The Cult of Peter and Paul

The cult of Peter and Paul reached its apex in the late fourth century when they were worshipped as the twin founders of the new Christian Rome. Pope Damasus promoted the cult and dedicated the memoria apos-tolorum as a pilgrim site on the Appian Way to their commemoration. He marked the memoria with the inscription described above. By the late 380s, there were several feast days and a total of three sites of veneration for the "Apostles of Rome": the Basilica of the Apostles on the Appian Way, and the basilicas at the supposed sites of their martyrdoms—the Basilica of Saint Peter on the Vatican Hill, and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, on the road to Ostia.

Damasus added a second feast dedicated to Saint Peter to the cycle of martyr commemorations that he had affixed to the pagan Codex-Calendar. The way he so cleverly blended the elements of the pagan into the Christian feast is an excellent illustration of his strategy for winning converts, strengthening his papacy, and convincing the world of the primacy of the see of Rome.

To the date of February 22, Damasus added the feast called the Natale Petri de Cathedra, the "Foundation of the Chair of Peter," the feast day of Peter's accession to the bishopric. In the Codex-Calendar, there was already a feast celebrated on February 22, the pagan feast called the Caristia or Cara Cognitio, which means "beloved family member." This feast was celebrated at a graveside where friends and family shared a meal and left a chair (cathedra) empty for the departed. The celebration took on new meaning when it was attached to the episcopate of Peter. Now it marked the day that he had assumed the episcopal cathedra, "chair," or the seat reserved for the bishop of Rome. This new holiday, "The Chair of Saint Peter," was one of the earliest Christian nonmartyr holidays to enter the annual cycle of Christian celebrations. It demonstrates perfectly Damasus' practice of blending the classical pagan religious celebrations with Christian holy days.

A politically suave, aristocratic, and forceful pope, Damasus ensured that none of the pomp and spectacle of the pagan religious feasts was compromised in their Christian iterations. In the same way, the Christian authors eager to spread the new faith blended classical pagan forms and Christian themes in their new literary compositions. As we shall see in the next section, these Christian themes brought a new vitality to pagan literary forms.

0 0

Post a comment