HomeAnalysis of relics, hagiographic legends and Carolingian memories

HomeAnalysis of relics, hagiographic legends and Carolingian memories

Analysis of relics, hagiographic legends and Carolingian memories

Analyse des reliques, légendes hagiographiques et mémoires carolingiennes

Análisis de reliquias, leyendas hagiográficas y memorias carolingias

Around the body of the Apostle James the Greater in Toulouse

Autour du corps de l’apôtre Jacques le Majeur à Toulouse

Alrededor del cuerpo del Apóstol Santiago el Mayor en Toulouse

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Published on Monday, March 21, 2022 by Lucie Choupaut

Summary

Since the 14th century, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse has been proud to possess the entire body of James the Greater. After a first preparatory seminar on 11 March 2019 in Toulouse (Vraies et fausses reliques: un vrai faux problème), a workshop was held on 10 December 2021 (Les reliques toulousaines de Jacques le Majeur), focusing on the material aspects (examination of bones, reliquaries, and authentic items). In a final stage, the results of these analyses should be put into perspective during a meeting which would lead to the writing of a monograph bringing together all the studies carried out on the relics of Saint James in Toulouse.

Announcement

Toulouse, 9-10 November 2023

Argument

Since the 14th century, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse has been proud to possess the entire body of James the Greater. In 1389, the Florentine merchant Bonacorso Pitti, during a visit to Toulouse in the company of Charles VI, reported a rumour according to which Charlemagne "sent all the holy relics he could find to Toulouse", including the bodies of Saint James and five other apostles (Simon, Jude, James the Less, Philip and Barnabas). The copious documentary file documenting these relics contains a number of uncertainties. A permission was therefore sought to open the shrine and the chief reliquary of Saint James in order to verify the authenticity of the bones and objects conserved. This type of operation, which took place during a solemn ceremony on 1 March 2018, required a time-staggered exploitation of the data and analysis results. After a first preparatory seminar on 11 March 2019 in Toulouse (Vraies et fausses reliques: un vrai faux problème), a workshop was held on 10 December 2021 (Les reliques toulousaines de Jacques le Majeur), focusing on the material aspects (examination of bones, reliquaries, and authentic items). 

In a final stage, the results of these analyses should be put into perspective during a meeting which would lead to the writing of a monograph bringing together all the studies carried out on the relics of Saint James in Toulouse. Any contribution likely to shed light on the history of this relic in Toulouse over time is welcome. Four main areas of research appear to have priority, without any claim to exhaustiveness.

1. The context of the relic's appearance in Toulouse in the 14th century 

The solemn ceremony of the ostension of the body of the Apostle James, which took place at Saint-Sernin in Toulouse in 1385 under the aegis of Archbishop Jean de Cardaillac and the governor of Languedoc, Duke Jean de Berry, marked the officialization of a cult that had appeared some time earlier in obscure conditions. The "fabrication" of a major relic, soon to be joined by similar relics of five other apostles, was underway. The favourable local and national context invites us to question the weight and influence of the royal milieu in this event, which is part of a wider contemporary policy of enhancing the value of Toulouse relics (at the Jacobins and St. Stephen's Cathedral). The hypothesis of a Valois cult of Saint James, not a personal but a dynastic cult, deserves examination. It is also worth examining the competitive or complementary relationship between the emergence of the Toulouse cult of James the Greater and the Compostellan shrine and its pilgrims. More broadly, the contemporary presence of other bodies of Saint James in Europe and in France (Échirolles, Angers, etc.) could be questioned in this perspective. 

As elsewhere in southern France, the 14th century in Toulouse appears to be the great century of sanctity, in a city recently promoted to the rank of archbishop. Several hagiographic undertakings or manipulations of relics are attested too, first in the writings of Bernard Gui. In what cultic context did the relic of the apostle appear in Toulouse? The sacred topography of the city clearly gives the advantage to Saint-Sernin who, under the abbatiate of Bertrand de Gensac, in the second half of the 13th century, exhumed several bodies of local saints. An examination of medieval Toulouse liturgical manuscripts could shed light on the chronology and degrees of solemnity of the cult of the various saints in the city. How does the apostolic upsurge of the second half of the 14th century fit in with the hagiographic legends that make Saturnin a contemporary of the apostles from around the year 900? Were there other similar experiences in the south of France in the 14th century, when Clement VI, relying on the writings of Bernard Gui, promoted the apostolic figure of Saint Martial, presented as the founder of the Church of Toulouse? Finally, from an artistic and iconographic point of view, how are these investments in the cult of saints and relics reflected?

