First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Mark, the evangelist, born of the tribe of Levi, and a priest, went from Antioch to Rome with Peter, his master, to spread the word of the Lord. There he heard Peter, and at the request of his brethren he wrote a short gospel. When Peter heard it, he authorized it to be read in the churches. When Peter noted this man’s qualifications, he sent him to Alexandria. Before that time Mark, by his preaching, had converted the people of Aquileia to the Christian faith, and more particularly, one Hermagoras, a highly learned man and citizen there. With him Mark returned to Peter, who made him an Aquileian bishop. From there Mark went to Alexandria and proclaimed Christ, and there he founded the first church with such learning and moderation of conduct that he drew all the followers of Christ to him. He was so humble that he cut off his own thumb in order to disqualify himself for the priesthood. After he had held the congregation together for a long time by his learning and writings, he was made prisoner by the priests of the temple in the eighth year of Nero, while he was performing the mass at Easter time. With a rope about his neck he was dragged through the streets and finally put to death. He was buried at Alexandria. Amanus became his successor. In the Year of the Lord 829, when Justianus Patricius was Duke of Venice, the remains of Mark were brought to Venice. In the following year, which was 471 years after Venice was built, the church of St. Mark, which may now be soon there, was begun, and Saint Mark was made the patron of the city. His image is in its coat of arms, and the book of his Gospel was procured from Aquileia with other costly gifts, and was deposited in this same church.

The founding of the church by Mark at Alexandria is traditional, as is also the securing of his remains by the Venetians by a pious stratagem. In fact, nearly everything (all?) the stories told about Mark are legendary. Venice claims him as its patron saint. Mark is believed to have been born of Jewish parents, deriving their origin from the tribe of Levi, and of the line of the priesthood. His name, Roman in form, was probably assumed by him according to the usual custom of the Jews on moving to Italy, as in the case of Paul. He was perhaps converted by Peter whom he constantly attended in his travels, acting as his secretary and interpreter. He is said to have founded the church in Aquileia, and there to have written the Gospel which bears his name (the author of the Gospel of Mark, like all four gospel texts in the Bible, is anonymous, and it is only later Christian tradition that assigns the Mark referenced here in the Chronicle to the actual biblical text that currently bears his name). From Aquileia he sent Hermagoras, its first bishop, to be ordained by Peter.

Tradition then states that Mark was sent into Egypt to plant Christianity there, and fixed his main residence at Alexandria. From there he moved westward toward Libya where he made many converts among various people.

Returning to Alexandria, he preached freely, and wisely provided for the perpetuation of the church by appointing governors and pastors. And the season of Easter came, at which the great solemnities of Serapis were celebrated, when the minds of the people being excited to a passionate vindication of the honor of their idol, the mob broke in upon Mark, then engaged in the solemn celebration of divine worship, and binding his with cords, dragged him through the streets until his blood ran out, his spirit failed and he died. Then they burned his body; but the Christians collected his bones and ashes and buried them near the place where he was accustomed to preach. His relics were removed with great pomp from Alexandria, in the beginning of the 9th century, to Venice, where they are greatly venerated, and where the saint is adopted as the patron of the state, and where one of the richest and stateliest churches in the world was erected in his honor.

Mark is symbolized by the Lion, because he has set forth the royal dignity of Christ; or, according to others, because he begins with the mission of John the Baptist, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness," which is figured by the lion; or, according to a third interpretation, because of a popular belief in the Middle Ages that the young of the lion were born dead, and after three days were awakened by the breath of their sire. Some authors, however, represent the lion as vivifying his young by his roar. The revival of the young lions was considered symbolic of the Resurrection, and Mark was commonly called the "Historian of the Resurrection" (which is ironic, since in this gospel alone there is no resurrection actually depicted; Mark 16:9-20 are a later addition that attempt to supply a resurrection narrative.).

