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Monday, July 30, 2012

St Eusebius of Vercelli



Mahiet and others
The Vision of St Eusebius of Vercelli and The Baptism of St Eusebius
From Vincentius Bellovacensis, Speculum Historiale (trans. Jean de Vignay in Le mireoir hystorial, livres IX-XVI)
Illuminated manuscript on parchment
Arsenal 5080, fol. 346v
Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Bibliothèque nationale de France




Mahiet and others
Saint Eusebius of Vercelli and Saint Athanasius the Great of Alexandria: Their firmness against the Arians
From Vincentius Bellovacensis, Speculum Historiale (trans. Jean de Vignay in Le mireoir hystorial, livres IX-XVI)
c. 1335
Illuminated manuscript
Arsenal 5080, fol. 346v
Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Bibliothèque nationale de France


The Dominican friar Vincent of Beauvais (Vincentius Bellovacensis or Vincentius Burgundus) (c. 1190 – 1264?) wrote the Speculum Maius, the main encyclopedia that was used in the Middle Ages. It was produced by Vincent at the command of Saint King Louis

The most widely disseminated part of the Speculum Maius was the Speculum Historiale

This was a history of the world down to Vincent's time. 

Jean de Vignay (c 1283 - 1340?) of the Order of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas,was a French translator renowned for his prodigious output of translations from Latin into French 

His translation of the work by Vincent of Beauvais  above was in Le Mirouer hystorial. This work was dedicated to Jeanne de Bourgogne,,Queen of France (c 1293–1349), the first wife of Philippe VI de Valois for whom Jean de Vignay also produced many translations

In the image below we see the complementarity of Vincent de Beauvais and Jean de Vignay:


The commanding princes
Vincent de Beauvais, Miroir historial, translated by Jean de Vignay
Français 308, fol. 1
Département des Manuscrits, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

On the left King St Louis orders Vincent to start on his major work. On the right we see Jeanne de Bourgogne commanding the translation be carried out  by Jean de Vignay

Jeanne was actually the grand-daughter of King Saint Louis

The writing of histories in medieval times was a preoccupation of Kings and royalty, and those in power. The circulation of these histories was limited to the Royal circle and the nobility. The Chronicles were the tales of Kings and their preoccupations

The light from the past was meant to illuminate the present and be a possible guide to the future

The Life of St Eusebius of Vercelli (283 – August 1, 371) was for the medieval religious one of the great lives in the early Church and therefore the world

Along with St Hilary of Poitiers and St Athanasius, he is recognised as one of the great opponents or hammers of Arianism. For him Jesus Christ was fully divine

He was the first bishop of the West who united monastic with clerical life.

Along with St Augustine he was regarded as one of the Western founders (or reformers) of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine to persuade the clergy in the diocese to live secundum regulam sub sanctis Apostolis constitutam, (to live in accordance with the rule of the Apostles)

Eusebius was the first Bishop of Vercelli after it was established after the Peace of Constanine. It was from there that Christianity spread along the Po and across the whole of Lombardy in Northern Italy

It was one of his successors, Saint Simenus (370), who baptized and consecrated Saint Ambrose

The royal readers of the works of Vincent of Beauvais and Jean de Vignay would no doubt have been reminded of Eusebius`s disputes with the Emperor. They were being warned. As were the Bishops who might have been tempted to temper truth on the grounds of political expediency

In his Catechesis on the life of St Eusebius on Wednesday, 17 October 2007, Pope Benedict XVI described it this way:

"With his sound formation in the Nicene faith, Eusebius did his utmost to defend the full divinity of Jesus Christ, defined by the Nicene Creed as "of one being with the Father".  
To this end, he allied himself with the great Fathers of the fourth century - especially St Athanasius, the standard bearer of Nicene orthodoxy - against the philo-Arian policies of the Emperor.  
For the Emperor, the simpler Arian faith appeared politically more useful as the ideology of the Empire. For him it was not truth that counted but rather political opportunism: he wanted to exploit religion as the bond of unity for the Empire.  
But these great Fathers resisted him, defending the truth against political expediency.  
Eusebius was consequently condemned to exile, as were so many other Bishops of the East and West: such as Athanasius himself, Hilary of Poitiers - of whom we spoke last time - and Hosius of Cordoba. In Scythopolis, Palestine, to which he was exiled between 355 and 360, Eusebius wrote a marvellous account of his life.  
Here too, he founded a monastic community with a small group of disciples. It was also from here that he attended to his correspondence with his faithful in Piedmont, as can be seen in the second of the three Letters of Eusebius recognized as authentic.  
Later, after 360, Eusebius was exiled to Cappadocia and the Thebaid, where he suffered serious physical ill-treatment.  
After his death in 361, Constantius II was succeeded by the Emperor Julian, known as "the Apostate", who was not interested in making Christianity the religion of the Empire but merely wished to restore paganism.  
He rescinded the banishment of these Bishops and thereby also enabled Eusebius to be reinstated in his See. In 362 he was invited by Anastasius to take part in the Council of Alexandria, which decided to pardon the Arian Bishops as long as they returned to the secular state.  
Eusebius was able to exercise his episcopal ministry for another 10 years, until he died, creating an exemplary relationship with his city which did not fail to inspire the pastoral service of other Bishops of Northern Italy, whom we shall reflect upon in future . ... 
Just like the Apostles, for whom Jesus prayed at his Last Supper, the Pastors and faithful of the Church "are of the world" (Jn 17: 11), but not "in the world".  
Therefore, Pastors, Eusebius said, must urge the faithful not to consider the cities of the world as their permanent dwelling place but to seek the future city, the definitive heavenly Jerusalem.  
This "eschatological reserve" enables Pastors and faithful to preserve the proper scale of values without ever submitting to the fashions of the moment and the unjust claims of the current political power.  
The authentic scale of values - Eusebius' whole life seems to say - does not come from emperors of the past or of today but from Jesus Christ, the perfect Man, equal to the Father in divinity, yet a man like us.  
In referring to this scale of values, Eusebius never tired of "warmly recommending" his faithful "to jealously guard the faith, to preserve harmony, to be assiduous in prayer" (Second Letter, Ep. extra collecitonem 14: Maur. 63).