Saint Mark and Venice

The Golden Legend

Of St. Mark the Evangelist.

Mark the Evangelist was of the kindred of the Levites, and was a priest. When he was christened he was godson of S. Peter the apostle, and therefore he went with him to Rome. When S. Peter preached there the gospel, the good people of Rome prayed S. Mark that he would put the gospel in writing, just as St. Peter had preached. So he at their request wrote and showed it to his master St. Peter to examine; and when S. Peter had examined it, and saw that it contained the very truth, he approved it and commanded that it should be read at Rome. And then St. Peter, seeing St. Mark constant in the faith, sent him into Aquileia for to preach the faith of Jesus Christ, where he preached the word of God, and did many miracles, and converted innumerable multitudes of people to the faith of Christ. He also wrote the gospel for them, as he did to the people of  Rome, which is to this day kept in the church of Aquileia with great devotion.

After this it happened that St. Mark took with him to Rome a burgess of that same city whom he had converted to the faith, named Ermagoras. He brought him to St. Peter, and prayed him that he would ordain him bishop of Aquileia, and so he did. Then this Ermagoras, when he was bishop, he governed much holily the church, until at the last the pagans martyred him. Then St. Peter sent St. Mark to Alexandria, where he preached first the word of God. As soon as he entered the city a great multitude of people assembled against him, but he was of such great perfection that by his preaching and by his good example, the devoted people  assumed  a life like that of monks.  

He was of so great humility that he cut off his thumb because he would be no priest, for he judged himself not worthy; but the ordinance of God and of St. Peter came against his will, for St. Peter ordained him bishop of Alexandria. And as St Mark came into Alexandria, his shoes were broken and torn; when he saw that he said: I see that my journey is a smooth one, for God has not allowed the devil  to obstruct me, for my sins have been forgiven.’ Then St. Mark went to a shoemaker to mend his shoes. As the shoemaker worked he pricked and injured his left hand with his awl. When he felt the hurt he cried on high: One God! When St. Mark heard that, he said to him: 'Now I know well that God has made my journey prosperous.' Then he took a little clay and spittle and mixed them together and laid it on the wound, and straight away he was whole. When the shoemaker saw this miracle he brought him into his house and demanded him what he was, and where he had come from. St. Mark said that he was the servant of Jesus Christ.  'I would fain see him'. The shoemaker replied. 'I shall show him to you' St. Mark said. Then he began to preach to him the faith of Jesus Christ, and  baptized him and all his family. When the men of the town heard  that  a man had come from Galilee that despised and defended the sacrifices of idols, they began to plan how they might deliver him to death. When St. Mark learned that, he made his shoemaker, which was named Anianus, bishop of Alexandria. He himself went to Pentapolin where he was for two years. When he came again to Alexandria he found the town full of Christian men, but the priests of the idols were waiting for to take him.

Now it happened on Easter day, as St. Mark sang mass, they all assembled and put a cord about his neck.  They drew him throughout the city, and said: Let us draw the ox to his stall! And the blood ran upon the stones, and his flesh was torn piecemeal that it lay upon the pavement . After this they put him in prison, where an angel came and comforted him, and after came our Lord for to visit and comfort him, saying: Pax tibi Marce evangelista meus. Peace be to thee Mark, mine Evangelist! be not in doubt, for I am with thee and shall deliver thee. And in the morning they put the cord about his neck and drew him as they had done before and cried: Draw the ox! and when they had drawn him he thanked God and said: Into thy hands Lord, I commend my spirit, and he thus saying died. Then the pagans would have burnt his body, but the air began suddenly to change and to hail, lighten and thunder, in such a way that every man was forced to flee, and left the holy body alone. Then came the Christian men and bore it away, and buried it in the church, with great joy, honour, and reverence. This was in the year of our Lord fifty-seven, in the time that Nero was emperor.

And it happened in the year of grace four hundred and sixty-six in the time of Leo the emperor, that the Venetians translated the body of S. Mark from Alexandria to Venice in this manner. There were two merchants of Venice who  did so much, by prayer and by their gifts, for two priests that kept the body of S. Mark, that they allowed it to be borne secretly to their ship. And as they took it out of the tomb, there was so sweet an odour throughout all the city of Alexandria that all the people marvelled, though they did not know where it came from. Then the merchants brought it to the ship, and after setting sail, let other sailors know they were carrying the body of St Mark. There was one man in another ship that joked, and said: Are you sure you have  St. Mark?  Maybe they gave you the body of an Egyptian! Then the ship where the holy body was, turned  after him, and rudely boarded the ship of him that had said that word, and broke one of the sides of the ship, and would never leave it in peace till they had agreed that the body of St. Mark was in the ship.

Thus as they sailed fast before the wind, the air became dark and stormy, and they did not know where they were. Then St. Mark appeared to a monk who was keeping watch on the body. He told him to lower their sails, for they were near land, and he did so, and soon they landed at on an island. And  all the natives they passed told them that they were happy that they carried so noble a treasure as the body of St. Mark, and prayed that they would let them worship it. However, there was a sailor who did not believe that it was the body of S. Mark. But the devil entered into him, and tormented him so much so long that he could find on relief until he was brought to the holy body. As soon as he accepted that it was the body of S. Mark, the wicked spirit departed, and from then he had great devotion to S. Mark.

It happened after that the body of S. Mark was closed in a pillar of marble, and very few people knew where it was because it should be kept secretly. Then it happed that they that knew died, and no-one knew where this great treasure might be. The clerks and the lay people were greatly discomforted and wept for sorrow, and thought that it had been stolen away. Then made they solemn processions and litanies, and the people began to fast and be in prayers. Suddenly the stones opened and showed to all the people the place where the holy body rested. Then they rendered thanks to God for relieving them of their sorrow and anguish, and ordained that on that day they shall hold feast always for this devout revelation.

A young man at this time had a cancer in his breast, causing his flesh to rot. As he was thus tormented he prayed with good heart to S. Mark, and asked him for help and aid, and then he slept. Then St. Mark appeared to him in the form of a pilgrim, ready to go hastily over the sea; and when he demanded him what he was, he answered that he was St. Mark, hurrying to save a ship which was in peril; then he stretched and laid his hand on him, and when he awoke he found himself all whole. Later, the ship came unto the port of Venice, and the mariners told of the danger they had been in, and how St. Mark had helped them.  For that one miracle and for that other the people rendered thanks to our Lord.

  Some merchants of Venice went by the sea in a ship of Saracens towards Alexandria; and when they saw the ship was in danger, they climbed into the small boat that was towed behind and  cut the cords that tied them the ship. Soon the ship began to break up by the force of the sea. All the Saracens fell in the sea and most of them drowned. Then one of the Saracens made his vow to St. Mark and promised him that, if he delivered him from this danger, he would be baptized. Then a shining figure appeared to him, and took him out of the water and returned him to the ship, and straight away the tempest ceased. When he came to Alexandria he forgot all about St. Mark, who had delivered him from peril.  He did not go to visit him, nor was he baptized. Then St. Mark appeared to him, and chastised him for forgetting who had saved him. Straight away the Saracen recovered his conscience. He went to Venice, and was there baptized and named Mark.  He believed perfectly in God, and ended his life in good works.

There was a man gone up in the campanile of S. Mark at Venice to carry out.  He was troubled in such a way that he fell, and was likely to have been badly injured. Nevertheless, as he fell he cried: S. Mark! Immediately he was caught up on part of the structure that jutted out.  A cord was let down and he was rescued.

There was a gentleman of Provence who had a servant that wished go on a pilgrimage to St. Mark, but he could not get permission from his lord. At last despite the anger of his lord, he went there with much devotion. When his lord found out he took it very badly, and as soon as the servant returned he commanded that his eyes should be put out. The other servants that were ready to do the lord's will made ready sharp spikes of iron. They tried with all their power, but they could not do it. Then the lord commanded them to hack off his thighs with axes, but the iron became as soft as molten lead. Then he commanded them to break his teeth with iron hammers, but the iron became so soft that they could do him no harm. Then when the lord saw the virtue of God so openly by the miracles of S. Mark, he demanded pardon and went to Venice, to S. Mark, with his servant.

There was a knight so hurt in battle that his hand hung on the arm in such a way that his friends and surgeons advised him to cut it off, but he, who was accustomed to be whole, was ashamed to be maimed, and bound it in its place. After this he called devoutly to S. Mark, and his hand was as whole as it had been before, with just a scar to act as witness to the miracle.

   Another time there was an armed knight who ran upon a bridge, and his horse and he fell in  deep water. When he saw he might not escape, he cried to St. Mark, and he was saved by means of a long spear. For this reason  he came in pilgrimage to Venice and recounted the miracle.

  There was a man that was put in prison on the word of his envious enemies.  When he had been there forty days, he cried on St. Mark. And when St. Mark had appeared three times he supposed that it just been his imagination. Then he felt his irons breaking, as if they were rotten threads.  He passed by the keepers of the prison openly by day; he saw them all, but none of them saw him. Afterwards, he came to the church of S. Mark and thanked God devoutly.

It happed that there was great famine in Apulia, and the land was so barren that nothing would grow there. It was shown by revelation to a holy man that it was because that they had not hallowed the feast of S. Mark; and when they knew this, they hallowed the feast of S. Mark. Then plenty of goods began to grow throughout all the country.

It happed at Papia, in the convent of the friars preachers, in the year of our Lord one thousand two hundred and forty-one, that a friar, a very religious man named Julianus was sick unto  death. He sent for his prior to ask what state he was in, and he told him that he was in peril of death, and that it approached fast. His face became bright and joyful, and with gladness he began to say: ‘fair brethren, my soul shall depart soon. Make room and place, for my soul rejoices in my body for the good tidings that I have heard’. And he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said: ‘Lord God, take away my soul out of this prison’; and after he said: ‘Alas! who shall deliver me from this corrupt and mortal body?’ After these words he fell into a light sleep, and saw St. Mark coming to him and standing by his bedside, and he heard a voice saying to him: ‘O Mark, what are you here?’ He answered that he had come to visit this friar because he was dying. Then he asked him why he came more than any other saint; he answered ‘because he had a special devotion to me, and because he hath often devoutly visited my church, and therefore am I come to visit him in the hour of his death.’ Then entered into that place great numbers of people all white, to whom S. Mark demanded why they had come. And they answered that they had come to present the soul of this brother before God. And when the friar was woken he sent for the prior and told to him of his vision, and afterwards, in the presence of the prior, he died with great joy. And all this the prior recounted to him that wrote this book named Legenda aurea.

(Modernised version of the Caxton edition.)


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