LEGEND

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LEGEND (legenda); the title of a book containing the lessons that were to be read daily in the service of the early Ro man Catholic church. The term legend was afterwards applied to collections oi biographies of saints and martyrs, or of remarkable stories relating to them, because they were read at matins, and in the refectories of cloisters, and were earnestly recommended to the perusal of the laity as proofs of the Roman Catholic faith. The Roman breviaries likewise contain histories of the lives of saints and martyrs, which were read on the days of the saints whom they commemorated. They originated in the twelfth or thirteenth century, and they contributed much to the extinction of the old German (heathen) heroic traditions. In the middle ages, a collection of the lives of the saints was known by the name of Legenda Sanctorum, or Historia Lombardica. There is a celebrated collection, called the Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda), by Jacobus de Voragine, archbishop of Genoa, who died in the year 1298. The histories of saints, which are founded merely on tradition, are also known by the name of Legends. (See Baillet's historical and critical treatise on the histories of the saints and martyrs, in his work entitled Les Vies des Saints.) As these histories were often nothing more than pious fictions, the name of a legend was given by the incredulous to all fables of a similar nature, to all fictions which make pretensions to truth. Valerius Augustinus, who was bishop of Verona in the sixteenth century, in his work De Rhetorica Christiana, ascribes the numerous fables, which have been ushered to the world under the title of legends, in part to the custom prevailing, in many monasteries, of requiring the monks to write Latin paraphrases and dissertations on the most striking circumstances in the lives of tha saints, in which they were allowed to ascribe to tyrants and persecuted saints such works and actions as they considered most adapted to their situation and character. This gave rise to those embellishments of history, which were preserved, and afterwards found in monasteries, and mistaken for true histories. Although many of thfe legends are tasteless and unmeaning fictions, the offspring of childish credulity, or intended to gratify it, there is also a large number of highly poetical and ingenious fables among them. Hence many poets have attempted to avail themselves of these rude materials, and to arrange them in the modern taste; and hence every poetical fiction, in the style of ecclesiastical tradition, whether in verse or prose, is called a legend. The principal characteristic of a legend is the miraculous, which should be of a religious nature, or relating to some traditions of the church, without, however, falling into frivolity. The legend is a production of Christianity, and, like the traditions of the church, wholly different from the mythos, or ancient fable. The style proper to it is plain and simple, such as would naturally oflow from the gentle inspiration of a pious heart, and wholly inconsistent with ornament and poetical decorations. Legend is also used for the motto or words engraved, in a circular manner, round the head or other figure upon a medal or coin. The meaning of this term is similar to that of inscription; but the latter refers chiefly to the writing placed in the middle of the coin, while the legend, as we have just observed, surrounds it.