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Bertholdus of Micy: Life of St. Maximinus of Micy, c 830s

Maximinus was remembered as the first abbot of the monastery of Micy, located on the south bank of the Loire river near the ancient civitas of Orléans. Allegedly the monastery had been founded by Clovis in the early years of the sixth century, but virtually nothing is known of its history before the Carolingian period. Bishop Theodulf of Orléans (c. 790-818) refounded the community, asking the reformer benedict of Aniane to send monks "of regular discipline" to repopulate the abbey's abandoned buildings. Composing the life of the first abbot, whose relics were preserved in the abbey church, would have been part of the process of rehabilitating the community. Bertholdus was a monk of Micy who dedicated his work to Bishop Jonas of Orléans (818-43), Theodulf's successor; he most probably wrote sometime in the 830s. The selections provided here are from the beginning and the end of the work: the author's discussion of the craft and goal of hagiography as provided in the introductory paragraphs, and the description of the death and burial of the saint.

(1) The churches of the faithful scattered through the world celebrate together with highest praise the fame of holy men. Their tombs, which are wreathed in the metals of gold and silver, as well as in layers of precious stones and in a shell of marble, now bear witness to their pious memory. The exercise of their spiritual virtue speaks forth, both in the ascetic deeds which they once performed in body and spirit as well as in the miracles which they still perform today in actions which ceaselessly take place at their tombs. Surely to no less a degree than these miracles, which incite the love proferred by the devotion of faithful people, the monuments of letters which are set down on pages also fully satisfy the senses of those who read and hear them. For what has been said and done by the saints ought not be concealed in silence. God's love provided their deeds to serve as a norm of living for the men of their own times as well as of those years which have since passed; they are now to be imitated piously now by those who are faithful to Christ. Proper reward is not granted to those who write down in a flowing style the deeds of the saints for the faith of posterity. On the contrary, the study of the Gentiles attracts great favor for those who authors who write in prose or playfully compose in verse works which describe the acts, customs, and achievements in the liberal arts of kings as well as of philosophers, those people for whom the mendacious Greeks are accustomed to utter the highest praise. Such writers partly recommend their own genius and partly strive to obtain riches of temporal favor from those whom they eagerly desire to please. They place the memory of such kings and philosophers before the notice of many people. If we, on the other hand, seek to have as intercessors for our own weakness those whom we believe have been pleasing to the Lord, then it would not be displeasing for us frequently to recall instead the memory of such saints to mind. We praise God in their faith, their customs, their teaching, and their acts, all of which provide us with a model for imitation equal to the highest philosophy.

(2) Divine providence has provided us with a particular shepherd, namely the most blessed Maximinus. He has been given to us as will be told here. He strove, as in the very meaning of his name, to adorn his own life with an abundance of the highest [in Latin: maximae] spiritual virtues. We will try in what follows to render the great holiness of his life, which is worthy of attention from the best of monks. We will not attempt this, nor will we undertake the description of the great miracles performed by this holy man, without a blush in our cheeks since our own mind is weak and our hand is slow in the imitation of his virtues. Our small abilities, which have no pretense to being supported by the wit of erudition or the facile expression of eloquence, have dared to undertake a task which the most learned man would be unable to carry out. Spreading the sails of our boat to catch the slightest breeze, we follow the example of those great men who have already arrived at the safe shore of salvation by the most productive route. By their commands, advice, and repeated entreaty we are allowed to negate our own debt, not to mention our servitude. As difficult as it is to obey their pious commands fully, it is even more dangerous to go against them. Therefore, not in rash boldness but in humble obedience, we will undertake to touch upon some of the marks of Maximinus' virtue, a virtue which so filled his life that anything said in his memory must be uttered with praise. In doing so we will see the full truth of the saying of Prudence: "The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot." [Proverbs 10:7] When the name of the wicked has been forgotten, we will still keep the memory of the most blessed father Maximinus in our heart and in our mouth, so that in trying to imitate him, we will deserve to join his company in heaven. . .

(21) At that time the presence of an enourmous dragon on a nearby hill haunted the banks of the Loire, depriving people and animals from far and wide access to those lands. The man of God Maximinus wished to make the pastures accessible to people and animals once more through the grace of God and so he killed the immense dragon in the subterranean lair where it had hidden itself. He made that hill famous not only by means of this amazing miracle, but also later through the burial there of his own body. For after he had eliminated the problem of the destructive dragon and returned to his monastery, he ordered the brothers who greeted him that in the future they should bear his body to that spot, whose charms had captivated him, for burial. The most blessed father spoke these words and many others in the spirit of prophecy, for not much later he completed the span of his life.

(22) Maximinus suffered from a brief fever. Later, after vigils and prayers to the Lord, he was prepared for burial according to custom. He was laid on his bed with respect by the brothers who had obeyed him: his body was to be returned to the earth, as his spirit went to heaven. He made his passage on the fifteenth day of December. The assembled brothers, deprived of the presence of such a patron, were afflicted with great sorrow as they prepared the things necessary for his funeral. A messenger hurried to the venerable Eusebius, the bishop of Orléans who had so wisely administered certain matters for Maximinus, and brought the painful news of the death to his ears. In the midst of this misfortune, Eusebius kept the dignity of the saint in his mind and, unable to endure any delay, he made himself ready to meet the funeral procession. When it had crossed the Loire, Eusebius embraced the corpse and then it was handed over for burial. Maximinus was buried in the place he had chosen, that is, where he had once killed the dragon.

