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E00893: The Life of Ambrose (bishop of Milan, northern Italy, ob. 397, S00490) by Paulinus of Milan, tells how its hero broke his fast only on Saturdays, Sundays, and the feast days of major martyrs. Written in Latin, probably in North Africa, c. 422.

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posted on 25.11.2015, 00:00 by robert
Paulinus of Milan, Life of Ambrose 38.1

Ipse autem vir venerabilis episcopus erat multae abstinentiae et multarum vigiliarum vel laborum, cotidiano ieiunio macerans corpus; cui prandendi numquam consuetudo fuit, nisi die sabbati et dominico vel cum natalitia celeberrimorum martyrum essent.

'The venerable bishop himself was a man of great abstinence, many vigils and toils, chastising his body by daily fasts. He never took a breakfast except on the day of Sabbath and the Lord's Day, or when the feasts (natalitia) of the most celebrated martyrs fell.'

Text: Bastiaensen 1975, 100. Translation: Robert Wiśniewski.

History

Evidence ID

E00893

Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

421

Evidence not after

423

Activity not before

374

Activity not after

397

Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Fast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Source

Paulinus was a deacon of the Church of Milan. As a young cleric he met Ambrose, but at some point he moved to Africa where he was responsible of the estates of his church. In Africa he belonged to the circle of Augustine of Hippo at whose request he wrote the Life of Ambrose, c. 422 (Lamirande, 1981). Paulinus places the Life of Ambrose in the tradition of monastic hagiography, but his work is the life a bishop, and it mentions the earlier life of its hero only in order to show that he was destined to episcopal dignity from birth. It also omits everything which is not directly connected with this office. One aspect of Ambrose’s activity which is strongly emphasised is his attitude toward emperors, whom he frequently rebuked for their misdeeds. This pattern, which can be found also in the Life of Martin by Sulpicius Severus, assimilates the bishop to the Old Testament prophets, especially Elijah and Elisha. Another feature of Ambrose’s episcopal activity presented in the Life is his struggle against the Arian heresy. Miracles demonstrate the veracity of the Nicene faith and punish its enemies. Punishing miracles can appear in many lives of saints, but one can hardly find another vita in which God would kill every one who expressed his lack of sympathy towards the hero (§§ 11, 18, 54). Another type of miracle well represented in this text are the visions thanks to which Ambrose discovered relics of several martyrs. These episodes mirror the growing need for relics in the West, but they also serve to link Ambrose with the martyrs – the bishop was eager to become one of them, but since he had no occasion for martyrdom he provided the Church in Italy with its own, long forgotten martyrs.

Bibliography

Editions: Pellegrino, M., Vita di S. Ambrogio (Verba Seniorum 1; Rome, 1961). Bastiaensen, A.A.R., Vita di Ambrogio (Vite dei santi 3; Milan, 1975), with Italian translation by L. Canali. English translations: Lacy, J.A, in: J.R. Deferrari (ed.), Early Christian Biographies (Fathers of the Church 15; Washington DC, 1952), 25-66. Ramsey, B., Ambrose (London 1997), 195-218. Further reading: Lamirande, E., "La datation de la Vita Ambrosii de Paulin de Milan," Revue des Études Augustiniennes 27 (1981), 44-55. Lamirande, E., Paulin de Milan et la Vita Ambrosii. Aspects de la religion sous le Bas-Empire (Paris - Montreal, 1983).

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