Hic situs est sanctus : l'arca di san Basso a Termoli, fra testo e contesto

Title: Hic situs est sanctus : l'arca di san Basso a Termoli, fra testo e contesto
Variant title:
  • Hic situs est sanctus : the sarcophagus of Saint Bassus in Termoli : between text and context
  • Hic situs est sanctus : sarkofág sv. Bassa v Termoli mezi textem a kontextem
Source document: Convivium. 2018, vol. 5, iss. 1, pp. 80-95
  • ISSN
    2336-3452 (print)
    2336-808X (online)
Type: Article
Summary language
License: Not specified license
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The thirteenth-century Cathedral of Termoli houses the sarcophagus of Saint Bassus, a significant medieval artifact made for the remains of the legendary martyr venerated as the city's patron and discovered beneath the church's choir in 1761. While the fortuitous inventio opened many historical questions, the sarcophagus itself has never been considered a key element of the hagiography. Reconstructing the developments that took the cult of Saint Bassus from celebration to oblivion, this paper analyses the sarcophagus's stylistic and contextual attributes. Its semicircular cover, ornamented with angular acroteria, bears elegantly inscribed hexametric verses dedicated to the saint: the text reveals the previously unknown names of the poet and the sculptor. This study offers new evidence for the artists' whereabouts at the time of the cathedral's construction. It also reconstructs the epigraphic setting of the tomb, which was surrounded by inscriptions composed both to signalize and validate the presence of the relics, and to praise the memory of the city's patron. While the physical appearance of the sarcophagus recalls those of Late Antiquity, epigraphic and textual analysis date the object to the thirteenth century – i.e. much later than the time of Bassus's martyrdom. This hypothesis opens many questions: why was a medieval funerary object created in this all'antica style? What was the historical and cultural context underlying the creation of the poem to Saint Bassus? And finally, given that its origins remain unclear, where and how did the cult of the saint in Termoli first emerge? In answering these questions, this paper reveals the necessity of interdisciplinary exchanges with literary, philological, and historical scholarship, and offers new insights on the remnants of the intellectual Hohenstaufen circles in Southeastern Italy.