordained St Felician with metropolitan authority ‘per Thusciam Picenumque’ (for Tuscany [and Umbria] and Picenum); while

  2. in BHL 1620, St Peter appeared to St Brictius while he was imprisoned by the pagan authorities of Spoleto and consecrated him into the “ordine pontificatus, ut per singulas civitates episcopos ordinaret” (the order of the pontificate, with authority to ordain bishops in every city).     

Dufourcq suggested (at p. 84) that the claim in BHL 1620 that St Peter (no less) had conferred metropolitan authority on St Brictius for “every city” was specifically intended  as a response to the claim in BHL 2846 that Pope Victor I had conferred metropolitan authority on St Felician per Thusciam Picenumque.  

It seems to me that Dufourcq is more probably correct: the symmetry of these claims in the respective legends is very telling.  Thus, if one accepts that they were related to each other and written at about the same time, then it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that BHL 1620 was at least in part a reaction to BHL 2846 and that it therefore  slightly post-dated it.  (I offer an alternative explanation for the appearance of SS Abdon and Sennen in BHL 2846 below).

We might usefully speculate at this point about why the person who commissioned BHL 1620 felt the need choose St Peter himself as the source of St Brictius’ metropolitan authority.

  1. He did not need to underline the fact that Spoleto had been constituted as a diocese, presumably on papal authority, at an early date.  The earliest bishop of Spoleto known to us is Bishop Caecilianus, to whom Pope Liberius wrote a surviving letter in 353.  Furthermore, we know of another three securely-attested bishops of Spoleto (Spes, Achilleus and Amasius) who were appointed before Urbanus, the first securely attested bishop of Foligno (who documented in 487, only two years before the death of the aged Amasius of Spoleto).  There will be gaps in both surviving episcopal lists, but we can still assert with confidence that the diocese of Spoleto was older (and probably much older) than that of Foligno.  Few people would have needed reminding of this in ca. 850.

  2. However, Spoleto almost certainly lacked a cult devoted to an early bishop or (better still) to an early bishop martyr like St Felician.  

I suggest that the author of BHL 1620 consulted the Martyrology of Florus in an attempt to find one.  If so, the earliest candidate he would have found for the purpose of “outshining” St Felician (as documented in BHL 2846) was St Brictius: he was listed there as a bishop and confessor, who had been imprisoned in Spoleto at the time of the persecution of Diocletian (in 303) but who had escaped during an earthquake and who had subsequently been comforted and guided by St Peter.  He had died some time later (albeit of natural causes) at civitas Martulana, (modern Massa Martana), which was almost certainly in the diocese of Spoleto by this time.  I think that the author of BHL 1620 simply turned St Brictius’ vision of St Peter into an ordination (albeit an extraordinary one). 

Date of BHL 2846: Summary and Conclusion

Given the similarities between the legends BHL 2846 and BHL 1620, we might reasonably assume that they were broadly contemporary.

Lines 100-6 of BHL 1620 changed the place of martyrdom of SS Carpophorus and Abundius from Spoleto to Foligno.  This suggests (at least to me) that it was probably written in or soon after 850, the year in which relics of St Abundius were translated from Foligno to Berceto.  

The author of BHL 1620 took the opportunity to remind his readers that its leading actor, St Brictius, enjoyed even higher authority than St Felician, the subject of BHL 2846.  This suggests that BHL 2846 was the earlier of the two legends, and that BHL 1620 was a response to it.

In short, we might reasonably date BHL 2846 to the late 840s and BHL 1620 to 850 or shortly thereafter.

Antagonism between Foligno and Spoleto ?

Albert Dufourcq  (referenced below, at p. 83) suggested that the relationship between the two legends (with BHL 1620 written in response to BHL 2846) betrays antagonism between the respective dioceses:

  1. “Forum Flaminii [in my view, more probably Foligno] stands against Spoleto: the author [of BHL 2846 therefore] emphasises the persistent attachment [of Spoleto] to paganism” (my translation).

Emore Paoli (referenced below, at pp. 501-2) agreed, adding that the claim that Perugia was at least partially receptive to the preaching of St Felician was intended to win the support of Perugia in Foligno’s putative episcopal battle against Spoleto. 

However, I think that these aspects of BHL 2846 had precisely the opposite significance: specifically, I think that its author stressed that he made no claim for St Felician as the first evangeliser of Spoleto, or (to any significant extent) Perugia or Assisi precisely because he wanted to stress that Foligno had no metropolitan designs on any of these three dioceses. 

In relation to Spoleto, this suggestion is supported by the fact that there is very little overlap between the respective territorial claims made in BHL 2846 and BHL 1620:

  1. In BHL 2846, after Pope Victor I ordained St Felician as Bishop of Forum Flaminii, with metropolitan authority ‘per Thusciam Picenumque’, St Felician;

  2. successfully evangelised Foligno, Spello, Bevagna, Nocera, Plestia and Trevi;

  3. converted the Jews of Norcia and ordained one of them, Pisentius, as a priest; and

  4. he ordained the deacon St Valentine as Bishop of Terni.

  5. In BHL 1620, after St Peter conferred on St Brictius the authority to ordain bishops in “every city”, the latter escaped from prison and took refuge in civitas Martana, from whence he duly appointed the bishops of the following cities:

  6. Spoleto (“Metropoli civitati Spoletinæ”), where he appointed St John, who destroyed all the pagan temples there and built the huge church of San Pietro;

  7. Bevagna (St Vincent);

  8. Bettona (St Scipiodotus or Crispoltus); and

  9. Perugia, (where he appointed his nephew, St Herculanus, who subsequently earned the palm of martyrdom).

Apart from the overlap at Bevagna, only two ‘territorial’ claims in BHL 2846 might have offended Spoleto because they involved St Felician exercising metropolitan authority inplaces that were within its diocese.  These were the claims made in relation to:

  1. Norcia; and

  2. Terni. 

Yet the author of BHL 1620 felt no compulsion to claim that St Brictius had appointed the first bishop of either of these originally independent dioceses. 

Norcia

The last known bishop of Norcia was Bishop Giovanni, who had attended the council that Pope Agatho held in Rome in 680: by the late 840s, when BHL 2846 was probably written, Norcia was almost certainly within the diocese of Spoleto.  It is therefore difficult to discern the political significance, if any, of the claim in BHL 2846 that St Felician had converted the Jews of Norcia before 250 and had ordained one of them, Pisentius, as a priest in basilica quae appellatur Argente.   It is possible that a church dedicated to Santa Maria Argentea (the later dedication of the Duomo of Norcia) existed in the late 840s, and that it contained a record of some kind of the conversion of a Jew, Pisentius and his ordination by a Bishop Felician, but this can only be a matter of speculation.

What is certain is that this claim provoked no particular reaction at Spoleto:  BHL 1620 says nothing about Norcia. 

  1. It is true that, like BHL 2846, BHL 1620 has a character called Pisentius, in this case a blind man whom St Brictius cured and then baptised in a village between Spoleto and civitas Martana.  For Albert Dufourcq (referenced below, at p. 84, note 1), the passages in the two legends “undoubtedly” involved the same Pisentius.  However, I doubt this, since Pisentius in BHL 1620 is not identified in any way with Norcia.  It seems to me to be more likely that the the appearance of a man called Pisentius in each of the legends was simply a coincidence. 

  2. It is also true that BHL 1620 names St Brictius’ brother as St Eutychius, the name of a monk from Norcia (as discussed below).  However, he is not associated in the legend with Norcia and indeed he barely features in the narrative at all: after the execution in Rome of their father, the brothers fled with the rest of their extended family along via Cornelia, before splitting up at a place called “Pacem sanctorum”.  From this point, the legend concentrates on the life of St Brictius: all that we read about St Eutychius is that he moved to “Lacus Vulsinus” (the Lake of Bolsena), where he spent many years as a hermit.  Father Pietro Pirri, (referenced below, at pp 259-63) transcribed a composite legend of “St Eutychius the Syrian” (dies natalis 15th May), which had been written at the Abbazia di Sant’ Eutizio and which is now in the Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome.  This supplements the information of BHL 1620 (the source of St Eutychius’ Syrian origins) with an explicitly identified extract from the ‘Dialogues’ of Pope Gregory I that describes the life of St Eutychius, who became the abbot of the “magnum et optimum monasterium” that still survives outside Norcia as the Abbazia di Sant’ Eutizio.  All of this information was available to the author of BHL 1620 (who drew heavily on the ‘Dialogues’ in other contexts) but, for whatever reason, he did not make use of it. 

Perhaps, at the time that the legend was written, Norcia had no particular importance for Spoleto.  However, I think that there was a specific reason for  the claim made in BHL 2846 that did not offend Spoleto, a reason which was well-known in the late 840s but which now escapes us.

Terni

I think that there was also a particular reason for the appearance of St Valentine of Terni  in BHL 8246, one that similarly did not involve a claim of episcopal authority over Terni.  However, this hypothesis is more conveniently discussed in a later section.   

Antagonism between Foligno and Spoleto: Conclusion

Albert Dufourcq was surely correct in characterising BHL 1620 as a response to BHL 2846 (as discussed above).  However, the particular territorial claims made in the respective legends do not betray any substantial overlap. 

In my view, the most important point to make in this context is that, at the time that BHL 2846 was written, Spoleto was the undisputed capital of the Carolingian Duchy of Spoleto and the seat of the influential Duke Guy I.  While there might have been friction with neighbouring dioceses outside the duchy (for example between Spoleto and Todi, which possibly had a claim on civitas Martana), it is difficult to see how a diocese like Foligno, which was within the duchy, could have nurtured territorial aspirations that impinged on Spoleto. 

I therefore doubt that BHL 1620 was a particularly  antagonistic response to BHL 2846.  Rather, it probably constituted a gentle reminder that, while the diocese of Foligno certainly had impressive credentials, those of Spoleto were more impressive still. 

Who Commissioned BHL 1620 ?

As noted above, BHL 1620 was almost certainly written in or soon after in 850. The likelihood is that it was commissioned by Bishop Peter II of Spoleto, who was documented as such in the period in 842-64:

  1. In 842, the Emperor Lothar I entrusted the Abbazia di Farfa to him after the death of Abbot Sichardus.

  2. In 844, he persuaded Lothar I to confirm the election of Abbot Hildericus at Farfa. 

  3. He attended the synod held by Leo IV in Rome in 853.   (The list of the 67 attending bishops was published by Giovanni Domenico Mansi, referenced below, Volume 14, p. 1020).  According to the account of the life of Leo IV ‘Liber Pontificalis’ (translated by Raymond Davis, referenced below, 1995, at p.150, paragraph 91), Peter II was one of four of these 67 bishops who had been sent to the synod by Lothar I and Louis II.

