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E02786: Letter from Eugippius to the Roman deacon Paschasius, written from Castellum Lucullanum (near Naples) in 511, introducing Eugippius' Life of *Severinus (see E02347). Tells how he decided to record Severinus’ miracles after reading an unnamed layman's Life of *Bassus (monk of mons Titas near Rimini (north-east Italy), S01329); Eugippius asks Paschasius to use his Life to write a better account of Severinus, and refers to Severinus’ miracles at his shrine at Castellum Lucullanum.

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posted on 10.05.2017, 00:00 by mpignot
Eugippius of Lucullanum, Life of Severinus

Letter of Eugippius to Paschasius

§§ 1-2: Eugippius opens his letter by telling how, two years earlier at the time of the consulship of Importunus [509], he read a letter sent by a layman to a priest (presbyter):

Continens vitam Bassi monachi, qui quondam in monasterio montis, cui vocabulum est Titas, super Ariminum commoratus, post in Lucaniae regione defunctus est.

'It contained the life of the monk, Bassus, who at one time lived in the monastery of the mountain which is called Titas above Ariminum [= Rimini], and later died in the district of Lucania.'

This triggers Eugippius’ wish to narrate Severinus’ miracles. The lay author of the letter about Bassus particularly insisted that Eugippius should send him information, Eugippius agreed to collect it, if reluctantly:

Animo promptiore mandavit, ut aliqua sibi per me eiusdem sancti Severini mitterentur indicia, quibus instructus libellum vitae eius scriberet posterorum memoriae profuturum. Hac ego protinus oblatione compulsus commemoratorium nonnullis refertum indiciis ex notissima nobis et cottidiana maiorum relatione composui, non sine magno maerore animi, iniustum scilicet reputans, ut te superstite laicus a nobis hoc opus efficere rogaretur, cui et modus et color operis non sine praesumptione quadam possit iniungi, ne forsitan saeculari tantum litteratura politus tali vitam sermone conscriberet, in quo multorum plurimum laboraret inscitia et res mirabiles, ... obscura disertitudine non lucerent.'

'The idea appealed to him, and he asked me to send him for his information some sketches concerning this holy Severinus so that he could write a little book about his life for the benefit of posterity. Prompted by this offer, I drafted a memorandum; it comprised a number of sketches based on stories that are familiar to us from the daily accounts of our elders. Yet I was far from feeling happy about it. It was not justifiable, I thought, that in your lifetime we should ask a layman to undertake this work. There even seemed to be some risk in entrusting a lay writer with a work of this type and style. A man trained, for all that we know, only in secular literature would probably write that Life in a style far too difficult for the majority of unlearned people, and the splendour of wonderful things ... be veiled by the obscurities of eloquence.'

§ 3: Eugippius has decided instead to send the memorandum (commemoratorium) to Paschasius as the basis for a complete work, because he would write it better than a layman, and also because Paschasius himself had requested information on Severinus:

Praecipis, ut commemoratorium vel indicia vitae saepe dicti sancti Severini transmitterem: quae donec in tuae constructionis libellum transire mereantur, nequaquam animum recensentis offendant.

'You demand that I should send you my memorandum or sketches concerning the life of the oft-mentioned Severinus. Let us then hope that, until they have been transformed into a book of your composition, they will not offend any critic.'

§§ 4-6: Eugippius wrote a most simple work founded on faith only. He hopes that Paschasius will tell of Severinus' miracles:

Quod per manus linguae tuae nunc offero collocandum, de tui operis fastigio laudes Christo debitas redditurus. Illaquoque, precor, virtutum beneficia sanitatumque remedia, quae vel in itinere vel hic apud eiusdem beatissimi patris memoriam divina sunt peracta virtute, digneris adnectere.

'This, here, I now hand over to you so that it may be shaped by your tongue and, when your work has been completed, I shall give thanks to Christ as is His due. Let me mention also, I pray, the wonderful graces and miraculous cures the power of God has worked, either on the way or here at the tomb of this our blessed father.'

The letter bearer Deogratias will brings further oral information about these miracles to be shared with Paschasius for his planned work on Severinus.

§§ 7-10: Eugippius admits that he has no evidence about Severinus’ place of origin. He tells that during Severinus’ life, many were wondering about it, and a priest (presbyter) from Italy, Primenius who took refuge with Severinus at the time of Orestes, asked him. However, Severinus refused to provide an answer, stating that it was better not to speak about one’s origin to avoid boasting. Nobody dared to ask him again. However, Eugippius notes that his way of speaking betrayed that he was a Latin and that it was known that he went to the East to seek solitude and perfect his way of life. Later, following a divine revelation, he went to the cities of Noricum Ripense near the province of Pannonia Superior, tormented by barbarian attacks. This is all that Eugippius has been able to gather during Severinus’ life.

§ 11: The information about Severinus’ life is found in the memorandum (commemoratorium) accompanying this letter, preceded by a summary. All this will be better known when Paschasius will write a book.

The letter is followed by the list of chapters of the Life of Severinus

Text: Noll 1981, 40-45. Translation: Bieler-Krestan 1965, 47-55 (from which paragraph numbers are taken; lightly adapted). Summary: M. Pignot.

History

Evidence ID

E02786

Saint Name

Severinus, hermit and monk in Noricum, ob. 482 : S00848 Bassus, monk at mons Titas near Ariminum : S01329

Saint Name in Source

Severinus Bassus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

511

Evidence not after

511

Activity not before

482

Activity not after

511

Place of Evidence - Region

Italy south of Rome and Sicily

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Castellum Lucullanum

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

Castellum Lucullanum Adriatic Sea Adriatic Sea Adriaticum Mare

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miracle during lifetime

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Construction of cult building to contain relics Souvenirs of miracles

Source

This letter by Eugippius of Lucullanum introduces the Life of Severinus by the same author and is transmitted together with it (see more details and bibliography at E02347).

Discussion

It is impossible to tell how much Eugippius' introduction to his Life of Severinus is a factual account of an exchange of letters, and how much a literary construct; but it probably does provide reliable evidence for the Life of a certain (otherwise unknown) monk Bassus, who lived in a monastery on mount Titas near Ariminum, written by a layman. This corresponds to the modern monte Titano, in the Republic of San Marino. The existence of a monastery on the mount is later attested in the uncertainly dated (but already documented in a 10th century manuscript) hagiography of Marinus, which attributes its foundation to the saint (BHL 4830). Eugippius' letter also suggests that Eugippius' work was triggered by this Life of Bassus and suggests that the unnamed layman hoped to receive Eugippius' work. However, the letter also implies that Paschasius is the natural recipient of the work, since he also had requested it. Moreover, Eugippius' states his wish to share the work with a cleric rather than a layman. Concerning the cult of Severinus, the letter mentions the miracles performed during the transfer of the relics from Noricum, and the miracles happening at the shrine of Severinus (memoria) in Castellum Lucullanum, where Eugippius writes.

Bibliography

Edition Noll, R., Eugippius. Das Leben des heiligen Severin, 2nd edition (Passau, 1981), 40-45. Translation: Bieler, L., and Krestan, L., Eugippius, The Life of St. Severin (Fathers of the Church 55; Washington D.C., 1965), 47-55.

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