The phoenix, the most noble and singular bird in all the world (as Cornelius Valerianus writes) and which flew in Egypt, was brought to Rome during the consulship of Q. Plautius and Sex. Papinius in the 800th year of the city. Before that time this bird is said to have been seen in Arabia. It was as large as an eagle, golden about its neck, and otherwise purple. Its tail was dark green interspersed with red feathers containing eyes. Upon its head was a crest or crown of feathers. Manilius, the Roman consul, states that although no one ever saw this bird eat, it lived six hundred and sixty years. When it became old, it built a nest of aromatic branches, filling it with incense; and in that nest it died. Afterwards a small worm or grub issued from the ashes, which later became a small bird.

This account of the Phoenix would appear to be based on Pliny (Natural History 10.2):

Ethiopia and India, especially, produce birds of diversified plumage, and such as quite surpass all description. In the front rank of these is the phoenix, that famous bird of Arabia; though I am not quite sure that its existence is not all a fable. It is said that there is only one in existence in the whole world, and that that one has not been seen very often. We are told that this bird is of the size of an eagle, and has a brilliant golden plumage around the neck, while the rest of the bird is of a purple color; except the tail, which is azure with long feathers intermingled of a roseate hue; the throat is adorned with a crest, and the head with a tuft of feathers. The first Roman who described this bird, and who has done so with the greatest exactness, was the senator Manilius. He tells us that no person has ever seen this bird eat, that in Arabia it is looked upon as sacred to the sun, that it lives five hundred and forty years, that when it becomes old it builds a nest of cassia and sprigs of incense which it fills with perfumes, and then lays its body down upon them to die; and from its bones and marrow there springs at first a sort of small worm, which in time changes into a little bird. That the first thing it does is to perform the obsequies of its predecessor, and to carry the nest in fire to the city of the Sun near Panchaia, and there deposit it upon the altar of that divinity; that the revolution of the great year is completed with the life of this bird, and that then a new cycle comes round again with the same characteristics as the former one, in the season and the appearance of the stars; and he says that this begins about midday of the day on which the sun enters the sign of Aries . . . Cornelius Valerianus says that the phoenix took its flight from Arabia into Egypt in the consulship of Q. Plaudius and Sextus Papinius. This bird was brought to Rome in the censorship of the Emperor Claudius, being the year from the building of the City, 800, and it was exposed to public view in the comitium. This fact is attested by the public Annals, but there is no one that doubts that it was a fictitious phoenix only.

According to Egyptian mythology the phoenix came every five hundred years out of Arabia to Heliopolis, where it burned itself on the altar and rose again from its ashes, young and beautiful. The myth was firmly believed in by the ancients, and Ovid and many other writers besides Pliny give full details of its mysterious existence. The ancients believed that the phoenix after attaining the age of five hundred years committed itself to the flames that burst at the fanning of its wings, from the funeral pyre of costly spices that it had itself constructed, and that from its ashes a new phoenix arose to life. Tertullian, one of the earliest writers of the Christian church, in all good faith accepts it as a most marked symbol of the resurrection and of eternity. The phoenix is represented in some of the earliest Christian mosaics, and often has a star-shaped nimbus.

James the Greater (Iacobus Maior), an apostle of the Lord, son of Zebedee by Mary Salome, and a brother of John the Evangelist, is called the greater because he was selected as an apostle before James the Lesser, and was martyred and attained to the kingdom of heaven first. The Lord selected him with John, saying, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they abandoned their nets and followed him. After the advent of the Holy Spirit James went to Spain to preach. Having wandered all over Spain preaching, and only making nine new disciples, and having noted the coarseness of the people, he returned to Judea. There he was beheaded by Herod, brother and governor of the king, and thus he attained the crown of martyrdom; and this just one year after Christ was martyred. And while he was being led to his death by Josias, a very learned man, and on his way cured a sick man, Josias believed also, and being first baptized, was beheaded with James. But his disciples took his sacred body away by night, and brought it from Jerusalem to Spain, into the place called Galicia Compostella, in the furthermost regions of Spain. And there he is constantly held in great veneration by the inhabitants and by strangers from all over, for the extent that Christians make pilgrimages there is really wonderful; and because of the love of making these pilgrimages there it is not necessary for the Papal See to grant dispensation on that condition. And so what this apostle, as compared with other apostles, lost in honor and esteem by reason of the shortness of his life, was made up to him in an abundance of veneration accorded him after his death. [James the Greater, or Elder, was closely related to Jesus, and with his brother John (the evangelist) and Peter, he seems to have been admitted to particular favor, traveled with Jesus, and was present at most of the events recorded in the gospels. He was one of the three who were permitted to witness the glorification of Jesus on Mount Tabor, and was one of those who slept during the agony in the garden. After the ascension nothing is recorded concerning him except the fact that Herod killed him with the sword. The Middle Ages, however, have added many legends. According to these, James, after the Jesus’ ascension, preached the gospel in Judea, then traveled over the whole world, at last coming to Spain, where he made very few converts by reason of the moral and intellectual ignorance of the people. The Virgin appeared to him and directed him to build a chapel to her; and this he did. He then founded the Christian faith in Spain, and returned to Judea, where he preached for many years and performed many miracles. But the Jews, being more and more incensed, found James and arrested him; and they brought him before the tribunal of Herod Agrippa; and one of those who dragged him along, touched by the gentleness of his demeanor, and by his miracles of mercy, was converted, and supplicated to die with him. Then the apostle gave him the kiss of peace, after which they were both beheaded. The disciples of James came and took away his body, and for fear of the Jews, carried it to Joppa; and they place it on board a ship which angels conducted to the coast of Spain; and sailing through the straits, called the Pillars of Hercules, they landed at length in Galicia, at a port called Ira Flavia, now Padron. But in later days the body of the saint was lost; and it was not recovered till the year 800, when it was transported to Compostella, as a place of pilgrimage that is renowned throughout Europe.]

The first persecution of the Christians began in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero, when various persons at Rome and elsewhere, other than Peter and Paul, mentioned hereafter, were martyred, among them forty-seven who were baptized by Peter while in prison, and then died by the sword of Nero, after confessing their faith.


St. Mark is portrayed in medieval cap and gown, seated in a chair. He is pointing to a passage in a book that he has in hand, probably his own Gospel. To the right is his symbol, the winged lion, which is looking out over a wall in the foreground. Both saint and lion are shown with a nimbus. The use of the lion as an emblem of strength, majesty and fortitude, naturally arises from many passages in the Scriptures. By medieval writers it was believed always to sleep with its eyes open; hence the idea of watchfulness. Durand in his Rationale Divinorum Officiorum[The is arguably the most important medieval treatise on the symbolism of church architecture and rituals of worship. Written by the French bishop William Durand of Mende (1230-1296), the treatise is ranked with the Bible as one of the most frequently copied and disseminated texts in all of medieval Christianity. It served as an encyclopedic compendium and textbook for liturgists and remains an indispensable guide for understanding the significance of medieval ecclesiastical art and worship ceremonies.], has a rubric on the Evangelists, in which he states that Mark’s type is the roaring lion, "because his aim is chiefly to give a description of the resurrection of Christ, and for this reason his Gospel is read at Easter. For it is stated that the lion by its tremendous roar calls to life its whelps on the third day, and thus God the Father, by his immense power, called to life his Son on the third day." (E. P. Evans, Animal Symbolism, p. 85). The inscription over the woodcut reads: "Saint Mark, the Evangelist."


The Phoenix, a fabulous bird, has gathered together for a nest branches of aromatic wood, upon which it is angrily striding. With its outspread wings it is fanning the nest into flames, for this is its own funeral pyre. Here it will be reduced to ashes, and from the ashes will spring another phoenix, to repeat the same scene in another 500 years. The phoenix has been introduced at this point of the text, probably in relation to St. Mark, the Evangelist of the Resurrection. The inscription over the woodcut reads: "Phoenix (Fenix), a Unique Bird."


St. James the Greater is undergoing martyrdom. He is kneeling in an attitude of devotion, praying for his persecutors as long as life lasts. Behind him stands the strident medieval executioner, about to decapitate him with a huge sword. To the right are two men, one no doubt representing Herod, or Herod’s brother (as the text states), who ordered the execution. The second man I am unable to identify. The sentence is being carried out in the open country. The victim wears a peculiar felt hat, covering the nape of his neck, and rakishly turned up on the forehead to accommodate the shining star that the artist has inscribed on it. The inscription over the woodcut reads: "The Apostle James (Jacobus) the Greater."