Reception of Voragine’s sermons in Central Europe – a few examples

Stanislava KUZMOVA (Central European University, Budapest)

Frequently sermon collections were compiled of model sermons by various authors, the primary criterion being utility of the copied texts. It is not surprising that widespread sermons by authors like Voragine appeared in collections side by side with model sermons and texts by other popular sermon authors or anonymous texts; this is the case of a number of codices from the region of Central Europe as well.

Different case is the use of parts of Voragine’s model sermons, i.e. distinctiones , in newly written models and sermons. Diffusion and general knowlegde of Voragine’s works were the prerequisites for this. In the fifteenth century, and especially in its second half, Voragine’s models were so widespread and well-known that distinctiones based on his sermons appeared as integral parts of manuscript sermon texts.

Scholars noticed that already Peregrinus of Opole (ca. 1260-1333) had probably known and made use of some Voragine’s homiletic models (and not only the legends) in terms of structural schemes and content of his sermons. For example, Peregrinus’ sermon for Nativity depended mainly on Voragine’s sermon and partially on the Legenda aurea (but he could have taken some material also from the Historia scholastica or the sermons of Pope Leo). Wolny maintained that although the content of the sermon depended on Voragine, Peregrinus’ selection and composition of motifs was original.1

Franz Adolph pointed out some textual analogies between the sermons from Voragine’s model collections and the so-called Greculus sermon collection. He noticed that the First Sermon for the First Advent Sunday in Greculus had almost the same three-part structure as the Second Sermon for the First Advent Sunday in Voragine’s de tempore collection, only substituting the word amicum for Voragine’s principem . Greculus made also use of other Voragine’s Advent sermons. In the rest of the sermon collection the use of Voragine is less frequent and it is completely absent from the Lent sermons, Adolph maintains.2

In the second half of the fifteenth century an author of a sermon for the feast of St Stanislaus of Cracow, a Polish martyr bishop, knew and incorporated whole divisions from Voragine’s model sermon collections into his own composition [Budapest University Library, Cod. Lat. 75, f. 450-451]. Interestingly, in this case the author did not take the material from a sermon for either the same liturgical occasion (which was a frequent pattern, but anyway was not possible in the case of St Stanislaus) or for an analogical liturgical locus (e.g. a feast of another martyr bishop). The author took the material from the models that were seemingly very distant in content from the feast of St Stanislaus. Nevertheless, the selected passages fitted very well into the author’s intentions. In one part of his sermon he chose to speak about the ways St Stanislaus imitated Christ in the sanctity of his life, in his death and in his suffering. He found the useful passages in two various sermon models, one in Voragine’s de tempore and another in his quadragesimale .

The material inspired by Voragine forms only one part of this sermon’s complex structure. The divisio thematis determines the main structure of the sermon texts as follows: first part deals with the dignity of the saint’s office, the second section with the sanctity of Stanislaus’ life; the third main structural part of the sermon text elaborates on the topic of the saint’s beatitude and his home in heaven ( excelsior celis factus ). The discussion of the ways St Stanislaus imitated Christ inspired by Voragine’s models appeared in this final part of the sermon. When speaking of the analogies with Christ’s passion, the author first listed the heritage that Christ divided in his spiritual testament to various people – a similar list is to be found in the sermon for Passion Sunday in Voragine’s de tempore collection, but the author might have taken the motif from other sources. Then the writer summarised that while Christ divided in his testament many things as a powerful lord, St Stanislaus, being a servant, did not have so much, but gave away everything he had, his life, his body and his property. The following section on the paralells in the suffering of the saint’s soul with Christ’s passion built again on a passage from Voragine’s First Sermon for Good Friday from Lent collection. It listed four philosophical opinions on the location of the soul in human body and then the ways the Jews struck these four places when they wanted to torment Christ’s soul. The discussion of individual points in the anonymous sermon is less developed than in Voragine’s text, but the parallel between the two texts is evident. The preacher added again the bridge to St Stanislaus: they tortured his soul in the identical four parts of his body: the head, the blood, the heart and the whole body.

Such use presupposes a better knowledge of Voragine, when a student of Voragine was able to recall and make use of distinctiones or sections from models for different liturgical occasions and then employ them as independent versatile units in newly composed sermons. It is a pattern similar to the functioning of distinctiones collections.

The sermon is included in a miscellaneous codex together with other widespread model sermons by Pope Gregory, Origen, Jerome, John Chrysostom and various theological treatises and aids. Various quires, which come from the period between 1467 and 1472, were bound together in the late fifteenth century. Various parts may be of Spiš (today’s Slovakia) or Polish provenance; in the late fifteenth century the volume belonged to John of Keszmargt (Kežmarok in today’s Slovakia), a parish priest in Menhartzdorff.1 The scribes may have been connected to the University of Cracow.

The author exploited also other sources for this sermon. He most probably knew Dominican’s Peregrinus of Opole (ca. 1260-1333) sermon for the feast of the same saint.2 The author used the same liturgical thema from the Epistle to the Hebrews [Heb 7.26] Talis enim decebat ut esset nobis pontifex , which was in general not frequently used in medieval homiletics, and a similar main division, although the structure of this sermon is much more complex than the Peregrinus’ one. Similarly to Peregrinus, he listed the phenomena that tested Stanislaus’ sanctity and the saint’s miracles in a section. Besides these sources, the preacher also made use of liturgical texts for this particular feast, esp. the historia rhytmica, quoted in the text.

[Anonymous, sermon for the feast of St
Stanislaus of Cracow, Budapest
University Library, Cod. Lat. 75, f. 450-451

Nam in tribus sanctus Stanislaus imitatus est Christum.

Primo in sanctitate vite. Nam Christus fuit martir et

sic beatus Stanislaus, quia virgo per eum permansit;

martir, quia pro Christo nomine sanguinem suum fudit. Unde
ecclesia: hic est vere martir, qui pro Christi nomine sanguinem
suum fudit, qui minas iudicum non timuit, nec terrene dignitatis

quesivit predicator, quia verbo Domini multos viam veritatis et
salutis docuit.

[Voragine, de Tempore, T23, RLS 54]


Tertium officium Pontificis est, præbendas
et beneficia distribuere.

Secundo imitatus est Christum in morte, quia Christus in
passione liberale testamentum fecit et dimisit, prout dicit
Ambrosius auctor humani generis pendens in cruce pietatis sua
beneficia dividebat,

Sic Christus in cruce
existens præbendas diversas distribuit, de quibus sic dicit

Auctor humani generis in cruce existens pietatis
officia dividebat,

primo apostolis persecutionem et pacem; Johannis
XV: Si me persecuti sunt, et vos persequentur. De pace
Johannis XIIII: Pacem meam do(no) vobis.

persecutionem Apostolis, pacem discipulis,

Secundo corpus suum Iudeis; Isaie X.: Corpus
meum dedi percucientibus

corpus Judæis,

Tercio spiritum patri, cum dixit: Pater, in
manus tuas commendo spiritum meum

Patri spiritum,

Quarto matrem discipulo cum dixit: mater, ecce
filius tuus
et discipulo: ecce mater tua.

Virgini paranymphum,

Latroni Paradisum,

Quinto penitentibus crucem penitencie. Mt XVI. Si
quis vult venire post me etc

Sexto peccatoribus infernum; Propheta pc’
Queruntur peccatores in infernum.

Septimo rectis et iustis regnum celorum; Mt XXV:
Venite benedicti patris mei, percipite regnum.

Nam Christus tamquam potens Dominus multa et magna
testamentaliter divisit suis;

peccatoribus impœnitentibus Infernum.

Christianis pœnitentibus crucem pœnitentiæ
delegavit. Præbenda igitur quam iste Pontifex dedit
Apostolis, fuit mors, et persecutio. Si me persecuti sunt, et
vos persequentur
. Præbenda quam dedit aliis Discipulis,
qui non erant adeo fortes, fuit pax et tranquillitas mentis. Pacem
relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis
. Præbenda quam dedit
Judæis, fuit corpus proprium, ut ipsum crucifigerent,
vulnerarent et pœnis afficerent, ut sic nostra redemptio
perficeretur. Terra, id est, caro Christi de nostra terra
assumpta, data est in manus impii, scilicet Judæi.
Præbenda quam dedit Patri cælesti, fuit spiritus suus,
quem in suis manibus commendavit : Pater in manus tuas
commendo spiritum meum
. Præbenda quam dedit matri fuit
Joannes Evangelista, quem sibi in paranymphum et custodem
dimisit : Mulier ecce filus tuus. Præbenda quam
de dit Latroni, fuit Paradisus : Amen dico tibi, hodie
mecum eris in Paradiso
, ecce quanta securitas, quia sibi hoc
juravit : quia hodie, ecce quanta celeritas, quia non
dixit usque ad mensem, velannum expecta : mecum eris,
ecce quam beata societas, in Paradiso, ecce quanta loci
amœnitas. Prœbenda quam dedit peccatoribus
impœnitentibus fuit infernus. Discedite a me maledicti in
ignem æternum
. Pærbenda quam dedit peccatoribus
pœnitentibus, fuit crux pœnitentiæ : Si
quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem
suam, et sequatur me

sed sanctus Stanislaus, tamquam servus non habebat, nisi sua
minuta, sed corpus et animam et res temporales: Nam corpus per
ipsum ad mortem exposuit, animam [re?]commendavit
et temporales pro ipso contempsit et pauperibus erogavit.

Tercio beatus Stanislaus imitatus est Christum, animam
ad eius acerbam excruciatam. Anima enim Christi in suo corde
diversive fuit
excruciata. Nam olim de anima ubi habebat habitaciam in corpore,
Inter sapientes fuerant quattuor opiniones;

[Voragine, Quadragesimale, T26, RLS 283]

Super hoc tamen inter sapientes fuerunt quatuor opiniones.

quidam dixerunt eam esse in capite; propter i(llud) Johannis
XX: Et inclinato 451v capite emisit spiritum.

secundi dixerunt eam esse in sanguine; propter hoc
Levitici XVIII: Anima hominis carnem in sanguinem,

tercii dixerunt eam esse in corde; propter illud Mt XV:
De corde exeunt cogitaciones.

enim dixerunt animam esse in capite, et hoc propter illam
auctoritatem qua dicitur : Inspiravit in faciem ejus
spiraculum vitae
(Gen. 2, 7). Illa enim inspiratio nihil aliud
fuit quam animae infusio.

dixerunt ipsam esse in corde, et hoc propter illam auctoritatem
qua dicitur : De corde exeunt malae cogitationes
(Matth. 15, 19). Cum enim cogitationes exeunt ab anima, si
cogitationes exeunt a corde, ergo anima est in corde. Unde
Hieronymus in Epistola ad Fabiolam : “ Quaeris
ubi principale sit animae ? Plato in cerebro, Christus
monstrat in corde. ”

dixerunt ipsam esse in sanguine, et hoc propter illud quod
dicitur : Anima carnis in sanguine est (Lev. 17, 11).

Quarti dixerunt eam esse in toto corpore et in qualibet
parte corporis et hoc est verior opinio.

?Alii dixerunt ipsam esse in
toto corpore et in qualibet parte totam, et hoc propter illud :
Adhuc tota anima mea in me est (II. Reg. 1, ). Non enim
dixit est in capite meo, vel in corde, vel in
sanguine meo
, sed in memetipso, id est in corpore

Et ideo Iudei, scientes hos opiniones, volentes animam Christi

Judaei igitur, volentes animam
Christi cruciare, videntur istas quatuor opiniones saltem ipso
facto scivisse.

primo cruciaverunt eum in capite, cum
scilicet dicitur coronam spineam inpressere.

Primo, ipsam animam
cruciaverunt in capite, quia fuit spinis coronatum. Anselmus :
“ Coronatus incedebat, sed ipsa sua corona cruciatus
est, quia mille puncturis ejus speciosissimum verticem
vulneraverunt. ”

Secundo in sanguine, cum ei in manibus et pedibus venas

Tercio in corde, cum ei latus lancea perforaverunt.

cruciaverunt ipsum in corde, scilicet quando fuit juxta cor in
latere vulneratus, ut, si ibi forte anima remansisset, cruciatum
sentiret. Verum, cum triplex sit amor, scilicet sermonis, cordis
et operis, Christus ostenderat nobis sermonis amorem in sapienti
praedicatione, amorem operis in miraculorum exhibitione. Quid
restabat nisi ostendere amorem cordis, quem ostendit in lateris
apertione ? Bernardinus : “ Clavus penetrans,
clavus reserans factus est mihi. Quid videam per foramen ?
clamat clavus. Clamat vulnus quod Deus verus est, Christo mundum
sibi reconcilians. ”

Tertio, cruciaverunt ejus
animam in sanguine, scilicet quando clavis acutis ejus venas
aperuerunt et totum sanguinem cum doloribus extraxerunt, ita quod
corpus ejus remansit in cruce totum aridum sicut lignum :
Aruit tamquam testa virtus mea (Psal. 21, 16). Iterum :
Ossa mea sicut cremium aruerunt (Ibidem 101, 4), et
assimilat corpus suum Christus cremio et testae. Nam testa quae
prius erat humida postmodum ab igne fit arida. Similiter, cremium
est lardum adustum a quo omnis pinguedo recessit. Sic corpus
Christi in cruce fuit sicut testa, quia ab omnibus suis humoribus
fuit exsiccatum ; et fuit sicut cremium, quia toto sanguine
suo fuit evacuatum.

Quarto in toto corpore, cum totum corpus supplicys
affecerunt, Ysa a planta pedis usque ad verticem sanitas non
est reperta in eo

Quarto, afflixerunt animam
in toto corpore, quia, a planta pedis usque ad verticem
capitis, non fuit in eo sanitas
(Isai. 1, 6). Cruciatus fuit
in toto corpore, scilicet in parte suprema, media et infima. Nam
in parte suprema fuit spinis coronatus, in media fuit ad columnam
ligatus et flagellatus, in infima fuit pedibus perforatus et cruci
affixus, ubi magnum dolorem sensit, et quia locus erat nervosus,
et quia unus pes super alium positus, et quia grossis clavis
perforatus, et quia innitebatur clavatis pedibus totum corpus.

Sic anima sancti Stanislai in hys quattuor locis fuit cruciata:
in capite duorum vulnerum impressionem; in sanguine ipsius anima
effusione; in corde et toto corpore in ipsius totali secacione et
ideo merito celis alcior factus est etc.