Sunday, May 21, 2017

Saint of the Month: St. Ageranus of Bèze!

St. Ageranus of Bèze

Feast Day: May 19.

Really Existed? Fairly likely.
Timeframe: The 800s.
Place: The Côte-d’Or, which is to say east central France.

Credentials: Recognized by tradition.
Martyrdom: Killed while defending a church.

Patron Saint of: n/a.
Symbolism: n/a.

St. Bruce of Kilatooweenienielie, the Saint of the Month for April, wasn't technically real. A little April Fools joke that was. It was a pretty good one, too! I’m a real card.

Leaving aside St. Bruce – and really, we must – there are only two Australian Saints. The Catholic Church recognizes St. Mary Helen Mackillop, and the Serbian Orthodox church venerates St. Nakanor Savic. Technically, the Australian Anglican Church has a somewhat longer roster of homegrown saints, but Anglicanism attaches very little significance indeed to the title of "saint," so Ms. Mackillop and Mr. Savic are it for all practical purposes.

Australia’s underrepresentation in the holy community got me thinking about the geographical and historical distribution of saints, something that I’ve started to have a little bit of a feel for but have never systematically explored or found pre-explored for me. So my plan for this month was that I’d look at all of the saints that I could find for one given day – today, in fact – and look at their pattern in time and space.  Neat idea, right?

Well, I ran into methodological trouble right from the first entry on the CatholicSaints.Info calendar, for today is the feast day of the Twenty-Five Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution. If we included all of those guys, it would certainly weight our survey towards “Mexico” and “1917.” Setting that issue aside, I moved on to the next fellow, St. Adalric of Blèze. He seemed pretty straightforward: “France,” “888.” The third entry was Blessed Adilio Daronch (“Brazil,” “1924”), but should I include the Blessed (who are basically an associate rank of saints) or stick to full Saints? Another issue set aside, I noticed the next two guys: St. Ageranus of Blèze and St. Ansuinus of Blèze.  Blèze, at this point, seemed to be a amazing hotbed of sanctity. Since my simple little “let’s take a sample!” project was being completely undermined by the messiness of real data, as such projects usually are, I decided to shelve it for now and look into the whole Blèze thing instead.

Here’s what the CatholicSaints profile had on St. Adalric of Blèze: Young boy. Martyred at the monastery of Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France against Norman invaders in 888 at Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France.  Here's what it said about St. Ageranus of Blèze, our actual May Saint of the Month: Benedictine monk. Martyred defending the altar at the monastery of Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France against Norman invaders in 888 at Blèze, Côte-d’Or, France. And so on through five other saints of Blèze. “OK,” I thought, “that’s interesting. I wonder how much is really known about the Norman sack of the church at Blèze. Let’s find out!”

Long story short, it turns out there’s no such place as Blèze and, as far as the internet knows, there never was. I spent more time then you would probably credit hunting down places called Blaise and Blesey and so on that either aren’t particularly close to the Côte-d’Or, or are but don’t seem to have ever had a monastery – although it can sometimes be hard to tell from the internet what was going on in a town 1,129 years ago. But then, on a whim, I looked into the little settlement of Bèze – and boom! Paydirt. Here, from the French language Wiki article on that place, as rendered by machine translation:
In 888, it was the Norman invasion. The five monks, a priest and a child left to defend the abbey are killed. The Normans devastate, sack and ravage everything in their path. The old cave serves as a shelter for the men of the village and the monks who have hidden there. A terrible famine took place after the departure of the Normans because their army had annihilated the crops. The abbey is deserted.

And this tradition is confirmed in, for instance, John J. Delaney's 1980 Dictionary of Saints:
St. Ageranus [was] a Benedictine monk at Bèze, he remained there with a priest, Ansuinus; four other monks, Berard, Genesius, Rodron, and Sifrard; and a boy named Adalric after all the other monks had fled during the Norman invasion. All seven were murdered by the invaders.

Now then.  When I talk about the way that information and misinformation about saints is proliferated on the internet, I tend to think in mechanistic terms, and the two or three of you who follow Saint of the Month might well expect me to start rattling on at this point about whether or not it might be valid to conceive of a St. Ageranus of Blèze who has already achieved an existence independent of St. Ageranus of Bèze, and to wonder whether their identities might blur and drift as we move forward through time.

But instead, I did something a little more daring. I looked through the site and found a person, an actually individual human being, who is responsible for maintaining the site. Then, I sent him a polite little message pointing out the error and offering some evidence to back myself up. And you know what happened? The guy immediately wrote back to thank me, that’s what! Since then, I've noticed that the typo, in all its messy iterations, is gradually getting corrected.  So that’s my contribution to popular hagiography for this month, which ain’t bad though I say it myself.  I feel like I've done pretty well by St. Ageranus.

So, Happy St. Ageranus of Bèze’s Day to you, and six times more happiness for the other sainted men of Bèze, and twenty-five times more happiness for the Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution!


UnwiseOwl said...

I think if you were going to map Saints (which would be fascinating!) you might as well include Blesseds. In comparison to the saints, there are relatively few Blesseds, Venerables and SoGs, so the extra administrative burden would be unlikely to be large.

mrs.5000 said...

And so the little hamlet of Blèze was rescued from the Normans, and blinked out of existence in the same instant, and the tiny light of Bèze shone just a little brighter. I like that story!