Chapter 3: that the two horned beast spoke as a Dragon, and that the ten-horned beast spoke Blasphemies: and how the Dragon descended to these inhabitants of the land and sea (Rev. 13. 1, 11)

The Dragon thrown down from heaven on earth--who is said to be that ancient serpent, the Devil and Satan, who deceives all the world, whom by the blood of the holy Lamb, and their witnesses displayed even unto death, the saints conquered--we have said is the Idolatry with which, in the Persecution of Diocletian, they bitterly contended, and which they at last conquered when the Empire of Constantine succeeded it. This conquered Dragon began to be cast down in the third year and immediately after. "Woe" is said to the "inhabiters of the earth and of the sea," because this Devil, or Idolatry, had descended upon them. These inhabitants could not be the Gentiles, because the Devil was with them from of old, but must be a race of men now first turning to Idolatry; that is, of Christians, since all other men beside the Jews had been Idolaters from of old. From this time therefore the Christian inhabitants of earth and sea will degenerate into two kinds of Idolatrous men: and this is what is being described in chapter 13 through the two Beasts rising from earth and sea, of whom one speaks as a Dragon and the other speaks blasphemies [he hath the names of blasphemy in his head, that is, the names of Idols; for we have shown above that by blasphemy is to be understood Idolatry: now if I shall demonstrate...] That is, both speak idolatrously. That by Blasphemy is to be understood Idolatry and that by the names of Blasphemy in the head of the Beast is to be understood the names of the Gods or Idols I have shown above. By the speaking of the Dragon it is most evident from the things said that Idolatry is to be understood. And who therefore can doubt that by these Idolatrous Beasts rising from earth and sea is to be understood the inhabitants of earth and sea, to whom the Devil has already descended? For which reason, one must say in what way,--the Dragon, after his throwing down (from heaven), being come (MS veni{en}te, not venite) to these inhabitants--these Idolatrous Beasts came to be; and indeed if I shall have demonstrated this of the two- horned beast, at the same time the Idolatry of the other Beast which adopted its ways will be established.

That the Church became Idolatrous from about the year 400 or 420 many will gladly concede. But to go back earlier they have not dared, revering the great names of those who are celebrated as Fathers of the Church, and lived in those times. But to be held back by admiration of persons <2r> is a bad thing. If these Fathers did any good thing let them be praised; if however they corrupted the Church, the true state of the Church is not to be concealed for the sake of their reputations. But the origin of the evil should be looked into, and the delinquency of these great men should rather be confessed, with sorrow.

Therefore, when the Dragon, in the reign of Constantine and Constantius, felt himself to be utterly cast down to earth, he began immediately to promote the cult of the dead among Christians by the same arts as those by which he disseminated this same cult from of old among the Gentiles. For just as the Devil by curing sicknesses and various miracles performed at the sepulchres of Heroes (which the Gentiles at first frequented only to honor them) is said to have created a belief in their divine powers for these dead men, by which it was effected that the Gentiles should begin to ask for their aid and build them more impressive sepulchres, which we (call) temples, for their honor and worship; so also the Devil from the time of Constantine began to induce Christians by the same artifices to a similar faith and cult. For since the Christians at that time had begun to frequent the sepulchres of martyrs not for cult and worship, but only to honor them, the Devil took occasion thence for deception, by the curing of sicknesses and various miracles which he worked at their sepulchres, and from that time the Christians began to invoke and worship martyrs and dedicate temples to their names and relics. These miracles began when Constantine was emperor, but the worship (of saints) hardly began before Julian came to the throne.

The first mention of miracles, as far as I know, comes from Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, who immediately after the death of Constantius — or rather still in his lifetime — <3r> writes as follows. For we have conquered the devil through you pagan Emperors. (MS Imperatores, not imperatorem) The sacred blood of the blessed martyrs is everywhere received; while the Demons bellow at it, while sicknesses are driven off, ✝ < insertion from f 2v > ✝ while amazing doings are seen, bodies lifted up without ropes, women turned head over heels without their clothing flowing down over their face, spirits burned without fire and confessing without interrogation, to the profit of the faith. < text from f 3r resumes > But with what purpose, and by what author these miracles were effected, can be clear enough from that famous story of the oracle at Daphne, when the Emperor Julian, in his stay at Antioch, consulted it, and offered many sacrifices to extort an answer from it. The Oracle at last answered that it could not speak, because of the bones of the Martyr Babylas, which were lying buried not far from its Temple. Who, I ask, compelled the Devil to confess this, so its ancient worship should be destroyed? Would he not on purpose have been silent, rather than given this response? See therefore how the Devil, despairing of preserving his ancient worship, destroyed it with his own hands, that he might rather attract worship and veneration to the relics of the dead among the Christians, who must now possess the world.

< insertion from f 2v >

And there is such truth to this worship,

that even a little dust, as for example,

particles of old bones, or a bit of hair,

x[1] or clothes, or spots of scattered bloodstains,

have equal reverence with a whole body.

Even the name alone of some new martyr,

when spoken, in some places, has had

a power that takes the place of the martyr himself,

equal to him, O miracle! for even only to mention

the martyrs, as I think, brings healing.

Why should I make a list of fevers and demons,

Miraculously cast out?

When even the sepulchres, where once the sacred bodies

have lain, drive evil spirits far away.

These wonders my Champions perform every day. Greg. Naz. Carm. Iamb. 18.

< text from f 3r resumes >

From this time so great a multitude of miracles are said to have been performed at the sepulchres of martyrs, and through their relics, that they would {surpass} belief, had they not been recorded by the gravest authors of that age. And indeed Gregory of Nazianzus, [2] writing against Julian, still reigning as Emperor, says: You have not respected the Martyrs, to whom the noblest honors and festivals have been established; by whom the Demons are driven forth, and sicknesses cured; to whom apparitions and prophecies belong, whose bodies by themselves can do all that holy souls can do, whether touched by hands, or adored; mere drops of whose blood, and little signs of the Passion (signs of the Cross, that is) can do the same as their bodies; these you do not respect but spurn and scorn. Jerome, in his Epitaphium of Paula, has this [3] : Paula, he says, saw Samaria; there are buried the prophets Elisha and Obadiah, and John the Baptist, and she trembled, astounded <4r> by many miracles; for she would see the demons roar with their various torments, and men ululating before the tombs of the saints like wolves, barking with the voices of dogs, roaring with the voices of lions, hissing like serpents, lowing like bulls, and touching the earth with their head behind their back, and women hung up by the foot and their dresses not flowing over their face. Similarly, Ambrose:[4] You have known of, he says, nay, you have seen yourselves, many men cleansed of their devils, many, even when they touched the clothing of the saints with their hands, cured of their diseases; the miracles of olden times brought back, by which a greater grace poured itself on the earth in honor of the advent of Jesus; you have seen many healed even by the shadow of their sacred bodies. How many napkins, how many pieces of clothing are cast upon the most sacred relics, that they may be taken back up as things that heal by the mere touch? All rejoice to touch their outermost fringe, since whoever touches that shall be healed. And Augustine says[5] : The bodies of Gervase and Protase were brought to the Basilica of Ambrose; not only were those whom unclean spirits troubled healed, these same demons confessing to it, but a person many years blind, who had touched the bier of the martyrs with his handkerchief and put it to his eyes, regained his sight. And in another place[6] Of so great a glory of the martyrs, he says, I too was witness, with I was at Milan, I knew the miracles done, etc. Then he tells the miracle just mentioned of the blind man. In the same way Chrysostom, speaking of miracles of this kind, says[7] , I will prove my story from things that happen daily; for take anyone possessed by a demon, and raging, and bring him to the sepulchre in which the relics of the Martyr Julian are contained, then you will plainly see it jumping forth and fleeing. And elsewhere, describing the power of the martyrs, he says[8] our story is given credit by the miracles done daily by the martyrs. And in another place[9] : The bones of the Saints halt the Demons, and torment them, and free those bound by them from their most painful bonds. What can be imagined more terrible than this tribunal? Though no one can be seen and no one is pressing upon the demon's sides, voices, tearings, blows and torments and burning tongues are heard, evidently because the demon cannot endure that great and wondrous power. <5r> And these men who had had bodies surpass their powers now they are free of bodies, and their dust and bones and ashes destroy utterly natures that are remote from the vision of our eyes. For this reason, many Princes have come from abroad that they might enjoy this sight. Now, if the temples of the holy martyrs display the images and signs of the judgment to come, while demons are tormented with scourges and men tortured and then set free, see what the power of saints still alive must be!

