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E06476: Jerome describes how Paula travelled through Phoenicia in 385 and visited the 'tower' of *Elijah (Old Testament prophet, S00217) at Sarepta; Letter 108, written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine), 404.

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posted on 12.09.2018, 00:00 by Philip
Jerome of Stridon, Letter 108.8 ('Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae')

Beryto, Romana colonia et antiqua urbe Sidone derelicta in Sareptae litore Heliae est ingressa turriculam, in qua adorato domino saluatore per harenas Tyri, in quibus Paulus genua fixerat, peruenit Accho, quae nunc Ptolomais dicitur, et per campos Mageddo Iosiae necis conscios intrauit terram Phylistiim.

'After leaving the colony of Berytus and the ancient city of Sidon she visited Elijah's little tower on Sarepta's shore and worshipped her Lord and Savior there. Then she went through the sands of Tyre, in which Paul had knelt, and arrived at Acco, which is now called Ptolomais. Passing through the plains of Megiddo, which formerly had witnessed the murder of Josiah, she entered the territory of the Philistines.

Text: Hilberg 1996 (1912). Translation: Cain 2013.

History

Evidence ID

E06476

Saint Name

Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217

Saint Name in Source

Helia

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

404

Evidence not after

404

Activity not before

385

Activity not after

386

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Bethlehem

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

Bethlehem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jerome of Stridon

Cult activities - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women

Source

In the second half of 404 Jerome composed an Epitaph for his late friend and patron, Paula, which was transmitted to us as letter 108. The work depicts Paula as an example for ascetic women and bears features of hagiography. Paula died on 26 January 404 in Bethlehem. She was the descendant of a Roman aristocratic family, who traced their lineage back to the Gracchi and Scipiones. She was dedicated to the western ascetic movement and had spent more than twenty years by the side of Jerome of Stridon, whom she had followed with her daughter Eustochium to the Holy Land in 385, where they founded a monastery and a convent in Bethlehem. Paula was not only Jerome's most faithful companion, but also his biggest sponsor. Jerome's Letter 108.8-13 describes Paula's pilgrimage through the Holy Land, which lasted from late winter 385 to late spring 386.

Discussion

One part of the epitaph, from which this extract is taken, describes Paula's journey to holy places, especially to those in Palestine, but also elsewhere. Sarepta was a Phoenician city on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, some 13 km south of Sidon. The prophet Elijah was taken in by a poor widow who kept him in her 'upper chamber' (therefore turricula) so he could hide from his persecutors. Elijah miraculously kept her food supply replenished every day and later resurrected her dead son (see 1 Kings 17:8-24). Because of these miracles Sarepta was famous among both Jews and Christians. For Jerome, the 'mentor of virgins and widows', the site gains additional importance by the circumstance that a poor widow was God-sent and helped the saint. This passage is possibly the earliest reference to cultic activity at the purported site of the miracles.

Bibliography

Edition: Hilberg, I., Hieronymus, Epistulae 71-120 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 55; Vienna, 1996). Translation and commentary: Cain, A., Jerome's Epitaph on Paula: A Commentary on the Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae, (Oxford, 2013). Further reading: Pritchard, J.B., "Sarepta in History and Tradition," in: J. Reumann (ed.), Understanding the Sacred Text (Valley Forge, 1972), 100-114.

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