Pelagius of Córdoba

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Pelagius of Cordova
Pelagiusofcordoba.jpg
The martyrdom of Saint Pelagius of Cordova
Martyr
Born c. 912
Crecente, Kingdom of Galicia
Died 926
Cordova
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Oviedo
Feast 26 June
Patronage abandoned people, torture victims, Castro Urdiales, Spain

Pelagius of Cordova (c. 912–926) (also called San Pelayo Mártir) is said to have been a Christian boy who died as a martyr in Cordoba around 964.

Narrative[edit]

There are three accounts of Pelagius. The earliest, The Martyrdom of St. Pelagius was written by one Raguel, a priest of Cordoba.[1] The second is a poem by Rhoswitha of Gandersheim, Passion of Pelagius; and the third is a Mozarabic liturgy from about 967 when his body was recovered and brought to Toledo.[2]

Pelagius was left by his uncle at the age of ten as a hostage with the Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III of al-Andalus, in trade for a clerical relative previously captured by the Moors, the bishop Hermoygius. The exchange never occurred, and Pelagius remained a captive for three years. The modern[clarification needed] version of the story is that according to the testimony of other prisoners, his courage and faith was such that the Caliph was impressed with him when he had attained the age of 13. The Caliph offered him his freedom if Pelagius converted to Islam. The boy, having remained a pious Christian, refused the Caliph's offer.

The original version of the story took into account the beauty of the boy and the homosexual desire of the caliph.[3] That construct "served an obvious polemical purpose for European Christians in their demonizing of the Muslims, who are pictured as prone to same-sex desire." At the same time, the emphasis on his beauty by early Christian choirs suggests an awareness on the part of the Christians themselves of the dangers of such attractions[4] and has prompted modern observers to remark, "That liturgy... focuses as intently on Pelagius' beauty as did the caliph."[5]

In the eroticized version[which?] of the story, his beauty was such that the Caliph fell in love with him when he had attained the age of 13. The boy, having remained a pious Christian, refused the Caliph's advances, striking the monarch and insulting him. Enraged, Abd-ar-Rahman had the boy tortured for six hours and then dismembered.[6] Other accounts have him flung from a parapet after stripping himself naked, but the various accounts uphold his refusal to fulfil the Caliph's wishes.[7]

Pelagius was later enshrined as a Christian martyr and canonized as "Saint Pelagius." His observation is celebrated on 26 June.[8] The cult of Saint Pelagius is thought to have provided spiritual energy for centuries to the Iberian Reconquista and is seen by some modern scholars as part of a pattern of portraying Islamic morality as inferior to other moral theories.[9][10]

Interpretation[edit]

Jeffrey A. Bowman says that The Martyrdom of St. Pelagius not only demonstrates a conventual attack on Muslim morals, but also depicts a hero who refuses to assimilate. At a time when the Christian minority was attempting to maintain its identity and traditions, its members were increasingly enticed by the more dominant culture. Cordoba was a rich, sophisticated city with many fine houses, libraries. and bath houses.[11] "As Raguel wrote, Christians in Al-Andalus were converting to Islam in increasing numbers. Christian leaders complained that young Christians were more interested in learning Arabic than Latin."[1]

Lisa Weston finds a similar theme in Hrotsvitha's poem. "Produced within and serving the needs of a cultic community, hagiographic narrative enacts this negotiation of licit and illicit desires,and the subsequent formation of boundaries between "us" (the saint's community) and "them" (the persecutors and other non-believers) upon the textual body of the saint."[12] The poet deplores the dissolution of the one into the other.[2] Pelagius spurns Abd-ar-Rahman's touch saying, "It is not right that a man cleansed by the baptism of Christ should submit his chaste neck to a barbaric embrace, nor should a worshipper of Christ, anointed with the sacred chrism, accept the kiss of such a lewd slave of demons" (243-47). Kenneth Wolf observes, "...Abd ar-Rahman was summarily rejected, and not even on sexual grounds but on the grounds of cultural incompatibility."[13] The Caliph's persistence provokes Pelagius to disparage Islam. He is executed for blasphemy.[13]

The enraged king declares war against Christian Galicia. The saint's resistance is thus both religious and political.[14] As a Miles Christi (soldier of Christ), "death was preferable to yielding to foreign and barbaric customs."[2]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Bibliography: historical background[edit]

  • Jessica Coope: Martyrs of Cordoba: Community and Family Conflict in an Age of Mass Conversion: Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press: 1995: ISBN 0-8032-1471-5.
  • Kenneth Wolf: Christian Martyrs in Muslim Spain: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1988: ISBN 0-521-34416-6.
  • Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, Chicago, 1997; pp. 10–28

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bowman, Jeffrey A., "Raguel, 'The Martyrdom of St. Pelagius', Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology, (Thomas F. Head, ed.) Psychology Press, 2001, ISBN 9780415937535
  2. ^ a b c Fierro, Maribel. "Hostages and the Dangers of Cultural Contact", KOHEPOCU, European Research Council, 2014
  3. ^ Louis., Crompton,. Homosexuality & civilization (First Harvard University Press paperback ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts. ISBN 9780674022331. OCLC 727025329. 
  4. ^ Giurlanda, Paul (1998). "The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology". Find Articles. 
  5. ^ "Ganymede/Son of Getron: Medieval Monasticism and the Drama of Same-Sex Desire" by V. A. Kolve in Speculum, Vol. 73, No. 4 (Oct., 1998), pp. 1014–67
  6. ^ Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology, Chicago, 1997; pp. 10–28.
  7. ^ Sarah Salih: Versions of Virginity in Late Medieval Europe: Woodbridge: DS Brewer: 2002.
  8. ^ "The Martyrology of the Sacred Order of Friars Preachers". Archived from the original on 2006-02-10. 
  9. ^ Walter Andrews and Mehmet Kalpaklı, The Age of Beloveds, Duke University Press, 2005; p. 2.
  10. ^ Greg Hutcheon "The Sodomitic Moor: Queerness in the Narrative of the Reconquista" in Glen Burger and Stephen Kruger (eds.) Queering the Middle Ages: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 2001.
  11. ^ Hillenbrand, Robert. "The Ornament of the World: Medieval Cordoba as a Cultural Centre", The Legacy of Muslim Spain, (Salma Khadra Jayyusi, ed.) leiden n.d., p. 119
  12. ^ Weston, Lisa. "The Saracen and the Martyr: Embracing the Foreign in Hrotvit's 'Pelagius'", Meeting the Foreign in the Middle Ages, (Albrecht Classen, ed.) Psychology Press, 2002, ISBN 9780415930024, p. 1
  13. ^ a b Wolf,Kenneth B., "Convivencia and the 'Ornament of the World'." Southeast Medieval Association, Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, Oct. 2007. Address.
  14. ^ Tolan, John V., Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination, Columbia University Press, 2002, ISBN 9780231506465, p. 107