Were I to gather together everything there is on this topic, a book would have to be written. I will adjoin one passage from Augustine, however, from which you can make some estimate of the honor in which you should hold these miracles. He says, in The City of God, 22. 8.

< insertion from f 4v >

"They make the lame run, they illuminate the blind, they make lepers clean, they put demons to flight. The multitude of them who are daily healed give witness." (Chrysostom on the Pentecost:) And talking of the Miracles of Christ and the Apostles, he says: "All these things, if anyone should characterize as fictional tricks not easily to be believed; certainly what is seen now would have been enough and more than enough to shut the mouth of blasphemy, and to shame and hold back the licentious tongue. For there is no region of our world, nor race, nor city, where these new and unexpected miracles are not common talk; yet had they been fictional, they would not have raised such great wonder in men." And shortly afterwards he says "our story is proved abundantly by the miracles displayed daily by the martyrs, with great crowds of men flocking to them." So Chrysostom, in his second Oration on Saint Babylas, given at Antioch in the twentieth year after the aforementioned consultation of the Oracle by Julian, as Chrysostom mentions in this Oration, that is, the year 382.

If, then, some judgment of the miracles is wanted, let us look at Augustine. He, in bk. 22 ch. 8 of the City of God, where he had described the miracles done through the relics of Stephen the martyr, {illeg} and among others dead men raised, ends thus: "If I should wish to write out the miracles of healing only, and be silent of the others, performed in Colonia Calamensis by this martyr, that is, the most glorious Stephen, I should have to make more books and nonetheless they could not all be collected; but only those of which written accounts are given which are read to the people. For we wished this done, because we saw signs of divine powers become frequent even in our own times that were like those of old; and that they should not disappear from public knowledge. It is not yet two years since these things began to be part of our history at Hippo Regius, and there were many (we are most certain) written accounts not made of them, but of those things which were miraculously done the written accounts had come up about to the number of seventy, when I wrote what is here. At Calama, where the stories started earlier, they both happened more swiftly and exceed that by an incredible number. At Uzalis, a Roman colony near Utica, we have heard of many wonderful miracles done through the same martyr." Of these written accounts there are two, containing nineteen miracles, in the Appendix of volume 10 of the Plantine edition of Augustine. If the miracles done in the space of two years, by one martyr's relics, filled so many written accounts that about seventy of them were collected at Hippo, besides many others not written down, and the written accounts from Calama exceed these by an incredible number, and many fine things were also done at Uzalis, how many books would the miracles done by all the relics of all the martyrs through many years all over the world fill? Truly, therefore, the Devil descended to the inhabitants of the Roman land and sea with great wrath.

< text from f 5r resumes >

Now, this stupendous multitude of miracles either came forth from God or the Devil. If from God, tell me to what purpose; for propagating his religion? or out of mercy? or to no purpose, but by an inherent and blind efficacy bestowed upon these relics? If it was bestowed later, how could these miracles cease? or why were they not noticed earlier? For the first three hundred years and more, not a word of such miracles; nor to the writers make out a series of them descending from the Apostles, but talk of them as something new. Chrysostom in the Oration against the Pagans, speaking about the martyr Babylas, says If someone does not believe in those things which the Apostles did, let him look at what is happening now and desist from his impudence. Augustine, in the place I cited above, says we wished the books <6r> collected because we saw signs of divine powers become frequent even in our own times that were like those of old, and Ambrose calls them a revival of the miracles of olden time. They knew at any rate that the miracles of old had long ceased, but they were seeing these grow day by day as the relics of martyrs were uncovered day by day. In the city of Milan, Ambrose says, there was no martyr present before the finding of Gervase and Protase; Augustine's Stephen...

Babylas the Martyr, afterwards most famous for his miracles, the Devil first disclosed by the Oracle.

The sepulchre of John the Baptist at Sebaste in Palestine was known to Christians before the Reign of Julian and frequented by Christians, but his relics did not begin to become famous for miracles until after the Reign of Julian. For with him as Emperor, the Pagans had torn up the sepulchre and collected the bones, scattered through the fields, to be burnt...these relics, miraculously hidden by the monks, or at least made up as substitutes, were brought to Athanasius, who took them, says Rufinus[10] , and by shutting them up in the hollowed out wall of a chapel, saved them, by his prophetic spirit, to be of profit to a future generation. He does not say he saved them because of their known usefulness proven by experience, but that he saved them for the profit of a future generation by his prophetic spirit. And certainly, how profitable these bones were can be gathered from the fact that, at the site of the Temple of Serapis, a Martyrium[Editorial Note 1] with golden roofs was constructed for them not long after.

From the time Julian was Emperor, we read frequently of the discovery of relics; before then, never at any time. For though this game of the devil had begun little by little in the reign of Constantius, I read of no Martyr celebrated by name for his miracles; so that the things that preceded, in the reign of Constantius, I believe were a general prelude to these, instituted at the common tombs of many martyrs together, and that after this first insinuation, the Devil went on further to magnify the martyrs one by one, from among whom there were established Gods in many places by name. Since therefore the Church, throughout the first three hundred years, even if it had long frequented the Basilicas of the Martyrs <7r> for the purpose of prayer, had not noticed this efficacy of relics; and since now there is none to be noticed, but these miracles after the establishment of the cult of Gods have little by little ceased, and now have disappeared for about a thousand years; they cannot be attributed to some blind and innate efficacy of relics, but they came about by some purpose either of God or the Devil.

If you wish them to have come about from God, through His charity and benevolence to the sick and to demoniacs, then hence they ought to be perpetual, if, as the case is, every age abounds in sick and miserable people. Or has God become less good? Or did the Christians of the first centuries deserve favors less? Nay rather, no age deserved these favors less than the one on which these miracles were bestowed, as will be patent afterwards, when we describe their terrible crimes from Salvian and others.

Therefore it is necessary that these miracles were brought about by a deeper plan, that is, for the sake of propagating some religion. Not God's; for this was taught fully by the Apostles, if anyone, be he an Angel from heaven, if he preached another Gospel than the first Christians had received, is declared accursed by the Apostle, Galatians 1.8. What therefore is to be received, the Apostles preached fully, and after their preaching, the divine miracles stopped, because there was no further need of such miracles. How therefore could these sepulchral miracles which began three hundred years after the Apostolic times serve for Gospel preaching? Nay rather, those who lived in the time of these miracles did not think these signs were given for the revelation of doctrine; the relics by which these miracles were done were mute, nor did they declare any doctrine, nor could any doctrine the Apostles preached be collected from them. But they tended to this one unique purpose, that the Martyrs and saints should be worshipped, a doctrine that neither the Apostles ever preached, nor did the Church for the first three hundred years ever receive, in any way. <8r> Had they been done for the sake of some other doctrine, certainly the Christians of that age would have found it out; but in vain is that declared which none understands, and God declares nothing in vain. This is obvious from Chrysostom and Augustine, of whom the first writes

Therefore the people did not receive these miracles as confirmation of some doctrine, nor did they understand to what purpose they were done, nor did they think of it at all, but they only watched them gaping and astonished, till they were ensnared by these devils' tricks and drawn into the cult of the saints.

Since therefore these miracles did not flow from any blind efficacy of the relics, nor can any reason be thought out why they should be done by the hand of God, when the church had no need of them; since they were mute and sepulchral miracles, that is, very different from those of the Apostles, but very like those that the devil is said to have effected at the sepulchres of the ancient heroes whom the pagans worshipped; since, finally, they were of no use to the church, nor had any purpose except that the dead should be worshipped, and they achieved their end, as will be said, most speedily and most efficaciously, and then ceased; there is certainly no one who does not himself worship saints, who will refuse to confess that they came from the Devil, and were worked in order that the cult of the dead should be raised up among Christians.


Now since this is so, it follows that this cult of dead folk is no light evil, given that the Devil took the trouble to erect it by so infinite a multitude of miracles continued for many years throughout the Roman world. What! would the Devil have been so solicitous over trivial evils? Compare these works with the Apostolic miracles by which the Christian religion was built, and you will perceive them to be far transcended. For it was a great thing to found our religion, and most worthy of many miracles. But of what sort is this thing which the enemy thought should be founded by more numerous miracles and over a longer time? What less than that he contrived the ruin of our religion, and the superinduction of that much spoken of Apostasy, which is signified by the Whore of Babylon, that is, the Idolatrous church, by this great working of devilish miracles, and that we {should believe} it took its beginning there. Certainly the Devil then descended to the inhabitants of the Roman earth and sea with great wrath; for knowing that there would be but a little time for him, he strove with all his might to make swift the lapse of Christians, that he could acquire his reign over them more quickly.

Having explained the first step in the descent of the Devil to the inhabitants of earth and sea, or the artifice by which the devil insinuated himself, let us examine the success of this artifice, that is, the way in which the two-horned Beast began to speak as a Dragon, and the other beast to blaspheme.

That the Church became Idolatrous from about the year 400 or 420 many will gladly concede. But to go back earlier they have not dared, revering the great names of those who are celebrated as Fathers of the Church, and lived in those times. But to be held back by admiration of persons is a bad thing. If these Fathers did any good thing let them be praised; if however they corrupted the Church, the true state of the Church is not to be concealed for the sake of their reputations. But the origin of the evil should be looked into, and the delinquency of these great men should rather be confessed, with sorrow. And indeed if I succeed in showing, that those Fathers who are considered the holier and wiser part of the church were ensnared by the miracles of demons already explained, and from the rising of the two-horned beast began to worship the dead, there is no doubt that most of the monks, a race the most superstitious of all men and prone to this cult more than others are, did similar things from this time onwards, and thus the two-horned beast from the beginning spoke as a Dragon. At the time of Constantius I find no vestige of this cult. Yes, the Devil had begun to insinuate himself by miracles, but those miracles did not give birth to the cult of the dead till after the reign of Constantius. Hear how, shortly after his death, as the beast rose, this foul Cult began by degrees to exist; and first from Basil the Great, who flourished from the reign of Julian to the year 378 when he died,

in the twentieth Homily of the 40 Martyrs. "These are they," he says, "who, living in our region, ὁιονὲι πύργοι τινὲς συνεχεις, ασφαλειαν εκ της των ἐναντίων καταδρομης παρεχόμενοι like continual towers of refuge, providing refuge from the incursions of our enemies, —— Ἐτοίμη βοήθεια χριστιανοις are a ready help to Christians, a Church of martyrs, an army of triumphing soldier, a Chorus of men praising God. You have often worked, you have often toiled, that you should find one saint to pray for you; these are forty, sending forth one single voice of prayer. For where there are two or three gathered in the name of God, there God is; where there are forty, who can doubt God is present? ὁ θλιβόμενος ἐπὶ τους τεσσαράκοντα καταφεύγει, ὁ ἐυφραινόμενος ἐπι ἀυτους ἀποτρέχει ὁ μὲν ἵνα λύσιν ἑύρη των δυσχερων, ὁ δὲ ἵνα φυλαχθη ἀυτω τὰ χρηστότεραHe that is hard pressed takes refuge in the forty, he that rejoices runs to them, the one that he may find freedom from evils, the other that the better things may be preserved for him. ✝ < insertion from f 9v > ✝ Here the woman praying for her children is heard; she implore for her husband's safety in travelling, his health in sickness. With these martyrs therefore let us pour forth our prayers < text from f 10r resumes > —— O sacred chorus, o holy band, o unconquerable troop, ὢ κοινοὶ φύλακες του γενους των ἀνθρώπων! <11r> ἀγαθὸι κοινωνὸι φροντίδων, δεήσεως συνεργὸι, πρεσβευτὰι δυνατώτατοι! o common guardians of the human race, good sharers of our cares, fellow workers in prayer, most powerful legates (or mediators). So Basil; and akin to this is what is in the second Oration of Gregory of Nyssa to these 40 martyrs, concluding with this prayer: του παραδείσου ἐντος γενοίμεθα διὰ της πρεβείας ἀυτων δυναμαιθέντες "strengthened by their intercession, let us enter into paradise."

< insertion from f 10v >

So also Gregory of Nyssa in his Oration at the Funeral of Meletius the Bishop of Antioch, given in the year 381 at Constantinople: "Our betrothed [Meletius] is not taken away, he stands in our midst, even if we do not see; in the porches and holy places he is a priest, — ἀυτοπροσώπως εντυγχάνει τω θεω. εντυγχάνει δὲ ὑπὲρ ἡμων, καὶ των του λαου αγνοὴματων and face to face intercedes with God for us and for the people's errors." This Gregory says before a synod at Constantinople, during which Meletius died, that you may clearly understand (as I may say, with Baronius, year 381, para. 41), that he professed that very thing which the whole Council and with it the whole Church of this area believed: that the saints pour forth prayers for us in heaven to God.

Gregory of Nyssa also, in his Oration on St. Theodore the Martyr, describing the virtues of the martyr and the practice of the people, says "This saint, as we believe, in the last year (sc. the year 380) quieted a storm of barbarians and checked a great war with the Scythians and crushed it," etc. Then, describing the people's reaction, he adds "If anyone is permitted to carry away the dust, which lies upon the tomb where the martyr's body lies, the dust is accepted for a gift, and the earth of his burial is collected as a thing of great price. For as for touching the relics themselves, if some happy fortune of that kind should chance to make that possible to do, how that becomes a much desired thing and wished for, like an answer to the sum of one's prayers, they know who have experienced it and come into possession of their desire. For as if the body lived and flourished in itself, those who look on it embrace it as if using all the instruments of sense, eyes, ears, mouth, and shedding tears with honor and affection over the martyr's (corpse), they offer suppliant prayers that he might intercede τὴν του πρεσβεύειν ἱκεσίαν προσάγουσιν, ὡς δορυφόρον του θεου παρακαλουντες, ὡς᾽ λαμβανοντα τας δωρεὰς ὅταν εθέλη επικαλούμενος, calling on him as the Soldier of God and as one that receives their gifts when he wishes. Finally Gregory closes the Oration with this prayer: "We need many favors. <11v> Intercede and pray for our country with our common king and lord; for the country of a Martyr is the place of his passion, and his fellow citizens and brothers and relatives are they who have him and protect him and adorn and honor him. We fear afflictions, we expect dangers: the wicked Scythians are not far off, preparing war against us: ὡς στρατιώτης ὑπερμάχησον ὡς μάρτυς ὑπὲρ των ὁμοδούλων χρησαι τη πα᾽ρρ῾ησία fight for us as our soldier, use your freedom of speech (before God) as a martyr on behalf of your fellow servants. Seek for peace for us, that these public gatherings may not cease, may the rabid and cruel barbarian not rage and attack our temples and altars, may the profane and impious not tread down the holy things. For we who have been saved unhurt and whole ascribe to you the benefit we have received. And we seek defence and safety in time to come. τὴν ἀσφάλειαν Or if there is need of still greater advocacy and intercession, compel the chorus of martyrs, your brothers, and pray for us together with all of them. The prayers of many righteous loose the sins of multitudes and peoples. Warn Peter, rouse up Paul, and John, the Theologian and beloved disciple, that they may show care for those churches they founded, for which they were in chains, for which they endured danger and death, lest the cult of idols raise up its head against us, lest heresies grow up like thorns in the vineyard, lest tares choke the grown wheat, lest a rock without the rich dew of the true manna rise up against us, and make our fertility of speech and word without root; but by the power of your and your allies' prayer, o man most admirable and eminent and excellent among the martyrs, let the nation of Christians be made a field of harvests," etc.

