Thursday, October 07, 2004

Look, we have our own saints and everything

Patron saints of archaeology:

Pope Damasus I (ca. 306-384):

His pontificate suffered from the rise of Arianism, and from several schisms including break-away groups in Antioch, Constantinople, Sardinia, and Rome. However, it was during Damasus' reign that Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman state.

Patron of his secretary, Saint Jerome, commissioning him to make the translation of scripture now known as the Vulgate. Damasus restored catacombs, shrines, and the tombs of martyrs, and wrote poetry and metrical inscriptions about and dedicated to martyrs. They state that he would like to be buried in the catacombs with the early martyrs, but that the presence of one of his lowly status would profane such an august place. Ten of his letters, personal and pontifical, have survived.

St. Jerome (347-419):

Born to a rich pagan family, he led a misspent youth. Studied in Rome. Lawyer. Converted in theory, and baptised in 365, he began his study of theology, and had a true conversion. Monk. Lived for years as a hermit in the Syrian deserts. Reported to have drawn a thorn from a lion's paw; the animal stayed loyally at his side for years. Priest. Student of Saint Gregory of Nazianzen. Secretary to Pope Damasus I who commissioned him to revise the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. Friend and teacher of Saint Paula, Saint Marcella, and Saint Eustochium, an association that led to so much gossip, Jerome left Rome to return to the desert solitude. Lived his last 34 years in the Holy Land as a semi-recluse. Wrote translations of Origen, histories, biographies, and much more. Doctor of the Church, Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloging, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron - a man who knew their lives and problems.

St. Helen (250-330):

Converted to Christianity late in life. Married Constantius Chlorus, co-regent of the western Roman empire. Mother of Constantine the Great. Her husband put her aside for a second marriage with better political connections. On his death, her son ascended to the throne, brought her home, and treated her as royalty. She used her high position and wealth in the service of her religious enthusiasm, and helped build churches throughout the empire.

At the age of 80 she led a group to the Holy Land to search for the True Cross. She and her group unearthed three crosses in 326. At the suggestion of Saint Macarius of Jerusalem, she took them to a woman afflicated with an incurable disease, and had her touch each one. One of them immediately cured her, and it was pronounced the True Cross. She built a church on the spot where the cross was found, and sent pieces to Rome and Constantinople; the Feast of the Holy Cross on 14 September celebrates the event. Thus in art, she is usually depicted holding a wooden cross.

We here at ArchaeoBlog, while rather taking a liking to a fellow who is described as having a "misspent youth", still prefer Helen as our official patron saint. After all, she did fieldwork, conducted empirical tests on the efficacy of true-crossness, and sent samples back to the home office for curation, display, and storage.

And here she is after pondering Schiffer's latest tome: