On this date in 1983, the Nintendo Entertainment System, the best-selling game console of its time, was released in Japan. Glad to be free, it soon wandered to America and other countries.
Vladimir the Great (ca. 958 – 1015) was the youngest and most illegitimate of the three sons of Prince Svyatoslav of Kiev, pagan son of the Christian Princess Olga. After Svyasha’s death his principality was split between his three sons. (Vlad got Novgorod, which would have been enough for me, but maybe that’s why I’m not a prince yet.) When middle son Oleg was killed by eldest son Yaropolk, Vlad slipped off to Norway and, with the help of its ruler, his umpteenth cousin Haakon Sigurdsson, raised an army of Vikings to wrest Kiev from Yaropolk. This proved unnecessary, as he was able to dispatch his half-brother through treachery. On the way home he sacked a city and slew its prince because the prince’s sister refused Vlad’s marriage proposal, all on account of his being the illegitimate brat of a slave woman. Talk about picky. Vlad married her by force, because he was that sort of guy.
Once in charge he started collecting wives and concubines, erecting pagan temples, harassing Christians, and in general acting like your typical pagan Viking prince of tenth century Kiev. At some point, however (one source says it was a result of the martyrdom of Theodore and John), he got to thinking about other religions, and sent emissaries out to check out Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Islam, and Judaism. He rejected Islam because of its prohibition of alcohol (“Russians could never give up drinking; it’s our greatest joy,” he admitted), and Judaism because their loss of Jerusalem proved God was no longer with them. Between Catholicism and Orthodoxy he chose the latter because his emissaries saw no beauty in the German churches they visited (“Why oh why couldn’t they have gone to Italy?” I hear the Catholics cry), but in Constantinople they said, “We couldn’t tell if we were in heaven or on earth, it was so beautiful.” (And this was 900 years before Rachmaninov!)
In the end Vlad got baptized in order to marry the emperor’s daughter Anna, whose hand he had earned by letting the emperor borrow some soldiers. As soon as he got home he started tearing down pagan temples and putting up churches with the same vigor with which he did the opposite earlier. He also decreed that on a certain date everybody in Kiev would get baptized “or be declared my enemy.” After a quick mental calculation on the import of this, the people were more than glad to get baptized. This traditionally marks the beginning of Orthodoxy in the Rus’, and earns Vlad the titles “Equal to the Apostles” and “Enlightener of the Rus’.” By all accounts, he took his new faith very seriously. Oh sure there were problems, hard decisions, wars and rumors of wars, but we’ll overlook those because our word count is already high, and end with this tidbit: he is the patron saint of reformed and penitent murderers.
Bonaventure (1221 – 1274) studied at the University of Paris, where he received his doctorate with classmate Thomas Aquinas. He was a Franciscan, and defended his order against the anti-mendicants, who were opposed to mendicants. Upon graduation he became Master General of the Franciscans, who under his leadership became the premiere Order in the church, at least until the rise of the Jesuits. (Mendicants are monks who espouse poverty and beg alms for a living.)
He is a Doctor of the Church, and one of the greatest medieval philosophers in the history of medieval philosophy. In the Scholastic endeavor to reconcile Plato, Aristotle, and the Christian faith, he is more mystical than the Aristotelian Aquinas or the scientific Bacon (scientific bacon is the tastiest kind).
He was almost made Archbishop of York, but escaped that fate through it never actually happening. He was present at the Second Council of Lyons, after which he died suddenly and “in suspicious circumstances” (some say it was poison). Possibly unrelatedly, he is the patron saint of people with intestinal illnesses.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
July 15 (Wikipedia)
Vladimir the Great (Wikipedia) – Main source
Equal of the Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, in Holy Baptism Basil, the Enlightener of the Russian Land
Saint Vladimir I of Kiev (SQPN)
Bonaventure (Wikipedia) – Main source
Bonaventure (St. Patrick DC)
Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (SQPN)
Both images from Wikimedia.