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E00755: Letter to Bishop Nicetius of Trier (eastern Gaul) from an abbot Florianus, mentioning the veneration of *Maximinus (bishop of Trier, ob. c. 347, S00465) and *Paulinus (bishop of Trier, ob. 358, S00427). Written in Latin, probably in northern Italy, 548/552.

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posted on 2015-10-01, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Florianus, letter to Nicetius of Trier (Epistolae Austrasicae 6)

Egregiam vestrae sanctitatis famam audivimus ... Captivos enim redemis, obpressos sublevas, saturas esurientes, pusillanimes consolaris. His ditatus mercibus Maximianam Paulinianamque beatitudinem promereris, qui angelicam vixerunt vitam in saeculo; haec te loco suo dignissimum propagaverunt heredem, quorum fidem atque constantiam vestra nobis sanctimonia repraesentat ...

'We have heard of the outstanding fame of Your Holiness ... For you redeem captives, you relieve the oppressed, you satisfy the hungry, you console the timid. Enriched by these things, you deserve the blessedness of Maximus [sic] and Paulinus, who lived an angelic life in this world; they have raised you as a most worthy heir in their place, they whose constancy and faith is represented to us by Your Sanctity ...'

Text: Gundlach 1892, 117, lines 31-35. Translation: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paulinus, bishop of Trier, ob. 358 : S00427 Maximinus, bishop of Trier, ob. c. 346 : S00465

Saint Name in Source

Paulinus Maximus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

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

Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Epistolae Austrasicae 6 is a letter from Florianus, a monk (servus Christi), to Bishop Nicetius of Trier. In this letter Florianus does not identify himself further, but in another letter to Nicetius, Epistolae Austrasicae 5 ($E00804), he describes himself as abbot of the Monasterium Romenum (the identification of which remains debated: see $E00804). The two letters survive as part of the collection of letters from early Frankish Gaul known as the Epistolae Austrasicae (Austrasian Letters). The letter was written during the reign of the Frankish King Theudebald (548-555), with whom Florianus asks Nicetius to intercede. Florianus begins by stating that he knows Nicetius by reputation, suggesting that this was the first time he had approached him, and therefore that this letter is the earlier of the two in the Epistolae Austrasicae, although it appears second in the collection. This would imply that it was written no later than 552, the terminus ante quem for Epistolae Austrasicae 5.


In the letter, Florianus asks Nicetius, bishop of Trier c. 525-566/9, to make a request on his behalf to the Frankish king Theudebald (r. 548-555), relating to the inhabitants of a place he calls the Insula Lariensis (most commonly identified as the island of Comacina in Lake Como: see Malaspina 2001, p. 237, n. 132), and also to pray for his well-being. He continues with a passage of praise for Nicetius' piety and generosity, in which he declares that Nicetius merits 'the blessedness of Maximus [sic] and Paulinus' (Maximianam Paulinianamque beatitudinem - literally 'the Maximian and Paulinian blessedness'). By referring to Nicetius as their 'heir' (heredem), who occupied 'their place' (loco suo), Florianus shows that he is referring to Nicetius' 4th century predecessors as bishops of Trier, *Maximinus (ob. c. 347) and *Paulinus (ob. 358). The form Maximianam implies the name Maximus rather than Maximinus: it is unclear whether this is an error in manuscript transmission or by Florianus himself, but the (very common) confusion of Maximus and Maximinus casts no doubt on the identity of the person referred to. Florianus' letter is notable because, in spite of being written some two hundred years after their deaths, it is the earliest extant reference to veneration of Maximinus or Paulinus. Both were involved in the Arian controversy as supporters of Athanasius and the pro-Nicene party; Paulinus was exiled to Phrygia by the emperor Constantius II, and died there in 358. Their activities are well-documented in 4th century sources, but there is no literary evidence for their cult until the 6th century, when it appears in the form of this reference, of entries for both men in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E###), and of references to Maximinus' church and his patronage of the city of Trier by Gregory of Tours (Life of the Fathers 17.4: E05471, E05472; Glory of the Confessors 91: E02749). While there is no earlier literary evidence for any cult of Maximinus or Paulinus, there is considerable archaeological and inscriptional evidence for saints' cults at Trier before the 6th century, though it is usually unclear which saints were being venerated (for general discussion, see Handley 2001). Archaeology shows that the church of St Maximinus had existed since the 4th century, but Gregory is the first evidence for its dedication (Gauthier 1986, 28-30). For Paulinus, there exists a remarkable, though ambiguous, piece of archaeological evidence in the form of the late-antique wood coffin within the sarcophagus which has been venerated as his since at least the 11th century (E00704). This was examined in 1883 and gives every appearance of dating from the correct period, but has no inscription or other direct evidence to identify it as his. It has been plausibly suggested (Handley 2001, 190-193) that the sudden appearance of references to these 4th century saints in the mid 6th century indicates that their cult was revived and promoted by Nicetius (who was eventually buried in the church of St Maximinus: Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors 92, E02750). It would thus have been particularly appropriate for Florianus to use a comparison to them to praise him.


Editions: Gundlach, W., Epistolae Austrasicae, in: Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini Aevi (Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Epistolae 3; Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1892), 117-118. Malaspina, E., Il "Liber epistolarum" della cancellaria austrasica (sec. V-VI) (Biblioteca di cultura romanobarbarica 4; Rome: Herder, 2001), 79-81, with Italian translation and commentary. Further reading: Gauthier, N., "Trèves," in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 1: Province ecclésiastique de Trèves (Belgica Prima) (Paris: Boccard, 1986), 13-32. Handley, M., “Beyond Hagiography: Epigraphic Commemoration and the Cult of Saints in Late Antique Trier,” in: R.W. Mathisen and D. Shanzer (eds.), Society and Culture in Late Antique Gaul: Revisiting the Sources (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 187-200.

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