Different versions of the Visitatio sepulchri, have different line endings. Some use Christicole whereas elsewhere I have seen Christicolae.

What is the difference between Christicole/Christicoles/Christicolae and which is correct?!


"-cola" is a productive suffix that can be used for the pretty wide array of meanings of colo, -ere:

  1. inhabit (caeli-cola: inhabitant of heaven)
  2. cultivate (agri-cola: cultivator of fields = farmer)
  3. worship (Iunoni-cola: worshipper of Juno)

In this case, the third meaning is intended, so we get Christicola, -ae, a "worshipper of Christ," i.e. a Christian. This is a masculine first declension noun like "agricola."

In the Visitatio Sepulchri, the relevant line is a question ending with a vocative plural:

Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, o Christicolae?

Whom do you seek in the tomb, O worshippers of Christ?

In Medieval Latin, e was interchangeable with ae and oe, and was almost always used instead. So, the above line could also read:

Quem queritis in sepulcro, o Christicole?

This is a difference of spelling/orthography, not of case. You will almost certainly find that any text that spells "Christicolae" with an "e" will also spell the prior "quaeritis" with an "e."

As for the other variant you mention (Christicoles), I've been unable to find an example, and I would be surprised if that actually occurred.

  • I wonder if Christocoles is a borrowing in English, like Christians is for Christiani. – cmw Mar 22 at 16:40
  • @C.M.Weimer Good point. I forgot to mention that "Christicoles" does return quite a few French results. – brianpck Mar 22 at 17:24

Christicole is a medieval misspelling, reflecting the way vernacular pronunciation had changed in some parts of Europe. Christicolae is the corrected spelling.

In classical pronunciation, ae was a diphthong, pronounced like English long ī. During the Middle Ages, in much of Europe, the ae phoneme altered and became identical to e, pronounced like English long ā (but not a diphthong, i.e. without a -y sound at the end).

Latin is defined by its writing, not by its pronunciation. Each country has its own pronunciation, which is basically to pronounce Latin as if it were the vernacular language, i.e. using the same sounds. Latin spelling should remain the same in all countries, but in the Middle Ages, scribes often wrote e instead of ae because in the spoken Latin they heard all around them, ae was pronounced e. In the Renaissance, the medieval spellings were corrected, but of course they persist to the present day in many manuscripts.

You can see this and a little more by comparing these two versions of the Quem quaeritis:

Classical spelling (from here):*

Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, o Christicolae?
Ihesum Nazarenum crucifixum, o caelicolae.
Non est hic, surrexit sicut praedixerat; ite, nuntiate quia surrexit de sepulchro.

Medieval spelling (from here):

Quem queritis in sepulcro, o Christicole?
Ihesum Nazarenum crucifixum, o celicole.
Non est hic, surrexit sicut ipse dixit; ite, nunciate quia surrexit.

Notice that every ae was changed to e. Also, nuntiate became nunciate, reflecting changes in pronunciation that still can be seen in the Italian word annunciate, the French word annoncez, and even the English word announce.

Christicolae is the plural of Christicola (Christ-worshiper). Caelicola (heaven-dweller) likewise has the plural caelicolae—and likewise the regional medieval variant has singular celicola and plural celicole. This change in the plural can still be seen in many feminine nouns in Italian today. For example, where Latin has singular vita (life) and plural vitae, Italian has vita and vite.

The differences in entire words between the two versions, like praedixerat (he had foretold) vs. ipse dixit (he himself said) are just differences in versions, not medieval strayings from classical standards.

Christicoles sounds to me like a different kind of error: a mistranscription rather than changes in regional vernacular pronunciations influencing spelling.

* Translation:

Whom do you seek in the tomb, O Christ-worshipers?
The crucified Nazarene Jesus, O heaven-dwellers.
He is not here, he has risen just as he foretold; go, announce that he has risen from the tomb.

  • 3
    Excellent answer (+1). Perhaps I'm overly sensitive, but I'm hesitant to call this a "misspelling." The idea of "correct spelling" is a rather modern idea, and I wouldn't want to say that Plautus (for example) "spells badly." It just reflects a different spoken convention. – brianpck Mar 22 at 16:16
  • @brianpck I'm going with "correct spelling" on the principle that since classical Latin became standardized, it has culturally served as a prescriptive standard in relation to which the medieval variances are seen as corruptions, which, for example, writers in the Renaissance sought to undo. I know that contemporary linguists dismiss all "prescriptivism", but I think they're ignoring something important about language. More in this answer. – Ben Kovitz Mar 22 at 16:26
  • Thank you for these answers. I believe my source referring to 'worshippers' as 'Christicola' is valid, as it is in all likelihood taken from the medieval. – Johnny Mar 22 at 17:11
  • @Johnny Note that Christicola is singular (Christ-worshipper). The plural is Christicolae (classical spelling) or Christicole (medieval spelling often used in some regions, where the phonetic distinction between ae and e had been lost in vernacular speech). I'll add a sentence or two to the answer about caelicola and its plural, in which you can see the same medieval straying from classical standards. – Ben Kovitz Mar 22 at 23:25
  • @BenKovitz I'm not unsympathetic to prescriptivism, but I was just (mildly) objecting to the note of censure or ignorance that "misspelling" implies. If you've ever taken a look at medieval paleography (such as this 13th c. autograph by Tommy Aqua), "misspelling" is either unfair or the understatement of the century. – brianpck Mar 23 at 2:05

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