The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Issue 10—Saints and Sanctity (May 2007)   |   Issue Editors: Celia Chazelle & Deanna Forsman

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

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The Revelatio Ecclesiae de Sancti Michaelis and the Mediterranean Origins of Mont St.-Michel

John Charles Arnold  
Department of History, State University of New York-Fredonia

©2007 by John Charles Arnold. All rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2007 by The Heroic Age. All rights reserved.

Abstract:  This translation of the ninth-century Revelatio ecclesiae de Sancti Michaelis makes available in English the unique account of the origins of the great Norman attraction of Mont St.-Michel. Believed founded by Autpertus bishop of Avranches in 708, the emergence of the pilgrim shrine owed to connections with the Mediterranean world rather than Celtic or insular influences.


§1.  "The archangel loved heights" summarily expressed Henry Adams's (1838-1918) impressions of Mont St.-Michel. That arresting opening sentence of Adams's Mont St.-Michel and Chartres, the classic study of the aesthetics of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, conjured the image of the great spire rising high above the angelic rock off the coast of Normandy near the mouth of the River Couesnon. From this pinnacle a golden statue of Michael the Archangel, "He who is as God" (Quis ut Deus), the Victor over Satan, the Protector of Israel and the Weigher of Souls, serenely gazed down as the receding tides opened a sandy path to connect the island to the coast.

§2.  Those twelfth- and thirteenth-century "heights" that so impressed the sensibility of Adams (a descendant of American presidents), sat astride earlier structures dating back perhaps a half-millennium. The renowned historian of the early Federal Period could not have known what are today believed to be the remnants of the first oratory dedicated to Michael on the islet, a wall of grossly worked granite stones mortared onto living rock so as to cover over natural fissures. It stood behind the masonry of the southernmost of the double apses of the church of Notre-Dame-sous-Terre, a ninth-century structure closed to visitors after a fire in 1776. A new façade for the nave of the Romanesque abbey church and a terrace extending to the west built at that time required a system of underground supports that obscured these original angelic buildings until 1961 (Boüard 1961, 10-27 and Froidevaux 1961, 145-166). Of the Revelatio Ecclesiae de Sancti Michaelis (also entitled Apparitio Sancti Michaelis in Monte Tumba), the unique account of the foundation now associated with that primal wall, Adams apparently knew nothing as well. Were he acquainted with the Revelatio, Adams might rather have cast his gaze downwards than upwards. The hagiographical text related how the Merovingian Bishop Autpertus of Avranches had orchestrated an angelic healing cult on the offshore islet when he deposited Michael's relics within a structure "not tall with a tlinepoint in heaven, but in the round manner of a crypt" (Revelatio ecclesiae VII).

§3.  This distant Merovingian account of the installation of Michael's cult on the island long has remained obscure, with only one little-known French translation currently available (Déceneux 1997, 15-20; Riquet 1965). Even skillful Latinists have avoided a text characterized as a prolix "fabrication of legends," with its "clarity" obscured by the "contorted" phrasing of a "dutiful student" of "the second Carolingian Renaissance" (Hourlier 1967, 127). Despite its stylistic deficiencies, the Revelatio deserves accessibility, and not the least because it offers an opaque glimpse of the origins of the great French shrine in honor of the "Doorkeeper of Paradise." As but one text among a largely unknown corpus to extol the Archangel's efficacy, it articulates one view of the figure of Michael by delineating his spiritual roles along with the expectations of his votaries and the means by which they comprehended and venerated him (Bonnet 1889, 289-307; Bachmann 1893, 20-23; Liber de apparitione; Poncelet 1906, 541-548; Müller 1962; Cross 1986, 23-35). The Revelatio also instructs as to the diffusion of this cultus from the Mediterranean into northern Europe from the sixth through the eighth centuries. The regularization and hardening of broad patterns of communication between northern and southern Europe, caused in part by the permeation of Carolingian influence throughout Italy, allowed for a northerly flow of texts and objects associated with Michael's veneration. It is against such a background that a formal liturgical devotion for the archangel that had formed in the East Roman Empire and in Italy during the fifth and sixth centuries made its way to the Avranchin (von Rintelen 1968, 355; Saxer 1985). According to the Revelatio ecclesiae, Autpertus consciously patterned his "round crypt" after the archangel's renowned cave shrine at Monte Gargano in Apulia, even dispatching an embassy to that place to acquire angelic relics. Furthermore, the anonymous monastic author of the Revelatio obviously modeled his text on the Liber de apparitione in Monte Gargano, the hagiographical account of Michael's apparition at the Apulian mountain (Liber de apparitione). From the Liber the Frankish hagiographer derived plot elements, narrative techniques, and textual citations (Bettocchi 1994, 333-355; Bouet 2004).

§4.  He creatively reworked these components, however, to delineate an aloof and remote personality for Michael distinctly different from the robust, intrusive figure that had operated within the sacred Italian landscape to benefit pilgrims. The detached nature of the Frankish archangel emphasized the extension of angelic aid through the conduits of divinely ordained hierarchies that centered on Bishop Autpertus. The Michaeline oratory formed a sacred space fitted for the mystical approaches to God as practiced by monastic professionals.

§5.  Despite these certain connections with the Mediterranean, Francophone scholars often have discerned a Celtic imprint on the northerly sanctuary (Rouche 1989, 533-571; Faure 1988, 31-49). When archaeological investigations failed to sustain late nineteenth-century assertions that Michael had displaced the Gallic Mercury, Jupiter, or Mithras, an equally fallacious insistence on insular monastic diffusion superseded it (Déceneux 1997, 77-110, 114-115). The insular thesis proved particularly attractive in the aftermath of World War I, countering as it did the prevalent opinion that Michael had gained spiritual renown by replacing or assimilating to the Germanic warrior figures of Thor or Wotan (Rozhdestvenskaia 1922; Gothein 1886). In this view Irish missionaries of the sixth and seventh centuries, stimulated by a particularly fervent attachment to angels, had spread a devotion for Michael across northern Europe (Rozhdestvenskaia 1922, ch. 3 and 30). Certainly the vita of St. Columba of Iona, written by the abbot Adomnán in the 690's, presented its subject in company with the numinous species on twenty-two occasions, for continual angelic companionship made clear Columba's prophetic authority and lineage. Adomnán, for example, presented Columba on one occasion as accompanied by two angelic comrades as well as preceded by a column of fire; God led His "dove," this "leader of nations into life," as He had His Children from Egypt (Exodus 13:21; Adomnán, Vita Columbae III.3). In none of these accounts, however, was Michael mentioned by name. Columba's association with angels represented not a fervent devotion for the archangel, but rather "a progression in the manifestation of divine power." When Adomnán devoted the final section to a narration of "angelic visions," he did so to "confirm the divine origin of Columba's supernatural powers" and to demonstrate that "while still a man of flesh, Columba was already part of the heavenly world" (Picard 1985, 76-77).

