April 21 – Theodore of Perge; Anselm of Canterbury

Theodore of Perge and his companions (d. 220) were from Perge, which was in Pamphylia, which was roughly between Lycia and Cilicia, south of Mount Taurus[1].  He was drafted into the army, but when his recruitment officer invited him to perform the requisite pagan ritual (spoiler: sacrificing to idols), Theo refused. As a result, he was placed on a red-hot plate (this was clearly not at Appleby’s) and anointed with boiling tar. A miraculous earthquake caused a gusher of water to put out the fire, cool the plate, and wash the tar off, and Ted went unharmed. The commander accused him of sorcery, so Theodore suggested the attending pagan priest, Discorius, be given the same treatment, and let’s just see if he can save himself by praying to Zeus. Discorius weighed his options and decided to become a Christian on the spot. He got on the plate, prayed to Christ, and expired before things got really ouchy.

Next they dragged Theodore behind two horses, but the horses collapsed at the city walls (an odd detail, I thought—something in their contract?). A heavenly chariot came down and took Theodore away, but the soldiers nabbed him, which is confusing.

Anyway he and his companions were thrown into a fiery furnace, which worked as well as it did for Shadrach, Abednego, and the other guy, which is to say not at all. The commander then suggested to Theodore’s mother, who was encouraging the guys to be steadfast, that she talk some sense into him. She said he was prophesied at birth to die for Christ by crucifixion, so the commander crucified him, beheading everybody else (including Mum). Theodore hung on the cross for three days, praying the whole time, which on the whole is an admirable way to go if crucifixion is the best you can manage. I hope I die half as well.

Anselm of Canterbury (ca. 1033–1109), having been denied his monastic desires by his noble father, ran away to Normandy, entered a Benedictine monastery, and worked his way up from mailboy to abbot (of nearby Bec). He gathered scholars from all over Europe, and wrote works of theology and philosophy. After the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm visited England, but William II neither allowed him to return to Bec, nor to fill the vacant archbishopric. Encroaching death has a wonderful way of clearing the mind, and when Will felt it, he repented munificently and offered Anselm the see. The wily abbot, however, sent a list of demands—the king must return seized lands, accede to Anselm’s authority, and reject antipope Clement III in favor of Urban II. While the two were haggling, the other English bishops forced the crozier into Anselm’s hand (reportedly when he was too enfeebled by a temporary illness to fight them off) and dragged him to the cathedral to be archbishopified.

Anselm and William’s wrangling over the roles of crown and church culminated in Anselm’s exile. When Will died, Henry I invited Anselm back—apparently, he needed support in his claim for the throne. Anselm had hardly got his land legs back when Henry demanded he pay homage, which the Pope had recently banned. Things led to things, and by 1103 Anselm was again in exile. In further negotiations, the king made some concessions, but Anselm held out until he agreed to give back all the lands, churches, and other wealth the crown had seized. Anselm returned to England, and spent his last two years setting things to rights, restoring order, praying, and further freeing the Church from the tyranny of the crown.

Theologically-wise speaking, Anselm is perhaps most famous for promulgating the satisfaction theory of atonement, in which God required restitution for original sin, for which He accepted only Christ’s death. This was laid forth in his treatise Cur Deus Homo (which has nothing to do with dogs or homogenized milk), which became a great favorite of Martin Luther, who (if we know him) replaced the milk with ale.


[1] Lost yet? It’s about a mile north of Aksu in modern Turkey. Look for Antalya and go east on the D4DD.