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E05300: Chromatius of Aquileia preaches two sermons in Latin in Aquileia between 388 and 407 on the feast day of *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042); one of these refers to the presence of relics of John in the church at Aquileia.

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posted on 09.04.2018, 00:00 by frances
Chromatius of Aquileia, Sermon 21

Sanctus Iohannes apostolus et evangelista, cuius natalem hodie celebramus, habuit apud Dominum, ut legimus in evangelio, magnum ac peculiarem gratiam, quia speciali affectu dilectus a Christo est.

'Saint John, the Apostle and Evangelist, whose feast day we celebrate today, was – as we read in the gospel – greatly and uniquely esteemed by the Lord. This is because he was loved by Christ with a special affection.'

Chromatius describes how John was exiled to the island of Patmos [in the Aegean] as a result of the persecution of the emperor Domitian. Here he had visions of heavenly glory, which he recorded in his book on the Apocalypse. Chromatius refers to this persecution.

Quia persecutio ad dulcem martyria gloriam pervenitur. Nam et arbores radices amaras habent, sed dulces fructus procreare consuerunt. Sic et persecutio quidem amara videtur, sed procreat dulcem fructum salutis, dum, hos quos persequitur, aut confessores reddit, aut martyres.

‘And so through the persecution he arrived at sweet martyrdom. For trees too have bitter roots, but they produce sweet fruit. For this persecution appears bitter, but it produces the sweet fruit of salvation, while those, who are persecuted, return as a confessor or a martyr.’

Whilst on this island, John wrote his Gospel. He then died at an old age. His sanctity is attested in his posthumous miracles.

In quo loco, tantae virtutes et tanta mirabilia fiunt, ut credere etiam increduli vix possint. Nec mirum sane si gratia eius illic operatur, ubi corpus eius positum est, cum operetur etiam illic ubi parum de cineribus eius habetur. Quia ergo reliquias eius habere etiam nostra ecclesia meruit, natalem dormitionis eius omni fide ac devotionie celebrare debemus, ut partem cum eo et cum omnibus sanctis Dei accipere possimus.

‘In this place such great and marvellous works were effected, that the incredulous could scarcely believe it. Nor is it a marvel that his grace works there, where his body lies, when it even works where a small part of his ashes are held. Because our church is worthy of possessing his relics, we have a duty to celebrate the anniversary of his dormition with utmost faith and devotion, so that we can receive our part with him and with all the saints of God.’

Chromatius of Aquileia, Sermon 22

Multa quidem magna et praeclara de sancto Iohanne, cuius natalis est hodie, in evangelio referuntur.

'Many great and illustrious facts about St John, whose feast day it is today, are reported in the Gospel.'

Chromatius continues to praise John’s virtues. Although he was younger than the other apostles, he was their senior in faith. Christ showed special favour to John. John witnessed the resurrection of the young girl (Luke 8:51) and the meeting between Moses, Elias [Elijah] and Christ on the mount (Matthew 17:1). From the cross, Christ chose him to care for his mother, Mary. He was one of the first to learn of the resurrection, only letting Peter enter the tomb first out of humility. John also wrote his own gospel, which can be used to combat heresy.

Quia ergo tanti ac talis apostoli natalis est hodie, memoriam eius digno honore celebremus, ut, precibus eius adiuti, ad aeternam illam gloriam quae sanctis Dei praeparata est, pervenire possimus.

'Because today is the feast day of such a great apostle, we celebrate his memory with appropriate honour, so that, aided by his prayers, we can reach that eternal glory which which is prepared for the saints of God.'

Text: Lemarié 1969. Translation and summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Aquileia Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Chromatius of Aquileia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Scepticism/rejection of miracles

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Unspecified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Contact relic - dust/sand/earth Bodily relic - corporeal ashes/dust


A sermon of Chromatius, the bishop of Aquileia between 388 and 407. The second sermon only survives in a single manuscript (Zürich, Zentralbibl. Car. C 175) where it is presented as a continuation of Sermon 21. Chromatius’ sermons were unknown for centuries after his death and were only rediscovered in the mid-twentieth century by Joseph Lemarié and Raymond Étaix. This sermon was preached to Chromatius’ congregation at some point during his episcopate. Before he was bishop, Chromatius took an active role in the 381 Council of Aquileia. This was one of the councils which condemned Arius' teachings as heretical. Chromatius was also a correspondent of several prominent figures in the late fourth-century church, including Jerome, Rufinus of Aquileia and Ambrose of Milan. In the late fourth century, Aquileia was a lively and diverse port town at a crossroads of the empire. It had strong links to the east and prominent Jewish and pagan communities. Chromatius’ sermons provide a view of the Nicene community of Aquileia in this dynamic time.


The presence of John’s relics in Aquileia is also attested in Sermon 26: see E05301. Chromatius claims that John, the evangelist and disciple whom Christ loved, was the same individual as the author of the Apocalypse. In doing so, he takes a stance on an issue which, as Francesco Pieri highlights, was far from settled in the late fourth century.


Text, French translation and commentary: Lemarié, J. (ed.), and Tardif, H. (trans.), Chromace d’Aquilée, Sermons. 2 vols. (Sources Chrétiennes 154, 164; Paris: Cerf, 1969-71). Further Reading: Beatrice, P.F. (ed.), Chromatius of Aquileia and His Age: Proceedings of the International Conference Held in Aquileia, 22-24 May 2008 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011). Lizzi, R., "Ambrose’s Contemporaries and the Christianization of Northern Italy," Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990) 156-173. McEachnie, R., Chromatius of Aquileia and the Making of a Christian City (London: Routledge, 2017). Pieri, F., "Chromatius and the Apocalypse of John," in: Beatrice, P.F. (ed.), Chromatius of Aquileia and His Age: Proceedings of the International Conference Held in Aquileia, 22-24 May 2008 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 485-501. Truzzi, C., Zeno, Gaudenzio e Cromazio. Testi e contenuti della predicaione Cristiana per le chiese di Verona, Brescia e Aquileia (360 – 410 ca.) (Brescia: Paideia, 1985).

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity