Friday, June 29, 2007

patron saint of catalogers

Library humor is a tad lame and, within that category, cataloging humor can hardly be said to exist at all. This post, from my blog where I work, is about as good as it gets. I credit my source page at bottom. I should have done this post on the solstice, but forgot.

June 21, 762 A.D.

Death of St. Minutia, patron saint of catalogers. The birth date of St. Minutia is unknown. The only reliable chronicle has an unlucky lacuna: "Sa. Minutia in []no domini nata est", where only the last two missing letters can be supplied with any certainty. Vitae of the saint written later naively abbreviate the " domini" as 'n.d.', and this is the form traditionally cited for her birth. Minutia is said to have been born in the former Roman province of Nova Panonia (part of the present day Czech Republic), in the village of Sineloco (modern day Odnikud). Her time and place of birth, therefore, are usually given as "s.l., n.p., n.d."

Happily, a generous amount of hagiographical material on St. Minutia has survived, perhaps the most popular of which is a collection of her homilies and sayings, including the motto most closely associated with her: "Non pilus tam tenuis ut secari non possit."* She appears to have had some interest in ecclesiastical architecture; one early vita has references to a church which was built using plans drawn up by Minutia herself. The actual building has not survived, but there is a fragment from a contemporary description: "On either side of the main entry, St. Minutia caused innumerable added entries to be placed, such that people marvelled at the great multitude of doors, and rebuked the Saint for the labor wasted in putting them there. 'No labor has been wasted', she answered them patiently, 'for by these means no one will be barred from my church through a lack of access.'" Another account explains that her plans were an improvement on earlier designs which had called for a single entry at the east end, near the tabernacle; the inconvenience of relying on this so-called corporate entry was immediately recognized and rectified by the saint.

St. Minutia using a sword to split a hair

She was, not surprisingly, an influential member of her convent. There are a number of references to her reorganization of its agricultural property: she is said to have divided the land into holdings devoted to permanent crops (fixed fields) and holdings given over to crop rotation (variable fields). The variable fields were further divided into smaller parcels (subfields) assigned individually to peasants attached to the convent. Minutia is also renowned for her role as a mediator between the warring factions so prevalent in those chaotic times. She was continually optimistic in even the most threatening circumstances and was careful never to anticipate a conflict, although she quickly resolved them when they arose.
*translation: There is no hair too fine to be split.


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