This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August 22 -- Feast of Saint Augusta of Serravalle

The word of the day is aition.  Merriam-Webster defines it as a tale devised to explain a religious observance. 

The rogue of the day is Minuccio Minucci, Archbishop of Zadar in the sixteenth century.  He was a pretty accomplished guy, so calling him a rogue might be out of line, but since he wrote the first Acta (biography) of her about fourteen hundred years after her death, I figure he was taking some license. 

Her story is predictable.  She was the daughter of Matrucus, the pagan chief of the Alemanni.  The Friulians, who had been conquered by the Alemanni, had accepted Christianity.  Through them, Augusta discovered and embraced the faith.  Matrucus learned of this and locked her up.  When she didn't apostatize, he beat her up badly enough to knock out all her teeth.  Strangely, that didn't make her any more inclined to reconcile herself to him and his gods.  So he tortured her some more and then publicly decapitated her with his own sword. 

Her relics, which are currently displayed in her sanctuary in Vittorio Veneto, Italy, were discovered on August 22, 1450.  [March 27 is her main feast, but I am dodging the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, for fear I will misstep. August 1 is the feast of her translation and August 22 is the feast celebrating the discovery of her relics.] 

I want to be clear. Archbishop Minucci did not need to write the Acta in order to boost his career.  He was the nephew of the previous Archbishop of Zadar and a smart, well-educated, ambitious person in his own right.  He traveled throughout Europe, loyally serving those who had delegated him, and was the secretary of both Cardinal Ludivico Madruzzo (the Prince Bishop of Trento) and Pope Clement VIII, who gave him the title Protonotary Apostolic. 
Augusta's reliquary in Vittorio Veneto

Minuccio Minucci's hometown, however, benefited from the Acta.  They had a church, rebuilt in the 1400s.  They had the bones of a girl to whom the church was dedicated.  But in those days, you couldn't spit without hitting the bones of Saint Somebodyorother.  What was really going to distinguish Serravalle's relics from the relics in every other one-horse town in Italy was a good story, preferably one written by a well-respected priest.  Why pray for intervention from Saint Procula, about whom nobody knew anything, when you could take your toothache to the sweet virgin martyr whose teeth were scattered all over her bedroom by her vicious pagan dad? 

I don't know how much of the legend was extant before Archbishop Minucci wrote the Acta.  I do know that the keepers of the Roman Martyrology booted her out in 2001, and that in Serravalle, they celebrate her main feast on August 22. 

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