Add to this Gregory in his life of St. Ephraim Syrus. Telling a story about some person returning home from far who was brought into great peril of his life, because all the roads were closed and shut off by Barbarian troops, he adds, ως μόνον της σης ἐπεμνήσθη προσηγορίας, ἐπειπών ἅγιε Εφραὶμ βοήθει μοι "he only invoked thee by name saying: 'holy Ephraim, help me.' And thus he escaped the snares of danger, and cast off the fear of death, and was restored to his native land ὑπὸ της σης προνόιἀς φρουρούμενος guarded by thy providence, restored against all hope." Then he concludes the Oration with this prayer: "Thou, Ephraim, now standing at the divine altar, <12v> and sacrificing with the Angels to the lifegiving and most holy Trinity, remember us all, and pray for the forgiveness of sins for us, that we may be able to enjoy the eternal blessedness of the heavenly kingdom." < text from f 11r resumes > But let us return to Basil. He says, in Homily 26, On the Martyr Mammas, "Be ye mindful of this martyr, as often as you find him in dreams; as often as, standing in this place, you have had him assist in praying; ὅσοις, ὀνόματι κληθὲις, ἐπὶ των ἔργων παρέστη as many of you as he has been present to in your works; whom so often, when you wandered, he brought you back to the way; whom he has restored to health; whose children, already dead, he has restored to life; of whose own life he has so often extended the bounds." And a little later, "All the province has been stirred to this martyr's remembrance, and the whole city has been changed to joy for his festival day; nor do the families of the rich turn aside to their ancestors' sepulchres, but all crowd to the place of his worship." And at the end of the Homily he prays that God "should save the Church, fortified with the great watchtowers of the martyrs." From this words one can see what a faith (the principal internal act of worship) Basil and his people had taken up in the martyrs. And that they had begun already to invoke them by name to help them. They did not only invoke them as mediators with God, but as patrons in their own person, as governors of human affairs who when invoked by name would come to help these affairs. A sort of cult which even today's Papals,[Editorial Note 2] if I am not deceived, would concede is Idolatry. Nor does it appear they were few who had come to yield to this cult, if Basil describes a whole city and region rejoicing in the memory of the martyr and all crowding to the place of his worship.

Here pertains beside what Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 6, commands: "Let us purify ourselves to the Martyrs, or rather to the God <12r> of the Martyrs;" and a little later he calls the Martyrs spiritual mediators for the attainment of "ascent and deification." ἀναβάσεως ἢ θεώσεως ὁι μάρτυρες μεσιτεύουσι And in Letter 196 to Valentinian he writes thus: "See to this above all, των καθιερωμένων τοις μάρτυσι φείσασθε that you ordain nothing harsh against those who have consecrated themselves to the Martyrs, lest otherwise you take bad counsel for yourselves and your own affairs, bringing on yourselves ruin and destruction." Besides, in Oration 19 On his Late Father, he speaks of him as spiritually conversing with mortals, and fighting for his flock against the wolves. And in Oration 18, narrating the life of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage and martyr, he says that a certain Justina, a holy virgin whom Cyprian before his conversation had attempted to possess by magical arts, prayed the Virgin Mary as a suppliant (and that not in vain) that she should bring aid to the maiden in danger.     That here Gregory was deceived by a fiction, even Baronius confesses. But that the monks of that time promoted the cult of the dead by fables made up with considerable impudence is clear from this. For the rest, that the intention and practice of Gregory himself in worshipping the dead may be clearer, and what sort of things they were wont to ask in those times, hear him at the end of this oration invoking Cyprian as follows: he says "but do thou look upon us favorably from heaven, and govern our talk and our life and assist this holy flock as it feeds, both in all else directing it to the best that can belong to it, and taking away the wicked wolves that catch at syllables and words, winning for us a fuller and clearer light from the holy Trinity before which you now stand." And in this way at the end of Oration 21 In Praise of Athanasius, he prays in this manner to the dead Athanasius; he says "May you look down on us benignly and calmly from above, and guide this people to be the perfect adorer of the perfect Trinity, which is comprehended and worshipped in the contemplation of Father, son and holy spirit; and if peace is to be in future, keep me in life and feed my flock; or if the church is to be aflame with wars, bring me back or take me up to be with you and station me with those like {you}, <13r> [11] great though the thing may be that I ask." Add also the invocation of Basil the Great in Oration 20 In Praise of Basil, where Gregory Nazianzus would speak of him thus: "But now he is in heaven, there also, as I believe, offering sacrifices for us, and pouring forth prayers for the people;" and at last he concludes the oration with this prayer: "Thou, truly, sacred and divine one, I beg thee behold us from heaven, and either stop that thorn in our flesh given by God for our discipline, or at least persuade us to bear it with a brave spirit, and receive us after we have migrated from this life in thine own eternal habitations δέξαιο κἀκειθεν ἡμας ταις σεαυτου σκηναις; that living there, and discerning the holy and blessed Trinity, whose faint image and appearance we now perceive, more purely and fully, we may make an end to our longings, and receive this reward of the warfare we have initiated or endured." And this is sufficient to show the kind of worship that at this time was introduced into the church; which certainly no one will deny to be Idolatry, since not even any Pagan would have asked greater things from an Idol, nor any Christian from God on high, or could ask, than these leaders in Apostasy asked of their dead.