§6.  Columba's withdrawn hideaway on the island of Iona certainly resembled a very early monastic community at Mont St.-Michel, one that antedated the group of canons installed there by Autpertus and so isolated that it signaled the mainland with smoke when food was needed. Not every elusive island retreat, however, stemmed from insular origins. St. Martin of Tours found a fifth-century hideaway on Gallinaria off the coast of Genoa at least several centuries before Irish monks stacked their cashel huts on Skellig Michael, the larger of two rocky islets eight miles west of Bolus Head, County Kerry (Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin 6; de Paor 1955, 174-187). Simply because Frankish monks chose to situate their communities on islands would not necessarily point to insular influences on their decisions. Even if that were the case at Mont St.-Michel, that early foundation displayed no predilection for the archangel. Its first known dedications honored St. Stephen along with St. Symphorian, a Gallo-Roman martyr popular in Poitou and seemingly revered in Avranches since the mid-sixth century (Hourlier 1967, 15-17). In terms of its dedicatory names, the first community on the mount took its cues from Avranches and, ultimately, southwestern Gaul.

§7.  Liturgical texts came from the same direction, and specifically from Italy, a fact as true for the mount as an insular monastery. The Irish-inspired foundation at Northumbrian Lindisfarne, for example, did celebrate a mass for the archangel, but one with a plausible origin in the liturgy of Naples (Morin 1891, 481-493 and 529-537; Brown 1989, 143-150; Verey 1989, 151-163). As for Ireland itself, there is no evidence of any formal reverence for the archangel in the earliest Irish liturgical materials. Neither did a palimpsested sacramentary written in the mid-seventh century (Munich CLM 14429) incorporate festival propers, nor did the Bangor Antiphonary include any hymn in his honor, nor did the Stowe Missal mention the angelic name in the Litany of the Saints or the Memento (Dold, Eizenhöfer and Wright 1964, 30-40; Warren 1893/1895 and Curran 1984; Warner 1989, 3, 14). Only in the late eighth or early ninth centuries did the monastery of Tallaght formally revere the archangel whose purificatory powers affirmed the spiritual goals of the célí De movement. Even here the Martyrology of Oengus, for example, drew on Italian connections by adopting the Roman ferial date of September 29. This commemoration of a dedication to the archangel on the Via Salaria northeast of Rome underscored Michael's association with cleansed spaces suitable for Christian worship (Dubois 1978). The Irish festival also recalled the archangel's victory over evil when stating: "at the fight with the multitudinous Dragon by Michael the strong, victorious, the whitesided hostful (sic) soldier will slay wrathful Antichrist." A Latin gloss of the Old Irish explained "the soldier, whose name is Mi-cha-el, is interpreted 'qui sicut (sic) Deus' on Mount Gargano" (Stokes 1905, 197, 213).

§8.  The scriptural passage of Revelation 12.7 describing Michael's expulsion of Satan the "great serpent" from Heaven served as a lection for the festival included in the Bobbio Missal, which current opinion characterizes as a combination lectionary/sacramentary produced in the late seventh century in or around Vienne (McKitterick 2004, 19-52; Lowe, Wilmart and Wilson 1917, 117-118; Vogel 1986, 323-324). While its provenance of Bobbio provoked a long and unfortunately mistaken association with the mission of the Irishman Columbanus, its prayers in the mass for St. Michael most certainly derived from Italian traditions (Hen 2004, 1-7; Morin 1898, 106-108; Faure 1988, 38-39). They quoted or paraphrased Michaeline propers found in the Sacramentary of Leo, that sixth-century compilation of libelli missarum, those leaflets or small booklets comprising several "presidential prayers" (or formulaires euchologiques [Vogel 1966, 29-39]) used at particular festivals (Siffrin 1958; Vogel 1986, 37-46). The central phrase of the Bobbian contestatio came from Leo 846: "in die festivitatis hodierne quo in honore beati archangeli michahelis dedicata nomine tuo loca sacris sunt instituta mistriis (sic)." Leo 849 supplied as well the final words of the secreta: "sollemnitate oblacio (sic) nostra fiat accepta" (Lowe, Wilmart and Wilson 1917, 117-118; Siffrin 1958, n. 846, 849). While these all derived from texts associated with the Roman festival for the Salarian dedication on September 29, the unusual opening formula of the secreta, "precis populi tui domine," did not, stemming instead from Milanese practices (Siffrin 1958, 37-46; Heiming 1968, 11, 36, 52, 253).

§9.  The Italian elements that colored these representative liturgical examples in fact characterized the northerly drift of a formal veneration. A plausible sixth-century installation on Mt. Dol in Brittany, a site quite near to Mont St.-Michel, could not have derived from non-existent insular practices and surely reflected a movement from south of the Loire at that time. Any Celtic impact on its diffusion merely furthered that process (Déceneux 1997, 113-115). By the latter quarter of the sixth century a cluster of known Merovingian foundations engaged the archangel as the guardian of the relics of the True Cross. On becoming abbess of St. Stephen at Arles c. 575, St. Rusticola built an abbey church to house newly procured splinters and a nail. An accompanying Michaeline chapel cleansed the precinct of demonic influences (Vita Rusticolae, 8 and 13; McNamara 1992, 120). The near-contemporary acquisition of the lignum crucis by St. Radegund for Holy Cross Abbey in Poitiers also resulted in Michael's attendance (McNamara 1992, 60-65; Aigrain 1952). While Radegund built no structure in his honor, Gregory of Tours reported the archangel's presence there beside the deathbed of the nun Disciola. His protection of her soul allowed his little ward to chortle at Satan's exasperation (Gregory of Tours, Libri historiarum VI.29). By the turn of the century, the bishop Bertram of Le Mans (586-616) received during Sunday morning prayers angelic orders to construct a Michaeline chapel in one of the towers of the city wall. It joined an ecclesiastical complex that also came to include a church in honor of the True Cross (Actus pontificum Cenomannis XI).

§10.  The work of Autpertus could have pertained to this sixth-century wave of diffusion. He stood in fifth place in the earliest copies of episcopal lists but these date from the twelfth century and omit names of early Avranchin bishops that signed the acts of sixth-century church councils. (Lelegard 1966, 29-30). The Revelatio provided no date for the episcopacy of Autpertus, but merely associated him with the reign of a King Childebert who "vigorously govern[ed] the kingdom of the entire West and not a little of the north and parts of the south." No less an authority than Louis Duchesne identified the king as Childebert II (575-596), which would make the work of Autpertus roughly contemporary with that of Rusticola, Radegond, and Bertram of Le Mans (Lelegard 1966, 31). A twelfth-century montoise chronicle, however, dated his foundation to the year 708 with a dedication in 709 (Alexander 1970, 1). This occurred during the reign of Childebert III (694-711) who presided over the kingdoms of Neustria and Austrasia-Burgundy, united through the efforts of the palace mayor Pippin II.

§11.  The Welsh Annals, first compiled and then expanded at St. David's in the late eighth century, provided a rough corroboration. The compiler inserted into a collection of mainly northern British and Welsh affairs two entries as to events in Francia: the death of Pippin II in 715 and a Consecratio Michaelis archangeli ecclesiae in 718 (Hughes 1973, 233-258). The anonymous Michaeline church could hardly refer to St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, not built until 1135 and consecrated only in 1144 (Hull 1966, 703-721). While the compiler could have had a Welsh church in mind, the connection with the death of Pippin suggests a continental structure. Owen Chadwick observed that the geographic imprecision "would be comprehensible if the consecration was so famous that it had given its name to the place itself" (Chadwick 1954, 184). That would presuppose, however, that Mont St.-Michel already had attained a great fame in the eighth century, something not at all clear for that time. The Welsh entry conceivably referred to another continental site, St. Mihiel-Verdun, endowed and maintained by the Wulfings on family lands at the headwaters of the Marsoupe River (Waitz 1841, Chronicon Sancti Michaelis 3; Parisse 1974, 25-32; Weill 1971, 325-328). Forged charters (probably based upon originals) dated to 709 the site on Mt. Châtillon and credited the endowment to Wulfoald, undoubtedly a descendant of that Wulfoald who had served Childeric II (r. 673-675) as majordomo (Waitz 1841, Chronicon Sancti Michaelis 1; Parisse 1974, 23-33). The founder Wulfoald had brought back from Italy a bag containing Michaeline relics which, when hung on a tree branch, bent to the ground to miraculously mark the spot for the angelic house at Verdun.

§12.  This retrieval of relics from Monte Gargano belied a dynamic of Michaeline reverence typical of the eighth century but not before. Neither Rusticola, Radegond, nor Bertram had deployed their power. In sixth-century Gaul, Michael merely stood beside the Holy Cross, the deathbed of Christ and symbolic Tomb of the Lord. There were no angelic relics because it was only at this time that they began to appear, and then in the East Roman world. The sixth century, a period when Christianization of the landscape quickened and deepened, witnessed the discernment of such spectacular contact relics. It was then that the pilgrim known as the Pseudo-Antoninus first recorded not only the "beautiful and fine" footprint of Christ pressed into stone during the questioning by Pilate but also the imprint of the Lord's chest on the column where he was tied for whipping (Pseudo-Antoninus, Itinerarium 22-23). By 600, Constantinople had entrusted its safety to "a heavenly authority that was present in its relics or its image." On the walls that encircled the core of the Universal Faith and the Universal Christian Empire, "the unpainted image of Christ, the relic of the True Cross, and the Virgin's mantle" served as "defensive weapons to ward off attackers" (Belting 1994, 61). Similarly, by leaving footprints in stone Michael established himself as "guardian and custodian" of the cave church at Monte Gargano. The posterula pusilla memorialized the archangel's victory over invading "pagans" from Naples. The dropping on the altar of a rubrus palliolus, or little red cape, signified his enduring presence in a sanctuary dedicated to the salvation of humanity. Michael's stance at the Apulian cavern replicated the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. There the angelic cry of "He is not here, but has risen" as recorded by Luke (24:5), resonated from an empty grave carved from living rock. When Autpertus installed numinous bits in his prayer house "not tall with a point in heaven, but in the round manner of a crypt," he vouchsafed Michael's primal promise of eternal life.

§13.  It was from these caverns "not made by human hands" that the fullness of the angelic message would reverberate, for as Stephen the Proto-Martyr had reminded, the "Most High does not dwell" in man-made houses (Acts 17:24). The fabricated "grotto" at Mont St.-Michel, however, needed angelic tokens to manifest the presence of the asomatic being. These began to become widely available during the eighth century as the western points of embarkation for the eastern Mediterranean shifted toward southeastern Italy and its ports such as ancient Sipontum on the south coast of the Garganic peninsula. Slavic attacks on the Byzantine Empire during the late-seventh and early-eighth centuries had closed the traditional Balkan land routes, while Muslim incursions into the eastern Mediterranean had disrupted those shipping lanes and lines of communication that long had converged on the eastern "hub" of Constantinople (Haldon 1990, 9-124; McCormick 2001, 83-115, 523-570). The ninth-century pilgrim Bernardus, for example, visited the angelic mountain only to endure a sea crossing to Egypt and a land journey to Jerusalem before returning to Mont St.-Michel (Bernardus, Itinerarium; Avril and Gaborit 1967, 269-298). Perhaps many of the pilgrims who scratched their names into the walls of Michael's cavern also went on further east (Otranto and Carletti 1990, 7-180). Michael's numinous grotto thus served as a conduit into the salvific geography of the sacred Christian city, and most importantly the Holy Sepulchre itself.

§14.  A number of Frankish foundations took advantage of the new pilgrim routes to install the archangel within their treasuries. Of two relic authentication tags preserved from the royal nunnery of Chelles in the Seine Valley, one noted "reliquias s[an]c[t]i Michahelis" and the other "Hic sunt reliquiias s[an]c[t]o angeli, Michahelis, X k[a]l[endas] iunias" (Bruckner and Marichal 1954, 18:669, nos. 88 & 89; Ganz and Goffart 1990, 930). The small squares of parchment recorded no year of acquisition, although the scripts corresponded to varied hands in use at the scriptorium of Chelles during the eighth century and did not number among the thirty written in b-miniscule that may have come from the mother house of Jouarre (McKitterick 1992, 11-12). The tags for the Chelles collection were created over several decades as each object was received and archived. By mapping the locations of the cult centers that provided the relics, Michael McCormack has demonstrated that a route led from the Seine Valley on through Rome, Monte Gargano, and either Constantinople or Ephesus, before arriving in Jerusalem (McCormick 2001, 308-318). A preserved authentication tag from the treasury of Sens and written in the distinctive "a-z" script identified with late seventh- or early eighth-century Laon, arranged a group of relics in hierarchical order of saintly importance (Bruckner and Marichal 1954, 19:682). The relevant cult centers, however, not only reflected the same lines of travel as those in the group from Chelles, but also a elikely pilgrim's itinerary (McCormick 2001, 290-308).

§15.  The work of Autpertus thus fitted into a discernible eighth-century pattern. No distinctive hagiography memorialized the site, however, until the composition of the Revelatio ecclesiae. The earliest remaining version, now comprising folia 180-89 of Avranches Bib. Mun. 211, was copied between c. 990-1015 by the montoise scribe Hervardus, who included it within an old lectionary for the offices of local festivals for Saint Michael (Hourlier 1966, 124; Bourgeois-Lechartier 1967, 172; Alexander 1970, 224-225). The entire lectionary, which c. 1600 was bound within Avranches 211 as folia 156-210, began with the Liber de apparitione Sancti Michaelis in Monte Gargano (Hourlier 1966, 124, Bourgeois-Lechartier 1967, 172). The opening folio served as a display piece, with the first words of the Liber in gilded rustic capitals. The initial bowed letter "M" was highly exaggerated in size and adorned with beastly faces, interlace imitative of cloisonné work, and "scrolling leaf painted yellow, pink, blue, and gold" (Alexander 1970, 224-225; Hourlier 1966, 124-125). The eight liturgical lessons furnished by the Liber continued with four others comprising a homily by Claudius of Turin on Matthew 18.1-5 ("Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?"). The blank folio 180r followed this Italian material with the introduction of the Apparitio "in large red characters" on col. B of 180v (Hourlier 1966, 124). This division coupled with the flamboyant display page emphasized the discrete nature of this Italian material, underscoring its essential contingency with a Revelatio ecclesiae composed at least a century earlier.

§16.  External evidence would assert a composition for the Revelatio prior to 966. According to a surviving charter (comprising an interpolation and partial falsification of two earlier documents), on February 7, 966 Lothar king of the western Franks, at the request of Pope John XIII, confirmed Hugh II as the archbishop of Rouen, and also approved the introduction of a reformed Benedictine establishment at Mont Saint-Michel by Duke Richard I of Normandy (Halphen and Lot 1908, 53-57; Laporte 1966, 53-80; Riquet 1965, 41-52). This Benedictine community replaced the group of canons instituted there by Autpertus. The Introductio monachorum (written c. 1058) predictably condemned the lax observances of the canons as justification for their replacement (Introductio monachorum). That the author of the Revelatio failed to allude to this important event has established the date of 966 as a terminus ante quem for the work (Hourlier 1966, 124-128). Nicholas Simonnet has pointed to the years 851-867 as a more precise time frame for the composition of the Revelatio. In 851, the West Frankish King Charles the Bald (r. 840-877) handed the counties of Vannes and Rennes into the control of the rebel King Erispoé, with Mont St.-Michel (as the Revelatio states) then "dividing Britanny from Avranches." Breton control of the angelic site, however, commenced in 867 when the sees of Avranches, Coutances, and Bayeux came to Salomon King of Britanny, and the islet no longer served as a point of demarcation. During those sixteen years, an Avranchin bishop such as Ansegaud, Remedius, or Walbert could have instigated the writing of the Revelatio, perhaps to assert episcopal control over the island's monastic community or to confirm the bishop's rights in the face of Breton pretensions (Simonnet 1999, 19).

§17.  The author's access to a collection of continental and insular materials typical of ninth-century Carolingian institutions allowed him to affirm this independence by locating Michael's apparitions to Bishop Autpertus within the broad sweep of salvation history (Hourlier 1966, 127; McKitterick 1989, 169-196). A version of Josephus's Jewish War, such as that summarized in Eugippus's Histories, asserted the extension of an angelic ministry throughout Christendom. According to Eugippus, when the emperor Titus was besieging Jerusalem the priests celebrating Passover in the Temple heard the angels abandon the Holy Place. Their cry of "Let us move on from here!" which the Revelatio echoed with "Let us move on from these seats!", initiated a westward angelic migration that brought Michael first to Monte Gargano and then to Mont St.-Michel (Eugippus, Historiae V.44.1). The Norman rock not only replicated the ancient Hebrew Temple but also embodied the Church of Christ on earth and prefigured the eschatological abode of the Elect.

§18.  By founding a salvific monastic enclave on the island, Autpertus emulated the actions of St. Benedict of Nursia as recounted in the famed life that comprises Book Two of the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I. The deeds of the famous rule-writer and monastic founder created a rhetorical persona for the faceless Autpertus, of whom the author of the Apparitio knew nothing, chiefly because there was almost nothing in the historical record to know. Autpertus, for example, discovered water on the peak of the dry island, emulating Benedict's discovery of a spring for one of his monasteries (Gregory the Great, Dialogi II.5). With Michael's aid the Frankish bishop also received the help of a man and his twelve sons to remove two enormous stones from the construction zone of Michael's oratory. Similarly, Benedict's prayers chased the heavy weight of the devil from boulders and allowed them to be carried from the building site for monastic cells (Gregory the Great, Dialogi II.9). The Life of St. Benedict, a copy of which the montoise library possessed after 863, also had furnished identical rhetorical topoi for the anonymous Life of St. Cuthbert (composed c. 700) (Nortier 1957, 135). The author of the Apparitio mined that biography of the Northumbrian abbot of Lindisfarne for geographical descriptions of Michael's Norman island. Cuthbert's ascetic retreat, for example, was "surrounded on every side by waves, in the middle of the sea" (undique in medio mari fluctibus circumcinctam), just as Mont St.-Michel stood "surrounded by the ocean on every side," (oceano undique cinctus locus) (Anonymous Life of Cuthbert 3.1).

§19.  The structure of the Revelatio ecclesiae, however, ultimately rested on a knowledge of the Liber de apparitione in Monte Gargano which provided plot elements, narrative techniques, and similarities of phrasing (Liber de apparitione; Bettocchi 1994; Bouet 2004). While a nugatory version of the surely existed in the sixth century, it did not receive its current shape until the late eighth century (Arnold 2000, 567-588; Everett 2002, 364-391). No evidence for its Frankish reception predated its inclusion by Hrabanus Maurus among the lections and homilies that he assembled c. 813 for chapter readings at Fulda (Hrabanus Maurus, De festis praecipuis 32). Later in the century, the montoise author imitated his Italian prototype by focusing extensively on the salvific qualities of the landscape, particularly the numinous mountains and symbolic cave tombs. In both texts, a bull revealed the spot for the angelic sanctuary. Michael visited the local bishops in dreams both to compel the discovery of sites for purposes of worship, and then to urge their completion and dedication. The two accounts end with thaumaturgic miracles experienced by pilgrims.

§20.  Despite these similarities, the Revelatio ecclesiae represented something more than a mere doublet or rehash of the Liber. It in fact re-characterized Michael, and this new personality reflected a change in angelology between the eighth and ninth centuries. The Garganic Liber presented an active, interventionist Michael fashioned from scriptural and liturgical references. The archangel had designated his Apulian sanctuary when he had saved the life of a wandering bull menaced by its owner's arrow. He did so as fire and wind, exemplifying Psalm 104.4 (NRSV): "You make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers." The heavily Romanized Beneventan rite indigenous to the Apulian region used that Psalm as an alleluia for the celebration of the Dedicatio beati Michahelis on September 29 (Müller-Rehle 1972, 149). The church of Constantinople chanted the same text prior to the epistolary lection during the Byzantine festival of the "Bodiless Ones" on November 8 (Mateos 1962, 95). After establishing this tutelage over the site by appearing to an anonymous bishop in a dream, Michael protected the sacred place from the attack launched by the "pagans" from Naples. Prior to the battle, Monte Gargano shook with earthquakes while lightning and dark mist enveloped the summit, in concert with Psalm 104:32: "[the Lord] looks on the earth and it trembles, [He] touches the mountains and they smoke." Michael then rained down fiery arrows and lightning. He slaughtered the invaders as had the angel of the Lord the forces of the Assyrian King Sennacherib (II Kings 19:35) or as the "five resplendent men on horses with golden bridles" had the Seleucid army opposed by Judas Maccabee (II Maccabees 10:29-31). The Liber then concluded with Michael's self-dedication of the site, the deposition of the relics, and the commencement of miraculous healings through the agency of waters dripping from the roof of the cavern.

§21.  Conversely, the Archangel played a restrained, even muted, role during his five visitations to Autpertus. The colorless, characterless articulation of Michael focused all attention on the actions of the episcopal patron who reacted when "struck by angelic revelation," or after "receiving angelic guidance." It would be tempting to read the Norman legend in light of a cult of Autpertus himself rather than Michael, were it not for the fact that no such devotion appeared to exist prior to the twelfth century (Lelegard 1966, 29-52). Simonnet construed this narrative strategy in two ways. Magnifying the character of Autpertus stressed the episcopal authority of Avranches over the island's monastic community in light of the ambiguous border situation with Britanny between 851-867. Concurrently, it obscured a then prevalent belief that a layman named Baino had founded the mount's primal hermitage. The Revelatio reduced Baino's status to that of a local peasant who with Michael's aid miraculously removed boulders so as to assist Autpertus (Simonnet 1999, 13-19). An author who needed to fashion Autpertus as the impresario of this cult site would have found concepts of angels useful that derived from Platonic assumptions. Such notions of the angelic species understood them arranged in a hierarchy between Heaven and earth and apprehensible only to those immediately beneath them. The bishop Autpertus, standing at the head of the earthly orders, could have engaged Michael in ways that most other humans could not. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius and The Celestial Hierarchy of the Pseudo-Dionysius, two texts that became important during the ninth century, emphasized both the remote nature of an angel like Michael and the need to approach him through meditation and contemplation.

§22.  The Consolation only became known in the West during the ninth century, supposedly introduced into northern Europe by Alcuin of York following a journey to Italy (Beaumont 1981, 279; Courcelle 1967, 29-66). While no copy has been linked to the montoise library, its possible possession in the day of Hervardus of a copy of Boethius's Logical Commentaries demonstrated a local interest in his work (Alexander 1970, 225). The preserved Carolingian commentaries on the Consolatio by Remigius of Auxerre and Bovo of Corvey (among others) centered on Book Three, and particularly the ninth poem "O qui perpetua," which presented a skeletal outline of Plato's Timaeus (Courcelle 1967, 241-299; Beaumont 1981, 278-305). When the author of the Revelatio alluded to Book Three he asserted the status of Mont St.-Michel as a portal into a platonic perfection of divine stasis. Boethius, for example, ordered that all with "minds" "blunted" by the "chains" of "deceiving passions" should find in a knowledge of the absolute goodness of God a "haven lying in tranquil peace." Philosophy provided this "true happiness" as a "resting-place open to receive within itself all the miserable on earth" (Boethius Consolatio 3M10; translation from Boethius 1902). Autpertus likewise taught his community to look for that sort of peace in the heavens rather than in "earthly and rocky swamps." The "whirling hearts of humans" must "penetrate the high stars of the ether by the inner experience of contemplation." If the community of canons instituted by Autpertus thought in Boethian terms, they would "dream of [their] first state, though with a dim idea" (Boethius Consolatio 3P3; 1902). When offered a proper arena, humanity would inevitably rush back to its primal circumstance as Children of God, in accord with the Boethian image of a caged bird that would fly free, if it could, after "spurn[ing] with its foot the food put before him" ("sparsas pedibus escas proterit") (Boethius Consolatio 3M2; 1902).

§23.  The odd, and rare, Boethian tag "pedibus proterit", found in the second poem of the third book of the Consolatio, was used by the author of the Revelatio to demarcate the very dimensions of Autpertus's angelic crypt. Admonished three times in dream oracles, Autpertus at last obeyed Michael's directive to establish an oratory in the bay fronting on Avranches. Confused as to where to place the foundations, Michael enjoined Autpertus to find hidden on the island a steer taken by a thief. He should lay foundations where the steer had "crushed down in a circle with its feet" ("quem videret juvencum pedibus in circuitu protrivisse"). As the Boethian scholar Jacqueline Beaumont has pointed out, ninth-century intellectuals appropriated the Consolatio in precisely such an "eclectic" manner. Carolingian authors used "thoughts, images and elegant phrasing" in a "piecemeal" fashion to give "added point to the "work of the moment," whether "devotional lives of saints" or "letters, poems, and panegyrics" (Beaumont 1981, 282).

§24.  The montoise hagiographer, however, used the "pedibus proterit" tag with a deeper purpose in mind. His knowledge of the Boethian commentary tradition structured his use of the bull story appropriated from the Garganic legend. Remigius of Auxerre, for example, comprehended in the Boethian image of the caged bird "spurn[ing] with its foot the food put before him" the concept of a specific essential nature. Just as a bird would always long to fly free in the woods, humanity would desire to return to God, for "the good God created everything good". That did not mean that all things were just, for, while goodness rested in "essence and nature", justice resulted from "action and deed". For this reason "the devil is called essentially good, but he is not just in deed" (Stewart 1916, 29). For the montoise hagiographer, this meant that the unjust act of the bull theft engendered an act of goodness and justice; the stolen steer could "tread out with its feet" the dimensions for Michael's oratory. The Garganic legend of the wandering bull rescued from death by Michael became an exemplum that demonstrated the essential goodness of all God's creation.

§25.  Significantly, only Autpertus could discern the arcane meaning behind the bull's exertions. At Mont St.-Michel, a subdued (even domesticated), Michael made divine knowledge available to a hierarchical inferior. Autpertus then accomplished the divine will without active angelic intrusion into the sensible sphere. Such ideas well accorded with those found in The Celestial Hierarchy, one of a number of works attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite. Though written in Greek by an anonymous Syrian monk of the late fifth or early sixth century, these works advertised authorship by the presumed founder of the Church in Paris, the Dionysius that Paul had evangelized when preaching at the Areopagus in Athens. The Pseudo-Dionysian corpus, including The Celestial Hierarchy, became available to Frankish intellectuals in 827 when the Byzantine Emperor Michael II presented a copy to the Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious. An unsatisfactory Latin translation prepared by Hilduin of St. Denis between 832-35 preceded that prepared by John Scotus Eriugena (860-862) and later emended in 875 by Anastasius Bibliothecarius (Chatillon 1967, 313-314).

§26.  The Celestial Hierarchy discussed the transmission of divine knowledge through the nine angelic choirs. According to the companion Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, officials of the church received that knowledge from angels and in turn disseminated it to the faithful through the signs and symbols embodied in religious rituals. As the translator Eriugena commented in his Expositions on the Celestial Hierarchy, divine "truth appears to us by means of the celestial essences through sensible symbols," even though the symbols "would be dissimilar" to those angels who "manifested and signified [themselves] to us" in such a way (Eriugena, Expositiones in Ierarchiam Coelestem 2 pref:143b). Angelic mediation amounted to nothing more than a "hierarchy," as if a "pontifical communication" (Eriugena, Expositiones in Ierarchiam Coelestem 9.2:210c). Pseudo-Dionysius derided human attempts to "profanely visualize these heavenly and godlike intelligences as actually having numerous feet and faces" and reminded readers that angels did not "resemble the brutishness of oxen or display the wildness of lions" or possess "the wings and feathers of birds." Michael and other angels were beings "so simple" that they could neither be "known nor contemplated" (Pseudo-Dionysius, The Celestial Hierarchy 2.2=137C).

§27.  Consequently, the Frankish hagiographer construed the named bishop Autpertus as the earthly custodian of Michaeline powers. The archangel did not himself mark out the place of his sanctuary, but forced Autpertus to discern it through the signs left by the stolen steer. Michael left no footprints or garments at Mont St.-Michel, but through dream oracles impelled Autpertus to retrieve numinous bits from Monte Gargano. The bishop also organized the solemn and impressive translation of those relics that focused divine power for the attainment of spiritual illumination. The "royal entry" of these tokens ("adventus angeli"), which "weighed down" the surrounding provinces "with great joy and rejoicing," brought sight to twelve blind men, while "many others driven on by different illnesses were restored to their former health." The flow of divine knowledge through the proper channels of authority resulted in universal order.

§28.  The author of the Revelatio saw in these platonic notions of cosmic hierarchy not only an affirmation of episcopal authority but also a confinement of angelic power and the revelatory functions associated with it. The Frankish hagiographer immured Michael the archangel within a heavenly vault accessible only to those of sufficient mind to apprehend him. The author believed that he conformed to a long forgotten apostolic tradition. As he molded Michael's personality to the new Dionysian angelology, he leeched him of that intrusive boldness that had so distinguished the archangel's apparitions in Italy. In a sense, however, he merely completed a process already underway by the eighth century. Bishops and abbots had found that while angelic relics affirmed Michael's presence, they also turned the guardian into the guarded. Through control of numinous bits, authority figures could mediate access to angelic illumination. Their retrieval from Monte Gargano, facilitated by the eighth-century realignment of communication routes, suited the well-observed Carolingian penchant for systematization and orderly arrangement. Connections with the Mediterranean world not only promoted imitation of Roman liturgical practices, but also resulted in the confinement of the Field Marshal of the Hosts of the Lord.

§29.  The following version of the Revelatio ecclesiae de sancti Michaelis translates the edition of Mabillon published in Acta Sanctorum, September 8:76-79. I have attempted to preserve in this presentation something of the elevated rhetorical style of the original, which unfortunately relies on a convoluted syntax, complicated periodic sentences, and sheer wordiness to achieve its goal. For this reason, some readers might find it "too close to the Latin" for their taste. I have endeavored, however, to smooth over some of the difficulties to appeal to the sensibilities of the contemporary English reader. I broke lengthy Latin sentences into several English sentences, for example, while eliminating unnecessary or repetitious words where possible. I hope that this "middle way" will prove acceptable.

§30.  I have indicated among the footnotes textual citations from Vergil and other classical authors. Most, however, stem from the Vulgate and the Liber de apparitione sancti Michaelis in Monte Gargano and I merely repeat here information that I obtained from charts compiled by Pierre Bouet, "La Revelatio ecclesiae sancti Michaelis et son auteur," Tabularia: sources écrites de la Normandie médiévale [Online Journal, accessed March 1, 2006]. Available at

The Revelatio Ecclesiae de Sancti Michaelis

§31.  I. After the race of the Franks marked by the grace of Christ had razed far and wide throughout the provinces and had conquered the necks of the proud because the omnipotent God ruled through the hosts of the subject spirits (not only among all of the nations, but also all parts of the universe which He himself made), Childebert the most pious prince vigorously governed the kingdom of the entire west and not a little of the north and parts of the south. At that time the blessed Michael the archangel, one "from among the seven always standing in view of the Lord" (Tobit 12:15) who, it is read, is the "Doorkeeper of Paradise" that gathers the souls of the saved into the region of peace, manifested himself at Monte Gargano that he might be revered and glorified as he wished, just as it is maintained in writings.1 Understand by these deeds performed by the blessed archangel that, with all of the people of the eastern parts of Romania illuminated by the grace of Christ, now the most blessed Prince of the Heavenly Citizens with the same signs wishes to manifest himself to the bishop of the western peoples in order that he who once granted to the patriarchs the work of defense for the blessed Israelite people might now himself stand forth as guardian and watchman for the sons called through adoption.2 For it is read in the vision of the Prophet Daniel that the angel says to him: "No one is my helper in this matter except Michael the archangel, your Prince." (Daniel 10:21) By "your Prince," he meant Prince of the people of the Jews. For with Christ the Lord coming in His own time and not received by his own people, and moreover pushed out, after He Himself returned to the Father and the observation of the ancient law was abolished, He established the sacraments by the announcement of the Gospels; then with the blare of the apostles going forth through the entire earth, the ceremonies of the sacred rites were transferred by the ministeria of the angels.

§32.  II. For the ecclesiastical histories relate how after the Passion and Ascension of the Lord unto the heavens, after the long awaited punishment of the Israelites, when that time of destruction drew near which the Savior with sacred eloquence had foretold to arrive among the tears of humanity, the church at Jerusalem following divine instruction flowed forth over the entire world so as to carry the gospel to the gentiles. When the people gathered together from all places awaited the day of the Passover festivities, as the priests observed the customary vigil, they heard unexpected voices saying: "Let us move on from these seats."3 In truth, the unexpected voices came forth from the angels, for the voices that announced the migration of the blessed spirits quietly marked the transferal of the angelic ministerium to the church of the gentiles. From these events obviously it follows that the blessed archangel Michael would allot to the elect gentiles the ministerium that once he had exercised over the people of God. The devoted faithful believe this is so on account of the extension of signs. For Michael wishes to be known by mortals in these times of ours during which the human race knows itself called back among the society of the elect spirits.4 Now must be noted the miracle through which he foreswore for humans a place in the western world, where a fervent throng of the faithful could flow together reverently from all over the world to beg angelic assistance.

