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E01041: Augustine of Hippo, in his City of God (1.1), states that during the sack of Rome in 410, Christians and pagans alike successfully sought asylum at the shrines of the apostles, not named, but evidently the apostles *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00008), and of the martyrs. Written in Latin in Hippo Regius (North Africa), c. 413.

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posted on 2016-01-02, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, City of God 1.1

Augustine claims that the very people who blame Christians for misfortunes befalling Rome were saved from the hands of barbarians during the sack of Rome (AD 410) only because they found asylum in shrines of martyrs and Apostles.

Testantur hoc martyrum loca et basilicae apostolorum, quae in illa uastatione urbis ad se confugientes suos alienos que receperunt. testantur hoc martyrum loca et basilicae apostolorum, quae in illa uastatione urbis ad se confugientes suos alienos que receperunt. Huc usque cruentus saeuiebat inimicus, ibi accipiebat limitem trucidatoris furor, illo ducebantur a miserantibus hostibus, quibus etiam extra ipsa loca pepercerant, ne in eos incurrerent, qui similem misericordiam non habebant.
'The places of the martyrs and the basilicas of the apostles bear witness to this; for in the sack of the city they were open both for ours [sc. Christians] and strangers [to the faith]. To their very threshold the bloodthirsty enemy raged; there his murderous fury received a limit. Thither did such of the enemy as had any pity convey those to whom they had given quarter, lest any less mercifully disposed might fall upon them.'

Augustine goes on to argue (City of God 1.7) that the behaviour of barbarians who spared those sheltering in the shrines of martyrs has to be attributed to the name of Christ, not to the mercy of the barbarians.

Text: Dombart and Kalb 1955. Translation: Dods 1887, adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Type of Evidence

Literary - Theological works


  • 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 - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Seeking asylum at church/shrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Foreigners (including Barbarians) Other lay individuals/ people Pagans


Augustine wrote Book 1 of the City of God in Hippo, either in 412 or 413 in order to reject the allegation that the misfortunes of Rome were due to the spread of Christianity.


Although the apostles mentioned in this passage are not named, Augustine is certainly thinking about Peter and Paul. Orosius (E02100) and Sozomen (E###) name them explicitly. The martyrs are difficult to identify. Augustine's argument is based on the assumption that the shrines of martyrs and apostles were astonishingly successful in providing shelter to the Roman population and the barbarians themselves, otherwise cruel, not only respected them, but also brought people to these places. Augustine attributes this change of the barbarians' behaviour to God's will, not to the power of martyrs, but it is interesting that he does not claim that normal churches, not related to the cult of saints, played a similar role.


Edition: Dombart, B., and Kalb, A., Augustinus, De civitate dei, 2 vols. (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 47-48; Turnhout: Brepols, 1955). English translation: Dods, M., Augustine, The City of God (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 2; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887). Further reading: Mathisen, R., "Roma a Gothis capta est: Ancient Accounts of the Sack of Rome in 410 CE," in: J. Lipps, C. Machado, and P. von Rummel (eds.),The Sack of Rome in 410 AD: The Event, Its Context, and Its Impact (Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2013), 87-102.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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