< insertion from f 14v > [12] ✝ These things in the Churches of Asia. What was done in Syria may appear from the writings of Ephraim Syrus, a contemporary of Basil the Great who died in the same year, that is the year 478. He, in his Encomium of the just deceased Basil the Great,[Editorial Note 3] at the end of the oration thus invokes Basil: [13] "Pray for me, miserable as I am, and restore me by thine intercessions, O Father: brave thou, weak me, dutiful thou, idle me, swift thou, slow me, wise thou, unwise me. Thou who hast treasured up a treasure for thyself of all the virtues, restore me, poor in every good work." Thus also in the Encomium of the holy forty Martyrs, which he wrote at the same time, he invokes these Martyrs thus at the beginning of the oration: [14] "Come, then, to my aid, ye Saints, by your intercessions, and, ye beloved ones, by your holy prayers: that Christ by his grace should move my tongue to speak," etc. Later, speaking of the mother of one of the martyrs, he concludes "I beg of thee, o holy and faithful and blessed woman, pray to the saints for me, saying, 'Intercede, o triumphant soldiers of Christ, for insignificant and miserable Ephraim,' that I may find mercy, and by the grace of Christ be saved." Further, in the second sermon On the Praises of the Holy Martyrs of Christ, he says,[15]"We call on you, o most holy martyrs, that for us miserable sinners covered in the squalor of negligence, you may prayer the lord to pour upon us his divine grace." And later, at the end, he says: [16]"Now, ye most blessed men, and glorious Martyrs of Christ, help me, a miserable sinner, with your prayers: that in that terrible hour I may obtain mercy, when the secrets of hearts are made manifest. I am made a useless and inexperienced cup-bearer for you, o Most Holy Martyrs of Christ: for from the wine of your great struggle I have given the children and brothers of your faith the cup, and from the splendid table of your victory, laid with all kinds of platters and banquets, I have desired with all the affection and longing of my mind to refresh the fathers and brothers, your cousins and kindred, who frequent that table daily. For behold, they sing, they glorify God with exultation and jubilation, who <14r> [17] has decorated your most sacred heads with the incorruptible and heavenly crowns of your virtues: and with great joy they stand round about the sacred Relics of your struggle, wishing to be blest, and desiring to take home with them holy medicines of body and soul. Impart to them all therefore your blessing, as good disciples and faithful ministers of our most kind Lord and Saviour. I also, though weak and feeble, having received strength by your merits and intercessions, have sung with all the devotion of my spirit the hymn of your praise and glory before your holy Relics. Therefore I beseech you, for me, Ephraim, the vile and miserable sinner, stand up before the throne of the divine majesty: that by your prayers I may deserve to achieve salvation and with you enjoy sempiternal felicity, by the grace and goodness and mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be praise, honor, might and glory throughout infinite ages of ages, Amen." And this same Ephraim in certain other orations, if indeed they be Ephraim's own, invokes the Virgin Mary (p. 698, 701, 707, 708). But from what has been given, his mind, and also the practise of the people he was addressing, is sufficiently clear.

X But what was done in Syria will be more fully and surely seen from the writings of John Chrysostom, who for almost the whole reign of Theodosius the Great gave sermons in the patriarchal see of that region, Antioch. He, at the end of his sermon on St. Julian, given there, exhorts the people as follows: "Let all of us, going out before the city, get our brothers and bring them thither: that tomorrow also the Theatre may be full for us, and the festal gathering perfect, that because of our devotion and diligence displayed here, ἐις τὰς ἀιωνίους ἡμας δέξηται σκηνὰς ὁ ἁγιος μαρτυς μετὰ πα᾽ρ῾ρησίας πολλης the holy Martyr with great freedom of speech <15r> may receive us [18] into eternal habitations." He concludes the Sermon on St. Pelagia, given also at Antioch, like this: "May God by the words and prayers of this holy virgin, and of those who fought similarly, see that you remember these and the other things I have said diligently in your memory." And in the sermon to the Antiochenes on the martyr Ignatius, Chrysostom, having much praised the virtues of relics, concludes thus: "Considering all this, let us frequent this sacred place with all joy and happiness, that we may prevail to become table-companions and sharers of the heavenly table with the saints, by the prayers of the saints themselves and the grace and goodness of our lord Jesus Christ." In the same way he concludes the second Oration on Fate and Providence, as also the Oration on the Egyptian Martyrs: in which he also extols with much praise the virtues of relics. He says, "The bodies of the saints protect the city for us more safely than any adamantine and inexpugnable wall you can wish; and like high cliffs standing out everywhere, repel the attacks not just of those enemies who are in reach of the senses and are seen with eyes but also the ambushes of invisible Demons, and they subvert and dissipate all the tricks of the devil no less easily than some strong man would subvert and lay low the games of children. And other contrivances made by man, as walls, ditches, arms, troops of soldiers, and whatever is thought out for the security of the inhabitants, can be repelled by a greater number of enemies and by many other and much greater war machines: but when a city is fortified by the bodies of saints, let them spend all sorts of money against the cities which possess them, by no means can they oppose any equal war machine. Nor indeed is this possession <15v> [19] useful to us merely against the plots of men or the wiles of the devils, but if our common lord be angered because of the multitude of our sins, we may put these bodies between him and us and make him propitious to our city." Chrysostom says this of the Egyptian martyrs: let us add some things which occur in the Oration to the Antiochenes on Saints Bernice and Prosdokê. He says "Perhaps ye burn toward these saints with no ordinary love. With this ardor, then, let us fall down before their relics, and embrace their reliquary chests; for the Reliquary Chests of Martyrs can have great power, just as the bones of martyrs have great power. And let us be assiduous not just on the day of this festival, καλωμεν ἀυτας ἀξιωμεν γινέσθαι προστάτιδας ἡμων but even on other days let us call them and beg them to be our protectresses. For they have great influence not just living but even dead, nay much more, now they are dead, for now they bear the stigmata of Christ. But when they show these stigmata they can convince their King of all things. Since therefore these women are so powerful by their great virtue and friendship with him, with an unending besieging and a perpetual visitation of them let us insinuate ourselves into their friendship, and by their help let us bespeak the mercy of God." Things like this are found in the Oration on Juventinus and Maximus, also delivered at Antioch. And so also Chrysostom has this in a general sermon on Martyrs: "If you desire to enjoy delights, sit at the sepulchre of a martyr, pour forth there your fountains of tears, wear out your breath, take a blessing from the tomb ἀρον ἐυλογίαν ἄπὸ του τάφου λαβὼν ἀυτὴν συνήγοραν ἐν ταις ἐυχαις and using it as a helper in your prayers <16r> [20] exercise yourself frequently, embrace the box, cleave to the chest of relics; not just the bones of Martyrs but also their sepulchres and reliquary chests πολλὴν βρύουσιν ἐυλογίαν overflow with many benedictions." To these you can add many things from the same Chrysostom, preached at Antioch or at Constantinople: as from the ninth Homily on Genesis I, at the end; the 15th Homily on Genesis 3, the 42nd and 43rd on Genesis at the end; the Exposition of Psalm 48, in the first part; the Sermon on the Ascension of Christ, on the name "Coemeterion", the 5th, 8th and 27th Homilies on Matthew, the first on I Thessalonians, and in other places, perhaps, which may occur to his readers.

