Monday, May 8, 2023

The Family of Saints: Fulgentius

Severianus and Theodora were members of well-to-do Hispano-Roman families in the 6th century who bore four children, all of whom became saints. The family lived in Cartagena, or Carthago Nova ("New Carthage"), on the southeast coast of Spain. The family moved to Seville about 554 CE, but their parents died before the children were all grown up.

The second-born was Fulgentius; the few personal details we know about him come from the writing on religious life that his brother Leander wrote for their sister, Florentina. Leander mentions that he (probably in his role as Bishop of Seville) sent Fulgentius to Cartagena, and asks Florentina to pray for his safety.

It was probably through Leander's support that Fulgentius (sometime between 590, when we have records of a Bishop Pegasius presiding there, and 600, when Leander died) became Bishop of Astigi (now Ecija), in the province of Seville.

The Second Council of Seville in 619, presided over by Fulgentius' brother Isidore, by then Archbishop of Seville, dealt with diocesan rights, non-canonical ordinations, and territorial disputes. Fulgentius, as Bishop of Astigi, claimed a certain church was in his territory, but it was also claimed to be in a parish belonging to the diocese of the Bishop of Córdoba. Roman common law was applied. It turned out that the church had been following the dictates of the diocese of Astigi for 30 years, and this was considered sufficient to declare it part of the Astigi diocese.

Because we know there was a Bishop Marcianus of Astigi in 633, Fulgentius must have died by then. In the 14th century, his remains were found (along with those of his sister) in the village of Berzocana in the Sierra de Guadalupe, where they had been carried for some reason (perhaps out of concerns about the non-Christian occupation of Iberia?). Some of the remains are still in Berzocana, but the majority of bones are interred in the Cathedral of Murcia in Cartagena. Fulgentius is venerated as a patron saint of that diocese.

Was there concern about Muslim-Christian relations? Here I mentioned their tolerant co-existence, but obviously the Crusades at the far end of the Mediterranean were creating a very different relationship. There is a phenomenon historians call the Reconquista that refers to attempts by Christian rulers to retake Iberian territories. We'll start down that road tomorrow.

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