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Internet Medieval Sourcebook

The Miracle of St. Maximinus of Micy, c 1150-75 CE


This miracle story was composed sometime in the third quarter of the eleventh century by a monk of Micy, located on the south bank of the Loire river near the ancient civitas of Orleans. It is unusual among miracle stories of the eleventh century for the length and, more importantly, depth of its narrative.

The only extant manuscript which contains the text is apparently the author's original, for it is copied in an exceedingly rough hand on parchment which had previously been used for a charter or legal document pertaining the Abbey of Micy. The text of the charter had been scraped off and thus this parchment was essentially "scrap" material to be used for a draft. The manuscript was probably preserved in the monastery's archives for later edition and inclusion in a longer collection of miracle stories which was never made. The surviving text actually begins in medias res, although it would appear that little prefatory material has in fact been lost.

The Miracle of St. Maximinus is Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, no. 5821b. I have edited the text from the only known manuscript (Vatican Library, Regenensis latinus, 621, fos. 29-33v) in Thomas Head, "'I Vow Myself To Be Your Servant:' An Eleventh-Century Pilgrim, His Chronicler, and His Saint," Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, 11 (1984): 215-251 (the edition and an earlier English translation, here corrected and improved, are to be found on pp. 235-51).

A full discussion of the text is to be found in that article. I have also discussed the development of the cult of St. Maximinus at the abbey of Micy in Hagiography and the Cult of Saints. The Diocese of Orléans, 800-1200, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, fourth series, 14 (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 202-34. More generally on collections of miracle stories written in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, see Ronald Finucane, Miracles and Pilgrims. Popular Beliefs in Medieval England (Totowa, NJ, 1977); Benedicta Ward, Miracles and the Medieval Mind (Philadelphia, 1982); Pierre-André Sigal, L'homme et le miracle dans la France médiévale (XIe-XIIe siècle) (Paris, 1985); Head, Hagiography and the Cult of Saints, pp. 135-201.

A set of explanatory notes (indicated by numbers in parentheses) follow the text.


Text: The Miracle of St. Maximinus

Since [Henry] had come to penance more through necessity than through desire and also, perhaps, in consideration of those who considered him unsuitable, whose sense of propriety was upset by his restless agitation, he undertook to help the unfortunate through the aid and merits of our most faithful father Maximinus and to preach with glorious song the sublime power of that faithful patron to people far removed from our home.

One night while Henry was groggy in the midst of severe pain, a divine vision had appeared to him and spoken to him thus, "Search for the tomb of Maximinus, the beloved of God, wherever you meet people. You will return to health there through God's mercy." The vision both stirred him awakened and made him happy. Henry gave thanks to the author of the vision and roused him men with news of the mercy which had been promised him. His men quickly collected horses and other things necessary for a journey and they took to the road. When they were under way, they asked Henry about the name and the location of the holy relics. While Henry remembered the name of St. Maximinus, he knew nothing about [his tomb's] location. Some were for pressing on, while others hesitated. The former said, "We have heard that there is in Trier a friend of God by the name of Maximinus, who is accustomed to providing protection and is held in great veneration by the faithful.(1) Surely he is the one about whom your vision spoke. He is the one to be approached in the manner in which you were directed, master, in order that he may help you." Accompanied by a party of servants and horses, Henry took the recommended route.

After he had at length arrived in Trier, he slept many nights at the tomb of the saint. The same divine vision appeared to him once more and spoke thus, "You are mistaken, brother. You were not told to come here. [It is God's will] that you regain your health in another place and through the merits of another person. In the inns of Gaul seek for a place where the body of the blessed man, whose name was revealed to you, rests. Make your petition [to God] through his merits. You will receive help." Disturbed by this news, Henry awoke his companions and said, "My dear friends, trust me, our efforts here are worthless. Unless the you now come to my assistance with full solicitude and forethought, this oracle of God's mercy will have aided us in vain. The most faithful Jesus has benevolently resolved to advise me through an angelic patron because he wishes to alleviate me of the burden of my unhappiness and he has again made clear to us the depth of our ignorance. For he speaks and we do not understand. We labor, but it does us no good. For it has not been ordained that we be helped through the holiness of this particular father [Maximinus of Trier]. Rather, our cause has been commended to another Maximinus. Get up, then, for the sake of God, and see if you might perchance hear of the shrine of another Maximinus on the western side of Gaul. For we hear nothing about him among our own people, but public recognition has recorded his name elsewhere."