§33.  III. This place is called Tumba by the local inhabitants. As if emerging on high from the sands of the shore, it rises upward two hundred cubits in the manner of a burial mound.5 The place, situated in a bay where the rivers See [Segia] and Selune [Senuna] flow together, is encircled all about by the ocean.6 A narrow passageway extends from the island outward in a remarkable manner, opening for the inhabitants for a short time. In length and in width from its base to its peak, [the island] is not dissimilar (so it is thought) from that bulwark where is guarded the ascendance of the human race.7 Lying six miles distant from the city of Avranches and facing down upon the west, it divides the pagus of Avranches from Brittany. No worldly action can be undertaken here, for this place is agreeable only to those who are disposed to worship Christ diligently, and the site receives those whom the burning love of virtue draws toward the highest ether.8 What an enormous quantity of fish is found there, brought together by the influx of the many rivers and seawaters. The island appears to be nothing other than a large sort of tower to those looking upon it from nearby. But, as the sea withdraws from it twice during the day for the advantage of the devoted people, a desired path opens for those seeking the threshold of the blessed archangel Michael. This place, as we can know from truthful accounts, first was closed off from the darkest forest long ago by the tide of the ocean at a distance of six miles, offering very secluded hiding places for beasts.

§34.  IV. It is customary that the more remote places of the desert are the most favored by those who, through the subtlety of contemplation, wish to lay open the more secret places of heaven. Thus monks long have lived here and still now there stand two churches built by the hands of the first inhabitants.9 Now, the monks who served the Lord in this place were sustained wholly by the dispensation of the ruling God, for a certain presbyter from the villa that is called Asteriacus carried provision to them. Whenever those victuals were lacking without which human life cannot be maintained, when a smoke signal rushed upward and sought out the heights of heaven, the presbyter loaded down an ass with feasts for their delight. Led by an invisible guide, he went through trackless places and returned to the island bearing those necessities ordered for the monks by the Lord. But this place was being readied by the will of God for the veneration of his holy archangel by means of a miracle to be performed by the sea. Though it then lay some distance away, rising up little by little it eventually obliterated with its strength the entire vastness of the forest and reduced the whole into the appearance of sand. Thus opened a pathway to the people of the earth so that they might describe the remarkable works of God.10 Now in truth we may tell how the Prince of the blessed spirits dedicated this place by angelic revelation.

§35.  V. At a certain time when had gone to sleep the most religious and beloved by God Autpertus, bishop of Avranches, he was advised by an angelic revelation that at that time he should build a church in honor of the archangel on the summit of this holy spot. There the venerable festival observed on Monte Gargano would be celebrated with no less rejoicing in the sea.11 The priest considered this in light of the writings of the apostle and remembered that "The spirits prove if they are from God" [1 John 4.1]. He was warned then in another vision how to accomplish the order. Because the spirit of the prophets is not always subject to prophecy, the bishop put off the construction and sought out intercession so that he might be able to know the plan of our Lord Jesus Christ and also the most blessed archangel. Now, at this very same time a thief with a depraved nature had drug away a bull belonging to the bishop and placed it on the summit of this very rock. Autpertus, who had lost the steer, despaired of finding it.12 Wickedly the brigand accomplished a lucrative crime at the bishop's expense.13 In the meantime the venerable bishop (who had not acquiesced though twice warned) was struck severely by the third admonition to quickly go to that place he knew not and there carry out his orders. As a confirmation of his faith there is shown still in this place even unto this day a stone as if impressed by the finger of a man, upon which the memorable bishop sat whenever he supervised the work until completion.

§36.  VI. The bishop found the site agreeable and was told by angelic response to build the church in that place where the bull secretly was tied up. And when Autpertus asked about the size and dimensions of the place, he learned that he ought to constitute as the space for the building where he saw the steer to tread down a circle with its feet.14 After this it was ordered that the stolen bull be returned to its owner. Therefore the venerable bishop, absolutely sure of the vision, entered the foretold spot with hymns and praises to carry out the task. In the presence of a great gathering of peasants he cleansed the site and smoothed down the space.15 In its midst two rocks jutted upward which no hand of the multitude of workers could move or break from their place. When they had remained at the task for a long time and no one of them could figure out what to do, during the following night a vision came to a certain man named Baino in the villa called Icius who, since he had twelve sons enjoyed great glory among his own.16 Advised to work with the laborers, Baino came immediately to the site with his sons to fulfill the command. When he had arrived there, confident in the aid of the holy archangel Michael (because human strength was not capable), in a remarkable manner he so easily removed that huge mass that it appeared to weigh nothing.17 Thus with the work begun, everyone alike set to the task praising God and the holy archangel Michael. When Autpertus had doubts on the dimensions of the construction, in the middle of the night, as once appeared to Gideon as a sign of victory, dew lay upon the peak of the mount.18 It was dry where the foundations had to be located (Judges 6:36-40). It was told to the bishop: "Go, and where you will see the sign, lay the foundations."

§37.  VII. Immediately giving thanks to the omnipotent God, and imploring aid from the holy archangel Michael, rising up rejoicing and happy he entered upon the work.19 He built the structure not tall with a point in heaven, but in the round manner of a crypt, holding one hundred men (or so it is thought). He wished to imitate the shape of that shrine on Monte Gargano as a habitation made from rock broken up from the earth, readied in an angelic manner for the praise and glory of God.20 There he openly taught that the task of divine reward always must be taken up in the heavens, and also to penetrate the high stars of the ether by the inner experience of contemplation, and not to place the whirling hearts of humans in earthly and muddy swamps. Thus, after only a short time, with God carrying the work forward and the structure built, Autpertus remained worried since he lacked relics of the holy archangel. The blessed Michael advised the priest how he should very quickly send monks all the way to Monte Gargano, where the festival of the most holy archangel was observed reverently. They should bring back that blessing which, with the angel's patronage, Autpertus might receive with the greatest thanksgiving.

§38.  VIII. Meanwhile the messengers sent forth approached the Italian shrine, where the abbot received them most kindly. After they had changed their clothing and rested from the fatigue of such a journey, they explained everything that had happened in Avranches and told him why they had come. When the abbot had relayed these words to his bishop, he returned most abundant praises to the omnipotent God who deigned to offer aid on account of the fragility of the fallen nature of those mundane ministers of assistance to Him.21 There were gathered from that place as fitting for veneration relics with which the archangel had commended his remembrance to the faithful. One was a piece of a little red hooded cape which the celebrated archangel himself had placed in the cavern of Monte Gargano upon the altar that he had built with his own hand. The other was a bit of the marble upon which he stood where even until now footprints are visible. The aforesaid brothers carried back into that sacred place [of Monte Tumba] the patronage of the archangel. Those with whom Michael had associated by angelic revelation he would now bind eternally by the tie of love.

§39.  IX. Meanwhile after many days on the road the great messengers returned on the very day on which the construction was completed on Monte Tumba. They entered into what seemed a new world, for when they had departed the spot was filled with a thicket of briars. When they drew near to the place, the priests of the Lord Autpertus rushed up with many praises and hymns and carried into the sacred mountain the angelic guardianship forthcoming for mortals.22 One cannot say truly how weighed down by happiness and joy were the surrounding territories due to the royal entry of the angel, for thus I would characterize his arrival.23 Truly they experienced this joy because they foresaw the heavenly donative divinely granted to them, because there they merited as their standard-bearer blessed Michael the Archangel, the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts. They recognized the signs and miracles that the Lord wrought upon mortals through the angel's ministry.24 During the course of the journey twelve blind men were illuminated and many others driven on by different illnesses were restored to their former health. This must be related as well. A certain woman robbed of sight, from the villa called Asteriacus, when she followed after the most precious relics of the highest archangel Michael, scarcely had touched the beach of the island when she received her sight divinely granted. She marveled that she passed from darkness into the light so suddenly. Even unto this day, the Lord does not cease to work here every day through His highest minister these very same deeds for the praise and glory of His name.

§40.  X. Therefore on that day, which is October 16, with the dedication of the church readied for worship, the man of God Autpertus (after he wisely put all in order), instituted as well an office of serving clerics. He deputed twelve of them to remain in that place who, among the clientage of the blessed archangel Michael, would continue without cease the prescribed rituals, although the blessed men constituted as clerics there by his successors would not be of the same number.25 At the same time he granted villas from the episcopal fisc to those serving in that place, their names being Icius and Genitius.

§41.  XI. In the meanwhile, the bishop, readying all things agreeably, discovered a great problem to be solved by the archangel and that being the lack of water, the element without which human life cannot exist. Autpertus sought assistance for this matter from our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy archangel. The congregation took part as well so that whenever he had brought forth from the rock a drink for the thirsting people, he might also deign to remove the lack of water from his servants (Exodus 17:3).26 Angelic revelation allowed him to find the place in the upthrust rock where an aperture was hollowed out. In a remarkable manner soon an abundance of water was discovered, the proper use of which he extended to the inhabitants. How this running water could be healthful when drunk is made plain in many ways. It brings quick help to those suffering from fevers, however often the desire for drinking it arises.

§42.  XII. Innumerable miracles are wrought at the basilica of the blessed archangel where he himself assists. Here the blind see light, the lame receive the gift of movement, the deaf begin to hear, and unclean spirits are driven from possessed bodies as Our Lord God extends aid through the ministeria of the angels. The venerable bishop Autpertus dedicated in that memorable place an altar in honor of the most holy archangel Michael. These eleven others that now appear here, due to the growing devotion and love of the faithful, the hand of his successors built where divine favors are manifest with the help of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


1.   "Conquered the necks of the proud" (colla perdomuisset) = Liber 3 (colla submittentes); citation from Tobit found in Liber 2.   [Back]

2.   "Stand forth as a guardian and watchman" (custos existeret ac previus) = Liber 2 (loci inspectorem atque custodem).  [Back]

3.   Eugippus, Historiae, V.44.1.  [Back]

4.   "society of the blessed spirits" (spirituum societate) = Liber 1 (supernorum sociaetatem)  [Back]

5.   "A distance of two hundred cubits" (cubitorum ducentum spatio) recalls language found in Ezekiel 41.8, Judth 1.3, and Numbers 35.4.  [Back]

6.   "Encircled all about by the ocean" (oceano undique cinctus locus) = Anonymous Life of Cuthbert 3.1, and the island of the Inner Farne described as "surrounded by the ocean waves on all sides" (undique in medio mari fluctibus circumcinctam).  [Back]

7.   A reference to the Ark of Noah, cf. Déceneux 1997, 136-137.  [Back]

8.   "Those whom the burning love of virtue draws toward the highest ether" = Vergil, Aeneid VI.130, "ardens evexit ad aethera virtus."  [Back]

9.   "the more remote places of the desert are the most favorable for those wishing to lay open the more secret places of heaven" = Sulpicius Severus, Life of Martin 10.4, "the place was so secret and remote that he did not desire the solitude of the desert" (qui locus tam secretus et remotus erat, ut eremi solitudinem non desideraret). The two churches are those dedicated to Stephen and Symphorian, cf. footnote 15.  [Back]

10.   Déceneux points to similarities between this passage and local folkloric accounts of an ancient city engulfed beneath the waves (1997, 102-103).  [Back]

11.   "venerable festival" (veneranda commemoratio) = Liber 1 (Memoriam beati Michaelis archangeli . . . . venerandam)  [Back]

12.   "it happened . . . .that a bull (contigit ut taurum) = Liber 2 (contigit taurum); "summit of the rock" (saxi cacumen) = Liber 1 (in cacumine supreme) and 3 (montis cacumen).  [Back]

13.   "Lucrative crime" ("turpe lucrum") recalls Titus 1.7 and 1.11, I Timothy 3.8, and I Peter, 5.2.  [Back]

14.   "tread down with its feet" (pedibus . . . . protrivisse) = Boethius, Consolatio IIIM2 (sparsas pedibus proterit escas)  [Back]

15.   "great gathering of peasants" (congregate rusticorum multitudine) = Liber 2 (collecta muultitudine servorum); "Cleansed the site" (locum purgare) recalls II Maccabees 2.19  [Back]

16.   "a vision came" (visio apparuit) = Liber 5 (per visionem apparens) and Daniel 8:1.  [Back]

17.   The Anonymous Life of Cuthbert, 3.2 tells of four visiting brothers who failed to carry a stone from the center of the Farne to Cuthbert's building site, only to return to find it placed in the wall. Cf. as well the vita of St. Benedict of Nursia, Gregory the Great, Dialogi 2.9.  [Back]

18.   "peak of the mount" (verticem montis) = Liber 1 (vertice montis)  [Back]

19.   "begging aid from saint Michael" (implorans sancti michaelis auxilium) = Liber 3 (sancti michaelis implorare praesidium)  [Back]

20.   "holding one hundred men" (centum hominum capacem) = Liber 5 (quingentos fere hominess capere)  [Back]

21.   "fragility of a fallen nature" (naturae fragilitate) = Liber 1 (fragilitatis humanae memor)  [Back]

22.   "hymns" (spiritis canticis) recalls Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19; "through his ministry" (per suum ministrum) = Liber 4 (per suum ministrum)  [Back]

23.   "surrounding territories" (provinciae circumjacentes) = Liber 6 (provinciis circumpositis)  [Back]

24.   "signs and miracles" (signa et mirabilia) recalls Daniel 3.99; 6:27; 14:12, 19  [Back]

25.   "dedication of the church completed," (dedicatione completa) = Liber 6 (caelebratione completa)  [Back]

26.   "lack of water" (aquae penuriam) = Exodus 17.3, Anonymous Life of Cuthbert 3.3, and Gregory the Great, Dialogi 2.5.  [Back]

Works Cited

Adomnán. 1961. Adomnán's Life of Columba. Ed. and trans. O. and M. O. Anderson. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd .  [Back]

Aigrain, René. 1952. Sainte Radegonde. Poitiers: Éditions de Cordeliers.  [Back]

Alexander, J. J. G. 1970. Norman illumination at Mont St. Michel. Oxford: Clarendon Press.  [Back]

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