October 31 – 100,000 Martyrs of Tblisi; Foillon

The 100,000 Martyrs of Tblisi (d. 1226) were killed by the forces of Jalal ad-Din Migburno, last ruler of the Khwarezmian (Persian, sorta) Empire and one of history’s sorest losers. Mig lost his father’s kingdom to the Mongols, lost his fleeing army and refugees when the Mongols overtook them at the Indus, and was refused alliances by two separate sultans. Clearly subscribing to the “If your boss yells at you, go home and kick the dog” theory of ruling, he started picking off little kingdoms, including, sadly, Georgia. He destroyed their army in 1225, and then returned in 1226 to finish off the capital city of Tblisi. Queen Rusudan, not having Theodora’s (Nov 14) taste for purple graveclothes, bravely ran away with her court, leaving the city in the care of the (remains of the) valiant army and citizenry. They fended off Migburno’s forces for one day before a local Persian, in a fit of cliché, opened a postern gate.

Cue rape, pillage, plunder, and so on. The anonymous author of the fourteenth century Chronicle of a Hundred Years describes how the streets filled with gore, soldiers performed the Psalm 137:9 manoeuver, and in general it wasn’t the sort of week that inspires tourist brochures. Migburno even ordered the cathedral dome torn down and replaced with “his vile throne.” (Where he put his other thrones, if any, my source does not divulge.) He had the holy icons of Our Lord and His Mother taken out to the Metekhi Bridge, where any Christians not willing to trample and/or spit on them were beheaded and tossed into the Mtkvari River. As you can tell from the headline, there were quite a few who refused. Migburno later got his comeuppance, losing Azerbaijan to the Mongols, and his life to a Khurdish assassin. The sounds of wailing and lamentation over his death could be heard nowhere.

Foillan (d. 655) was the “uterine-brother” of (St.) Fursey, and because I like you I’ll tell you what that means: they had the same mother but different fathers. They also had a brother named Ultan, but what body part he is associated with, my sources (thankfully) do not divulge. Fursey was the ringleader, and his brothers followed him from Ireland to (ultimately) East Anglia. There King Sigeberht gave them the ruins of an old Roman shore-fort named Cnobheresburg (“Fortress on This Here Knob”) to build a monastery.

Once this was up and running, Fursey gave the keys to Foillon and headed into the swamps of East Anglia to look for Ultan, who had wandered off some years prior. He found him, and the two lived as hermitty brothers for a blissful and prayerful year, after which he (Fursey) had a premonition that the area was about to be invaded, and shuffled off to Gaul. He set out to return a year later, but died en route. Meanwhile, predictably, the predicted invaders invaded, in the person of Penda, king of Mercia, and his army. They pillaged Cnobheresburg, but Foillon, by this point a bishop, was able to ransom the monks (including Ultan), relics, books, holy vessels, and John Michael Talbot cassettes, transporting the whole lot to Neustria.

There they were greeted with joy by Erchinoald, majordomo to Clovis II, and settled in just long enough to fall out of favor and get expelled. They next went to Nivelles, where they were welcomed by the mother-daughter (respectively) team of (Sts.) Itta and Gertrude, and didn’t fall out of favor. Foillon built a monastery in nearby Fosses-la-Ville (“This-Village-Is-the-Pits”). Sadly he was beheaded by brigands whilst walking in the forest one day on monastery business (what business? that’s none of our business). His head was thrown into a pig sty, still singing hymns as it flew through the air. Gertrude later found and buried it, along with the rest of him. For this or some other reason, Foillon is the patron saint of truss makers.