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E01019: Augustine of Hippo in his Confessions recalls the discovery in Milan (northern Italy) of the bodies of *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313) by bishop Ambrose of Milan in 386. Written in Latin in Hippo Regius (North Africa), 397/400.

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posted on 2015-12-23, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine, Confessions 9.7.16

Tunc memorato antistiti tuo per uisum aperuisti, quo loco laterent martyrum corpora Protasii et Geruasii, quae per tot annos incorrupta in thesauro secreti tui reconderas, unde oportune promeres ad cohercendam rabiem femineam, sed regiam. Cum enim propalata et effossa digno cum honore transferrentur ad ambrosianam basilicam, non solum quos immundi uexabant spiritus confessis eisdem daemonibus sanabantur, uerum etiam quidam plures annos caecus ciuis ciuitati que notissimus, cum populi tumultuante laetitia causam quaesisset atque audisset, exiluit eo que se ut duceret suum ducem rogauit. Quo perductus impetrauit admitti, ut sudario tangeret feretrum pretiosae in conspectu tuo mortis sanctorum tuorum. Quod ubi fecit atque admouit oculis, confestim aperti sunt.

'Then Thou by a vision made known to Your renowned bishop [sc. Ambrose of Milan] the spot where lay the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius, the martyrs (whom You had in Your secret storehouse preserved uncorrupted for so many years), whence You might at the fitting time produce them to repress the feminine but royal fury. For when they were revealed and dug up and with due honour transferred to the Ambrosian Basilica, not only they who were troubled with unclean spirits (the demons confessing themselves) were healed, but a certain man also, who had been blind many years, a well-known citizen of that city, having asked and been told the reason of the people's tumultuous joy, rushed forth, asking his guide to lead him there. Arrived there, he begged to be permitted to touch with his handkerchief the bier of Your saints, whose death is precious in Your sight. When he had done this, and put it to his eyes, they were immediately opened. Thence did the fame spread; thence did Your praises burn, shine; thence was the mind of that enemy, though not yet enlarged to the wholeness of believing, restrained from the fury of persecuting.'

Text: Verheijen 1981. Translation: Pilkington 1887.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gervasius and Protasius, martyrs of Milan (Italy), ob. 1st/4th c. : S00313

Saint Name in Source

Gervasius, Protasius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hippo Regius

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

Hippo Regius Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Exorcism Bodily incorruptibility Miraculous protection - of church and church property Miraculous intervention in issues of doctrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - cloth Making contact relics Touching and kissing relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Augustine wrote the Confessions during the first years of his episcopate in Hippo (c. 397-c. 400). It is widely acknowledged that his narration is highly rhetorical and sometimes over-dramatised, but it reflects actual events.


This episode refers to an event which had been already described in detail by Ambrose himself, in his Letter 77 (see E05211) and Hymn 11 (see E05215) and which will be later retold in the Life of Ambrose by Paulinus of Milan (E00904). It is interesting to remark that Augustine is the first to mention Ambrose's vision, in which he was informed about the place of the martyrs burial. Ambrose himself refers vaguely to a 'zealous presentiment'. The woman whose 'fury' persecuted the Catholic community in Milan was the empress Justina who supported the Arians.


Edition: Verheijen, L., Augustinus, Confessionum libri XIII (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 27; Turnhout: Brepols, 1981). English translations: Pilkington, J.G. in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1 (Buffalo, NY, 1887). O'Donnell, J.J., Augustine, Confessions, 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) [with commentary].

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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