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E00725: Victricius of Rouen, in his description of the arrival of relics of saints from Milan at Rouen in c.396, compares the festivity to the arrival (adventus) of an emperor. Account in Victricius' Praising the Saints, written in Latin, c.396 in Rouen (northern Gaul).

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posted on 2015-09-21, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
Victricius of Rouen, Praising the Saints 12, lines 11-42

For a summary and discussion of the whole text, as well as other details concerning the festivity see E00717.

Eriguntur altaria: de gaudio sacerdotis populus sumat exordium. Quis, rogo, tam brutus, quis tam profanus, quis tam legis et religionis ignarus, ut gaudia ista non sentiat?

Si quis saecularium principum nostram nunc uiseret ciuitatem, protinus sertis spatia omnia redimita riderent, matres tecta conplerent, portae undam populi uomerent, omnis aetas in studium diuisa adoreas et bellica facta cantaret, paludamenti flammas ac tyrium muricem miraretur, stuperet Rubri pretium maris et gelatas lacrimas belluarum: et haec quidem miranda, si uideas, contemnenda si cogites. Denique lapides appellantur. Haec, inquam, hiantem populum detinerent. At uero, beatissimi, cum martyrum triumphus et pompa uirtutum nostra tecta succedunt, cur non soluamur in gaudia?

Non hic eloquentia quaeritur, sed laetitiae pura simplicitas. Nec deest quod miremur: pro regali amictu praesto est aeterni luminis indumentum. Hanc purpuram togae bibere sanctorum. Sunt hic diademata uariis gemmarum distincta luminibus sapientiae, intellectus, scientiae, ueritatis, consilii, fortitudinis, tolerantiae, temperantiae, iustitiae, prudentiae, patientiae, castitatis. Istae in lapidibus singulis sunt singulae expressae scriptae que uirtutes. Hic spiritalibus gemmis coronas martyrum artifex Saluator ornauit. Ad has gemmas animarum uela tendamus. Nihil in his fragile, nihil quod maius minuat, nihil quod sentiat detrimentum. Magis ac magis in specie florescunt; aeternitatis insignia edita esse etiam sanguis ostendit, qui ignem Spiritus Sancti adhuc signat in ipsis corporibus reliquiisque membrorum. Gratulamur, carissimi, quotiens uidemus tenebras luce discussas. Cur non effusius in gaudia proruamus, cum cernamus salutarium aeternorum que luminum iubar adlatum? Dies mihi uidetur clarioris serenitatis sumpsisse laetitiam. Nec inmerito: septuplo enim, ut dixi, martyres sole sunt clariores.

'The altars are being erected: let the people take their lead from the joy of their priest. Who, I ask, is so stupid, who so profane, who so ignorant of law and religion, as not to feel this joy?

If one of the princes of this world were visiting our city now, every open space would at once be bright with garlands, matrons would fill the rooftops, the gates would pour forth a surge of people, every age, divided in its enthusiasm, would sing of glory and warlike deeds, would admire the brilliance of the military cloak and the Tyrian purple, would marvel at the treasure of the Red Sea and the frozen tears of monsters - and indeed these things are to be marvelled at if you see them, despised if you think about them, for, after all, we call them stones. These, I say, would keep people agape. But, blessed ones, when it is the triumph of the martyrs and procession of the powers that reaches our houses, why should not we be overcome with joy?

It is not eloquence which is needed here, but the pure simplicity of happiness. There is no lack of things for us to admire: in place of the royal cloak, here is the garment of eternal light. The togas of the saints have absorbed this purple. Here are diadems adorned with the varied lights of the jewels of wisdom, intellect, knowledge, truth, good counsel, courage, endurance, self-control, justice, good sense, patience, chastity. These virtues are expressed and inscribed each in its own stone. Here the Saviour-craftsman has adorned the crowns of the martyrs with spiritual jewels. Let us set the sails of our souls towards these gems. There is nothing fragile in them, nothing that diminishes the greater, nothing that experiences loss. They bloom in beauty more and more; even the blood shows that they are presented as signs of eternity, the blood which is still the sign of the fire of the Holy Spirit in the very bodies and relics of the limbs. We rejoice, dearest ones, whenever we see darkness dispersed by light. Why do we not rush to rejoice with yet more exuberance, when we see that the salvific radiance of eternal lights has been brought to us? The day seems to me to have taken on the gladness of brighter clarity. And rightly so: as I have said, the martyrs are seven times brighter than the sun.'

Text: Mulders and Demeulenaere 1985, 89-90. Translation: Clark 1999, 396-7.


Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies Literary - Theological works



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Rouen Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Victricius of Rouen

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - blood Bodily relic - unspecified


In Praise of the Saints was composed by Victricius, bishop of Rouen (Rotomagus) in Gaul as an expanded version of his homily, delivered on the occasion of the arrival of relics of saints to Rouen. The relics were sent to Victricius by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, and the treatise was most probably written immediately after their festal reception, and given to the envoys, who took it back to Milan (Clark 1999, 365-366). The date of composition can be established firmly: the homily was delivered after the invention of the body of Nazarius in Milan on 28 July 395 (E00905; E02034), and before the death of Ambrose on 4 April 397. Bishop Ambrose discovered in Milan bodies of several saints and sent their relics to other bishops in Italy and Gaul. As suggested in § 6 of the treatise, the reception commemorated by Victricius was almost certainly the second occasion on which relics of saints were transferred from Milan to Rouen. The text deals mostly with the theology of relics, with some references to the event itself. The theological argument is sometimes difficult to comprehend. On the text see Demeulenaere and Mulders 1985, 55-63; Clark 1999; Wiśniewski 2010, 28-33.


The quoted passage is important evidence that the rituals accompanying the arrival of relics and their deposition in a new place were modelled on the ceremony of adventus, the greeting of a secular ruler at one of his cities. In both cases the entire community greeted the arriving emperor/saint outside the city, with chants and acclamations. Victricius explicitly compares the saint (present in his/her relic) to the emperor, giving the details of the ceremony a spiritual meaning. On the adventus see MacCormack 1981, 17-61; Clark 2001; Holum & Vikan 1979.


Edition: Demeulenaere, R., and Mulders, J., Foebadius, Victricius, Leporius, Vincentius Lerinensis, Evagrius, Ruricius (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 64; Turnholti: Brepols, 1985). English translation with introduction: Clark, G., “Victricius of Rouen: Praising the Saints,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 7: 3 (1999), 365-399. (available online: Polish translation with introduction: Wiśniewski, R., Poczatki kultu relikwii na Zachodzie (Akme. Zrodla starozytne; Warszawa, 2010). Further reading: Clark, G., “Translating relics: Victricius of Rouen and fourth‐century debate,” Early Medieval Europe 10:2 (2001), 161-176. Holum, K., Vikan, G., “The Trier Ivory, Adventus Ceremonial, and the Relics of St. Stephen,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 33 (1979), 113-133. MacCormack, S., Art and Ceremony in Late Antiquity (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1981).

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