  4. After the synod, Leo IV sent him as his legate to the imperial Council of Soissons (854).

  5. In ca. 864, he was again documented in connection with the Abbazia di Farfa, in support of its negotiations with the Emperor Louis II in connection with an estate at Massa Torana (near Rieti).

Emore Paoli (referenced below, at p. 496), who had suggested in an earlier paper that BHL 1620 had been commissioned from the Abbazia di Farfa, now stressed that:

  1. “... the attribution to the monks of Santa Maria di Farfa ... of [BHL 1620 is a] hypothesis of which I am increasingly convinced ...” (my translation).

From the material above, it is clear that Peter II would quite naturally have turned to Farfa for the execution of the commission. 

Role of Bishop Domenico of Foligno

As noted above, lines 100-6 had almost certainly been included in BHL 1620 to explain the presence of relics SS Carpophorus and Abundius in Foligno prior to the translation of relics of St Abundius from Foligno to Berceto (near Parma)  in 850.  Fortunately, we know a good deal about the circumstances in which this translation took place: according to the legend BHL 0019 (see “Tractatus Praeliminaris ad Tomem Primum Julii” of 1719, search on “Tyberius”), Abbot Tiberius of Berceto had been told in a dream to place relics of St Abundius in his church.  It seems that he knew nothing of St Abundius, and he was thus overjoyed when he learned from Bishop Domenico (whom he met at the Council of Pavia) that Foligno housed the relics of  “SS Abundius and Carpophorus and of those who had suffered with them”.  Bishop Domenico agreed to help Abbot Tiberius, and relics of St Abundius were duly translated to Berceto.

It therefore seems likely  that Bishop Domenico requested the inclusion of lines 100-6 in BHL 1620 in order to explain how the relics of St Abundius (whom Florus had had martyred at Spoleto) came to be in Foligno in the first place.  Had there been an antagonistic response at Spoleto to the recent publication of BHL 2846, he would not have received the co-operation of Bishop Peter in this respect.  However, I argued above that there is no evidence for any such antagonism between the respective dioceses, and the positive response of Bishop Peter to the request of Bishop Domenico would seem to confirm this.

In 853, Domenicus ep. Fulginensis was another of the 67 bishops who attended the synod in Rome mentioned above.  This could, of course, have been the occasion on which the putative request to Bishop Peter was made.  However, it seems likely that the two men were in fairly continuous contact, so all we can really say is that it was probably made relatively soon after 350, when BHL 1620 had yet to be finalised.

Who Commissioned BHL 2846 ?

As noted above, BHL 2846 was probably commissioned shortly before BHL 1620, (which was probably partly written in response).  It could well have been commissioned by Bishop Domenico: we have no way of knowing how long he had been in office when he was documented as bishop of civitas Fulginia in 850. 

  1. Given the points of contact between BHL 2846 and BHL 1620, Bishop Domenico must be the obvious candidate for the commissioner of the former.

  2. The alternative candidate is his unknown immediate predecessor: if so, then the two men had very similar agendas. 

Emore Paoli (referenced below, at p. 504) doubted that BHL 2846 had been commissioned from the Abbazia di Farfa, because (as noted above) he perceived it as being inimical to the interests of Spoleto.  However, I argued above that it was, in fact, neither  intended nor perceived in that way.  It seems to me that, given the coincidence of topographical names between the two legends (mentioned above), it is likely that BHL 2846, like BHL 1620,  was commissioned from Farfa.

An Earlier Legend of St Felician ?

St Felician was mentioned in the legend of St Juvenal of Narni (BHL 4614), along with St Terentian (of Todi) and St Valentine (of Terni): according to this legend, which has been transcribed and translated into Italian by Edoardo d’Angelo (referenced below, 2013, at pp. 177 - 215), all three earlier saints had preached at Narni, but the city had remained stubbornly pagan until the arrival of St Juvenal, who became its first bishop in 364 and died in office in 371.   BHL 4614 purports to have been written by St Juvenal’s successor, Bishop Maximus, but a number of references in it suggest a later date.  Edoardo d’ Angelo (referenced below, 2013, at p. 114) suggested that:

  1. “The hypothesis that seems most likely is that BHL 4614 represents the rewriting ... of an early medieval precedent ... very early in the Carolingian period [i.e in ca. 800]” (my  translation). 

If this is correct, it suggests that legends of SS Terentian, Felician and Valentine were available to the author of BHL 4614 in ca. 800.  In two cases, this was almost certainly the case:

  1. According to Edoardo d’ Angelo (referenced below, 2013, at p. 115), BHL 8003, the earliest surviving legend of St Terentian, dates to the early 7th century.

  2. Edoardo d’ Angelo (referenced below, 2015, at 137) observed that the legend of St Valentine (BHL 8460) certainly predated the Martyrology of Bede (ca. 730), which quoted from it.  He suggested that is was probably written in the 6th or 7th century, before the Carolingian upheaval of the diocesan structure of Umbria.

All this suggests (at least to me) that an earlier legend of St Felician was also available in ca. 800.  The use made of it in BHL 4614 suggests that it recorded the sanctity of the first bishop of Forum Flaminii, and that it included material that characterised him as one of the three great bishop martyrs and early evangelisers of Umbria.

Date of the Early Legend: Initial Observations

I suggested in the section above that the date at which the legend of St Juvenal (BHL 4614) was probably written (ca. 800), provides a terminus ante quem for this putative early legend.   If we assume that it was broadly contemporary with those of St Terentian (BHL 8003) and St Valentine (BHL 8460), then we might reasonably push this back to ca. 730.

The relevant passage in BHL 4614 might also provide a terminus post quem:  SS Juvenal, Terentian and Valentine were all recorded in the Hieronymian Martyrology, which  was probably compiled in the 430s or 440s, but St Felician was not.  This suggests (at least to me) that, while the other three legends were based on earlier records of their subjects that had been available to the compiler of the Hieronymian Martyrology, no comparable record of St Felician was widely known at that time.  In other words, the putative early legend of St Felician was probably written after ca. 440.

Thus, although the only reasonably firm date for the putative early legend of St Felician is some time before ca. 800, the most likely date is in the period ca. 440 - 730.

Who Commissioned the Early Legend?

We read in BHL 2846 that St Felician was born in Forum Flaminii and had served as its first bishop.  This was still his episcopal seat at the time of his arrest, which took place as he prayed in the “basilica quæ appellatur Palatina” (the church of the episcopal palace) there.  If one accepts that BHL 2846 was based on an earlier legend, we can reasonably assume that:

  1. this earlier version contained all of this information relating to Forum Flaminii (since it was unlikely to have been added by a later bishop of civitas Fulginia); and

  2. this earlier version was therefore commissioned by a bishop of Forum Flaminii, probably one of those who held office in the period ca. 440 - 730.

Early Bishops of Forum Flaminii


Episcopal centres of Fulginia and Forum Flaminii ( ca. 4th - 7th centuries)

Francesco Lanzoni (referenced below, at p.  451), in his seminal study of the early bishops of Umbria, listed St Felician as the first bishop of Forum Flaminii, although he considered that (pace the information in BHL 2846) the dates of his period in office were uncertain.  He expanded on this assertion (at pp. 452-3) by observing that:

  1. “... the main lines of the narrative of the Passio s. Feliciani could be true: it contains nothing that either confirms or denies [their accuracy] .... At the time that it was written ..., the diptychs of Forum Flaminii [that contained the original list of bishops] were probably still extant.  Thus, the claim that St Felician was the first bishop [of Forum Flaminii] does not raise serious problems, albeit that the chronology [set out in the legend] ... cannot be  relied upon” (my translation).

In other words, while St Felician might well have been the first bishop of Forum Flaminii, the dates given in the legend for his period of office (194 - 250) are probably unreliable, reflecting a tendency of medieval hagiographers to exaggerate the antiquity of their subjects. 

Anonymous early Bishop of Forum Flaminii (?)

An epitaph (EDR 081014) from the church of San Valentino on Colle San Lorenzo (some 3 km east of Forum Flaminii, as shown on the map above), might commemorate a now-anonymous bishop of Forum Flaminii.  This epitaph was found when the church was demolished in 1918, at which point it was transferred to the crypt of the Duomo of Foligno.  It reads:

[ ....]/ SEDIT A[nnos] / XVIII D[epositus]

                              KAL(endas) IU[nias?/ lias?]

Thus, this bishop held that office for 18 years before his death in June or July of an unknown year.  Francesco Lanzoni (referenced below, at pp. 450-1), who tentatively suggested that the subject had been a bishop of Fulginia (some 5 km southwest of the find spot) noted that the archival records at the time of its transfer to Foligno:

  1. “... date it to the 4th century, although other scholars who have seen it think that we must [alternatively] date it to the 6th century or later” (my translation).

Lanzoni therefore placed this anonymous bishop in the 6th century.  However, more recently, scholars have supported an earlier date for the inscription, including:

  1. Luigi Sensi (referenced below, 1985, at p. 315): between the late 4th century and the early 5th century;

  2. Gianfranco Binazzi (referenced below, at p. 102): between the late 4th century and the middle of the 5th century;

  3. Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below, p. 277, in entry 31): tentatively, 4th or 5th century; and

  4. the EDR database (see the EDR link above): 370 - 450 AD. 

The medieval name for the find spot - San Valentino di Civitavecchia - suggests that it was once an episcopal seat.  Its location strongly suggests that it had served as a place of refuge:

  1. We can be reasonably sure that the diocese of Forum Flaminia was still in its original location at this time: the Emperors Valentinianus, Theodosius and Arcadius issued an edict (CTh.9.35.5) from “Foro Flamini” in the year of the consuls Timasius and Promotus (389 AD).

  2. We have no hard evidence that Fulginia was established as a diocese prior to 487 (see below), although we cannot discount the possibility that it enjoyed this status in ca. 400.

Thus the most likely scenario is that a later bishop of Forum Flaminii moved his episcopal seat to Colle San Lorenzo (as discussed below), and that this bishop took the epitaph of at least one a predecessor with him, presumably together with the remains of the bishop whom it commemorated.

Urbanus of Fulginia

No other bishops of Forum Flaminii are known until the start of the 6th century.  However, it is interesting to note the appearance before this date of the first securely documented bishop of Foligno, Bishop Urbanus:

  1. He was designated as ‘Urbano Fulginati’ when he attended the Roman synod of 487.   (The list of attending bishops was published by Giovanni Domenico Mansi, referenced below, Volume 7, p. 1173).

  2. He was recently-deceased in 496, when Pope Gelasius I wrote to three bishops of other dioceses (John of Spoleto; Cresconius of Todi; and a third bishop) directing them to investigate a legal claim against him.  In this letter, which was published by Samuel Lowenfeld (referenced below, at p. 10 - search on ‘Cresconio’), Urbanus was described as “religiose recordationis Fulginatis civitatis antistitem”, the devoutly remembered bishop (or overseer) of civitas Fulginia.

There is no reason to doubt that the diocese of civitas Fulginia had been established after that at Forum Flaminii (as claimed in BHL 2846), albeit that we have no other indication of the date of its formation.  We can reasonably assume that Bishop Urbanus had his episcopal seat in Roman Fulginia.  Unfortunately, there is no scholarly consensus regarding the location of this Roman city.  For example:

  1. for Mario Sensi (referenced below, 1994, at p. 89):

  2. “Fulginia, [which was located] on Via Flaminia, near Santa Maria in Campis, ... was a municipium from the late Republic and had its major development in the early Empire.  This city ... was abandoned in ca. 600 for the higher ground nearby” (my translation).

  3. For Paolo Camerieri and Giuliana Galli (referenced below, 2016, see, for example, their Figure 3, at p. 29), St Felician was buried just outside Roman Fulginia, which was on the site of modern Foligno.  

Boniface of Forum Flaminii and Fortunatus of Fulginia

The first bishop of Forum Flaminii  after St Felician for whom we have a name is Bishop Boniface, who was recorded as Bonifacius Foroflaminiensis in the list of bishops attending the synod at Rome of 502.  (The list of attending bishops, which was published by Giovanni Domenico Mansi, referenced below, Volume 8, at pp. 268-9).  This list also included Bishop Fortunatus of Foligno: thus, in 502, the diocese of Forum Flaminii existed independently of the diocese of Foligno.  Despite their close proximity, and  despite the lacuna in the episcopal list of Forum Flaminii, there is no reason to doubt that  these two dioceses had existed alongside each other ever since the diocese of Fulginia had been established.

Move to Colle San Lorenzo (?)

Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, 2016, at pp. 40-1) pointed out that many urban centres along the rivers and consular roads of Italy were abandoned in the Gothic period, and particularly during the Gothic Wars (535 - 552).  He suggested (at p. 41) that the episcopal seat of Fulginia moved to Colle San Lorenzo in these circumstances.  However, he conceded:

  1. “Against this thesis of the diaspora of people of Fulginia after the 5th century, some scholars put forward the hypothesis that envisages Colle San Lorenzo as [alternatively] the refuge of the people of Forum Flaminii.  It is entirely possible that both hypotheses are correct, and that the end of Forum Flaminii as both a diocese and an urban entity, to the advantage of Fulginia, had its roots in this sort of experience [?], in which both municipia moved to an extraneous site.   In other words, the most logical scenario envisages the majority of the people of both centres taking refuge on Colle [San Lorenzo] between the 5th and the 7th centuries” (my translation).

I think that the underlying thesis here is sound, but that the series of events that led to the demise of Forum Flaminii can be unpicked. 

The first thing to note is that Fulginia and Forum Flaminii probably operated continuously as separate dioceses until at least 680, when both sent bishops to a synod in Rome (as discussed below).  The archeological record of these intervening years for each is sparse, but nevertheless provides some helpful information:

  1. As Mario Sensi (above) pointed out, the area of Santa Maria in Campis was abandoned at this time: in his opinion, the episcopal seat of Fulginia had been located here until ca. 600, when it was moved to higher ground.

  2. Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at pp. 44-5 and Figures 10a and b) suggested that a re-interpretation of the evidence from the excavation of the site of the Duomo of Foligno in 1824, supported by surviving elements of the present structure, indicates a previously-undetected church from the Byzantine period (i.e. after the Gothic Wars) on the site.  Furthermore, the dedications of two other churches in Foligno, Sant’ Apollinare and San Salvatore, suggest that cult sites were established on these sites in the Byzantine and/or the Lombard periods (albeit that the earliest documentary records of them date respectively to 1129 and 1138).  It is therefore possible that:

  3. this was the original site of civitas Fulginia (as Paolo Camerieri believed), which was restored after the Gothic Wars; or

  4. Mario Sensi correctly sited the original civitas Fulginia at Santa Maris in Campis, but it relocated to the site of modern Foligno after the Gothic Wars.

  5. There must have been an episcopal church at Forum Flaminii at least by the time of Bishop Fortunatus (documented in 502).  Howver, unsurprisingly , no trace of it survives.  The earliest surviving evidence for an episcopal seat at Forum Flaminii (which relates to an early Christian basilica that is discussed below) dates to the 6th or 7th century.

Thus, we might look at a scenario in which both dioceses were badly damaged in the Gothic War, after which:

  1. the episcopal seat of Fulginia moved to or was rebuilt on the site of modern Foligno; while

  2. the episcopal seat of Forum Flaminii moved for a period of perhaps a few decades to the nearby but safer site of Colle San Lorenzo.

I explore the elements of the second part of this scenario below.

Church of San Valentino

This church on Colle San Lorenzo was probably dedicated to St Valentine of Terni.  Edoardo d’Angelo (referenced below, 2015, at p. 125) established that St Valentine was almost certainly the subject of an extra-judicial execution in Rome carried out by the historically-attested Furius Placidus, who held the post of Urban Prefect in 346-7.  D’ Angelo therefore had St Valentine as the first bishop of Terni, who had died in 347. 

There is nothing that would preclude the existence of an episcopal church dedicated to him on Colle San Lorenzo as early as ca. 400, the date of the episcopal epitaph discussed above: at least two episcopal churches with this dedication existed in Umbria at about this time

  1. According to his legend, St Valentine was buried in “his church” at Terni.  This was almost certainly on the site of the present church of San Valentino, outside modern Terni, at which there is material evidence for a Christian cemetery that was in use by 366.   An inscription (CIL XI 4340) from this cemetery, which is now in the Museo Archeologico, Terni, marked the grave of Bishop Homobonus using a very similar formula to that used in the epitaph above from Colle San Lorenzo.  The two inscriptions also seem to be broadly contemporary: Filippo Coarelli and Simone Sisani (referenced below, p. 147, entry 147) and the EDR database (see the CIL link) both dated CIL XI 4340 to ca. 400.
  2. According to the legend of St Juvenal of of Narni, St Juvenal, who (as noted above) was probably was the the first bishop of Narni in 364-71, erected a church at Narni dedicated to St Valentine, where he celebrated mass and performed the miracles that greatly facilitated his evangelisation of the city.  It seems likely that this church still existed at Narni at the time that the legend was written.

However, as discussed above, Colle San Lorenzo was most probably a place of refuge, and there is no reason to think that the people of Forum Flaminii and/or of Fulginia needed a refuge in ca. 400.  I suggested above that the epitaph of the anonymous bishop that was found here in 1918 had been brought by the people of Forum Flaminii when they took refuge here in ca. 550.

Move back to Forum Flaminii (?)

As noted above, there is documentary evidence that Forum Flaminii was an independent diocese in 680, and archeological evidence for the hypothesis that its episcopal seat was at Forum Flaminii rather than on Colle San Lorenzo in the 6th or 7th century.

Decentius of Forum Flaminii and Fortunatus of Fulginia

The bishops attending the council that Pope Agatho held in Rome in 680 included:

  1. Bishop Decentius of Forum Flaminii (Foroflaminiensis Ecclesiae); and

  2. Bishop Florus of Foligno (Fulginatis Ecclesiae).

(They can be found in the lists of attending bishops published by Giovanni Domenico Mansi, referenced below, Volume 11, at p. 303).  

No other bishops of Forum Flaminii are recorded after Decentius, and (as discussed above) it was probably all but destroyed in the 8th century. 

Christian Basilica at Forum Flaminii (6th or 7th century)

The remains of the  early basilica at Forum Flaminii that was mentioned above were discovered 1929 on a site that was apparently some 100 meters from the present church of San Giovanni Profiamma.  The basilica was only partially excavated but, according to Luigi Sensi (referenced below, 1981, at p. 9), a sketch that was made at that time suggested that the original structure was:

  1. “... a large basilica made up of a tripartite longitudinal hall and a distinct apsed area” (my translation).

      

Important remains of this basilica survive:

  1. A mosaic that was discovered in situ was moved to the Museo Archeologico,  Palazzo Trinci.  It was damaged during the aerial bombardment of 1944, but was restored in 2005 on the basis of the few remaining fragments.  Its iconography confirms at this was an early Christian basilica: the main scene (largely sketched in) depicted two peacocks drinking from a cantharos (drinking cup with two handles), which represents eternal life.  According to Elena Calandra (referenced below):

  2. “Although this mosaic is usually dated to the 6th century, it is advisable to extend this dating into the following century” (my translation).

  3. A column in the crypt of San Giovanni Profiamma is made from a re-used pilaster carved with Christian symbols:

  4. a peacock on one side;

  5. a cross in a circle (above a geometrical pattern) on the second; and 

  6. a cross in a circle above a grape vine on the third.

  7. According to Josselita Serra Raspi (referenced below, at 369-70 and Figures 3 and 5), the surviving fragment was half of an architrave that had probably been used in a presbytery.  She dated it to the middle of the 8th century.  Luigi Sensi (referenced below, 1981, at p. 17) suggested that it might have been carved originally for this earlier basilica. 

Luigi Sensi (referenced below, 1981, at p. 17) suggested that this basilica might have been the source for the statement in the BHL 2846 that St Felician had been arrested at Forum Flaminii while praying ‘in basilica quae appellatur palatina’ (in the church of the episcopal palace).  If so, it might well have been built on what was believed to have been the site of St Felician’s church and dedicated to St Felician.  

Likely Content of the Early Legend

A detailed analysis of which parts of BHL 2846 might have come from this putative early legend is way beyond my capabilities.  However, I think that some broad possibilities can be put forward with reasonable confidence.  For example, as noted above, I think that we can reasonably assume that the material in BHL 2846 that relates specifically to Forum Flaminii falls into this category.  I consider other possible candidates below.