From what I have said, the manners of the Churches which were obedient to the city of Constantinople are made clear, since Nazianzen and Chrysostom were Bishops of that City; Nazianzen from the reign of Valens to the third year of Theodosius, Chrysostom from the year 398 to the year 407. Nazianzen was not just the first Homoousian Bishop of this city since the time of Constantius, but the first who preached the faith of the three consubstantial persons in this city; whence it is not surprising if the cult of Martyrs together with the consubstantial faith was propagated here: but this cult grew so in that city and the places round it, that in the year 394 when Theodosius was about to set out against Eugenius, Rufinus says (bk. 2 chap. 23) "he would be prepared for war not so much by the aid of arms and weapons, as of fasts and prayers, nor did he go round protected so much by the vigils of his guards as in all night vigils of prayer <16v> [21] and went round all the places of prayer with priests and people, and lay prostrated in a hairshirt before the reliquary chests of martyrs and Apostles and begged faithful help for himself by the intercession of the saints." And Sozomenus adds (bk. 7 chap. 24) that when the Emperor, leaving Constantinople, came to the seventh milepost [as he went against Eugenius] he is said to have prayed to God in the Church he had built in honor of John the Baptist, that the outcome of the war might be happy and fortunate for himself and the army and all Romans, καὶ σύμμαχον ἀυτω ἐπικαλέσασθαι τὸν βαπτιστήν and to have asked and invoked the Baptist to be his ally. Such was this Emperor, and with such enthusiasm his court, and the clergy and people of Constantinople, had come to pursue the cult of the dead. Nay rather, this cult had come to such a point that Chrysostom, and the end of the Exposition of Psalm 114, could say that πρὸς των μαρτύρων τοὺς τάφους τὰς πόλεις συντρεχούσας, τοὺς δήμους ἀναπτομένους τω ποθω"cities and peoples ran together to the tombs of martyrs, inflamed with love of them" and not seldom exhorted the people lest by their too great trust and confidence in the saints they themselves should become negligent in their religious observance. For so in the 44th Homily on Genesis 19 he says "When we bring what is for us to bring, and together with it there comes the intercession of the righteous ones, ἡ παρὰ των δικαίων πρεσβεία that is very valuable to us. But if we ourselves are negligent, and place the hope of our salvation in them alone, it is no longer any use to us. —— Knowing this, beloved, let us take refuge in the intercession of the saints καταφεύγωμεν ἐπὶ τὰς των ἁγίων πρεσβείας καὶ παρακαλωμεν ὥστε ὑπὲρ ἡμων δεηθηναι and pray that they may pray for us: but let us not trust only in their prayers, but let us govern our own affairs, as becomes us, well." And in the same way, on Matthew 2, Homily 5, he says "Therefore let us not, as if we were unreliable and idle ourselves, depend on other's merits. For the prayers and supplications of the saints have a power to help us, <17r> [22] and that a great one, but only then, precisely, when we seek that very thing through penitence." And a little later "We say this, not to deny that one should pray to the saints, but lest we relax ourselves in leisure and idleness and lazily commend to others what is specifically ours to take care of." With exhortations of this sort Chrysostom began to check the man already too inflamed with devotion to the saints, not to diminish this devotion, but to excite devotion to god himself and other religious exercises, which by their hope and confidence in the merits and intercessions of Saints had begun to be choked off and to be too inactive.

"He himself who wore the purple came to embrace these sepulchres, and pride laid aside, stood to supplicate the saints that they should intercede for him with God, and prayed to a fisherman and a tentmaker as Protectors, he who came crowned with a diadem." Chrys. Hom. 66 to the people, at the end. See also Hom. 5 and 8, 27 on Matthew, 42 and 43 on Genesis, 1 on I Thessalonians, etc.

< text from f 13r resumes >

[23] This is in the Churches of the East. In Egypt, where there was a greater number of monks, there is no doubt the progress of these impieties was greater. This, besides, is remarkable in those regions, that in place of the world-famous shrines of Serapis and Canopus, they introduced the cult of their divine saints. The bones of John the Baptist (if indeed they were John's which Athanasius saved for the benefit of posterity) succeeded to Serapis's shrine as Rufinus says. < insertion from f 13v > Add to this the testimony of Palladius who having travelled to Egypt in the year 388 immediately became a monk there, and visiting many a monastery in the deserts and towns of Egypt, took on the ways of the province: for he had travelled to Egypt just so he could be trained in the discipline of those monks. He, narrating in ‡[24] the Lausiac History, cap. 67, how he had seen the martyr-shrine of a certain Apollonius, who with a number of others had suffered in the Thebaid in the time of the persecution of Maximinus, says "For all these, the Christians have made a single church, where now many great things are performed. And such is the man's grace, that he is immediately heard about the things he is prayed for, his saviour honoring him thus. We also prayed to him in the martyrs' shrine and saw him, with those who along with him were martyred, and adoring God, reverenced their bodies in the Thebaid." < text from f 13r resumes > What happened in both places <18r> is easily gathered from Eunapius, a pagan man, however, and because of that inimical to, and blasphemous against, the martyrs, but nonetheless a good witness to the practice of the Christians of his time. He, having described the soldiers who threw down these Egyptian gods in the year 389 goes on [25] "And these same brought into the holy places of Serapis the Monks, as they are called, men in appearance, but living a foul life in the manner of pigs, who publicly committed infinite and unspeakable crimes, to whom, nonetheless, it seemed the work of piety to trample down the reverence of the holy place. For at that time, any fellow clothed in a black garment and who was not unwilling to appear in public in dirty garb, got for himself the power of a tyrant; that kind of men came into such esteem of their virtues, of whom I have spoken also in my general histories. These same Monks also at Canopus arranged that in place of the gods who are seen by the human spirit, they should worship slaves, and bad slaves too, with divine honors, obliging the minds of men to their cult and liturgy. For they displayed the preserved and salted heads of those who by the judges had been punished with the worst of tortures because of their many crimes as if they were gods; they knelt to them; they received them into the number of gods, befouling themselves with dust and dirt before their sepulchres; and thus they were called μάρτυρες γουν ἐκαλουντο καὶ διάκονοι τινὲς, καὶ πρέσβεις των ἀιτήσεων παρὰ των θεων "Martyrs" and Ministers and Legates and Arbiters of prayers and petitions with the Gods, though they had been faithless slaves subjected to the whips and bearing scars all over their bodies as traces of their crimes and wrongdoings: such Gods the earth brings forth there!" So Eunapius, barking like a rabid dog against the martyrs, and perhaps the more because he thought those earlier Christians made of the same stuff as the monks and other very bad Christians of his own day: but nonetheless it is clear in what honor and worship the Egyptian Monks at this time held the martyrs: and that <19r> this cult did not begin then, but had grown to such a degree that it had become a kind of piety to cast out the Gods of the pagans by introducing the cult of the martyrs.


But by what beginnings this superstition grew up there is not so manifest. Peter, certainly, who succeeded Athanasius in the year 371, believed in it. Otherwise he would not have made Nazianzen, a well-known Patron of the superstition, bishop of Constantinople, and after, when with all his might he wanted to depose the same Nazianzen, so he might put in his place a certain Maximus, he would not have lacked a legitimate pretext. At any rate, if I conjecture rightly, Athanasius, an Egyptian, was the founder of this superstition in Egypt, and that for these reasons: 1, that Peter, Athanasius' principal disciple and continual companion, cannot have taken it up otherwise than by the precepts of his teacher. 2, if you look for the time of its origin, it was easier to propagate this cult together with the homoousian faith which revived at the end of the reign of Constantius, than to introduce it after the death of Athanasius, when the homoousian religion had been for a good while preached and confirmed. In a stable religion, innovations do not happen without dispute, and I read of none in the reception of this cult. If you consider the Episcopal see, Egypt was now the head of the homoousians and the arbiter of this religion throughout the East. And the propagation of a religious observance is easy from a principal see to inferior sees, but difficult from the inferior <21r> sees to the higher see.


Now, let us go over to the West. For there we see similar things perpetrated, with the Roman Pontifex as leader. Damasus, contesting with Ursicinus in the year 367 for the Pontificate, made a vow to the Martyrs if they would favor his cause, and when he won, paid it. Baronius [26] says "It is found in ancient inscriptions that Damasus made vows to the martyrs for the unction of the holy Church, which he paid when the Roman clergy deserted the schismatic Ursicinus and joined Damasus. extent an ancient inscription in these words:

You who choose to venerate the tomb of the saints,


Time could not retain their name and number.

Damasus the ruler adorned their grave, know ye,

Triumphant when the clergy returned at Christ's will.

As priest he pays his vow to the holy martyrs.

Now since Damasus did this, as if from an accepted form of piety, certainly this cult had been accepted by the clergy of the city while Liberius was still its bishop, let us suppose in the year 364 or 365, about the same time when it began in Alexandria. And no wonder. For the emissaries who went back and forth at that time between Liberius and Athanasius on various occasions for religious purposes could have explained this cult to the Roman City Clergy: besides the fact that Eusebius, bishop of Vercellae at the same time, brought over Monasticism of the clergy and undoubtedly also the ways and manners of the monks from Egypt and the East into Italy.

