Monday, January 21, 2008

More on St Agnes

My St Agnes posts are here and here.
Amy Welborn gathers links together here, along with a great picture of the Holy Father and the lambs.
Don Marco gives a beautiful homily for today. (Such a shame that I've never heard him preach!)
Fr Z also has a devotion to St Agnes and gives his own Patristic/Latinist's slant. In particular, this is interesting:
Pope St. Damasus composed a panegyric, an elogia, inscribed in gorgeous letters on marble (designed and executed by Dionysius Philocalus) in honor of Roman saints, including Agnes. This was the period when the Roman shifted from Greek to Latin. Damasus was also trying to make a social statement with these great inscriptions, set up at various places about the City. The panegyic of St. Agnes was placed in the cemetery near the saint’s tomb, but through the ages it was lost. Amazingly, it was at last rediscovered in 1728 inside the basilica, whole and complete: it had been used upside down, fortunately as a paving stone!

Now it is affixed to the wall in the corridor descending to the narthex. Its discovery was a find of vast importance.

FAMA REFERT SANCTOS DUDUM RETULISSE PARENTES
AGNEN CUM LUGUBRES CANTUS TUBA CONCREPUISSET
NUTRICIS GREMIUM SUBITO LIQUISSE PUELLAM
SPONTE TRUCIS CALCASSE MINAS RABIEMQUE TYRANNI
URERE CUM FLAMMIS VOLUISSET NOBILE CORPUS
VIRIBUS INMENSUM PARVIS SUPERASSE TIMOREM
NUDAQUE PROFUSUM CRINEM PER MEMBRA DEDISSE
NE DOMINI TEMPLUM FACIES PERITURA VIDERET
O VENERANDA MIHI SANCTUM DECUS ALMA PUDORIS
UT DAMASI PRECIBUS FAVEAS PRECOR INCLYTA MARTYR

It is told that one day the holy parents recounted that Agnes, when the trumpet had sounded its sad tunes, suddenly left the lap of her nurse while still a little girl and willingly trod upon the rage and the threats of the cruel tyrant. Though he desired to burn the noble body in the flames, with her little forces she overcame immense fear and, gave her loosened hair to cover her naked limbs, lest mortal eye might see the temple of the Lord. O one worthy of my veneration, holy glory of modesty, I pray you, O illustrious martyr, deign to give ear to the prayers of Damasus.
[Click on the photo for a closer view]
I snapped a photo of this stone, with the intention of doing a post at a later date about early Christian inscriptions. The lettering style is very distinctive - these are the so-called Damasine letters which were the work of Furius Dionysius Filocalus who was the Pontiff's calligrapher. Pope Damasus did a huge amount of work related to the preservation and veneration of the martytrs' relics, and frequently composed monumental inscriptions which were then carved into stone in this distinctive script.

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