« Martyrius, bp. of Jerusalem Masona, bp. of Merida Maternus, Julius Firmicus »

Masona, bp. of Merida

Masona (Massona, Mausona, Mansi, ix. 1000; x. 478), bp. of Merida from c. 571 to c. 606. Except for the de Vita et Miraculis Patrum Emeritensium, a series of Lives attributed to Paulus Diaconus, a supposed writer of the 7th cent. (printed by Florez, Esp. Sagr. xiii., by Aguirre, Coll. Max. Conc. Hisp. ii. 639, and elsewhere), our information concerning Masona is extremely scanty.

Joannes Biclarensis says under A.D. 573, the 5th year of Leovigild, "Masona Emeritensis Ecclesiae Episcopus in nostro dogmate clarus habetur"; and at the third council of Toledo, the famous conversion council of 589, Masona presided, his signature "Ecclesiae Catholicae Emeritensis Metropolitanus Episcopus Provinciae Lusitaniae" being at the head of all the episcopal signatures, and immediately following that of Reccared. Between these two dates 16 years of great importance to the Gothic state had elapsed, comprising the rebellion of Hermenigild and the submission of Reccared to Catholicism. From the notice by Joannes Biclarensis 9 years earlier, it is evident that at the outbreak of the rebellion Masona was one of the most prominent Catholic bishops in S. Spain, and therefore would have considerable influence upon the position assumed by Merida in the contest. In 589 the great aim of the Catholic party was achieved, and the Visigothic state became, at least officially, Catholic. Eight years later a gathering of bishops at Toledo, under the presidency of Masona, passed two canons, one insisting upon the celibacy of bishops, priests, and deacons, the other reserving the endowments of a church for the benefit of its priests and other clerks, as against possible exactions from the bishop. This assembly was perhaps a chance gathering of a number of bishops in the capital, who took the opportunity to formulate rules on two important disciplinary points. If it was a duly summoned national council, the Acts were purposely or accidentally omitted from the original redaction of the Spanish Codex Canonum made within the first 40 years of 7th cent. Our last notice of Masona occurs in a letter, dated Feb. 28, 606, to him from Isidore in answer to an inquiry on a matter of discipline. In 610 his successor, 706Innocentius, signed the Decretum Gundemari.

The above Vita remains to be considered. If it be a genuine piece of 7th-cent. biography, it gives full and valuable information on his life and also on the general condition of the Spanish church in the 6th and 7th cents. But the Latin of the first three chaps. seems to make it impossible to refer them to 7th cent. The legendary and marvellous character of the remainder, and the desire apparent throughout to exalt the ecclesiastical importance of Merida, is, on the other hand, no argument against genuineness, as contemporary parallels might easily be quoted. The facts it gives regarding Masona are briefly: his Gothic extraction, his education in the church of St. Eulalia, his persecution at the hands of Leovigild, who sent two Arian bishops, Sunna and Nepopis, at different times, to undermine Masona's influence and oust him from his church, his intercourse with Leovigild at Toledo, where his resistance to the king's demand led to his exile, and his final restoration to his see after Leovigild's various supernatural warnings. After Reccared had succeeded and publicly embraced Catholicism, a struggle took place in Merida between Masona and Sunna. Sunna joined with two Gothic Comes, Segga and Witteric, in a plot for murdering Masona which was miraculously frustrated, and Witteric, afterwards the Gothic king of that name, confessed all to Masona, who was not only protected by miracles, but by the strong arm of the Catholic Claudius Dux of Lusitania (known to us from other sources as are Sunna and Segga, cf. Isid. Hist. Goth. ap. Esp. Sagr. v. 492; Joann. Bicl. op. cit. 385, 386; and ep. Greg. Magn.; Aguirre Catalani, Coll. Max. Conc. Hist. ii.). Reccared decided that Sunna should either recant his Arianism or go into exile. He chose the latter, retired into Mauritania and there came to a miserable end. Masona lived to an honoured old age, procuring in his last hours the miraculous punishment of his archdeacon Eleutherius, who had abused the powers entrusted to him by the failing bishop.

It is not improbable that the Vita represents the 7th-cent. tradition. Isidore expressly mentions the exile of bishops among Leovigild's measures of persecution (Hist. Goth. l.c. p. 491), and it is most likely that Masona was exiled c. 583, after the fall of Merida, and restored, not during the lifetime of Leovigild, as his enthusiastic biographer declares, but upon the accession of Reccared, who sought to reverse his father's policy. Dahn, Könige der Germanen, v. 141; R. de Castro, Biblioteca Españoles, ii. p. 348; Nicolas Antonio, Bibl. Vet. Bayer's ed. i. p. 373; note by Morales to the Memoriale Sanctorum of St. Eulogius apud Hist. Illust. iv. 282.

[M.A.W.]

« Martyrius, bp. of Jerusalem Masona, bp. of Merida Maternus, Julius Firmicus »





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