Summae sedis minister,

quis sicut deus, Michael,

cum supernis civibus

sis nobis propitius.[1]

This stanza from a hymn in a manuscript roughly contemporary with Corpus 41 indicates not only the status accorded Michael but also the meaning of his name. In Hebrew, mîkā'ēl means ‘who is like God?’ and ‘quis ut deus’ became the war-cry of the good angels in their battle against Satan in heaven. Pope St Gregory the Great characterizes the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael thus: ‘Michael namque, quis ut Deus; Gabriel autem, fortitudo Dei; Raphael vero dicitur medicina Dei.’ Gregory points out that the basic meaning of αγγελος is ‘messenger,’ and that the word ‘angel’ denotes a function rather than a nature. The holy spirits of heaven can be called 'angels' only when they deliver some message; those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called ‘angels’; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called ‘archangels.’ Gregory continues, ‘Furthermore, when some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power—Et quoties miræ virtutis aliquid agitur, Michael mitti perhibetur, ut ex ipso actu et nomine detur intellegi quia nullus potest facere quod facere prævalet Deus.’[2]

Wilson points out that angels are not peculiar to Judaism and Christianity, for they appear also in classical myth and philosophy, in shamanistic visions, in Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam, and shows that it is safer to talk of ‘the veneration’ rather than ‘the cult’ of St Michael:

Angels have played rather an ambiguous role in Christianity. St Paul bitterly attacked ‘the worship of Angels which some enter into blindly, puffed up by their mere human minds’ - which suggests the existence in his time of a cult of Angels. The Council of Nicaea condemned the worship of Angels as ‘idolatry’. Finally in 787 the Seventh Ecumenical Synod reinstated a carefully defined and limited cult of the Archangels which took root in the Eastern Church; in the West, however, the distrust of Angels remained strong. As in the case of the Virgin Mary, there is very little in the New Testament to justify a cult of any great proportions. And as with ‘Mariolatry’, the impulses of ‘angelolatry’ surged up from beneath the Church, from the peasantry, the people whose voice is vox Dei. Unfortunately, theologians and doctors of law and morality often fail to respond to either the popular or the mystic imagination. Artists, however, do respond to both.[3]

The italics are editorial, for Wilson's remark serves to establish the correct context for the Corpus 41 text and to account for its unique nature.

The Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael are the only angels to be venerated also as saints. The title ‘Saint’ is applied to Michael as a courtesy and a mark of deep respect rather than as a matter of strict definition, for the archangels are eternal, outside time, and non-corporeal, with no date of birth, no date of martyrdom, and no relics such as are required of a human saint. Absence of such earthly and temporal features may account for Michael's later and frequent replacement by his earthly avatar, Saint George.[4] Of course, ‘relics’ of Michael are ‘found,’ such as the archangel's footprint(s) on rock, a sword, a spear, or a feather. It also takes a little manoeuvring to account for the appearance of St Michael in texts such as the Old English Martyrology. The sword in the stone near the village of Chiusdino in Tuscany and the link with St Michael through St Galgano will call for later discussion as well.

According to Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish (AD 230-270), all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon, and much of the late Midrash detail about Michael was transmitted to Christianity through the post-Exilic Book of Enoch, whence it was taken up and further elaborated. Enoch's list of the seven archangels is given by Wilson:

Uriel, who rules the world and Tartarus

Raphael, who rules the spirits of men

Raguel, who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries

Michael, who is set over the best part of mankind and over Chaos

Saraqael, who is set over the spirits

Gabriel, ruler of paradise, the serpents and the Kerubim

Remiel, whom God set over those who rise.[5]

Enoch also decribes a scheme of four archangels surrounding the throne of God with their hosts—Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel (often but erroneously identified with Uriel). Nearest the throne is the highest angel of all, Metatron, whom Wilson describes as follows:

This Angel was once the prophet Enoch ‘who was not, for God had taken him up’...Matatron is a prophet, ancient, bearded, inspired; yet at the same time an eternal and celestial adolescent, radiantly beautiful. Isaiah saw him ‘sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the Seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.’ [Isaiah 6: 1-2] ...beneath Metatron...Michael, Gabriel and Sandalphon. No words can do justice to the glory of Michael, who is patron of Israel, chief of the heavenly hosts, and, like his counterpart the Persian god Mithra, the sun in splendour. He may be pictured as a radiant winged warrior dressed in shining armour, piercing with his spear the writhing form of a serpent or dragon beneath his feet.[6]

Not mentioned by name in the Old Testament, Metatron is ‘the angel of the Lord‘/‘the Lord’ who, for instance, speaks from the burning bush, saves the three from the fiery furnace, appears as the God of Beth-el in Jacob's dream, and blocks the path of Balaam's ass. Wilson notes, ‘In the beginning was the Word, the Logos, the Christic Principle. All the Old Testament appearances of the Lord/Angel of the Lord are considered by the Eastern theologians to have been partial manifestations, limited theophanies of the Logos. Jesus is the final and perfect incarnation of the Logos; He is the Living Word, the Word made flesh.’[7] What is interesting to note is the Eastern influence on the text in Corpus 41 and Michael's taking over therein some of the functions of Metatron, such as the rescue of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the furnace.

Also in the heavenly hierarchy is the sinister figure of Lucifer, the self, the ego, the fallen in need of salvation. His fall is described in the Koran and in the apocryphal Life of Adam and Eve: God commanded the angels to bow before the newly-created Adam, but Satan refused and was cast from the presence of God. ‘Man also is both at one with God and at the same time somehow separate from Him, “fallen”. God needs Adam to be something other-than-God, so that Adam may come to know God and thus fulfil God’s purpose in creating the world. Adam's knowledge closes the circle and returns the Many to the One. And Satan presides over the beginning and end of this drama.’[8] Thus the climax of the Bible and of the Corpus 41 text has to be Michael's battle with Satan.

Furthermore, that battle takes place not just at the end of time but on each and every occasion when a soul overcomes temptation:

The Archangel Michael slays the dragon: solar, chivalrous, victorious day against the lunar, watery and reptilian night. The serpent is cast out of the garden not once but countless times: wherever a soul triumphs over itself, Michael is present ... Just as in alchemy the volatile spirit of mercury must be ‘killed’ or fixed by the table solar principle of sulphur, so the lithe and sinuous dragon, slippery as quicksilver, must be ‘slain’ by the Angel of the Sun, Michael. The symbolism is this: the vital spirit is by nature chaotic and cthonic, but the intellect cannot operate without its power. To ‘kill’ the dragon is not to eliminate it but to tame it, to leash it, to order it, to use its power towards spiritual ends.[9]

Here is the importance of the vital message of the Corpus 41 text: mankind must search for its deity on home ground. In the ApocryphalVita Adae et Evae (28, 29), the story of the Fall is told, and Michael is appointed to expel Adam and Eve from Eden. Taking up the tale among the closing lines of Paradise Lost, Milton has Michael point out to Adam that he must be reconciled to the next best thing to Eden. His sin may have brought him ‘To dwell on even ground,’ but he is not to despair:

All th' Earth he gave thee to possess and rule,

No despicable gift; surmise not then 340

His presence to these narrow bounds confin'd

Of Paradise or Eden: this had been

Perhaps thy Capital Seate, from whence had spred

All generations, and had hither come

From all the ends of th' Earth, to celebrate

And reverence thee thir great Progenitor.

But this præeminence thou hast lost, brought down

To dwell on eeven ground now with thy Sons:

Yet doubt not but in Vallie and in Plaine 350

God is as here, and will be found alike

Present, and of his presence many a signe

Still following thee, still compassing thee round

With goodness and paternal Love, his Face

Express, and of his steps the track Divine.[10]

Basic to Revelation and the other apocalyptic books is the tenet that angels, saints, and archangels penetrate and transcend our profane time; through their intermediation history is directed towards a definite end and events themselves possess an inner meaning, which we must seek to interpret for our salvation. It follows that angels, saints, and archangels preside over all the rituals of the Church or at the very least provide the model for worship, participate in our worship, and are also due a kind of worship in themselves, a ‘veneration’ anyway, for those theologians who have reservations about the feast days set aside as angelic feasts—‘notably the great Synaxis of Michael and All Angels in Orthodoxy (8 November).’[11] This is the principal feast of St Michael in the Orient, having spread from Phrygia over the Greek, Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic Churches; its station at Constantinople was the Thermae of Arcadius (Martinow, ‘Annus Graeco-slavicus’, 8 Nov.).[12]

Also basic is the tenet that angels and archangels can have place, shrines, churches, mountains, springs and rivers, and so forth where they intersect with earthly experience in apparition and are consequently worshipped. Peter Wilson comments on Michael as an angel of place as follows:

Of all the higher Archangels, Michael seems to have most often ‘condescended’ to play the role of an Angel of place. Not only does he rule Heaven, he also protects Israel and battles against the Angels of Israel's enemies. In Egypt he is the patron of the Nile, and his feast is celebrated on the day the river rises. In Germany the newly-converted pagans recognized Michael as the god Woden, and transformed his mountain shrines into churches of the Archangel. He is the Patron of Brittany and Cornwall, where Mont-Saint-Michel and Michael's Mount bear witness to the Angel's taste for imposing scenery and exquisite architecture.[13]

St Michael was first venerated as the heavenly physician in Phrygia, where in the earliest ages in Turkey he supposedly caused a medicinal spring to gush forth at Chairotopa near Colossae (now Ceretapa) and also drew springs from a rock at Chonae near Colossae, east of Laodicea (modern Khonas, east of Denizli) on the Lycus in Phrygia; it is still the site of a church dedicated to St Michael the heavenly healer. The Greeks dated his apparition there in the mid first century, and held a commemorative feast on 6 September (Analecta Bolland. VIII, 285-328). At Pythia in Bithynia and elsewhere in Asia hot springs are dedicated to Michael. At Constantinople the healer’s principal sanctuary, the Michaelion, was at Sosthenion, some fifty miles south of Constantinople; he is supposed to have visited Emperor Constantine the Great at Constantinople, intervened in assorted battles, and appeared, sword in hand, over the Moles Hadriani (the mausoleum of Hadrian) in 590 in answer to the prayers of Pope St Gregory I the Great that a plague in Rome should cease. The pope named the mausoleum the Castel Sant'Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel), and St Michael's feast was kept there on 9 June; also, Boniface IV (608-15) built on the Moles Hadriani a church, St Michaelis inter nubes (in summitate circi). Other feasts of St Michael at Constantinople were: 27 October, in the ‘Promotu’ church; 18 June, in the Church of St Julian at the Forum; and 10 December, at Athaea. For Egyptian Christians the Nile is sacred to Michael, whose Greek feast was adopted for 12 November with commemoration of Michael on the 12th of each month and especially on 12 June ‘for the rising of the Nile.’[14]

The Western celebration of St Michael on 8 May comes from the Roman Breviary and arises from his appearance on Mount Garganus. The story is the first told about Michael in the Golden Legend (Legenda Aurea), a compendium of Christian mythology put together by St Jacobus de Varagine between 1260-1275:

The apparition of this angel is manifold. The first is when he appeared in the Mount of Gargan. This mountain is in Naples, which is named Gargan and is by the city named Syponte. And in the year of our Lord three hundred and ninety, was in the same city of Syponte a man which was named Garganus, which, after some books, had taken that name of the mountain, or else the mountain took the name of the man. And he was right rich, and had a great multitude of sheep and beasts, and as they pastured about the sides of the mountains it happed that a bull left the other beasts, and went upon high on the mountain and returned not home again with the other beasts. Then this rich man, the owner, took a great multitude of servants, and did do seek this bull all about, and at the last he was founden on high on the mountain by the entry of a hole or a cave. And then the master was wroth because he had strayed alone from other beasts, and made one of his servants to shoot an arrow at him. And anon the arrow returned with the wind and smote him that had shot it, wherewith they of the city were troubled with this thing, and went to the bishop and inquired of him what was to be done in this thing, that was so wonderful. And then he commanded them to fast three days and to pray unto God. And when this was done Saint Michael appeared to the bishop, saying: Know ye that this man is so hurt by my will. I am Michael the archangel, which will that this place be worshipped in earth, and will have it surely kept. And therefore I have proved that I am keeper of this place by the demonstrance and showing of this thing. And then anon the bishop and they of the city went with procession unto that place, and durst not enter into it, but made their prayers withoutforth.[15]

The archangel appeared on three successive nights to the Bishop of Sipontum, in Apulia, the last time on September 29, 493 (or 530-540). Michael indicated that a grotto sacred to Mithras, on Monte Tumba, be rededicated as a Christian place of worship. The bishop and his friends on arriving there found an altar already draped with a purple cloth and Michael's footprint sunk in the rock. A basilica was erected there by Pope Gelasius I (reigned 492-496). Known consequently as Monte Sant'Angelo, the shrine at Monte Gargano attracted pilgrims from many places and many times, including Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, and Birgitta of Sweden. Francis of Assisi, too, went there, but declined to go into the grotto itself.[16] ‘The Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano, sometimes called simply Monte Gargano, is the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It is located at 41.71° N 15.96° E on Mount Gargano, Italy, part of the commune of Monte Sant'Angelo, in the province of Foggia, northern Apulia (Italy). The historic site and its environs are protected by the Parco Nazionale del Gargano.’[17] The feast of September 29, Michaelmas, was instituted by the Synod of Mainz in 813 to be celebrated as a public holiday throughout the entire Carolingian Empire.

In the Mount Garganus story, Michael the heavenly healer is now seen in his other, and primary, role, that of heavenly warrior, a role repeated for the Lombards of Sipontum (rebuilt in 1256 as Manfredonia) when he helped them to victory over the Greek Neapolitans, 8 May 663. The church of Sipontum established a special feast-day on 8 May, which is celebrated all over Western Christendom. Confusingly, the feast has been called ‘Apparitio S Michaelis’ since the time of Pope Pius V, though the specific date is that of the battle rather than the Mount Garganus appearance.

