Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Martyrology of Usuard

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 15
Martyrology of Usuard

by Herbert Thurston


Usuard was a Benedictine monk of the Abbey of St-Germain-des-Prés, Paris. He seems to have died about the year 875, and the prologue in which he offers to Charles the Bald his most important work, the "Martyrology", which he had undertaken at that monarch's instigation, was apparently written very shortly before the author's death. Usuard was a prominent member of his order and he had been sent on a mission to Spain in 858 to procure certain important relics, of which journey an account is still preserved (see Acta SS., July, VI, 459). The "Martyrologium" which bears his name, a compilation upon which the existing Roman Martyrology depends very closely, remained throughout the Middle Ages the most famous document of its kind, and is preserved to us in innumerable manuscripts, of which Dom Quentin gives a partial list (Martyrologes historiques, 1908, pp. 675-7). The rather complicated history of the evolution of the early medieval martyrologia culminating in Usuard's work has for the first time been accurately told by Dom Quentin in the book just cited. It has, however, long been known that Usuard provided what was substantially an abridgement of Ado's "Martyrology" (see Ado of Vienne) in a form better adapted for practical liturgical use. In certain points, however, Usuard reverted to a Lyonese recension of Bede's augmented "Martyrology", which was attributed to the famous archdeacon Florus. But the story of the relation of these texts, unravelled for the first time by Dom Quentin, is too complicated to be detailed here. The text of Usuard's "Martyrologium" was carefully edited by Dom Bouillant (Paris, 1718) from manuscript Latisi 13745 at Paris, which, if not the autograph of the author, dates at any rate from his time. A still more elaborate edition was brought out by the Bollandist Du Sollier in Acta SS., June, VI. It has been reprinted in P.L., CXXIII-CXXIV.

HERBERT THURSTON