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E01027: Augustine of Hippo, in his Letter to the Catholics against the sect of the Donatists, mentions the discovery and miracles of *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313), and refers to other miracles and visions in diverse holy places, but emphasises that the veracity of miracles is proven by the Catholic Church, not the other way round. Written in Latin in Hippo Regius (North Africa), 401/405.

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posted on 2015-12-28, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine, Letter to the Catholics against the sect of the Donatists (Ad Catholicos de secta Donatistarum) 19.50

Sed utrum ipsi ecclesiam teneant, non nisi de diuinarum scripturarum canonicis libris ostendant, quia nec nos propterea dicimus nobis credi oportere quod in ecclesia Christi sumus, quia ipsam quam tenemus commendauit mileuitanus Optatus uel mediolanensis Ambrosius uel alii innumerabiles nostrae communionis episcopi, aut quia nostrorum collegarum conciliis ipsa praedicata est, aut quia per totum orbem in locis sanctis, quae frequentat nostra communio, tanta mirabilia uel exauditionum uel sanitatum fiunt, ita ut latentia per tot annos corpora martyrum, quod possunt a multis interrogantes audire, Ambrosio fuerint reuelata et ad ipsa corpora caecus multorum annorum ciuitati mediolanensi notissimus oculos lumenque receperit, aut quia ille somnium uidit et ille in spiritu assumptus audiuit, siue ne iret in partem Donati siue ut recederet a parte Donati. Quaecumque talia in catholica fiunt, ideo sunt approbanda, quia in catholica fiunt, non ideo ipsa catholica manifestatur, quia haec in ea fiunt.

'Let them demonstrate that they stick to the Church, but let them do it only on the basis of the canonical books of the divine scriptures. For we also do not say that we should believe that we are in the Church of Christ because we stick to what was recommended by the bishops Optatus of Milevis or Ambrose of Milan or other innumerable bishops of our communion, or because it was announced in the councils held by our fellow-bishops, or because in all the world, in holy places which are frequented by our community, there are so many miracles, when people are healed and their prayers are answered. Or that the bodies of the martyrs, which had remained hidden for so many years were revealed to Ambrose, which those who ask can hear from many people. And that at those bodies a man who had been blind for many years, who was well-known to the city of Milan, regained the light of eyes. Or that a man saw in a dream and another, taken in the spirit, heard, either not to go to the faction of the Donatists or to abandon the sect of the Donatists. If such things happen in the Catholic [Church] they are approved because they occurred in the Catholic [Church]: it is not that the Church is proven to be Catholic because such things occur in it'.

Text: Petschenig 1909. Translation: Robert Wiśniewski.


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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Miraculous intervention in issues of doctrine Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Heretics


The Letter to the Catholics against the sect of the Donatists is one of Augustine's polemical anti-Donatist treatises. It was written between 401 and 405. In this passage Augustine emphasises that only the scriptural argument can prove which of the two competing Churches in Africa, the Catholic or the Donatist, is true.


The martyrs who were discovered in Milan by Ambrose are Gervasius and Protasius. The finding of their bodies was described in detail by Ambrose himself, in his Letter 77 (see E###) and Hymn 11 (see E###), then by Augustine, in his Confessions (E01019), and will be later retold in the Life of Ambrose by Paulinus of Milan (E00904). It is interesting to note that according to Augustine miracles cannot be used as a proof in theological debates, for they cannot be accepted as true, or perhaps legitimate, unless they are approved by the Church.


Edition: Petschenig, M., Ad Catholicos de secta Donatistarum (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 52; Vienna: Tempsky, 1909), 229-322.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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