The September date also persists to the present. ‘At Rome the Leonine Sacramentary (sixth century) has the “Natale Basilicae Angeli via Salaria”, 30 September; of the five Masses for the feast three mention St Michael. The Gelasian Sacramentary (seventh century) gives the feast “S Michaelis Archangeli”, and the Gregorian Sacramentary (eighth century), “Dedicatio Basilionis S Angeli Michaelis”, 29 Sept. A manuscript also here adds “via Salaria” (Ebner, “Miss. Rom. Iter Italicum”, 127). This church of the Via Salaria was six miles to the north of the city; in the ninth century it was called Basilica Archangeli in Septimo (Armellini, “Chiese di Roma”, p. 85). It disappeared a thousand years ago.’[18]

Tuscany presents another notable appearance of St Michael, that to St Galgano near the village of Chiusdino. The dissolute Galgano Guidotti (1148?-1181) turned into a knight following a vision of St Michael, then in a second dream was conducted by the archangel into a round building in which he had a vision of the majesty of God. His horse stopped one day by a small hill named Montesiepi, which Galgano recognized as the location of his vision. He stuck his sword into a rock, and it is still there at the present day, above the ruins of a roofless Gothic abbey. Galgano's sword links St Michael to Arthurian legend, as will be discussed later.

In France, in addition to the regular church feasts of the archangel, Normandy celebrates the appearance of St Michael in 708 to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches in the Diocese of Coutances, and Michael's particular care of mariners. The first church of St Michael on Mont-Saint-Michel was dedicated on October 16, 710 and throughout Normandy the anniversary of the dedication was celebrated on October 18 as the feast ‘S Michaelis in periculo maris’ or ‘in Monte Tumba.’ The feast is now confined to the Diocese of Coutances, but Michael remains the patron saint of Brittany and of Cornwall, where the corresponding St Michael's Mount is the centre of his veneration. Mont-Saint-Michel appears in the Bayeux Tapestry in connection with William the Conqueror. In the later Middle Ages, French kings of the Valois dynasty adopted St Michael as their patron saint, and the archangel was the great supporter of the French and Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years' War. In Le Puy(s)-en-Velay in the Auvergne, the chapel Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe was built in 962 atop a precipitous volcanic spur 85 metres (275 ft) high for pilgrims taking St Michael's Way through Cornwall, crossing the Channel, and worshipping in Le Puy(s) on St James' Way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where the remains of the apostle, Saint James the Great, are reputed to have been buried; Joan of Arc's mother, Isabelle Romée, came to Le Puy(s) to pray in 1429. Michael is also patron saint of the Basques of Northern Spain, who annually bring his image from the national shrine to visit every church in Navarre.

From the earliest Christian centuries the Eastern Church associated veneration of St Michael with mountain-tops, and this association persisted—Colossae, Garganus, Moles Hadriani, Mont-Saint-Michel, St Michael's Mount, Tumba, Le Puy(s), Montesiepi. The early Oriental dedications pre-date the Christianization of Germany, so it is inaccurate to characterize the hill-top association as specifically German, though certainly on the sacred German mountains the pagan deity, Wotan or Odin, was replaced by Michael, and countless mountain chapels of St Michael are found in that country. The replacement is clearly seen in, for example, Michelstadt in the Odenwald. Certainly the heavenly warrior was beloved by the Germans in battles against pagan armies; for example, when the imperial troops fought the heathen Magyars in Bavaria in 933 and 955, their victory was attributed to the archangel. He became known as the patron saint of the German Nation, and his image graced the war standard of the old German Empire (Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation).[19]

The veneration of St Michael in England, Normandy, and the Celtic Lands will form the subject matter of fuller discussion later, so it must suffice here to note that Michaelmas on September 29 in several countries is one of the old Germanic quarter-days for the settling of accounts, law-making, and that quasi-Parliament, the Thing; the autumn term at Cambridge University is still referred to as the Michaelmas Term. In mediaeval times, Michaelmas was an important holy day of obligation, since Michael was the patron of chivalry, and a public holiday noted for parades, fairs, plays, and hospitality—stubble geese in England, St Michael's bannock in the islands of Scotland, wine (‘Michelsminne,’ ‘Michael's Love’) in the north of Europe and in England.

Later discussion will centre on St Michael's Mount in Cornwall, a very close correspondence to Mont-Saint-Michel, but mention must also be made of Glastonbury, where the huge Tor elevates the tower of St Michael's church 521 feet high above the flat Summerland or Somerset Levels, which in earlier times were flooded marshlands; Glastonbury Tor (local Celtic ‘conical hill’) therefore closely resembles such sites as Mont-Saint-Michel and St Michael's Mount. Legend has it that the rich tin merchant Joseph of Arimathea brought the boy Jesus to Cornwall and after the Crucifixion brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury, where he and his twelve followers built the first above-ground Christian church (dedicated to the Virgin Mary) some 65 years after Jesus' death.[20] Glastonbury, the legendary Isle of Avalon, is consequently linked to King Arthur, his knights' pursuit of the Grail, and the burial of Arthur and Guinevere, whose coffins were allegedly discovered in 1191. According to a mid-thirteenth-century story, St Patrick, who ended his days at Glastonbury in 461, discovered an ancient ruined oratory on the summit of Glastonbury Tor. A charter of 1243 grants permission for a fair at the monastery of St Michael on the summit, and the archangel's mediaeval church survived until the earthquake of September 11, 1275. The Church of St Michael was rebuilt in the 1360s and survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. The present tower of that 1360s church is fifteenth-century and still stands atop the Tor, having been restored in modern times and placed in the hands of the National Trust. Glastonbury Tor is therefore linked with other famous St Michael sites, and associates Michael with St Patrick and with the Holy Grail.[21]

In Scotland, many churches on hills are dedicated to St Michael (e.g., Inverness, or Dumfries, in whose churchyard Robert Burns is buried), and St Michael as commander of the waters is celebrated in the naming of the flagship of the mediaeval Scottish navy, the Great Michael. Commissioned by James IV to protect the commerce of Scotland and to excite the envy of Henry VII and Francis I, the huge ship built at Newhaven was 240 feet long, with sides ten feet thick. She carried 300 sailors, 4 masts, 60 cannon (including Mons Meg!), 120 gunners, and 1,000 fighting men. ‘The Great Michael was named after the archangel Michael and built with the intention of leading a crusade against the Ottoman Empire to reclaim Palestine for Christendom. This grandiose plan had to be changed when the commitments of the Auld Alliance with France required Scotland to go to war with England to divert England from her war with Louis XII of France.’[22] A model is preserved in the National Museum of Scotland, and a painting by the Leith artist, Frank Forsgard Manclark, may be seen on his website.[23] The ship's first commander, Admiral Sir Andro (Andrew) Wood of Largo, is pictured among the kings and other great Scots at Bannockburn, and turns up in variant D of the traditional ballad, Sir Patrick Spens, though he was born 200 years after that legendary commander.[24]

For the purposes of the present study, attention has been focussed on the gospels and apocryphal writings of the traditional and mainline Christian Church, but it should be acknowledged that St Michael is venerated in other denominations and faiths. For the Church of Latter-day Saints, Michael and the mortal patriarch Adam are regarded as the same person, and the descendants of Adam are therefore also descended from Michael. Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists, on the other hand, equate Michael and Jesus Christ. In Islam, for the Arabs, Michael is called Mikha'il, or Mikhal in the Qur'an (where he is mentioned only once in Sura 2:98), and for the Muslims Michael is one of the four archangels (with Izrail, Israfil, and Jibrail), and one of the two angels, with Gabriel, named in the Qur'an. In Islamic tradition Michael always appears as second to Gabriel.[25]

There is brief mention of Michael in the Gnostic and Coptic Gospel of Judas (Peuaggelion Nioudas) written c. AD 150 and surviving in a copy from the 300s which was found in Egypt in the 1970s and restored and translated into English 2001-2006. The Gospel of Judas was condemned as ‘fictitious history’ c. 180 by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, and later, in 375, by Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis.[26] The group of gnostics known as Cainites believed that the world was created not by the One True God but by a lesser, ignorant deity, the God of the Old Testament, who was not to be trusted or followed. Judas Iscariot was the one disciple who did not worship the false Jewish God but alone understood the mysteries and the will of Jesus Christ.[27] In the Gospel of Judas, Michael and Gabriel are archangels, as in the Bible, and are involved in the act of creation:

The universe is created, then the Earth is created, and finally human beings. Saklas, one of the angels, but one who is considered a fool, is the one who decides to create a human being; Meyer notes that similar accounts of the creation are cited in other Sethian texts. Adam and Eve are created. Eve is also called Zoe, which is Greek for ‘life.’ ‘For by this name all the generations seek the man, and each of the generations calls the woman by these names ... And the ruler said to Adam, “You shall live long, with your children.”’ In the section of text that follows, Judas asks Jesus, ‘Does the human spirit die?’ Jesus replies, ‘This is why God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan, so that they might offer service, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it—that is, the spirit and the soul.’

