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Alexis of Rome


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Probably never existed, but his Legend was extremely popular in the Middle Ages. It was made by a conflation of the Life of St John Calybita with that of the man of God Mar Riscia of Edessa. If any historical truth underlies the Legend, it is found in the life of Mar Riscia. The principal elements are that Alexis left his wife on his wedding night and went on a long pilgrimage, returning afterwards to Rome and living there unknown as a beggar in his father's house for seventeen years. He was identified after death by documents in his handwriting, by voices from heaven, and by miracles. There is no mention of him in ancient martyrologies or other liturgical records; attempts to identify him with Alethius, a correspondent of Paulinus of Nola, have failed. Apparently he was first heard of in Rome only in the late 10th century, although he was supposed to have lived in the 5th. In the 12th century the legend reached England, and is found in the Albani Psalter which probably belonged to Christina of Markyate; it became extremely popular as the subject for vernacular Lives and dramas. Feast: 17 July.

AA.SS. Iul. IV (1725), 238–70;B. de Gaiffier, ‘Intactam sponsam relinquens’, Anal. Boll., lxv (1947), 157–95;O. Pacht, C. R. Dodwell, and F. Wormald, The St Albans Psalter (1960).

Subjects: Christianity.


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