Date of the Martyrdom of St Felician

An apparent chronological inconsistency in BHL 2846 might well throw some light on the matter: in it, we read that St Felician, who died in 250, had ordained St Valentine as bishop of Terni, although (as mentioned above) he was still alive almost 100 years after St Felician’s death.  Chronological incoherence of this kind is by no means unknown in medieval hagiography, and it is usually assumed to indicate that the legend in question is a composite of earlier legends that were set in different periods.   I think that, in BHL 2846, this inconsistency arose  because:

  1. the claim that St Felician ordained St Valentine was was made in the early legend; while

  2. the claim that St Felician was martyred in the Decian persecution  was added at the time that this early legend was expanded as BHL 2846 (as discussed further below).

That raises the question of when St Felician died according to the early legend. The first thing to say is that we cannot assume that the early legend had him martyred: had he died of natural causes, he could still have been regarded as a saint (as, for example, was St Juvenal, “bishop and confessor”).  All we can safely say is that the author of the legend of St Juvenal of Narni, who dated St Juvenal’s  period of office to ca. 364-71, assumed that St Felician had held episcopal office in a prior period.

However, the balance of probabilities is that the early legend of St felician was the legend of a bishop martyr.  If so, his execution would most probably have been dated to 303 (in the persecution of Diocletian).  On this model, St Valentine would have survived St Felician by a more reasonable 44 years.  

St Valentine and the Early Legend

However, we still have to account for the fact that the author of the early legend claimed that St Felician had ordained only one bishop, and that this bishop was St Valentine of Terni.  The author/commissioner of this legend surely cannot have been claiming episcopal authority for the diocese of Forum Flaminii over the distant diocese of Terni: Pope Gregory I transferred this previously independent diocese of Terni to Narni in 598, and it subsequently passed from Narni to Spoleto.  It is difficult to see Forum Flaminii could have hoped to assert itself into this complicated scenario.

I think that this characterisation of  St Valentine as a protégé of St Felician was associated in some way with the fact that, as discussed above, for a period of perhaps a few decades after the Gothic Wars, the episcopal church of Forum Flaminii had been dedicated to St Valentine.  Perhaps the idea had taken hold when the people of Forum Flaminii first arrived on Colle San Lorenzo, as a way of preserving their emotional ties to their patron saint and their old episcopal seat. 

If this is correct, then the likely terminus post quem for this early legend moves forward from ca. 440 (as I suggested above) to ca. 550, placing the most likely date in the range  ca. 550 - 730 and the terminus ante quem in ca. 800.

SS Abdon and Sennen

An  in the Roman Martyrology under 30th July records that: 

  1. “At Rome, in the reign of Decius, the holy Persian martyrs Abdon and Sennen, who were bound with chains, brought to Rome, scourged with leaded whips for the faith of Christ, and then put to the sword.”

I suggest below that the material in BHL 2846 that relates to SS Abdon and Sennen was added to lend credibility to the claim that St Felician had been martyred in the Decian persecution. 

I also suggest below that the author of BHL 2846 had access to material that contained the information about these saints as it later appeared in the Roman Martyrology, which he used to shape his account of the martyrdom of St Felician.  His arrest as he prayed in the basilica palatina at Forum Flaminii probably survived from the early legend, but much of the account in BHL 2846 of the events  that followed was a later addition.

Martyrdom of St Felician in the Early Legend

This leaves open the question of how these events were originally described.  This can only be a matter of  speculation, but I offer my suggestions below (for what they are worth).

Mons Rotundus

According to BHL 2846, shortly he had left Forum Flaminii as a prisoner en route for Rome, St Felician died at ‘Mons Rotundus’, which was 3 Roman miles (about 4.5 kilometres) from ‘his city’.  (As noted above, BHL 1620 also described this location.  However, since this was clearly a late reference, I discuss this additional information in a later section, rather than in this section on the early legend of St Felician.)

Michele Faloci Pulignani (referenced below, at p. 6) and Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at p. 20) assumed that the Mons Rotundus had been located on the eastern branch of Via Flaminia, some 3 Roman miles from Forum Flaminii, albeit that they suggested slightly different locations:

  1. for Michele Faloci Pulignani, it was on the site of San Feliciano di Mormonzone, some 5 km from Forum Foligno; and

  2. for Paolo Camerieri (at p. 21), it was at Santa Maria in Campis, some 3.5 km from Forum Flaminii.

However, Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below, at p. 53) pointed out that:

  1. “... although all four surviving versions of the legend [including the earliest, BHL 2846] record St Felician as a native of Forum Flaminii, on every occasion in which the phrase ‘sua civitate’ is [qualified by the name of a city, this city is] Foligno, as in civitatem suam Fulgineas” (my translation).

If this is correct, then BHL 2846 records that St Felician died on a mountain known as Mons Rotundus, some 3 Roman mile from civitas Fulginia, in which case neither San Feliciano di Mormonzone (2.4 km from Foligno) nor Santa Maria in Campis (2 km from Foligno) would fit the bill.

There is, in fact, a more fundamental problem with this passage in BHL 2846: neither branch of Via Flaminia can offer a mountain of any description that is 3 Roman miles from St Felician’s city, whether this was Forum Flaminii or civitas Fulginia.  Paolo Camerieri (as above) clearly recognised this, but he suggested that the Mons Rotundus:

  1. “ ... was not a natural feature, but a rounded artefact ... [perhaps] a mound or, even better, a round funerary monument, inspired by the archetype of the Mausoleum  of Augustus in Rome, a type of monument often found on Via Flaminia” (my translation).

He pointed out that mausoleums in Umbria are often remembered in place names as “Torrione, Torrone, Torricone”, but he did not offer any precedent for a phrase like ‘Mons Rotundus’ applied to a round mausoleum.  It seems to me that, in the absence of any direct precedent for its application to a mausoleum, the phrase has to be construed as indicating a round hill or mound of some kind. 

Perhaps it was not on Via Flaminia ?  After all, as I discussed above, the information that St Felician died in 250 as he was being taken as a prisoner to Rome with SS Abdon and Sennen was almost certainly not found in the early legend.  Nevertheless, this early legend might well have specified the ‘Mons Rotundus‘ as the place at which St Felician was executed  in 303, in which case:

  1. the information that this was 3 Roman from civitas Fulginia would have been irrelevant to in this context, and must have been a later addition; and

  2. there is no reason to think that the mountain in question was on Via Flaminia.  

I would like to suggest that, in the early legend, St Felician was executed in 303 on Colle San Lorenzo (then called the Monte Rotondo), and that the author had no need to explain to his audience where it was.  I think that we can reasonably  relate this claim to another in the early legend: that St Valentine had been  a protégé of St Felician (as discussed above).  In short, the author of the early legend characterised San Valentino on Colle San Lorenzo as a church that was:

  1. dedicated to a saint whom St Felician had ordained as Bishop of Terni; and

  2. located on the mountain on which St Felician himself had been martyred.

This would have created the comforting feeling that, although the diocese had had to leave Forum Flaminii, its new episcopal seat was another locus of St Felician, its patron saint.

On this model, the information that St Felician died on the Mons Rotundus’ (Colle San Lorenzo) was retained in BHL 2836, and the mountain was now described as located some 3 Roman miles from St Felician’s city, which was (for this later author) civitas Fulginia.  However, the information that St Felician died en route for Rome was new (as suggested above).  This left another loose end: why had the aged St Felician apparently climbed (or been forced to climb) Colle San Lorenzo from Via Flaminia ?  Like the question of how St Felician had been able to ordain St Valentine, who outlived him by almost a century, this second difficult question was left unaddressed.

Relics of St Felician in the Early Legend

So far, I have the early legend describing:

  1. the arrest of St Felician as he prayed in the basilica palatina at Forum Flaminii; and

  2. his execution on nearby Colle San Lorenzo;

events that were set during the persecution of Diocletian in 303.  I would now like to suggest that, following the usual model, a devout Christian lady (perhaps St Messalina, who pre-deceased St Felician in BHL 2846 but who might have played a different role in the early legend) recovered his body and arranged for its burial in Forum Flaminii. 

The evidence for such intervention on the part of St Messalina or any other agent is pure speculation, but there is circumstantial evidence for it:

  1. As noted above, an episcopal church must have existed at Forum Flaminii at least from 502 (i.e. at the time of Bishop Fortunatus).

  2. It was surely dedicated to St Felician and might well have claimed to be the locus of his relics.

Early Legend: Summary and Conclusions

The author of the legend of St Juvenal (BHL 4614) certainly had access to an account of the life of St Felician.  If the suggestions above - that BHL 4614 was written in ca. 800 and BHL 2846 was written in the late 840s - are correct, then BHL 2846 must have been based on an earlier version of the legend of St Felician that had been written before ca. 800.  This might well account for the fact that, in BHL 2846, St Felician (who died in 250) ordained St Valentine (who survived for almost 100 years after St Felician’s death):  I suggested above that, in the earlier legend, St Felician died at a later date, perhaps during the persecutions of 303.

The most likely person to have commissioned this early legend would have been one of St Felician’s successors as bishop of Forum Flaminii.  It would have celebrated St Felician as the first bishop of the diocese, who had been arrested in his episcopal church there immediately prior to his death.  It seems from BHL 4614 that it also established St Felician among the important bishop martyrs and early evangelists of Umbria. 

I noted above that the early legend almost certainly contained at least two claims that were retained in BHL 2846:

  1. that St Felician had ordained St Valentine as bishop of Terni; and

  2. that he was executed on Mons Rotundus, which I suggested was the mountain now called Colle San Lorenzo

I suggested that these claims had been a consequence of the fact that the diocese had probably had to abandon St Felician’s ancient church for the church of San Valentino on Colle San Lorenzo in ca. 550: the legend had this new episcopal church:

  1. dedicated to a protégé of St Felician; and

  2. located on his place of execution;

in order to characterise this as another locus of St Felician, thereby maintaining the links between the displaced diocese and its patron saint. 

I also speculated that the early legend had a Christian, probably a lady, perhaps St Messalina, retrieve St Felician’s body and arrange for it to be buried at Forum Flaminii.

In my view, the unknown bishop who presided over the transfer of the diocese in ca. 550 probably commissioned this early legend (perhaps simply commissioning changes to a still earlier version in order to adapt it to the new circumstances).