Michael is celebrated primarily as the guardian angel of Christ's kingdom on earth and as defender of the faithful against their enemies. But local considerations and vested interests lead to Michael's being venerated as the patron saint of soldiers, the sick, mariners, grocers, paratroopers, police, and so on. One merely partial list is given thus:

...against temptations; ambulance drivers; artists; bakers; bankers; banking; Basey, Samar, Philippines; battle; boatmen; Brecht, Belgium; Brussels, Belgium; Caltanissett, Sicily; diocese of Coimbatore, India; Congregation of Saint Michael the Archangel; coopers; Cornwall, England; danger at sea; Dormagen, Germany; Dunakeszi, Hungary; dying people; emergency medical technicians; EMTs; England; fencing; Germany; Greek Air Force; greengrocers; grocers; haberdashers; hatmakers; hatters; holy death; diocese of Iligan, Philippines; knights; mariners; milleners; archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama; Naranjito, Puerto Rico; Papua, New Guinea; paramedics; paratroopers; diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida; police officers; Puebla, Mexico; radiologists; radiotherapists; sailors; diocese of San Angelo, Texas; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; archdiocese of Seattle, Washington; security forces; security guards; Sibenik, Croatia; sick people; Siegburg Abbey; soldiers; Spanish police officers; diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts; storms at sea; swordsmiths; Umbria, Italy; watermen; Zeitz, Germany.[28]

That any such list is of necessity partial is demonstrated by the absence from the above list of Normandy, the former Michael Monastery in Prague, and the great city of Kiev.

Another list, more comprehensive but still, of course, partial comes from Wikipedia:

St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev

St Michael's Church, Daceyville, Sydney, Australia

St Michael's Cathedral, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy, France - a World Heritage Site

St Michael's Church, Hildesheim - a World Heritage Site

Skellig Michael, off the Irish west coast - a World Heritage Site

Archangel Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin - a World Heritage Site

Chudov Monastery in the Moscow Kremlin, where the future Russian tsars were baptized

St Michael Chapel in Košice, Slovakia

Monte Sant'Angelo sul Gargano, Gargano, Italy

Saint-Michael, Bamberg, Germany (tomb of Otto of Bamberg, Apostle of Pomerania)

Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis, Simi, Greece

St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England

Michaelhouse Chapel, Balgowan, KZN, South Africa

Sacra San Michele, Val di Susa, near Turin, Italy

St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev, Ukraine

St Michael's Church, Lviv, Ukraine

St Michael's Church in Vienna, Austria

San Miguel del Milagro, Tlaxcala, México

Saint Michael's Cathedral, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA

Monastery of the Holy Taxiarchs Michael and Gabriel, Mantamados, Lesbos

St Michael's Church in Tharuvaikulam, Tamil Nadu, South India

St Michael's Church, Michaelkirchplatz, Berlin

St Michael's Church, Melbourne, Australia (in Ashburton)

St Michael's Church, Pelsall, West Midlands [UK]

St Michael's Cathedral, Springfield, MA [USA]

The Angel Walk St Benedict Cathedral, Subiaco Monastery, Arkansas, USA

San Miguel Church, Manila, Philippines

St Michael's Church, Flushing, New York[29]

Kiev and Normandy are in this list, but not St Michael's Church in Munich, Germany or St Michael Church of Orland Park in the Archdiocese of Chicago. And there is no mention of Michaelhouse in Cambridge, which is now known as Trinity College. Michaelhouse was founded in 1324, and was combined with King's Hall (established by Edward II in 1317, refounded by Edward III in 1337) by Henry VIII in 1546 to form Trinity. The ancient St Michael's Church in Trinity Street was opened as a peaceful drop-in Michaelhouse Centre Cambridge Ltd in 2002.

Also missing from the list is the Hadrianeum statue of St Michael atop the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome sheathing his sword after putting an end to the Roman plague of AD 590 already discussed. In 1536 a marble statue of the archangel was sculpted by Raffaello da Montelupo, but it is no longer atop the Castel and is to be found in an interior court; Montelupo's statue has been replaced on the top of the Castel by a bronze one made in 1753 by the Flemish artist Peter Anton von Verschaffelt (in time for Floria Tosca to throw herself from the battlements in Puccini's opera set in 1800).

Mention must also be made of Arkhangelsk, previously known in English as ‘Archangel,’ the city that lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina river near its exit into the White Sea in the far north of European Russia. The Vikings knew the area around Arkhangelsk as ‘Bjarmaland,’ ‘the land of the Permians,’ and a Viking named Ottar (Ohthere in Old English) from Hålogaland described to King Alfred his travels c. 890 to an area by a river and the White Sea with many buildings, probably the area later named Arkhangelsk and destined to be the chief seaport of mediaeval Russia. In the twelfth century the Novgorod Russians established the Archangel Michael Monastery there, and when in 1584 Czar Ivan the Terrible founded New Kholmogory the city was renamed after the nearby monastery.[30] Students of Old English, including those familiar with selections typical in works such as Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader, have acquaintance with the descriptions the Viking traders Ottar and Ulsteinn (Ohthere and Wulfstan) gave to King Alfred, who interpolated translations of their accounts of their voyages into the Old English version of the Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri VII of Paulus Orosius (c. 385-420), a Galician monk and disciple of St Augustine, who sought to counter the calumny that the fall of the Roman Empire was due to its adoption of Christianity:

Þā siglde hē þonan sūðryhte be lande sƿā sƿā hē mehte on fīf dagum gesiglan. Ðā læg þǣr ān micel ēa up in on þæt land. Þā cirdon hīe up in on ðā ēa, forðǣm hīe ne dorston forþ bī þǣre ēa siglan for unfriþe; forðǣm ðæt land ƿæs eall gebūn on oþre healfe þǣre ēas. Ne mētte hē ǣr nān gebūn land, siþþan hē fram his āgnum hām fōr; ac him ƿæs ealne ƿeg ƿēste land on þæt stēorbord, būtan fiscerum ond fugelerum on huntum, ond þæt ƿǣron eall Finnas; ond him ƿæs ā ƿīdsǣ on þæt bæcbord. Þā Beormas hæfdon sƿīþe ƿel gebūd hira land: ac hīe ne dorston þǣr on cuman.

Then [Ohthere] sailed thence due south along the land as far as he might sail in five days. Then there flowed a great river up in on that land. Then they turned up that river, because they durst not sail past that river for fear of hostility; because the land was completely cultivated on the other side of the river. He had not previously encountered any cultivated land, since he set out from his own home; furthermore, for him everything was wasteland to starboard, except for fishermen and fowlers and hunters, and they were all Finns; and he had always wide open sea to port. The Permians had cultivated their land very well: but they durst not enter there.

The Russians brought their favourite archangel to America, to Alaska, when they wished to create Russian America. In 1799 they took over Sitka; the native Tlingits rose up against Russian rule in 1802, but Baranov put down the uprising in 1804 and Sitka became Novo-Arkhangelsk (‘New Archangel’). The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St Michael founded in 1848 still graces the streets of Sitka, and the port of St Michael (now defunct) was the furthest point on the coast of Alaska which the Gold Rush miners could reach by ship before setting off on their overland trek.

American friends will be sad to note that there is no mention of the City of St Michael, Minnesota, mid-way between St Cloud and Minneapolis; it was incorporated as a city in 1890, and has a population of some 15,000. Several towns and villages in Scotland bear the name ‘Kirkmichael’ (Scots Gaelic Cille Mhìcheil, ‘The Church of St Michael’) such as the village in southern Ayrshire near Patna, Maybole and Straiton; the village in Strathardle, Perth and Kinross, between Blairgowrie and Pitlochry; St Michael's Kirk at the eastern end of the Black Isle near the village of Balblair; and the parish church of St Michael in Kirk Michael, Isle of Man, with its vast collection of Manx Norse crosses. Likewise, the name ‘Carmichael’ is Scots Gaelic in origin (Caer Mhìcheil), and comes from the ancient hill fort or caer chosen in 1058 by St Margaret as the lofty site of one of her first six churches established in the see of Glasgow and appropriately dedicated to St Michael; the modern surname means ‘follower or friend of Michael.’ The Christian name and surname ‘Mitchell’ is often assumed to be of Middle English origin, from Norman French Michel, meaning ‘Who is like God?’ or ‘with the likeness of God,’ but is of course ultimately Hebraic and could well have come to Scotland through the ancient Christian Cuildigh or Culdee church long before the Normans or even the Romans.

Such a popular figure as the Archangel Michael therefore has been venerated in many places, on many dates. The Western Church celebrates on September 29 and May 8; the Greek Rite celebrates on November 8 and September 6; and France celebrates the Mont-Saint-Michel apparition on October 16. Closer focus on the context for the text in Corpus 41 requires more detailed consideration of the veneration of St Michael in Normandy, Anglo-Saxon England, and the Celtic lands in the Christian centuries leading up to the Conquest of 1066 and its aftermath in the latter part of the eleventh century.