(23) After the holy man departed this life, he shone before God as much as his spirit merited, but stinking dirt hid his bones. A serf belonging to a rich man named Agilis had taken flight; he sought out the tomb of the man of God, believing that he would not be able to be removed from that place with impunity by any power. False hope did not delude him. He positioned himself as best he could so as to avoid whips; nevertheless other servants, on the order of their master, followed him and violently forced him to leave the place. God was in no way able to leave such temerity unpunished. The man who sent the servants began to shake miserably in every limb of his body, he lost all appetite for food, and was afflicted by bodily pain beyond measure. When these punishments did not cease, he had himself carried by the hands of his servants to the venerable tomb of the blessed man, which he had once pridefully scorned. Bending his head, he sought forgiveness for what he admitted had been a rash act and he made a vow to God that he would build a church there in memory of the pious confessor Maximinus. Once construction was begun, he regained his health. In the work of building he showed the gift of his devout heart to those who observed him. He also freed the serf who had fled to the sepulchre of the holy man so that he might enter into the perpetual service of almighty God and his servant Maximinus.

(24) The servant of God Maximinus made that church renowned through miracles and by virtue of other signs. He dignified it with the presence of his own body until the episcopacy of Sigobert, chief priest of the citizens of Orléans, who worried about the negligent care provided by the guard at that place. After the bishop had gathered together many nobles and clerics, he removed the venerated bones of the most pious confessor from the aforesaid place and placed them in another church located on the other side of the city next to the wall, which he himself had built, dedicated to the honor of the saint, and endowed with property from his own inheritance. For many generations over the succeeding years the precious man of God Maximinus caused his venerable tomb to shine in the everyone's eyes through the great frequency of his miracles. Finally the man who, while he lived, had been indentured to Christ the Lord was moved once more to the place where he is now venerated. The faithful church of Christ was inflamed with great love for this divine cult through the efforts of a man of admirable life, that is Jonas bishop of the citizens of Orléans.

(25) Truly the aforesaid community of Micy had striven no less than its illustrious neighbors to serve God with the greatest effort. The monastery enjoyed the good will of the most Christian emperor Louis who-on the advice of many nobles, as well as at the request of the monks of that abbey, and most particularly at the entreaty of its abbot Heric, a man of unimpeachable character-approached Bishop Jonas concerning the transfer of the body of the blessed confessor of Christ Maximinus. The emperor ordered that the bishop transport the ashes and bones of the father to that place where Maximinus had once held the office of abbot and which, after the departure of his spirit, had been deprived of his light. For in as much as the monks of that place had not been lax in their efforts to understand how to follow the example and teaching of Maximinus, so they would rejoice in the new-found presence of his body. The Bishop sent for his metropolitan, the archbishop of the people of Sens, and gathered together from all sides a large number of abbots and of clerics, as well as of laypeople from the nobility and from the common people, of both sexes, and of every age. The bishop unearthed the tomb not only of the aforementioned confessor of Christ Maximinus, but also at his side the burials of the blessed confessor Theodemir as well as of two other disciples. Placing these bodies on the shoulders of many people and thus bearing this treaure of inestimable value, they proceeded to the monastery in a solemn dance of praise in honor of the great gifts from Christ. There the bishops and clergy, surrounded by a crowd of men and women from every station in life, entered the church dedicated to the first martyr Stephan bearing the relics. On the twenty seventh day of May they buried the bodies of the most holy confessors. From that time those who have sought cures not only for infirm bodies, but also for their souls have not failed to find there the gracious mercy of almighty God, who lives in perfect Trinity and eternal unity for ever and ever. Amen.

Source: Source: Bertholdus of Micy, Vita s. Maximini (BHL 5817), chaps. 1-2 and 21-25 in Acta Sanctorum ordinis Sancti Benedicti, eds. Luc d'Achéry and Jean Mabillon, 6 volumes in 9 (Paris, 1668-1701), 1:592 and 1:596-7. For more information on this work, and the hagiographic traditions of the abbey of Micy, see Thomas Head, Hagiography and the Cult of Saints. The Diocese of Orléans, 800-1200 (Cambridge, 1990), chapter 5, particularly pp. 205-9.

This translation by Thomas Head has been made available to fellow students and researchers for private or classroom use. All other rights are reserved. Duplication for any other purpose, including publication, is prohibited. This translation was last updated on June 10, 1997.

From Thomas F. Head, An Anthology of Translated Texts Illustrative of the History of the Cult of the Saints (c 2000). [Link is to Internet Archive]. Thomas Head prepared these texts as part of the now defunct ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies [Link is to an archived and non-maintained version]. Dr. Head died on Nov 12, 2014 after an extended illness. I believe that he would have wanted his translated texts, marked for free personal use, and bibliographies to continue to be available and not just through the sometimes slow operation of the Internet Archive. They were marked "They may be reproduced for private use, but may not be reproduced for publication."

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