Lists of martyrs in the order of their feasts. The oldest catalogs of saints were also calendars that indicated the feasts of interest to particular churches. In Christian antiquity, each church had its own calendar that indicated what martyr or saint was to be commemorated in what church according to that specific local church's custom. A martyrology lists the names of a number of martyrs and saints whose anniversaries are reckoned on the same day, borrowing from among the more prominent ones of neighboring churches. One of the most ancient, which became the basis for the later Roman sanctoral, was that of the chronographer of 354. This document was an almanac written and illustrated by Furius Dionysius Filocalus. It was compiled in 336 and completed down to 354. It contains, along with other listings, a Deposition episcoporum and a Depositio martyrum —lists of the anniversaries, as well as the dates and places of burial, of the bishops and of martyrs honored each year at Rome, the first martyr-pope of which is St. Callistus in 222 and the last martyrs of which suffered in the persecution under Diocletian at Rome that ended during 305. Still extant likewise are the calendars of the Churches of Tours (5th century), Carthage and Carmona (6th century), and Oxyrhynchus.
The martyrologies evolved through a combination of several such lists of martyrs to include the saints of the Church universal. The menology and synaxary of the Oriental Churches correspond to the Latin martyrologies that were read during the canonical hours, specifically Prime, since the 8th century. While some orders preserved the reading of the martyrology at extraliturgical times, the suppression of the office of Prime by Vatican II mostly resulted in the disuse of the martyrology.
Historical Development. The oldest extant martyrology is the Syriac Breviary or Calendar of Antioch compiled between 362 and 381 with the title: "The names of our masters, the Martyrs and Victors, with the dates on which they received their crowns." The Greek text is lost, but a synopsis in Syriac dating from 411 has been preserved. To the names of martyrs anterior to the epoch of Diocletian it adds those of the great persecution, during which there were thousands of martyrs in the East, down to 313; those of the Licinian persecution in 320 and 361 to 363. To the martyrs of the eastern Mediterranean basin it added the Orientals of Armenia and Mesopotamia. In particular, mention is made of Stephen (December 26); John and James (December 27); Peter and Paul (December 28); Epiphany (January 6); Polycarp (February 23); Perpetua, Saturninus, and 10 other confessors (March 7); a memorial of all the confessors (Friday after Easter); the Machabees (August 1); Sixtus, bishop of Rome (August 8); and Ignatius of Antioch (October 17).
In the middle of the 5th century (c. 431) another martyrology appeared in northern Italy whose preface claimed falsely that it was the work of St. jerome, thus known as the Hieronymian Martyrology. This martyrology, given a critical edition by H. Delehaye in 1931, is a basic document for hagiographical studies. The oldest manuscripts of the work go back to the 8th century and depend upon a single Gallican recension that was made in Auxerre between 592 and 600 (according to L. Duchesne) or at Luxeuil between 627 and 628 (B. Krusch). By the eliminating of later additions, it becomes comparatively easy to reconstruct the original text, which was compiled from three principal sources: the work of the Chronographer of 354 continued to 420, the Syriac Breviary, and an African calendar, as well as several other as yet unresolved sources. To give an air of authenticity to the work, the author added an apocryphal exchange of letters between Bps. Chromatius of Aquileia, Heliodorus of Altinum, and St. Jerome. Like the calendars, the martyrologies ordinarily mention only the martyr or saint's name, date of commemoration, and the place of martyrdom or cult. Sometimes, however, a brief notice is supplied concerning the circumstances of martyrdom.