Later History of the Cult at Forum Flaminii

I suggested above that that the relics of St Felician had perhaps accompanied the people and their bishop when they had moved from Forum Flaminii.  If so, they would surely have been returned to Forum Flaminii when what was probably a new episcopal church was built there later in the 6th or perhaps in the 7th century.  As noted above, Forum Flaminii was still an independent diocese at the time of Bishop Decentius (documented in 680).  The likelihood is that he officiated at this new church, which was presumably dedicated to St Felician. 

However, we know of no subsequent bishops of Forum Flaminii.  According to Silvestro Nessi (referenced below, at p. 861):

  1. “Within the ambit of the Duchy of Spoleto, Foligno absorbed Forum Flaminii, cities that were destroyed and ceased to exist” (my translation).

As discussed below, I think that these two urban centres were abandoned, perhaps  for Colle San Lorenzo, in the 8th century, which became the episcopal seat of what was now the diocese of Fulginia/ Foligno.  It is easy to imagine that the cult of St Felician of Forum Flaminii went into abeyance at this time, leaving the way open for a later bishop to adopt St Felician as the patron saint of civitas Fulginia.  On this model, the publication of BHL 2846 would have consummated this process.

BHL 2846 and Civitas Fulginia

It is interesting to note that BHL 2846 contains only two certain and one probable references to civitas Fulginia:

  1. after his ordination, St Felician, bishop of Forum Flaminii, started his evangelical work “post civitatem suam Fulgineas”;

  2. after his arrest at Forum Flaminii, he died 3 Roman miles from “civitate sua”, which I argued above probably meant civitas Fulginia; and

  3. he was buried iuxta Fulgineam civitatem”.

The logic of the model developed so far suggests that all three of these references were inserted in the early legend in the late 840s, when it took on the form in which it has come down to us.  In order to explore this hypothesis further, we first need to pin down, as far as possible, the location of civitas Fulginia at various points in time.

Location of Civitas Fulginia

Early Christian Period

As noted above, an episcopal seat called civitas Fulginia was documented in in 496, when Pope Gelasius I wrote a letter (published by Samuel Lowenfeld , referenced below, at p. 10 - search on ‘Cresconio’) to three local bishops about the recently-deceased Bishop Urbanus (the first securely documented bishop of this diocese), who was described as “religiose recordationis Fulginatis civitatis antistitem”, the devoutly remembered bishop (or overseer) of civitas Fulginia.  There is no reason to doubt that this was also the episcopal seat Urbanus’ successor, Bishop Fortunatus, who was documented as ‘Epicopus Ecclesias Fulgintinae’ in 499 and as ‘Fortunatus Fulginas’ in 501 and (as mentioned above) in 502.  It almost certainly coincided with the Roman municipium of Fulginia, the location of which is debated (as mentioned above):

  1. some scholars place it near Santa Maria in Campis, on the eastern branch of Via Flamina; while

  2. others place it on the site of medieval civitas Fulginia and modern Foligno.

6th - 8th Centuries

As I set out above, it is likely that the dioceses of Fulginia and Forum Flaminii were both badly affected by the Gothic Wars (535 - 552).  I developed a scenario in which:

  1. the episcopal seat of Forum Flaminii moved to Colle San Lorenzo for a period of perhaps a few decades; while

  2. the episcopal seat of Fulginia was either:

  3. moved from Santa Maria in Campis to; or

  4. restored at;

  5. modern Foligno (depending on the assumed location of the episcopal seat before the wars).

I explored the elements of the first part of this scenario above, so I concentrate here on Fulginia.

From ca. 575, Fulginia and Forum Flaminii belonged to the Duchy of Spoleto.  They are essentially undocumented for most of the next two centuries, except that their respective bishops, Florus and Decentius, attended a synod in Rome in 680.

  1. As Mario Sensi (above) pointed out, the area of Santa Maria in Campis was abandoned at this time: in his opinion, the episcopal seat of Fulginia had been located here until ca. 600, when (in his opinion) it was moved to higher ground.

  2. Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at pp. 44-5 and Figures 10a and b) suggested that a re-interpretation of the evidence from the excavation of the site of the Duomo of Foligno in 1824, supported by surviving elements of the present structure, indicates a previously-undetected church from the Byzantine period (i.e. after the Gothic Wars) on the site.  Furthermore, the dedications of two other churches in Foligno, Sant’ Apollinare and San Salvatore, suggest that cult sites were established on these sites in the Byzantine and/or the Lombard periods (albeit that the earliest documentary records of them date respectively to 1129 and 1138). 

In other words, the episcopal seat of Bishop Florus was not at Santa Maria in Campis but it could have been:

  1. on Colle San Lorenzo, as Mario Sensi believed; or

  2. on the site of modern Foligno.

As noted above, Bishop Decentius presumably officiated at the new basilica that was built at Forum Flaminii in the 6th or 7th century.

Both centres probably suffered during the period 737-45, a period in which the Lombard King Liutprand twice ejected Duke Transamund II of Spoleto from the duchy and incorporated it into the kingdom.  However, two documents in the ‘Regestum Farfense’ (1092-1100) compiled by Gregorio di Catino (search on ‘fulginea’) record the existence of Fulginia thereafter:

  1. a document of 763 was witnessed by ‘Hauto sculdhais de fulginea’ (Hauto, scultheis of Fulginia, an official who would have reported to a gastald, presumably at Spoleto);  and

  2. a document of 791 related to properties in three locations in the duchy: “Spoleto, Interamnes seu Fulginea” (Spoleto, Terni and Foligno).

Apart from military disruptions, the area had to contend with natural disasters.  Thus Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at p. 47, note 91) referred to:

  1. “... the dramatic increase in rainfall that is generally located in the 6th - 8th centuries, which certainly contributed to the damage inflicted on [Fulginia]: its street level was progressively raised by deposits left by the increasingly frequent and serious flooding of the Topino and Menotre [rivers], which is also attested throughout the Valle Umbra, even in areas that were quite distant from the main water courses” (my translation).

He also observed (at p. 47) that:

  1. “It is likely that the disastrous earthquake that occurred in Umbria on April 30th, 801, which particularly affected the area between Perugia and Spoleto, would have destroyed ... much of the ancient city that was still standing” (my translation).

It is therefore unsurprising that, as Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below, at p. 75) observed:

  1. “The archeological records of the area coincident with medieval Foligno [and Santa Maria in Campis, ends in the Roman period] and  ... seems to begin [again only] in the Carolingian period [i.e. after ca. 800]” (my translation).

In this context, we might return to another observation of Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, 2016, at p. 41) that was discussed above:

  1. “It is possible that ... the end of Forum Flaminii as both a diocese and an urban entity, to the advantage of Fulginia, had its roots in [a shared experience], in which both municipia moved to an extraneous site.   In other words, the most logical scenario envisages the majority of the people of both centres taking refuge on Colle [San Lorenzo] between the 5th and the 7th centuries” (my translation).

I noted above that the diocese of Forum Flaminii still existed in 680.  However, according to Silvestro Nessi (referenced below, at p. 861):

  1. “Within the ambit of the Duchy of Spoleto, Foligno absorbed Forum Flaminii, cities that were destroyed and ceased to exist” (my translation).

I think that all this points to a scenario in which, at some time after 680, the two urban centres were abandoned for Colle San Lorenzo, which became the episcopal seat of the single diocese of Fulginia.

     

    Objects found at San Valentino in 1918, both dating to the 8th century:

                   Christian epitaph (now in the crypt of the Duomo)                     Lombard cross (now lost)

There is, in fact, material evidence for continuing cult activity at San Valentino into the 8th century, in the form of a Christian epitaph and a small gold cross (both illustrated above) that were found there in 1918. 

Civitas Fulginia in ca. 850

Having been documented in 496, Civitas Fulginia (as opposed to Fulginia tout court), only reappears in the surviving documentary record in the hagiography of the mid 9th century, at which point (like London buses) three references turn up at almost the same time:

  1. BHL 2846 (late 840s) has St Felician buried “iuxta Fulgineam civitatem, super pontem Caesaris.

  2. BHL 0019, the account of the translation of the relics of St Abundius to Berceto in 850, designates Bishop Domenico as ‘Fulgineæ civitatis Dominicus  Episcopus’.

  3. BHL 1620 (soon after 850) has SS Carpophorus and Abundius beheaded outside the walls of civitas Fulginia.

The reference to the ‘pons Caesaris’ in BHL 2846 makes it certain that, at this date, the episcopal seat was on the site of modern Foligno

Location of Civitas Fulginia: Conclusion

We can reasonably assume that the episcopal seat of Fulginia (which now included Forum Flaminii) returned to the site of modern Foligno at some time in the first half of the 9th century, and that its was certainly in this location by the late 840s, when BHL 2846 was written.

BHL 2846 and Civitas Fulginia: Summary and Conclusions

In the section above entitled “Who Commissioned BHL 2846 ?”, I suggested that it had been commissioned in the late 840s by Bishop Domenico or by his unknown immediate predecessor. 

In this section, I have argued that, at some time after 680, the diocese of Forum Flaminii was absorbed by that of  Fulginia, and that the episcopal seat of the enlarged diocese of Fulginia moved to Colle San Lorenzo.  However, it had certainly returned to the site of modern Foligno by the late 840s, when BHL 2846 was written.

It seems to me that the obvious conclusion is that the bishop who was responsible for this latest move also commissioned BHL 2846 in order to establish the credentials of the restored episcopal seat as the city of an early bishop, evangelist and martyr, St Felician.

BHL 2846 and the Earlier Legend

I made it clear above that a detailed analysis of which parts of BHL 2846 might have come from the early legend of St Felician is way beyond my capabilities.   However, I attempt in this section to identify a number of distinctive passages in BHL 2846 that seem to me to contain new material.

Date of the Martyrdom of St Felician

In my section above on the early legend, I suggested that the claim in BHL 2846 that St Felician was martyred in the Decian persecution of 250 (rather than, for example, in the persecution of Diocletian in 303) was new material.  I also pointed out that this introduced a degree of chronological incoherence, because the claim that St Felician had ordained St Valentine, who died 347, had been retained.

This change, combined with what was probably another new claim - that St Felician was 94 when he died - allowed the author of BHL 2846 to claim that St Felician had been ordained by Pope Victor I (189-99) and that his episcopate had lasted for 56 years.  In this way, he gave credence to his claim (which was thus also presumably a new one) that St Felician had been ordained at a time when there was no bishop ‘per Thusciam Picenumque’, an extensive area across central Italy in which the people were still pagan.  Thus, the author of BHL 2846 could claim that St Felician had converted much of this region to Christianity during his long episcopate. 

Decius and SS Abdon and Sennen

Francesco Lanzoni (referenced below, at p.  452) observed that:

  1. “In order to write the history of the Emperor Decius, [the author of BHL 2846] felt the need to resort to a suspect source such as the legend of SS Abdon and Sennen ...” (my translation).

Thus, if Decius was an addition to the early legend, so too were SS Abdon and Sennen.  Their cult  was certainly an old one: an entry under “III kal. Aug.” (30th July) in the so-called “Depositio Martirum” of 354 reads:

  1. Abdos et Semnes in Pontiani, quod est ad ursum piliatum

However, this only records that SS Abdon and Sennen were martyrs who were buried in the cemetery of Pontianus in Rome (near what was presumably a place of entertainment called the ‘Bear in Cap’).”  Lanzoni is by no means alone in judging the longer accounts in surviving versions of their legend to be unreliable.

In my view, this change of date since the early legend and the associated inclusion in BHL 2846 of elements from the legend of SS Abdon and Sennen is betrayed by the inherent unlikelihood of its account (at paragraph 4)  of the events surrounding the arrest of St Felician.   The author had Decius himself bring SS Abdon and Sennon to Italy and stop at Forum Flaminii, where he became aware of St Felician’s popularity with the local people.  He therefore had St Felician arrested, personally interrogated him, ordered his torture, and had him imprisoned alongside SS Abdon and Sennon.   Finally, all three prisoners were taken in chains to Rome.   In stressing the direct role that Decius played in these events, the author seems intent upon impressing on his readers the veracity of his changed chronology.  

Another odd aspect of this paragraph is the author’s careful description of the place where Decius arrested St Felician:

  1. “... the ancient city called Forum Flaminii, which stands on public land, 100 miles from the city of Rome” (my translation).

He seems to have resorted to a guide of some sort in order to locate Forum Flaminii, a city with which he was obviously unfamiliar, quite probably because it no longer survived to any significant extent.  This is in sharp contrast to the approach of the author of the opening passage (which I allocate to the earlier legend):  he clearly expected his readers to know exactly where Forum Flaminii was.

Martyrdom of St Felician

The account in BHL 2846 of the circumstances that led to the death of St Felician was almost certainly shaped by the legend of SS Abdon and Sennen.  There seem to have been a number of variants of the latter legend, but the relevant entry in the Roman Martyrology under 30th July is particularly relevant here: 

  1. “At Rome, in the reign of Decius, the holy Persian martyrs Abdon and Sennen, who were bound with chains, brought to Rome, scourged with leaded whips for the faith of Christ, and then put to the sword.”

I suggest that the author of BHL 2846 relied on an account of the lives of these saints that contained precisely this information, and that he simply incorporated it into his version of the legend of St Felician.  If this is correct, then the account in BHL 2846 of the events immediately prior to the death of St Felician on 24th January, 250 at the ‘Mons Rotundus’ also contains mostly new material.

Mons Rotundus (again) 

I suggested above that the ‘Mons Rotundus’ was Colle San Lorenzo, and that this had been identified in the early legend as the place of execution of St Felician.  The author of BHL 2846 probably added the (accurate but originally irrelevant) information that it was 3 Roman miles (about 4.5 kilometres) from St Felician’s city, which now meant civitas Fulginia.  

There was, however, a problem: in the new account, St Felician died early in his journey  from Forum Flaminii to Rome.  The most obvious route would have taken him along one of the two branches of Via Flaminia, along the floor of the valley.  How then did he come to be on a mountain (i.e. on Colle San Lorenzo or on any other mountain) when he died.  If the author of BHL 2846 recognised this as a problem, he chose not to address it.

As noted above, ‘Mons Rotundus’ turned up again in the broadly contemporary BHL 1620, in which the bodies of SS Carpophorus and Abundius (who had been executed outside the walls  of civitas Fulginia) were abandoned one Roma mile away “sub montem Rotondo”:

  1. For Michele Faloci Pulignani (referenced below, at p. 6), the ‘Mons Rotundus’ was 3 Roman miles from his city, Forum Flaminii (BHL 2846) and 1 Roman mile from civitas Fulginia (BHL 1620), which he located at Santa Maria in Campis, on the eastern branch of Via Flaminia.

  2. Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, 2016,  at p. 21) located it at nearby Santa Maria in Campis

However, as noted above:

  1. the city of St Felician in BHL 2846 was almost certainly civitas Fulginia; and

  2. there are no mountains on Via Flaminia.


Miglio di San Paolo,  about a Roman mile from Foligno, below Colle San Lorenzo

possible location in which the bodies of SS Carpophorus and Abundius were abandoned

My suggestion above - that Mons Rotundus was Colle San Lorenzo - is consistent with the information in BHL 2846 that it was 3 Roman mile from civitas Fulginia.  However, we also have to consider the information from BHL 1620, that the bodies of SS Carpophorus and Abundius were abandoned a Roman mile outside civitas Fulginia, in a place “sub montem Rotondo” (under the mountain). 

This location was presumably in the valley below Colle San Lorenzo.  I wonder whether it was on the site of this deconsecrated church of San Paolo, at Miglio di San Paolo on Viale Ancona:
  1. the location is so-named because it is roughly a Roman mile from Foligno; and

  2. the mountain to the right is Colle San Lorenzo.

As Mario Sensi (referenced below, 1982, at p. 3) pointed out:

  1. “Foligno is a city that has developed around the tomb of St Felician and appears to be well-defended by four sanctuaries, almost outposts, each a [Roman] mile from the city ... their popular [names] are: Miglio San Paolo; Santa Maria in Campis; San Magno; and Madonna della Fiamenga” (my translation).

He explained (at p. 29) that St Paul (no less) was belived to have preached at Miglio San Paolo.  He pointed out that the road between this location and the church of San Valentino on Colle San Lorenzo (the modern SP 449) was documented in the local statutes as the strata collis, and suggested that this church had owned land at Miglio San Paolo  in ca. 1300)

Note that there is no suggestion that SS Carpophorus and Abundius  were buried here: according to BHL 1620, a Christian lady, Eustochia, retrieved their bodies here and buried them in “spelunca sua” (literally “her cave”, presumably a cavern used for burial), the location of which was unspecified.

Cause of Death of St Felician

In all likelihood, in the early legend, St Felician died by execution on on 24th January,  303.  However, in BHL 2846, he died while accompanying SS Abdon and Sennen,  who were “bound with chains, brought to Rome ... and then put to the sword [on 30th July, 251]”.  However, St Felician died on the ‘Mons Rotundus’, having barely started the journey. 

In BHL 2846, Decius had also decided to execute St Felician in Rome, but his suffering led to his premature death when the journey had just started.  This had two advantages for the author:

  1. it accounted for the difference between the two dies natales; and

  2. it allowed for the convenient burial of St Felician in nearby civitas Fulginia.

The author could have arranged his execution there, but that would have defeated the object of tying his fate to that of SS Abdon and Sennen.  More sensibly, he had him die unexpectedly, but still as a martyr, since the rigours of his imprisonment had clearly exacerbated the effects of old age.

Burial of St Felician near Civitas Fulginia

BHL 2846 records that St Felician was buried:

  1. “... in agello ipsius ubi ipse iusserat, iuxta Fulgineam civitatem”.

Thus he had been buried where he had ordered that he should be buried, not in Forum Flaminii (as one might have expected) but in a small field that he had owned near civitas Fulginia.  The legend carefully located this land “super pontem Caesaris”, making it clear that it was near the newly-returned episcopal seat on the site of modern Foligno.  I therefore suggest that this also constituted a recent addition to the legend.

Had the relics of St Felician still graced the episcopal church of the diocese of Forum Flaminii, this new material would obviously have lacked credibility.  However, I suggested above that, by the late 840s when the claim was made, Forum Flaminii had probably been all but destroyed and what remained of it belonged to the diocese of civitas Fulginia.  We might reasonably assume that, in these circumstances, the original cult of St felician was all but forgotten.   This might account for a fact that, as I mentioned above, St Felician does not appear in the Martyrology of Florus (825-40), despite the fact that it had included accounts of at least three other local saints who apparently appeared here for the first time: St Brictius and SS Carpophorus and Abundius:

  1. I argued above that lines 100-6 were added to BHL 1620 in order to change the place of the execution of SS Carpophorus and Abundius from Spoleto (as recorded by Florus) to Foligno. and thus to explain the existence at Foligno of what were claimed to be their relics (and the relics of those who had died with them) at civitas Fulginia in 850.

  2. I now suggest that the early legend of St Felician had been similarly modified in the late 840s in order to explain the existence of the relics of St Felician civitas Fulginia.

The presence of all the relics of an early bishop martyr and early evangelist would have conferred considerable prestige on the newly-restored episcopal seat.

BHL 2846 and the Early Legend: Summary and Conclusions

I suggest that almost all of the references to civitas Fulginia in BHL 2846 were new: 

  1. the early legend had probably claimed that St Felician had evangelised nearby Fulginia soon after his ordination, but it probably became ‘sua civitas Fulginia’ only in BHL 2846;

  2. in the early legend, St Felician died on Mons Rotundus, but it was now carefully located just 3  Roman miles from his city, civitas Fulginia; and

  3. he had owned a specific plot of land just outside the city, super pontem Caesaris, which he had designated as the place in which he was to be buried.

Thus, while the author of BHL 2846 did not deny that St Felician had been born in Forum Flaminia or that this had remained his episcopal seat throughout his time in office, he carefully crafted claimed for civitas Fulginia, in its own right, the patronage of St Felician

I suggested above that the author of BHL 2846 had St Felician martyred in the Decian persecution of 250, along with SS Abdon and Sennon in order to:

  1. to give credence to what was probably a new claim: that St Felician had received papal ordination at a very early date, with metropolitan authority over an extensive and still largely pagan territory that he had  successfully evangelised; and

  2. to allow the incorporation of material from legend of SS Abdon and Sennen into a new account of the events that followed the arrest of St Felician in Forum Flaminii, in order to open the way for another new claim: that he was buried in “his city”, civitas Fulginia.

In short, while maintaining the existing links between St Felician and Forum Flaminii (which was now part of the diocese of Foligno), the legend as modified claimed for civitas Fulginia the patronage of one the earliest and most effective bishop martyrs of central Italy.

Relics of St Felician

The Agellus

A document of 1082 in the archives of the Abbazia di Sassovivo might help us locate the agellus of St Felician with some precision: it records  a donation to the abbey that included land:

  1. “... in locum qui dicitur Agellum, ubi prope est aedificato ecclesia et civitas Sancti Feliciano”. 

Thus, in 1082, there was a district known by a name that was translated into Latin as ‘Agellum” that was then outside the city but nonetheless prope (close to) the Duomo (which was obviously inside it).  We might reasonably assume that this district was named for the agellus of St Felician, and that this agellus was within it.  Paolo Camerieri and Giuliana Galli (referenced below, 2016, p. 29, Figure 3) depict the likely location, which is across Via dell’ Oratorio from the present apse of the Duomo (as set out in my page on the Location of Roman Fulginia).

We might reasonably expect that BHL 2846 would have made claims for the miraculous and recent discovery of the relics of St Felician here.  However, the legend makes no such claim.  Instead, all we are told, in addition to the precise location of St Felician’s grave, is that this was a place in which:

  1. “... præstantur beneficia Dei vsque in hodiernum diem” (the benefits of God are still bestowed today).

This suggests (at least to me) that, when the legend was written, the presumed relics of St Felician remained on the site super pontem Caesaris, and that there was a cult site here in which, according to the author of BHL 2846, benefits were still bestowed on pilgrims visiting the site.  According to

It is possible that this shrine had its origins in an earlier church or chapel that simply commemorated St Felician as the first evangeliser of Fulginia (a claim that might well have been made in the earlier legend.  There is a precedent for such a site, in the form of this chapel outside Assisi (near the church of San Damiano), which is dedicated as San Feliciano, which stands next to a Roman mausoleum.   According to Arnaldo Fortini, (referenced below, at p. 169):
  1. “The first Christians of Assisi used to gather near this mausoleum to hear Bishop Felician, as may be read in the Cathedral lectionary. ... [The pagan authorities] had him thrown out of the city: before leaving, he assembled his small group of followers ... to comfort them.. This is the episode that the documents describe as having taken place prope mausoleum antiquum ... [St Felician] took a great cross of wood and fixed it in the earth. ... And so St Felician, the father of Christians  ... left Assisi.”

According to Pier Maurizio Della Porta et a (referenced below, at p. 169:

  1. “... the small cappella di San Feliciano ... was built to replace a very ancient church that stood on the site where  [St Felician] ... bade farewell to his followers [in Assisi] before his martyrdom.”

Perhaps there was similar tradition that had St Felician preaching to the people of Fulginia on the site of a Roman cemetery near the pons Caesaris.  In that case, it might have spawned an early cult site dedicated to him that was ‘rebranded’ to serve the purposes of the commissioner of BHL 2846.

I must stress that my view of the location of the relics in the late 840s is not shared by other scholars, as will become clear in the following section.

Translation of the Relics to the Duomo

View of Michele Faloci Pulignani

  1. Michele Faloci Pulignani (referenced below, at pp. 9-10) believed that the Duomo of Foligno was built on the site of the agellus of St Felician.  He asserted (at p. 28) that, by the time that BHL 2846 was written (i.e. in his opinion, before the 10th century):

  2. “...[St Felician’s] original grave in the “Agellum” and his primitive “basilicula” ... had been destroyed...” (my translation).

  3. He offered no evidence for the date of either the initial construction of this putative “basilicula” or its subsequent destruction  but he asserted that, by the time that BHL 2846 was written:

  4. “.... a new church certainly existed [on the site], the crypt of which still exists today ...” (my translation).

He tentatively suggested that the crypt (and thus the church that had replaced the “basilicula”) had been built in the 8th or 9th century, but, in any case, he asserted that it  was certainly standing in the 10th century, when:

  1. “... everyone ... knew that, in this most sacred place, the body of St Felician was preserved” (my translation).

On this model, there was no need to translate the relics of St Felician to the new Duomo: it had been built over them.  I have to say that I cannot see how this can be reconciled to the information in the document of 1082 discussed above.

View of Paolo Camerieri


Location proposed by Paolo Camerierif or the location of the relics of St Felician in the 4th century

Adapted from Camerieri and Galli  (2016, p. 38, Figure 8) 

F1: agellus   F2: relics of St Felician after translation  C: basilica iuxta corpus

As noted above Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, 2016, at pp. 35-9) located the agellus outside civitas Fulginia, a proposition with which I concur.   However, he suggested that the relics of St Felician were soon translated from this location to the “primitiva domus ecclesiae di Feliciano” (perhaps in the 4th century).   He further suggested (at p. 38 and note 66) that the location of the relics in this house-church coincided with the site of a “piccola cappella funeraria” (marked F2 in the plan above) that had been discovered under the present Duomo in 1824.  Thus, the primitiva domus ecclesiae di Feliciano” became an ‘aula martiriale’.  Finally, he suggested (at p. 37) that an early  church on the site of what is now the left transept of the Duomo (marked C above) served as a “basilica iuxta corpus” at this time. 

Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at pp. 44-5 and Figures 10a and b) then considered the situation in the Byzantine period (ca. 550).  Based on a  re-interpretation of the evidence from the excavations of 1824 (mentioned above and discussed below) and an investigation of surviving elements of the present structure, he suggested the existence of a previously-undetected church from this period on the site.  He referred to this as the “prima basilica palatina ad corpus”, suggesting that an episcopal church that had replaced the house-church in the 6th century, albeit that the relics remained at location F2.  However, he suggested that it had probably been destroyed in the earthquake that devastated the area in 800, if not before. 

My View

Thus, both scholars hypothesised the existence of an early martyrium on the site of the present Duomo.  It is certainly possible (as Camerieri suggested) that the piccola cappella funeraria” that was  discovered in 1824 was of an early date and had once housed the relics of St Felician.  However, there is hard evidence that this was the case.    

In fact, the history of the relics of St Felician prior to the publication of BHL 2846 in the late 840s is probably undiscoverable on the basis of the evidence currently at our disposal.  As noted above, my view is that the presumed relics were probably in a shrine a rebuilt or restored in the agellus when BHL 2846 was written.  If this is correct, they presumably remained there until the completion of the first episcopal church of the newly-rebuilt city.

Episcopal Church of Civitas Fulginia in the 9th Century

We know of three bishops of civitas Fulginia/ Foligno in the period between the commissioning of BHL 2846 in the late 840s and the theft of the relics of St Felician in 970:

  1. Bishop Domenico (documented in 850-3), discussed above;

  2. Bishop Arigius (“Arigisus Fulinalus”), who attended a synod in Rome in 861 (see the list of attending bishops published by Georg Pertz, referenced below, at p. 612); and

  3. Bishop Benedetto, who:

  4. attended councils in both Ravenna and Rome in 967 (see the list of attending bishops published by Giovanni Domenico Mansi, referenced below, Volume 18:1, at p. 500 and p. 534 respectively); and

  5. who reluctantly witnessed the theft of the relics of St Felician in 970 (as discussed below).

We might therefore reasonably assume that there was an episcopal church at Foligno throughout this period.

In fact, the earliest surviving documentary record of an ecclesia Fulginensis dates to 1078: this church, which was clearly on the site of the present Duomo, was documented again as the ecclesia Sancti Feliciani in 1082.  It seems to me that this must have been the episcopal church of Bishop Domenico and his successors.  It might well have been in construction when BHL 2846 was commissioned.   However, as discussed below, hard evidence for this early church is hard to come by.

Fragments of a 9th Century Martyrium ?

In their catalogue entry on the Duomo of Foligno, Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below,  at p. 291, entry 66) began with the observation that:

  1. “... hagiographic tradition suggests that [the Duomo] stands on the grave of St Felician.  A shrine here can be hypothesised to have existed at least from the 9th century, evidenced by the re-use of architectural elements from the Carolingian period” (my translation).

These elements were as follows :


  1. According to Luigi Sensi (referenced below, 1994, at p. 84), the middle column at the centre of the inner colonnade of the the loggia of the minor facade of the Duomo had been re-used, and:

  2. “... could have belonged to the earlier phase of the church” (my translation).

  3. Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below, at p. 291) asserted that it had originally been:

  4. “... pertinent to  a transenna [a screen around a shrine in early Christian architecture]” (my translation).


  5. This sculpted fragment, which was embedded in the wall of the crypt until relatively recently, is now in the Museo Diocesano.  According to Luigi Sensi (referenced below, 1985, at p. 317), it had probably been discovered during the restoration of the Duomo in 1903-4.   Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below, at p. 291) characterised it as a cornice, and Luigi Sensi (as above) suggested that it had originally formed part of a transenna.

According to Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below, at p. 129), these constitute the only surviving material evidence for a cult site in Foligno (as opposed to its suburbs) before the 11th century.  It is tempting to suggest that both elements came from a shrine in the putative 9th century Duomo, and that this shrine served as the martyrium of St Felician (although we have no proof of that).

“Excavations” of 1824

    

Floor plan and elevation of an earlier church on the site of the Duomo,

as reconstructed by Balduino Barnabò from measurements made during “excavations” of 1824

Reproduced in  Bertini and Sensi (referenced below:p. 63 Figure 5  and p. 65, Figure 6 respectively)

In 1824, soil under the Duomo was removed to a depth of about 4 meters in order to provide new subterranean space for burials.  In the process, most of the archeological evidence that might have illuminated the early history of the building was destroyed.   Fortunately, the marchese Balduino Barnabò took meticulous measurements before the evidence disappeared, and the engineer Antonio Rutili Gentili, who took part in the excavations, published his notes in 1839.  Surviving sketches by Balduino Barnabò (two of which are illustrated above), summarise his interpretation of this now-lost evidence.   It seems that the the excavators had discovered remains of the church in the form in which it had existed before the extension of its nave in 1133.  

Barnabò believed that the excavations had uncovered a single structure, although (as noted above), Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at pp. 44-5 and Figures 10a and b) thought that it actually related to two successive structures, the earlier and narrower of which dated to ca. 550.  Barnabò’s reconstruction  comprised a nave with two side aisles that communicated with the present crypt (visible in the floor plan illustrated here on the left): steps at the end of the nave led to an upper presbytery, (visible in the elevation illustrated here on the right). 

Barnabò also identified a piccola cappella funeraria” under the steps, which he believed pre-dated the main structure and which he associated with the first church of San Feliciano and the place of his burial: Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at p. 34, Figure 7b) provided a particularly informative illustration of this aspect of Barnabò’s analysis.  He also quoted a passage by Antonio Rutili Gentili  (at p. 38, note 66) that betrays a similar view.  As noted above, Paolo Camerieri himself agreed with this hypothesis, although hard evidence is lacking.

It is a tribute to the competence of Balduino Barnabò that scholars today accept that his reconstruction does indeed probably capture the essential features of the church as it existed prior to 1133.  However, it is also generally agreed that no secure dating of the structure is possible on the basis of the surviving sketches and excavation notes, even when supplemented by the scant remains of the structure itself that survived the events of 1824:

  1. Paolo Camerieri (referenced below) described it (at p. 38 and 47 et seq) as the “chiesa carolingio-ottoniana”.  He suggested (at pp. 47-8) that stylistic aspects of the apsidal area point to the Carolingian rather than the (earlier) Lombard period, although the truncated nature of the pseudo-transepts perhaps suggested the earlier period.

  2. Paola Guerrini and Francesca Latini (referenced below, at p. 129-30, with references at note 516) dated it to the 11th century and noted that what survives from this building is, essentially

  3. “... the [present] crypt and its oratory, together with the capitals of the columns that have been reused in it; and probably, some sculptural elements [illustrated as their Figures 62 and 63 and preserved in the crypt]” (my translation).

My Conclusions

As noted above, I believe that BHL 2846 was commissioned by Bishop Domenico or his immediate predecessor in the late 840s, in order to commemorate the return of the episcopal seat at civitas Fulginia after the depredations of the 8th century.  It seems to me that the bishop who commissioned the legend and presided over the move of the episcopal seat must also have commissioned a new episcopal church.  The likelihood is that this was the church that was documented in 1078 as the ecclesia Fulginensis and in 1082 as the ecclesia Sancti Feliciani.  He must also have had a nearby episcopal palace albeit that the earliest surviving record of a Palatio Fulginiensis Episcopi dates to 1188).  Thus, we might reasonably designate this putative Carolingian church (following Paolo Camerieri) as the Basilica PalatinaIn my view, the church as reconstructed by Balduino Barnabò must have represented this church, either in its original form or after a remodelling prior to the documented remodelling of 1133.

As discussed above, I think that, on balance, the presumed relics of St Felician were probably still in the agellus when BHL 2846 was commissioned and the construction of the Basilica Palatina began.  If so, they would surely have been translated to this church after its completion and prior to its dedication to St Felician.  However, in the opinion of both Michele Faloci Pulignani and Paolo Camerieri (summarised above), the relics were already on this site when any such church was built.  

The architectural remains from the 9th century discussed above can be reasonably associated with a shrine in the Basilica Palatina, which quite possibly contained the translated relics of St Felician and which was quite possibly located on the site of the piccola cappella funeraria” that had been  discovered and so-designated in 1824.  However, this cannot be established beyond doubt. 

Theft of the Relics (970)

Bishop Theoderic of Metz, who travelled to Italy in 970-2 with the Emperor Otto II, took the opportunity to acquire a number of relics with which to enrich the Abbey of St Vincent, which he had established in his diocese.  Sigebert of Gembloux, in his Vita Deoderici, Mettensis Episcopi (Life of Bishop Theodoric of Metz - search in this link on ‘Fulinias’), recorded that these included the relics of St Felician, which were found

  1. -ipso intimo antro’ (deep in a cave or cavern) at

  2. -Fulinias [sic], castrum non procul a Spoleto’ (Fulginia , a castrum not far from Spoleto).  

There, on 4th October 970, the reluctant Bishop Benedetto, ‘multo cum fletu’ (with many tears), reluctantly released them into the hands of Theodoric’s representatives, Bertraus and HeriwardusThey also made a copy of the legend of St Felician (the source for one the earliest surviving manuscripts of BHL 2846, which is at Metz).  Sigebert of Gembloux, who was presumably working from a list of relics at the Abbey of St Vincent, recorded the arrival of those of St Felician on the 14th April, presumably in 971.  Some of them subsequently found their way to Minden.

Observation

On the face of it, this record of the relics ‘ipso intimo antro’ at the castrum at Foligno in 970 undermines the hypothesis that they were in the episcopal church by the late 840s, if not before.  Given the fact that the records of this campaign of “acquisitions” seem to be meticulous, it seems unlikely that the description of the place where the relics of St Felician were found was inaccurate in this respect.  It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that Bishop Benedetto had been aware of the imminent threat from Bishop Theoderic, and had therefore hidden the relics in a cave in the forlorn hope of saving them from his grasp.

Later History of the Cult

Relics of St Felician were returned from Germany to Foligno on at least two occasions:

  1. part of the cranium was returned from the Abbey of St Vincent, Metz in 1668; and

  2. an arm was returned from Minden in 1673.

They are now preserved in a chapel in the crypt.

St Felician remains the patron saint of Foligno, and a fine statue of him (the head of which is illustrated at the top of this page) is taken in procession around Foligno each 24th January.


Read more:

P. Camerieri, Giovanna and Giuliana Galli (Eds.), “Dal Castrum alla via Quintana, dal Tempio alla Cattedrale: Studi Topografici e Architettonici tra Ambiguità Storiche e Anomalie Urbanistiche” (2016) Foligno:

  1. P. Camerieri and Giuliana Galli, “Dal Castrum Romano alla Cattedrale: Rilettura della Passio Sancti Feliciani nel Contesto Topograico Castramentato di Foligno”, pp. 15-31

  2. P. Camerieri, “Una Rilettura Topografica e Architettonica delle Vicende del Martire Feliciano e degli Edifici di Culto da Lui e a Lui Dedicati”, pp. 33-57

E. d’Angelo, “Terni Medievale: La Città, la Chiesa, i Santi, l' Agiografia”, (2015) Spoleto

M. Romana Picuti, “Tra Epigrafia e Antiquaria: le Iscrizioni di Supunna e delle Cultrices Collegi Fulginiae nel De Diis topicis Fulginatium di Giacomo Biancani Tazzi”, in:

  1. E. Laureti (Ed.), “G. Biancani: De Diis Topicis Fulginatium Epistola, Foligno 1761”, (2014 ) Spello, pp. 129-43

E. d’Angelo, “Narni e i Suoi Santi”, (2013) Spoleto

E. Calandra, “Mosaico: Forum Flaminii”, in”

  1. A. Bravi (Ed.), “Aurea Umbria: Una Regione dell’ Impero nell’ Era di Costantino”, Bollettino per i Beni Culturali dell’ Umbria, (2012), pp. 289-90

P. Guerrini and F. Latini, “Foligno: Dal Municipium Romano alla Civitas Medievale: Archeologia e Storia di una Città Umbra”, (2012) Spoleto

F. Coarelli and S. Sisani, “Museo Comunale di Terni. Raccolta Archeologica: Sezione Romana” (2008) Milan

S. Nessi, “La Diocesi di Spoleto tra Tardoantico e Medioevo”, in:

  1. Umbria Cristiana: dalla Diffusione del Culto al Culto dei Santi (secc. IV-X): Atti del XV Congresso Internazionale di Studi sull' Alto Medioevo (Spoleto, 23-28 Ottobre 2000)”, Spoleto (2001), pp 833-81

F. Bettoni and B. Marinelli, “Foligno, Itinerari Fuori e Dentro le Mura”, (2001), Foligno

E. Paoli, “ L' Agiografia Umbra Altomedievale”, in

  1. Umbria Cristiana: dalla Diffusione del Culto al Culto dei Santi (secc. IV-X): Atti del XV Congresso Internazionale di Studi sull' Alto Medioevo (Spoleto, 23-28 Ottobre 2000)”, Spoleto (2001) pp 479-529 

R. Davis, “The Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis)”, (1995) Liverpool

G. Benazzi (Ed.), “Foligno A.d. 1201:  La Facciata della Cattedrale di San Feliciano”, (1994) Foligno,  includes:

  1. L. Sensi, “Le Testimonianze dell’ Antico”, pp 81-8

  2. M. Sensi, “Le Cattedrale di Foligno”, pp 89-112

P. Della Porta, E. Genovesi and E. Lunghi (Eds), “Guide to Assisi: History and Art”, (1991) Assisi

G. Binazzi, “Inscriptiones Christianae Italiae: Regio VI; Umbria”, (1989) Bari

L. Sensi, “La Raccolta Archeologica della Cattedrale di Foligno”, Bollettino Storico della Città di Foligno, 9 (1985) 305-26

R. Brown, "The Roots of St Francis", (1982) Chicago

M. Sensi, “ Foligno e il suo Spazio Sacro”, (1982) Foligno

L. Sensi, “La Basilica Paleochristiana di Forum Flaminii”, Bollettino Storico della Città di Foligno, 5 (1981) 9-22

J. Serra Raspi, “La Scultura dell' Umbria Centro-Meridionale dall' VIII al X Secolo”, in:

  1. Aspetti dell' Umbria dall' Inizio del Secolo VIII alla Fine del Secolo XI: Atti del III Convegno di Studi Umbri, Gubbio, 23 - 27 Maggio, 1965”, (1966) Perugia, pp. 365-86

P. Pirri, “L' Abbazia di Sant'Eutizio in Val Castoriana presso Norcia e le Chiese Dipendenti”, Rome (1960)

M. Faloci Pulignani, “Il Corpo e le Reliquie in San Feliciano Martire, Vescovo di Foligno” (1934), republished in:

  1. G. Bertini and M. Sensi (Eds), “San Feliciano, Cattedrale di Foligno”, (2004) Foligno

F. Lanzoni, “Le Diocesi d'Italia dalle Origini al Principio del Secolo VII”, Faenza (1927)

A. Dufourcq, “Étude sur les Gesta Martyrum Romains: Tome III: Le Mouvement Légendaire Grégorien”, (1907) Paris

S. Lowenfeld, “Epistolae Roma-norum Pontificum Ineditae”, (1885) Leipzig

G. H. Pertz, “Annales Imperii Occidentis Brunsvicenses Ex Codicibus Bibliothecae Regiae Hannoveranae (Volume 1)”, (1843) Hannover

L. Mansi, “Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio Origina”, (1758-98) Venice and Florence

F. Ughelli (re-edited by N. Colletti), “Italia Sacra Sive de Episcopis Italae: Volume 1), (1717) Venice

L. Jacobilli, “Vite de' Santi e Beati di Foligno”, (1628)


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