< insertion from f 23v >

And indeed Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers in Gaul at the same time, inclined to this cult and preached it. For on Psalm 129 he says "the nature of God does not need the intercession of Angels, but our weakness. For they are sent for the sake of those who shall inherit salvation, not because God does not know what we are doing, but because our weakness needs the ministry of spiritual intercession to ask and to deserve." Likewise on Psalm 124 he says "Nor do the watches of the saints fail for those who wish them, nor the fortification of the angels." And a little onwards: "And lest you think there is but a weak defence in Apostles or Patriarchs and Prophets, or even in the Angels who fence round the Church with their watches, it is added, 'The Lord is round about his people henceforth and forever'[Editorial Note 4]. Yet perhaps the watches of Apostles and Angels may be thought sufficient," etc. You see here the watches and intercession of saints and angels, and our weakness in asking and deserving needing the ministry of spiritual intercession, openly preached, and that as common practise, and with such confidence, that you can feel it is an opinion already received by many and impugned by none of those to whom he speaks. And this was before the year 368, in which Hilary died. But the origin of this evil can be sought, it seems, after the death of Constantius, in the year 361, when Hilary returned from exile. For he spent the last five years of Constantius as an exile in Asia minor and heard of the miracles there performed at the sepulchres of Martyrs, and began to attend to them as if done by the merits of the Martyrs and to the happiness and profit of the Church as is manifest from what he wrote in the last year of Constantius (361), as we said above, in this strain: "We conquered the devil, <24v> O Nero, Decius, Maximian, by your cruelty. The holy blood of the blessed martyrs is everywhere accepted; while the demons bellow at it, while sicknesses are driven away, while works of power are seen, bodies lifted up without ropes, spirits burning without fire, confessing without interrogators to the profit of the faith." From this, I say, it is clear that Hilary, while he was in the East, began to attend to the powers of relics and martyrs, if not staying either with Basil or Gregory, certainly with men like them; and thence he brought the doctrine of the works and intercessions of the saints with him into the West.

Now since Hilary (for I pass over Eusebius of Vercellae who travelled through the same and many other regions of the East when Julian was Emperor) by his travelling through Gaul and Italy after his return and seeing that many a council was convoked, became the leader for the people of the West in the restoration of the collapsed faith of the Homooousians, so that Sulpicius can say "This is agreed among all, that by the work of Hilary alone Gaul was freed from the stain of heresy:" who would not see that this doctrine about saints arose in the reign of Julian, and, propagated at the same time the homoousian faith west restored, flew immediately throughout the West? For as there was the highest authority and veneration for Hilary among all Western Homoousians, as the restorer of their faith, so also the many councils at which he was present and the meetings which he often had with many Bishops in his travels gave an opportunity to him of narrating the miracles he had heard of in the Eastern empire done by the relics of martyrs, and thus of instilling the doctrine of invocation and intercession in the Bishops along with the homoousian faith. And the passages cited above sufficiently indicate that Hilary made efforts to preach this doctrine and that is was received during his lifetime by many. But, etc.

Up to then, Auxentius, governing Milan as Bishop of the Arians, as they say, kept the city safe from these evils. For even Ambrose remained innocent for a while after him, as it seems from bk. 3 On the Holy Spirit chap. 12 and        in chap. 1 of To the Romans; but not long afterward he himself, caught up with his people in the torrent, gave in to the growing abomination, as is manifest from his Martyrs Gervase and Protase, < text from f 24r resumes > about whom he writes to his sister thus: [27] "Because I do not usually pass over in writing to your sanctity what happens here in Milan in your absence, you may know that the holy Martyrs have been found by us. For when I was dedicating the Basilica, many began as if with one mouth to interrupt me saying 'You must dedicate this Basilica in the Roman way!' I answered, "I will, if I find the relics of the Martyrs." Then, having narrated his own prophetic discovery of these Martyrs, he quotes the Sermon he gave to the People on the same: in which these words occur: "You see the Martyrs, how God has placed them with the princes of his people. Whom should we think the princes of the people, but the holy Martyrs, in whose number now, till <25r> now ignored, Protase and Gervase are brought forth, who have made the Church of Milan, barren of martyrs, now to rejoice as the mother of many children by their renown and examples? —— Thanks to thee, O Lord Jesus, that at the very time when your Church desired greater defences, you have raised up for us the spirits of the holy Martyrs. Let all know what sort of defenders I would seek, who can defend, yet are not wont to attack. These I have found for you: a holy people who are of benefit to all, and harm none. Such defenders I wish for, such soldiers I have, whose help is the greater as it is more harmless. I wish them to defend even those who envy me. Let them come and behold my bodyguards: for that I am surrounded by such arms, I do not deny. —— The pages of holy scripture tell us that Elisha, when he was beseiged by the army of the Syrians, said to his frightened servant 'fear not, for more are with us than against us' and that he might prove this, prayed that the eyes of Gehazi might be opened, and he saw that innumerable armies of angels defended the Prophet.[Editorial Note 5] And we, even if we cannot see, nonetheless feel them. These eyes were closed, when the buried bodies of the saints were hidden from us. He has opened our eyes: we see the auxiliaries by which we have often been defended. We did not see them, but nonetheless we had them; — we had patrons, and knew it not." Thus Ambrose, and there are three things to note about that. 1, that before the dedication of that Basilica the custom had begun among the Romans <26r> of dedicating Churches through the relics of martyrs. If I conjecture rightly Damasus introduced this custom. Certainly he spent much time building and decorating Martyr-shrines, ✝[28] and many inscriptions of Monuments set up by him and still extant witness to that. 2, it is noteworthy that the people of Milan were generally imbued with this superstition before the dedication of their Basilica, and thus that it was already widely propagated: for Ambrose himself would have dedicated the Basilica without a Martyr, but the people as if with one voice interrupted him saying "The relics of Martyrs must be used in a Roman dedication!" 3, it is noteworthy that Ambrose in his Oration to the people calls these Martyrs the Princes of the people, the Defences of the Church, his Defenders whom he has acquired for his holy people, his Protectors and soldiers whose help he suggests is as safe as great, and wishes them to be defences even for those who envy him: his bodyguards, even, and arms and auxiliaries, like an army, by which the people, unawares, had often been defended; and finally, their Patrons. What greater thing are Gods for the Pagans? ✝ < insertion from f 25v > ✝ Similarly, at the end of book 8 On Luke, he says: "As Angels are in command, so also those who have led the life of angels." And more explicitly in bk. 10 On Luke chap. 21 he says "The Martyrs succeed in honor, in the eternal kingdom of heavenly grace, to dead Kings, and those become the suppliants and they themselves the patrons." Further, in Sermon 93 — — < text from f 26r resumes > on the Feast of the Martyrs Nazarius and Celsus, Ambrose speaks thus of Nazarius: "Though this great witness of Christ be thought peculiar to the Milanese by their privilege of having his sepulchre, yet he belongs to all by the communion of prayer. Nor has the affluent charity and jealous faith of this city detracted so from this martyr, while it arrogates <27r> so much to itself, that it should believe that the benefits of his patronage should be only given within our walls. That is not limited by place which is diffused by his merits. You have invoked the martyr everywhere, and he who is honored in the martyr has everywhere heard you. By his governance therefore who weighs your prayers and dispenses his gifts, to that extent the near presence of this powerful advocate will be given you, that the faith of him that made the vow may have been devout." And a little further on: "Let us honor the blessed Martyrs, the princes of faith, the intercessors of the world," etc. Also Ambrose in the book On Widows has this: he says [29] "When the mother-in-law of Simon was ill of great fevers, Peter and Andrew begged the Lord for her — and you, o Widow, have neighbors who will pray to God for you. You have the Apostles for neighbors and the martyrs, if you yourself approach them with the fellowship of devotion and the gifts of mercy. —— Then the Apostles could obtain mercy by their kinship, now they can do this for us and for all. For ye see that a woman fallen into great sin is less the right person to pray for herself, certainly less the right person to obtain her wish. So let others go to the doctor to pray for her. For sick people, unless the doctor is invited to them by the prayers of others, cannot ask for themselves. The flesh is weak, the mind unhappy and bound in the chains of sin. It cannot set its feet in the path to the seat of the doctor. The Angels must be besought for us, who were given us for our defence. The martyrs must be besought, whose patronage by some bodily pledge <28r> we seem to have won for ourselves. They can pray for our sins, because with their own blood they have washed whatever sins they may have had. For these are the Martyrs of God, our patrons, the beholders of our life, and our acts. Let us not blush to take them as intercessors for our infirmity, because they have known the infirmity of the body even as they conquered it."[Editorial Note 6] Ambrose adds in Sermon 6 on St. Margaret, that the Martyrs offered merits for us and suffered for us. He says, "Brothers, as often as we celebrate the memory of the martyrs, laying aside all secular duties, we ought to come together without any delay, to render to them their honors who have bought us salvation by the pouring forth of their blood, who offered such sacred victims for our propitiation unto the lord, particularly since almighty God says to his saints 'who honors you honors me, and who spurns you spurns me.' Therefore whoever honors the Martyrs honors also Christ, and whoever spurns the saints spurns also their lord." < insertion from f 27v > At this time, Gaudentius, working in the East, by Ambrose's influence was chosen Bishop of Brescia, which is a city in the region of Piedmont. He collected some relics of the forty martyrs at the Monastery of the Community of Basil the Great, and others from other places during his travels, and now, returning home, built a Basilica for the same, for whose dedication, addressing the people, ‡[30] he closes his sermon thus: he says, "We have these forty, and the aforementioned ten saints, brought together from different parts of the earth: whence we perceive that we ought to call this very Basilica, dedicated to their merits, a Council of saints. Awaiting therefore the help of so many righteous ones, as suppliants in all faith and every desire let us run after their footsteps, that with them interceding, all we ask we may deserve to receive, magnifying Christ the lord, the giver of so great a gift."[Editorial Note 7]

And about this time Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, a most celebrated person and very dear to Ambrose, flourished. He at the end of his poem, the Panegyric of S. Celsus, has this:

Celsus, help your brother, by working with allied devotion,

so that in your resting place there should be a place for us.[Editorial Note 8]

And in Epistle 12, to Severus, interspersing some poetry about St. Clarus:

In whatever region of the celestial pole placed, or of Paradise,

Clarus, you live blessed in eternal peace;

Be favorable, accept the prayers of sinners beseeching you,

and be mindful of Paulinus and Therasia.

And on the burial of the aforementioned Celsus in Epistle 43:

whom at Alcalà we sent forth conjoined with like-minded

martyrs, joined to them by the bond of the same tomb,

that from the nearby blood of the saints he might draw

that by which he might cleanse our souls in that fire.

That is, at that most superstitious time there grew up the idea that it was good for the dead to be buried near martyrs. Thus, Paulinus even asked of Augustine that he should write a treatise on this question. And that Augustine gave him, when he wrote his treatise On the Care to be Taken with the Dead, to the same Paulinus, which you should consult. Besides, of Ambrose, after his death, another Paulinus ✝[31] who <28v-a> ministered to him living and was present at his death writes that in Tuscany in the city of Florence, because Ambrose had promised that he would, at their prayers, visit them often, he was frequently seen praying at the altar in the Basilica Ambrosiana, which was founded there by him; as he had learned from Zenobius, the bishop of that city. From which can be gathered the corruption not just of Ambrose, Paulinus and Zenobius, but of the city of Florence.

At this time, there flourished Maximus, bishop of Turin in Piedmont. He, in a sermon on St. Agnes, invokes her thus: "O splendid in Christ and beautiful daughter of God, and beloved of all the angels and Archangels, we beg with what prayers we can that you should deign to be mindful of us." And in the sermon on the Feast of the Martyrs Octavius, Adventitius[Editorial Note 9] and Solutor (who in sermon 77 on the Feast of the Martyrs Octavius Adventitius and Solutor) he says, < text from f 28r resumes > "All [the Martyrs] therefore are most devoutly to be worshipped, but they are especially to be venerated whose relics we possess. For they all assist us with their prayers but these assist us with their passion. And they have a familial relation to us. For they are always with us, they stay here with us, that is, and they protect us when living and receive us when we leave the body, lest the corruption of sin eat at us here, and the horror of hell come upon us there. For this reason our elders provided that we should associate our bodies with the bones of the saints, that as long as hell fears them no evil should touch us: as long as Christ illuminates them, the shadows of darkness should flee from us. With the holy martyrs therefore, let us go forth in peace...


We can add Prudentius, the sacred poet; for he also, coeval with the preceding authors, flourished at the time of Theodosius and his sons, and wrote as follows of S. Hippolytus buried in Rome:

To such a crypt is confided the body of Hippolytus,

Where nearby is placed an altar dedicated to God.

It is the giver and table at once of the sacrament,

Placed there as faithful guardian of its martyr.

Wondrous is the place's holiness, an altar ready for those praying,

The hope of men, that gives them secure prosperity.

Here sick with corruptions of body and mind

As often as I prayed, prostrate, I have found help.

My happy return, that I may embrace you,

Venerable Priest, that I write these very words,

I know I owe to Hippolytus, to whom Christ God

Gave the power to grant whatever anyone asks of him.[Editorial Note 10]

[1] x τιμὴν

[2] Orat 1 in Iulian

[3] Ep 27 ad Eutochium

[4] Ep 85 Ad Marcellinum

[5] Confes l 9 c 7

[6] De Civ: Dei l: 22. c: 8

[7] Hom 47 in S. Iulianum

[8] Lib. De Babyla Martyre

[9] Hom. 66

[10] Ruf. Hist. l 2 c 28.

[Editorial Note 1] martyrs' shrine

[Editorial Note 2] Pontificii, nickname for Catholics

[11] (1)

[12] (2)

[Editorial Note 3] now thought spurious: Basil died shortly after Ephraim in this year

[13] Edit. Ger Vossij p 726.

[14] p 727

[15] p 746.

[16] p 747

[17] (3)

[18] (4)

[19] (5)

[20] (6)

[21] (7)

[22] (7)

[23] (9)

[24] ‡ Hist. Laus. In Bibl. Græc. Patr. Vol. 2.

[25] Eunap. Ædesio

[26] Baron. an. 367 § 19. Ex antiq inscrip. in Appendice p. 1171. n. 3

[Editorial Note 4] Ps. 124[125].2

[27] Ambros Epis 85.

[Editorial Note 5] 2 Kings 6. 16-17

[28] ✝ Vide Baron

[29] Luc 4.38.

[Editorial Note 6] Ambrose, De Viduis 9 54-55, PL 16 264

[30] ‡ Gaudent. Tractatus de dedic. Basilicæ. Apud Biblioth. Patr. Tom. 4.

[Editorial Note 7] Gaudentius, Sermon 18, PL 20. 971

[Editorial Note 8] Paulinus of Nola, Carmina 31. 613-614]

[31] ✝ in vita Ambrosij

[Editorial Note 9] usu. Adventor

[Editorial Note 10] Prudentius, Peristephanon XI 169-82, om. 173-174

© 2024 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC