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E05322: Maximus of Turin composes a Latin sermon in Turin (northern Italy), between c. 390 and 408/423 in honour of the feast day of *Adventor, Octavius and Solutor (martyrs of Turin, S01116).

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posted on 12.04.2018, 00:00 by frances
Maximus of Turin, Sermon 12

Cum omnium sanctorum martyrum, fratres, deuotissime natalem celebrare debeamus, tum praecipue eorum sollemnitas tota nobis ueneratione curanda est, qui in nostris domiciliis proprium sanguinem profuderunt.

‘We ought to celebrate very devoutly the anniversary of all holy martyrs, brethren, but the solemnity of those who have poured out their own blood in the places where we live is to be observed in particular by us with total veneration.’

When martyrs suffer, they do not do so alone, but also for their fellow citizens. They suffer so others might be saved. Maximus reaffirms that these martyrs should be specially venerated by the congregation in Turin, this time because they possess their relics. This means the saints are always with them and protect them.

Nam ideo a maioribus hoc prouisum est, ut sanctorum ossibus nostra corpora sociemus, ut dum illos tartarum metuit, nos poena non tangat; dum illis christus inluminat, a nobis tenebrarum caligo diffugiat. Cum sanctis ergo martyribus quiescentes euadimus inferni tenebras si non propriis meritis at tamen consortii sanctitate.

‘It was provided for by our ancestors that we should join our bodies to the bones of the saints, for, inasmuch as the underworld feared them, punishment would not touch us, and while Christ shed his light on them shadowy gloom would flee from us. Resting with the holy martyrs, we have escaped the shadows of hell – not by our own merits but nonetheless as sharers in holiness’.

The saints are again referred to as defenders (defensores) of the congregation.

Text: Mutzenbacher 1962. Translation: Ramsey 1989, lightly modified.
Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Adventor, Octavius and Solutor, martyrs of Turin : S01116

Saint Name in Source

Adventor, Octavius, Solutor

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)

Turin Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Maximus of Turin

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified


Maximus was bishop of late antique Turin, but the exact dates of his episcopate has been contested over the centuries. Gennadius of Marseille, writing in the late-fifth century, refers to a prominent bishop of Turin – called Maximus - who composed sermons on a variety of topics. According to Gennadius (De viris illustribus 41), this Maximus died in the reign of Honorius and the younger Theodosius, which would place Maximus’ death between 408 and 423. This was challenged in the early 17th century. Cardinal Baronius believed that the author of the sermons was the same Maximus who signed the acts of the Council of Milan in 451 and the Council of Rome in 465. He claimed that there was a mistake in Gennadius’ account: Maximus did not die, but instead ‘flourished’ (claruisse) between 408 and 423. Although this view was held until the end of the 19th century, it is now widely accepted that there were two bishops of Turin called Maximus, and that the author of the sermons did in fact die between 408 and 423. For a full overview of this argument, see Mutzenbecher’s preface to her critical edition of Maximus’ sermons. Mutzenbecher’s edition contains 119 sermons, of which 106 are viewed as authentic. 89 of these apparently constituted the collection available to Gennadius in Marseille at the end of the fifth century. These sermons were preached to the congregation in Turin on a variety of different topics. Many of them were preached to celebrate the feast day of a specific saint. Andreas Merkt has identified three main motivations guiding Maximus’ sermons on the saints. Firstly, he argues that Maximus preached on saints to provide examples for his congregation to follow. Secondly, that Maximus uses stories of martyrdom to communicate messages about the importance of Christ’s passion and the nature of the Eucharist to his congregation. Thirdly, Merkt argues that the saints Maximus focused on reflect his view on the ideal structure of the Church: he emphasises the primacy of Peter and Paul and the Roman church.


This passage provides an example of the practice in late-fourth-century Italy of characterising the saints as patrons or defenders of a community. We can see this in Paulinus’ representation of *Felix (priest and confessor of Nola, southern Italy, S00000) as the patron (patronus) of Nola (southern Italy) (see E04767), or Ambrose’s treatment of *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313) (see E05211). A similar desire to link saints with specific locations can be seen in Prudentius' Crown of Martyrs, written in Calahorra (northern Spain) in the early fifth century (E00801). Maximus also refers to the spiritual benefits burial ad sanctos can bring to the deceased. If they are ‘joined with the bones of the saints’ (sanctorum ossibus ... sociemus) then the deceased need not fear the horrors of hell. This is not through their own merits, but the influence of the martyrs. The benefits of this practice were debated across the Mediterranean world in this period. Paulinus of Nola envisaged significant benefits for the deceased if they rested near saints (E04380 and E04655). Augustine of Hippo, on the other hand, responded to reports of this practice in Nola by writing On the Care of the Dead, which argued no heavenly benefit could be gained merely through posthumous proximity to the bodies of saints (E01750).


Edition: Mutzenbecher, A., Maximi episcopi Taurinensis Collectionem sermonum antiquam (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 23; Turnhout: Brepols, 1962). Translation: Ramsey, B., The Sermons of Maximus of Turin (Ancient Christian Writers 50; Westminster MD: Newman Press, 1989). Further Reading: Brown, P.R.L., The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2015). Duval Y., Auprès des saints corps et âme. L'inhumation « ad sanctos » dans la chrétienté d'Orient et d'Occident du IIIe siècle au VIIe siècle (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1988). Lizzi, R., "Ambrose’s Contemporaries and the Christianisation of Northern Italy," Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990), 156-173. Merkt, A., Maximus I. von Turin. Die Verkündigung eines Bischofs der frühen Reichskirche im zeitgeschichtliche liturgischen Kontext (Leiden:Brill, 1997).

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