After all this had occurred, the group departed early in the morning. When some of his companions inquired into the matter, both in their own country and abroad, they at length heard, "Not far from the city of Tours, where St. Martin is sought in for his protection, there is another town on the Loire river called by the name of Chinon. One of the disciples of Saint Martin is buried there and revered, so we believe, under this name. We have heard that this famous man is faithfully praised and visited by many people, since those who visit and pray [at his tomb] accustomed to being aided miraculously. We do not, however, know for certain whether he is called Maximinus or Maximus, that is properly called by the former or the latter name."(2) After the servants heard this, they returned to their master and made known to him the ambiguity both about the name and about the tomb of the holy man. After they had discussed the matter and pondered the closeness of these names for a long time, they exhorted him to seek out the truth hidden beneath the ambiguity of the pronunciation of the names. Then he bid a rather disagreeable goodbye to those who had told him [about the saint]. After he had chosen one of their number to accompany him on the long journey, he sent the others home and prepared himself to go on pilgrimage.

After Henry had covered the long distance and arrived in the region of Tours, he heard about the miraculous deeds of the saint. When he made sure about the [saint's] name, however, [he learned that] the saint was called Maximus, so that, as Henry approached the shrine, he was seized by doubt. After he had made his prayers at length and frequently visited the tomb as a suppliant, the above-mentioned divine vision once again spoke to him, "You are a man of little wisdom and one who in no way seeks after his health. Why do you force God to be angry with you? Why do you look upon that which God offers to you in kindness as if it were offered in jest? God directed you toward salvation, but you work against him through your errant wandering. God advised you to halt earlier, but you, like one who is unwise and hollow, still continue your foolish wandering. You seek out Maximus, when God advised you to seek out Maximinus. Believe me when I say that if the Lord had not wished to reveal the glory of his faithful [saint], you would not have been able through your wandering to arrive at the cure promised to you. Nonetheless, lest you fail in this matter, I tell you to remain confident, for you will soon find comfort. Remember this, then, and exactly this: when you return to the city of Orléans, through which you have passed, you will find not far from that city the home, and there the aid, of this holy father.(3) Get up, therefore, and make haste, since you will attain rich rewards when you come to that holy tomb." After this speech and this threat, Henry awoke and roused up his travelling companion. He hastened to return in the opposite direction.

When Henry approached the vicinity of the city [Orléans], he heard for certain about the tomb of the saint [Maximinus] and came to the monastery [of Micy]. When he explained the reason for his coming to the brothers, he was received with charitable hospitality. Many fires were lit and Henry's strength-which the cold of winter had depleted, for it was in the month of December, namely the feast of St. Nicholas on the fifth day of the month-was renewed by their heat.(4) On the next day, when he was taken to be introduced to the chapter of the brothers, he told them the place of his birth, the cause of his fall, and the errors he had made concerning the faithful advice [of the divinely inspired visions]. When, at tearful length, he had spun out his story, the brothers, being delighted at such a report, first gave thanks to God and then said to him, "If the goodness of the Saviour wishes to reveal this [plan] to you, brother, and our faithful God desires to glorify our holy father by [granting you a cure], then from now on it behooves you, who were led to this place by a gift of God, not to waste time in laziness and indolence, but to strike the heart of divine mercy with the most persisted prayer and to take part with us both day and night in the praise of God and hymns [which we sing] in the church. The kingdom of God does not come to the lazy and slothful." After they had instructed him in this manner, the monks sent him back to the guesthouse.

Henry-concerned about his redemption, overcome by the great stress of his recent labor, and terrified by the portentousness of the aforesaid visions-began, as he had been instructed, to enter eagerly into the service of God and to take part assiduously in the vigils and nightly labor of the brothers. Once, when he was weighed down with sleep, he was caught up in ecstasy beyond measure and heard, "Take heart, brother, take heart and persevere. Your redemption will occur with the coming of the saints." After he had heard these words, Henry faithfully awaited the feastday of the saint, which was only a few days off.(5) With almost incessant prayers he commended himself again and again to the holy patron, in the manner of the prophet, here a little, there a little [Is 28:10]. And so he persevered until the feast day of the holy father, which was awaited by all people, and most particularly by the brothers [of Micy] and by the whole people of the region surrounding Orléans.

Henry prepared himself for the coming vigils, at the same time anticipating the hoped-for restoration of his health. He subjected his body to a fast for the entire day, so that, thoroughly subdued by bodily torment, he would be prepared with a ready mind for the nightly prayers. When the psalmody and prayer began with the first coming of night, he placed himself as a supplicant between the two altars, calling out incessantly and imploring his sought-after patron.(6) He cried out himself, and if any one of the brothers looked at him, he beseeched [that monk] to cry out [as well]. Henry also lay prostrate-a fact which we have neglected to mention-in the sanctuary through the entire night as devoutly as possible. The monks out fo habit chanted the [liturgical] responses without delay. Henry repeated without ceasing, "Have mercy on me father Maximinus," with a cry from his lips and from his heart. To be sure, he called out the name which he had long held fast, but, as he had many times been in error, perhaps he still had doubts concerning this place. Addressing [the monks] in tears, he told how he had erred grievously, and how he had deserved to suffer his fall, and how he had labored in vain, although through the goodness of God he had been called back and been told of the name of our holy father [Maximinus]. Having come at length to the opportune time, that is the feastday of the saint, he would now be able to rejoice in the benefit promised him through the prayers of the saint and the promise of God.

At length, however, Henry became wearied by the prolonged chanting of the hymns of matins.(7) He began to fault himself for his lack of fervor, both in his present prayers and his past labors, with the result that he almost admitted, [giving in to] the increasing power of his rage, that the divine oracles had misled him. [He acted thus] because he perceived, at the moment when the holy Te Deum Laudamus was coming to an end-with the uneven harmony of laypeople singing psalms along with the monastic chant, their common rejoicing fittingly alternating with that of the churchbells being rung-that the completion of the vigil approached with the rising dawn and that still he was unable to bring his limb forth from its wrapping.(8) At that moment, he began to feel weakened, as if by some great terror, and to lose his senses. Seized by a debilitating power, he considered, as he trembled there, that he might flee in fear [to someplace] where no one could threaten him and make him fearful. He was afraid, yet he did not know why. He trembled, yet he did not know the cause. He was full of doubt, not knowing what would happen during the coming moments and dreading lest matins would be completed. At that moment, as he later told us, he thought to himself, that, if it were possible, he would leave hidden in the departing crowd, and that, having left, he would not appear again in our region. After he had hesitated for a while thinking such absurd thoughts, he began to leave in stealth.

Coming at length to the exit doors of the sanctuary, he came upon a person of great reverence, with a bent and white-haired head, an old and smiling face, and a modest and hesitant gait. This man, who supported himself on a staff, came to meet him and, upbraiding him for his foolishness, said to him, "Where are you going, fool? Where are you going? Hang on a bit longer. Hang on, I tell you. I am here. Resist foolishness. The time has come. You will soon be cured." The [old man] spoke and struck the flat of his palm against Henry's face. Marvelous to say, it was clear that only a light blow had been struck, but such power followed the lightness of that blow, that Henry fell over, as if dead, on the pavement and-oh new thing-his feeble, paralyzed feet were stripped of all covering. We must believe that in this event the story of Moses was, as it were, repeated. For, when Moses wished to approach the [burning] bush, it was said, Put off the shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground [Ex 3:5]. In the same way, Henry was standing in the sanctuary when he came to be cured, as if coming to the bush, and his feet were forcibly unshod, although as the result of actions, rather than words. These things happened about the end of the morning office, as the precentor beautifully and melodiously intoned the beginning of the antiphon for the gospel.(9)

At just that moment the lord abbot and some of the brothers proceeded according to custom to the altar with thuribles.(10) They saw that Henry lay immobile on the pavement and they learned from the tumultuous murmur of the people how his feet had been bared of their coverings. For Henry himself said nothing at all. Meanwhile the monks remained still until the solemnities of the vigils were completed. At the end of the psalm singing, when the people made a great racket over the whole affair, the brothers came with the abbot, intending to investigate what had happened. After silence had been broken with [the abbot's] permission, the monks strove with one another to repeat Henry's name in a loud voice. When the remains of his shoes and bandages, scattered about by the miracle, had been collected, they tried to revive him with blessed water.

When the clamor continued to increase over the course of a long time to an almost infinite pitch, Henry-sighing greatly, his face wet from much exertion, and on bent knees-spoke, "Hasten with me brothers and fathers, hasten, I implore you, to give thanks to God and to this father [Maximinus] who has intervened on his feast in such a festive way and cured my infirmity. For the holy father has rebuked me like a son with a slap, and through the power of God has restored to me, his servant, my long sought-after health. Be assured that, in whatever land I will live, I vow myself to be [Maximinus'] servant. I will be so now and forever." When Henry had explained everything, both what he had heard from and what he had seen of Maximinus, he added, "But, fathers, what are you doing? Why do you not honor the patron who is present? Behold he is here. See, he is admonishing you. Praise the Lord." Thus Henry spoke and, as if he had Maximinus before his eyes, he quickly prostrated himself in order to hold the saint's feet. The brothers quickly collected themselves in the choir and loudly sang the Te Deum Laudamus from the beginning, weeping as they sang. The bells were pealed and rang out. The voices of the elder [monks] and the younger [monks] without distinction tearfully praised God and their holy patron. Those who were outside [the church] were drawn in by the loud alternation of the bells with the glad cries of the laypeople and of the monks. They hastened with great tumult to the church, joined their voices to praise, and their tears flowed giving thanks.

Later the brothers, with the abbot, detained Henry in the monastery for a long time, until, for the aforesaid council of Paris held by Bishop Gerald of Ostia at the end of Septuagesima, he travelled there with the abbot of the monastery healthy and happy in all ways.(11)


Notes.

(1) Maximinus of Trier (+346/7) was an early bishop of that city, which had served as one of the Roman imperial capitals during the fourth century. His relics were enshrined in the church of an abbey dedicated to his memory in the western suburbs of the city.

(2) Martin of Tours (+397) was famed as an ascetic monk and miracle-working bishop. His shrine, located in the outskirts of Tours, was one of the most important in the French kingdom. According to tradition, Maximus of Chinon was a disciple of Martin who left the Touraine for the monastery of Ile-Barbe, located in Lyon. Some years later, returning to the region, Maximus was miraculously detained on the banks of the Vienne river at Chinon, where he then founded the abbey which was to hold his tomb.

(3) Orléans is located on the Loire upriver (that is, northeast) of Tours. A medieval traveller from the direction of Trier would necessarily have passed through it on the way to Tours and Chinon.

(4) The feast of St. Nicholas of Myra is December 6 and was celebrated on that date at Micy, according to several surviving eleventh- and twelfth-century liturgical calendars from the abbey. Henry thus, in fact, arrived on the vigil, or day prior, to the feast. But, as we shall see below in conjunction with the feast of St. Maximinus of Micy, the celebration of the vigils was an integral part of the feastday.

(5) The main feast of Maximinus of Micy is on December 15.

(6) Although the church of Micy has not survived, several descriptions of it have. Henry was positioned between the main altar (under which the relics of St. Maximinus were buried) and one in the apse, that is within the precincts of the monastic choir itself.

(7) Matins, or the "morning" office, began about midnight. Henry had apparently begun his stay in the sanctuary during Vespers, which occurred at nightfall, that is around five o'clock in December.

(8) In other words, that the liturgy of the feast was coming to an end and that he still had not been cured.

(9) The precentor or paraphonista was the monk charged with leading the liturgical chant. The antiphon for the gospel marked the beginning of the mass for the feastday of the saint, and thus the ends of the office of matins which preceded it.

(10) The monks were blessing the main altar of the church with incense in order to prepare it for the sacrifice of the mass.

(11) The text refers to the ecclesiastical council in Paris as dictum, although it does not occur in the extant text. Presumably some mention of it had been made in the now-lost introduction to the text. Septuagesima is the period between Septuagesima Sunday and the beginning of Lent. Gerald of Ostia held a council in Paris during his mission to France as a legate of Pope Alexander II in the years 1072 and 1073, most probably the former. Alexander died in April 1073 and was succeeded by Gregory VII.


Source:The Miracle of St. Maximinus is Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, no. 5821b. The text from the only known manuscript (Vatican Library, Regenensis latinus, 621, fos. 29-33v) in Thomas Head, "'I Vow Myself To Be Your Servant:' An Eleventh-Century Pilgrim, His Chronicler, and His Saint," Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, 11 (1984): 215-251 (the edition and an earlier English translation, here corrected and improved, are to be found on pp. 235-51).

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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