A new development in the formation of martyrologies occurred in the 8th and 9th centuries with the compilation of "historical" martyrologies, which added two elements to the information furnished by the martyrology of St. Jerome: a brief account of the saint's life and a large number of names taken from Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, the Scriptures, legends, and the writings of the Fathers. Thus they filled in the empty dates left in the earlier martyrologies. The Venerable bede (d. 735) was the first to compose such a martyrology, using his competence and knowledge as an historian. The historical martyrologies also added more detailed accounts of the martyr. Bede's work was continued at Lyons, first by an anonymous cleric who compiled a new martyrology (c. 800) by adding numerous notices to those of Bede (J. Dubois, Edition pratique des martyrologes de Bède, de l'anonyme lyonnais et de Florus [Paris 1978]) and later by the deacon florus of lyons who completed the former's work (c. 850). Until then all went well. The number of notices was augmented from one redaction to another, and it was done conscientiously. But c. 865 a falsifier, ado of vienne, published a "Small Roman Martyrology," which he claimed was an ancient papal martyrology that he had discovered in Italy (see J. Dubois, Le Martyrologe d'Adon, CNRS [Paris 1984]). As a matter of fact, he had manufactured it by unscrupulously changing the dates in the earlier martyrologies. Thus he fixed the date for Ignatius of Antioch on February 1 and that for St. Basil on June 14. In 875 usuard of Saint-Germain, by reducing certain sections of the martyrology of Ado, and augmenting others, while retaining a substantial part, composed the martyrology that bears his name. This was long in use among the Benedictines of Rome and is still employed by the Cistercians. Practically speaking, it is the direct ancestor of the Roman Martyrology.
Roman Martyrology. The official record of saints and martyrs recognized by the Roman Church was officially published by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584. Having reformed the calendar of the Church with the bull Inter gravissimas (Feb. 14, 1582), Gregory formed a commission (7–10 members) under Cardinal Sirleto (d. 1585) with the future cardinal baronius as leading light, to bring out a thoroughly revised edition of the Martyrology of Usuard then in use in Rome. A provisionary edition was printed in 1582 covering the period from October 15 to December 31. One dealing with the annual cycle of saints and martyrs was published (1583) without a letter of papal approbation. This edition had at base the Martyrology of Usuard, with additions from those of St. Cyriacus (MS F 85 bibl. Vallicelliana), Bede, Florus, and Ado, and from the Greek menologies translated into Latin by Cardinal Sirleto, the Dialogues of St. gregory i, and calendars of individual churches, particularly those in Italy. After emendations this text was published as official for the universal Church by Pope Gregory XIII on Jan. 14, 1584, with the bull Emendatio. In 1586 it was republished under Sixtus V with the notes and treatise on the Roman Martyrology by Baronius, who had been encouraged by Sirleto to publish the fontes and documentation in anticipation of critical reaction. Though far from the standards required by modern hagiography, this edition was a first attempt at achieving historical accuracy. It was frequently revised, particularly in 1630 under urban viii, and reorganized also under clement x in 1681 and benedict xiv in 1748. Benedict studied many of the problems personally in view of his precisions on the beatification and canonization of saints. The edition of 1913 is a revision of that of Benedict XIV. Between 1913 and 1956 several further editions were published; that in 1924, known as the editio prima post typicam, contains many changes based on attempts at complete reform. It was, however, strongly criticized by Dom H. Quentin (Analecta Bollandiana 42  387–406). Since then, other editions merely added new feasts and newly canonized saints. A thorough revision has been underway since 1984. John Paul II stimulated renewed interest in compiling local martyrologies in his apostolic letter Tertio millenio adveniente. Noting that the Church of the second millennium had once again become a church of the martyrs, the pope urged that, "As far as possible, their witness should not be lost to the Church… The local Churches should do everything possible to ensure that the memory of those who have suffered martyrdom should be safeguarded" (no. 37).
Bibliography: r. aigrain, L'Hagiographie (Paris 1953). b. de gaiffier, "De l'usage et de la lecture du martyrologe: témoignages antérieur au XIe siècle," Analecta Bollandiana 79 (1961) 42–47. h. delehaye, ed., Commentarius perpetuus in martyrologium hieronymianum, (Acta Sanctorum Nov. 2:2; 1931) ix–xxiii. j. dubois, "Introduction à la revision du Martyrologe romain," Notitiae 21 (1985) 90–100; "Les martyrologes du moyen âge latin," Typologie des sources du moyen âge occidental 26 (Brepols 1978). h. quentin, Les Martyrologes historiques du moyen âge (Paris 1908). h. a. schmidt, Introductio in liturgiam occidentalem (Rome 1960).
[j. le brun/eds.]
"Martyrologies." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/martyrologies
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