In art and iconography, St Michael is depicted as a golden-haired youth, winged and in full armour, unmounted, bearing a sword and shield (which usually has a cross insignia and sometimes the legend ‘Quis ut deus’). Sometimes St Michael is depicted standing over a devil or the Dragon, piercing him with a sword or lance, sometimes, since he has taken over the role of the pagan Hermes, bearing the sealed book of life or weighted scales (to show he takes part in judgment) while the Virgin Mary intercedes with him and an imp tries to pull down the scales. From instances far too numerous to cite, a few examples must suffice—Les Très Riches Heures de Jean, Duc de Berry, fol. 195r, representing the Archangel Michael at the end of time at Mont-Saint-Michel;[31] The Book of the Hours of Henry VIII, folo.172r showing Michael killing Satan and consigning the fallen angels to Hell;[32] Murillo's painting Saint Michael Banishes the Devil to the Abyss; in Kiev, Ukraine, the massive statue in Independence Square and the mural on the Katedral Svati Mikhail Arhangel founded in 1105 by Prince Svyatopolk (grandson of Yaroslav I the Wise) and a model of the Old Rus' architecture; and Sir Jacob Epstein's 4-ton, 19-foot bronze sculpture St Michael and the Devil, which graces the rebuilt Cathedral of Saint Michael in Coventry. Ultimately, of course, all these painted scenes represent Good conquering Evil, a motif not uncommon in religious art, and Michael is seen by scholars of mythology as an angel of light, revealer of mysteries, guide to the other world, the Christian successor to pagan deities such as the Egyptian Thoth, the Greek Hermes, the Roman Mercury, and the Celtic Bel.


  1. MS München Clm. 14083, fol. 4, eleventh century; printed in Franz Joseph Mone, ed. Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelalters. (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1853-55, reprinted Aalen: Scientia, 1964), III, 13, no. 625.
  2. Gregory the Great's homily 34; see Jacques-Paul Migne. Patrologia Latina. (Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1844-45), LXXVI, 1251. The hymns of the Roman Office are said to have been composed by St Rabanus Maurus of Fulda (d. 856).
  3. Peter Lamborn Wilson. Angels. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), p. 23.
  4. In iconography the two can always be told apart, for the canonized human, George, is never depicted with wings while Michael, an archangel, always has them.
  5. Wilson, p. 66.
  6. Wilson, pp. 9-10.
  7. Wilson, pp. 50, 58.
  8. Wilson, p. 67.
  9. Wilson, pp. 33, 82.
  10. John Milton. Paradise Lost X. 339-54 in Renascence Editions (University of Oregon, 1997). See Ronald Blythe. Divine Landscapes. op. cit., p. 126.
  11. Wilson, p. 165.
  12. Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Michael (archangel).’
  13. Wilson, p. 79.
  14. Wikipedia. loc. cit. See also Rich Johnson. ‘The Genesis and Migration of the Archangel's Cult.’ Harper College Department of English Newsletter I. 1 (2002), inprogress/ip_vl_ johnson.html.
  15. Wikipedia s.v. ‘The Golden Legend.’
  16. ‘Apparitio de Sancti Michaelis in Monte Tumba.’ Acta Sanctorum September vol. 8, pp. 76-79.
  17. Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo.’ Sant'Angelo_sul_Gargano.
  18. Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Michael (archangel).’
  20. See the work of the 12th-century Burgundian poet Robert de Boron, Joseph d'Arimathe or Romanz De L'estoire Dou Graal.
  21. See Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Glastonbury Tor.’ See also
  22. Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Great Michael.’
  24. ‘Sir Andro Wood.’ Motherwell's MS, p. 496 (8 stanzas), communicated by Kirkpatrick Sharpe to Francis James Child. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. (New York: Dover, 1965), ballad number 58, ‘Sir Patrick Spens.’
  25. Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Michael (archangel).’
  26. See Herbert Krosney. The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. (Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2006).
  27. Bart D Ehrman, in Krosney, op. cit., pp. xvi-xvii.
  29. Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Michael (archangel).’
  30. Wikipedia. s.v. ‘Arkhangelsk.’
  31. See The Très Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry, Musée Condé, Chantilly (New York: George Braziller, 1969), fol. 193r. The manuscript, c. 1413-16, is now in the Cloisters Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  32. See Roger S Wieck et al., eds. The Hours of Henry VIII: A Renaissance Masterpiece by Jean Poyet. (New York: George Braziller, 2000), fol. 172r. The manuscript, c. 1500, is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library.


Acta Sanctorum, op. cit.

Blythe, Ronald. Divine Landscapes, op. cit.

Child, Francis. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. (New York: Dover, 1965).

Johnson, Rich. ‘The Genesis and Migration of the Archangel's Cult.’ Harper College Department of English Newsletter I. 1 (2002).

Krosney, Herbert. The Lost Gospel: The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. (Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2006).

Migne, Jacques-Paul, ed. Patrologia Latina (Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Prima—Latina). 221 vols. (Paris: Migne's Imprimerie Catholique, 1844-45, indices 1862-65. Subsequent inferior reprints Paris: Garnier Frères 1865-80).

Mone, Franz Joseph, ed. Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelalters aus Handschriften herausgegeben und erklärt. (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1853-55, reprinted Aalen: Scientia, 1964).

The Très Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry. (New York: George Braziller, 1969).

Wieck Roger S, William M Voelkle, and K Michelle Hearne, eds. The Hours of Henry VIII: A Renaissance Masterpiece by Jean Poyet. (New York: George Braziller, 2000).

Wilson, Peter Lamborn. Angels. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980).