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E02344: Avitus, a priest of Braga (north-west Spain) sojourning in Jerusalem, writes a letter to Bishop Balconius and the clergy of Braga, to accompany relics from the body of *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030), recently discovered at Caphargamala (near Jerusalem); these Avitus sends in the care of the priest Orosius. With the letter and relics, Avitus also sends his translation of Lucianus of Caphargamala's account of the discovery of the body of Stephen (E07606). Written in Latin in 416. Full text and new translation.

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posted on 08.02.2017, 00:00 by mszata
Avitus of Braga, Epistula ad Balconium

Epistula Aviti

1. Beatissimo dilectissimoque semper in Domino Papae Balconio atque universo clero et plebi ecclesiae Bracarensis, Avitus presbyter in Domino aeternam salutem.

2. Memores esse mei vos cupio et deprecor; sicut et ego, in quantum valeo, in locis sanctis memoriam vestri habere non cesso, tribulationibus vestris meo dolore compatiens, et pro discidio patriae vestrae in locis sanctis incessabiles lacrimas fundens, ut aut vobis Dominus restituat libertatem quos admonere voluit, aut illis tribuat mansuetudinem quos praevalere permisit.

3. Et ego quidem, beatissimi fratres (teste Domino Nostro Iesu Christo loquor), frequenter volui venire ad vos, ut vobiscum vel mala tolerarem vel bonis fruerer; sed impeditum est desiderium meum, per totas iam Hispanias hoste diffuso.

4. Veritus enim sum ne et sancta loca relinquens et ad vos forte non perveniens, ubicumque interceptus irrationabilis audaciae poenas luerem.

5. Sed quoniam misericors Deus, meo voto vestroque merito procurare dignatus est indulgentiae suae gratiam, primum ut dilectissimus filius et compresbyter meus Orosius usque ad has partes ab Africanis episcopis mitteretur, cuius mihi caritas et consolatio vestram omnium praesentiam reddidit; deinde ut in diebus ipsis quibus iam ipse reditum ad vos incredibili desiderio parabat beatus et sanctus, vere corona gloriae nostrae in Christo Iesu, primus martyr Stephanus se revelare et manifestare signis et virtutibus evidentissime consequentibus dignaretur.

6. Quem ego, tantarum rerum ordinantis Dei occasione percepta, dignius duxi Caritati vestrae praemittere, ut ipse praesens advocatus et patronus obsequentium sibi petitionibus dignetur assistere qui, cum pateretur, etiam pro inimicis orare dignatus est.

7. Itaque, Beatissimi dilectissimique Fratres, memoriam vestri incessabiliter habens et tam congruentem ordinantis Dei dispositionem videns, promptus fui de presbytero cui revelatum fuerat partem aliquam inventi corporis promereri; quam festinato expetitam secretoque perceptam ad vos dirigere non distuli.

8. Quamobrem misi vobis per sanctum filium et compresbyterum meum Orosium reliquias de corpore beati Stephani primi martyris, hoc est pulverem carnis atque nervorum et, quod fidelius certiusque credendum est, ossa solida atque manifesta sui sanctitate novis pigmentis vel odoribus pinguiora.

9. Ut autem nulla possit esse dubitatio, ipsam ad vos, subditam scriptis meis, sancti presbyteri cui haec revelata sunt epistolam conscriptionemquem transmisi, quam, me pro fide veritatis plenius cognoscendae rogante et expetente, dictavit graeco primum ipse sermone, sed per me postea in latinum versa est.

10. Quae et vos, sancti et beati Fratres, quam veraciter gesta sunt, tam fideliter suscepta habeatis imploro. Certus sum enim quia sicut ipse beatus martyr dignatus est nuntiare et pro salute mundi periclitantis se manifestare, auxilio ex praesentia tanti patroni, si vos tale pignus digno studio diligitis, tuti ex hoc quietique vivetis.

11. Gratia Domini Nostri Iesu Christi et Sancti Spiritus vobiscum, dilectissimi mihi in Domino.

'The letter of Avitus

1. To the most blessed, and always beloved in the Lord, Father Balconius and to all the clergy and people of the Church of Braga, Avitus, presbyter in the Lord, sends eternal greeting.

2. I want you to remember me and I ask it of you; as I too, as far as I am able, do not cease to hold you in memory in the holy places, sharing your tribulations in my own pain and shedding incessant tears at the holy sites for the undoing of your homeland, that the Lord might either restore freedom to you whom he wished to admonish, or render merciful those whom he allowed to prevail.

3. Oh blessed brothers, Our Lord Jesus Christ be my witness as I speak, I frequently wanted to come to you, in order to endure the bad times, or enjoy the good, together with you. But my wish was prevented by the spread of the enemy through the whole of Spain.

4. I was afraid, lest leaving the holy places and yet perhaps not reaching you, my journey would somewhere be blocked and I would suffer the penalty of my foolish rashness.

5. But because God is merciful, He has deigned to give the grace of His indulgence to my prayer and to your merit, that first my beloved son and co-presbyter, Orosius, was sent to these parts by the African bishops. His love and consolation restored to me the presence of you all. Then, because in the very days when he was preparing, with extraordinary desire, to return to you, the blessed and holy first martyr Stephen, truly a crown of our glory in Jesus Christ, condescended to reveal himself and manifest most clearly his power in the signs and miracles that followed.

6. Whom I, seizing the opportunity of such great events ordained by God, considered more worthy to dispatch to Your Charity, so that by his actual presence as advocate and patron, who condescended to pray even for his enemies while he suffered, might deign to assist the prayers of those who serve him.

7. Therefore, my blessed and beloved brothers, having you always in mind, and seeing such a favourable disposition of our ordaining God, I was able to merit part of the body that had been discovered (partem aliquam inventi corporis), from the presbyter to whom it had been revealed. Having asked for it promptly and having received it in secret, I did not delay in sending it to you.

8. For this reason I have sent to you, through my holy son and co-presbyter Orosius, relics from the body of the blessed Stephen, the first martyr: that is dust of his flesh and sinews (pulverem carnis atque nervorum), and what is more faithfully and certainly to be believed, bones (ossa), solid and clear evidence of his sanctity, richer in new colours and perfumes.

9. So there can be no doubt, I have sent you, set out in my own hand, the letter and account of the holy presbyter to whom these things were revealed, which he first dictated to me (who requested and sought it from him, to learn the truth more fully) in Greek, and which I later translated into Latin. [For this text, with a full English translation, see $E07606.]

10. I beg you too, holy and blessed brothers, to deem these things as accurately related as truly they took place. For I am sure that, just as the blessed martyr deigned to announce and reveal himself for the salvation of the endangered world, you, helped by the presence of such a patron, will live safely and quietly if you will love this pledge [i.e. the relics] with due affection.

11. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit be with you, who to me are most beloved in the Lord.'

Text: Vanderlinden 1946: 188-189. Translation: Marta Szada and Philip Beagon.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

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

Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - bones and teeth Bodily relic - corporeal ashes/dust Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


Avitus was a presbyter of Braga who, like his colleague Orosius, travelled to the Holy Land at the beginning of the fifth century. He met with Jerome and took part in the council of 415 presided over by Bishop John of Jerusalem on the issue of Pelagius. In the same year in December, the presbyter Lucianus/Lukianos of Caphargamala/Kathargamala discovered the relics of St. Stephen, the first martyr, as described in Avitus' translation (E07606) of Lucianus' own account of the event, which is lost. Avitus obtained parts of these relics and sent them to Braga through Orosius (they later reached Minorca, see E07872), together with the present explanatory letter and his Latin translation of the account of Lucianus.


The troubles in his native Spain, which Avitus refers to, are those caused by the invasions of the Visigoths, Vandals and others.


Edition: S. Vanderlinden, "Revelatio Sancti Stephani (BHG 7850-6)", Revue des études byzantines 4 (1946), 178-217

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