2. The Carolingians in Toulouse: history, material and literary memory

The recourse to the figure of Charlemagne is part of a long tradition, the mechanisms of which Amy Remensnyder has shown in the monastic world of the central Middle Ages. In the diocese of Toulouse, recourse to the Frankish kings seems to be found first in the Vita of the bishop of Toulouse Germier, which depicts the meeting of the saint with Clovis. Secondly, a story known in Saint-Denis in the 13th century, and then copied and used in southern France in the 14th century, reports a translation of Saturnin's body from Saint-Denis to Toulouse and an exchange of relics under King Dagobert. A copy of the Légendier picard reports the arrival of Saturnin's relics in Toulouse under the leadership of Charlemagne : this scene was painted in the 1340s in the priory of Saint-Sernin in Artajona in Navarre. The legend of Charlemagne's intervention in the creation of the treasure of relics at Saint-Sernin thus seems to have a long history, which should be retraced. To do this, it seems necessary to take into account the Compostellan literature, but also the vernacular writings and the epic legends which do not always link the names of Charlemagne, Compostela, and Toulouse without difficulty or reticence (the hagiographic dossier of Saint Vidian/Vivien around Martres-Tolosane would deserve a new examination in this perspective, and the rewritings of the Chanson de Roland from the Oxford manuscript can provide information). 

In the 14th century, at the time of the appearance of the relics of James, a southern memory of the Frankish kings is well attested, but there are also, via royal historiography in particular, 'French' memories of the history of the Midi. The mutual borrowings between epic, hagiographic and historiographic texts from the Midi and the North, as well as the web of rewritings, deserve to be examined, as they are likely to shed light on the legend at work at the end of the Middle Ages around the body of Saint James in Toulouse. Finally, this meeting could be an opportunity to take stock of the real relations between the Frankish sovereigns, the first counts and Toulouse during the Carolingian period: isn't the famous Godescalc evangeliarum attested to at Saint-Sernin with certainty from the 12th century? Recent historiography believes that it was a gift from Louis the Pious. Wasn't it also from Saint-Sernin that Charles the Bald laid siege to Toulouse in 844 and multiplied the number of diplomas to various southern abbeys? It is on the documentary and material traces of these events that the legend that we see reinvested at the end of the Middle Ages was partly forged.

3. History of the cult of saints and relics in Toulouse from the 14th century

The second case of the invention of the relics of Saint James in Toulouse, an invention in due form this time, which occurred in 1491 in the church of Saint James in the cathedral group, makes the case even more complex and invites us to question the consequences of the investment in the relics of Saint James in Toulouse over the long term. The creation, in 1385, of sumptuous reliquaries in both Saint-Sernin and the cathedral, the handling of which is part of the long term, leads to a reflection on the architectural and liturgical devices that accompany the cult of James until the contemporary period. 

Thanks in particular to the work of Pascal Julien on the sanctuary of Saint-Sernin from the 16th to the 18th century, it is now clear that the modern period also saw intense forms of material and devotional enhancement of the cult of the saints and their relics, whether on the material, liturgical or hagiographic level. The aim here is to continue the study of this dossier on Saint James in the context of the treasure of Saint-Sernin, but also of Toulouse and Christianity, in the light of the major issues that run through the religious historiography of the modern era, such as confessionalization and secularization. In other words, the aim is to study the way in which the people of Toulouse and other pilgrims continue to appropriate (or not) the relics of Saint James, and to question the place of these forms of appropriation in the more global context of modern and contemporary Catholicism.

4. Comparative approach. Opening of reliquaries and scientific approach to relics

The opening of the reliquary of Saint James in Saint-Sernin in 2018 and the setting up of a scientific research group around these bones and their history is a first in Toulouse, but in recent decades other experiments have been carried out elsewhere. From a comparative perspective, we would like to present the results of similar research, emphasising their methodology and the difficulties that may have been encountered in the articulation of data from texts (literary or otherwise) and those from the material analysis of relics and reliquaries. 

Submission guidelines

Proposals for papers should be sent to fernand.peloux@univ-tlse2.fr before 15 September 2022. They will then be examined by the scientific committee.

Scientific Committee

  • Andrieu Éléonore (MCF, medieval language and literature, Toulouse II- Jean-Jaurès)
  • Cazes Quitterie (Pr., medieval art history, Toulouse II-Jean Jaurès)
  • Débax Hélène (Pr., medieval history, Toulouse II-Jean Jaurès)
  • Fournié Michelle (Pr. emeritus, medieval history, Toulouse II-Jean Jaurès)
  • Guyard Nicolas (MCF, modern history, Paul Valéry University, Montpellier)
  • Peloux Fernand (CR, CNRS, Framespa-UMR 5136)
  • Wattin-Grandchamp Dominique (DRAC, Occitanie)

Places

  • Toulouse, France (31)

Event format

Hybrid event (on site and online)


Date(s)

  • Thursday, September 15, 2022

Keywords

  • Toulouse, relique, époque carolingienne, XIVe siècle, Espagne, légende épique, hagiographie, historiographie, mémoire, architecture, saint Jacques, apôtre, apostolicité

Contact(s)

  • Fernand Peloux
    courriel : fernand [dot] peloux [at] univ-tlse2 [dot] fr

Information source

  • Fernand Peloux
    courriel : fernand [dot] peloux [at] univ-tlse2 [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Analysis of relics, hagiographic legends and Carolingian memories », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, March 21, 2022, https://calenda.org/980223

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