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E01125: Augustine of Hippo, in his City of God (22.8), claims that a number of miracles were wrought by the power of *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030), in Hippo Regius, Uzalis, and Calama (all in North Africa), some of them being recorded in written accounts (libelli), and tells the story of a noble woman who miraculously learned to discard a talisman ring. Written in Latin in Hippo, c. 426/427.

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posted on 2016-02-15, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, City of God 22.8

Augustine, who quoted a number of contemporary miracles in the preceding paragraphs, claims that there are many more miracles of Stephen, which for the sake of brevity have to be omitted in this book.

Si enim miracula sanitatum, ut alia taceam, ea tantummodo uelim scribere, quae per hunc martyrem, id est gloriosissimum Stephanum, facta sunt in Colonia Calamensi et in nostra, plurimi conficiendi sunt libri, nec tamen omnia colligi poterunt, sed tantum de quibus libelli dati sunt, qui recitarentur in populis. Id namque fieri uoluimus, cum uideremus antiquis similia diuinarum signa uirtutum etiam nostris temporibus frequentari et ea non debere multorum notitiae deperire. Nondum est autem biennium, ex quo apud Hipponem Regium coepit esse ista memoria, et multis, quod nobis certissimum est, non datis libellis de his, quae mirabiliter facta sunt, illi ipsi qui dati sunt ad septuaginta ferme numerum peruenerant, quando ista conscripsi. Calamae uero, ubi et ipsa memoria prius esse coepit et crebrius dantur, incomparabili multitudine superant. Uzali etiam, quae Colonia Uticae uicina est, multa praeclara per eundem martyrem facta cognouimus; cuius ibi memoria longe prius quam apud nos ab episcopo Euodio constituta est. Sed libellorum dandorum ibi consuetudo non est uel potius non fuit; nam fortasse nunc esse iam coepit. Cum enim nuper illic essemus, Petroniam, clarissimam feminam, quae ibi mirabiliter ex magno atque diuturno, in quo medicorum adiutoria cuncta defecerant, languore sanata est, hortati sumus, uolente supradicto loci episcopo, ut libellum daret, qui recitaretur in populo, et oboedientissime paruit. In quo posuit etiam, quod hic reticere non possum, quamuis ad ea, quae hoc opus urgent, festinare compellar.

'For were I to be silent of all others, and to record exclusively the miracles of healing which were wrought in the Colony of Calama and in our [city] by means of this martyr — I mean the most glorious Stephen — they would fill many volumes; and yet all even of these could not be collected, but only those of which written accounts (libelli) have been given for public recital. For when I saw, in our own times, frequent signs of the presence of divine powers similar to those which had been given of old, I desired that accounts might be written, judging that the multitude should not remain ignorant of these things. It is not yet two years since this memorial shrine (memoria) was established in Hippo Regius, and though many of the miracles which have been wrought [there] have not, as I have the most certain means of knowing, been recorded in written accounts, those of which accounts have been given amount to almost seventy at the hour at which I write. But at Calama, where this memorial shrine (memoria) has been for a longer time, and where [the written accounts] are given more often their number is incomparably higher. We know also numerous and splendid miracles which were wrought at the Colony of Uzalis, which is near Utica, by the same martyr. His memorial shrine (memoria) there was established much earlier than with us by bishop Evodius. But the custom of giving written accounts does not exist there, or rather it did not, for possibly it may now have been begun. For, when I was there recently, a woman of senatorial rank, Petronia, had been miraculously cured of a serious illness of long standing, in which all medical appliances had failed, and, with the consent of the above-named bishop of the place, I exhorted her to give a written account of it that might be read to the people. She most promptly obeyed, and inserted in her narrative a circumstance which I cannot omit to mention, though I am compelled to hasten on to the subjects which this work requires me to treat.'

There follows the story of Petronia, a noblewoman who travelled from Carthage to Uzalis wearing a talisman ring, obtained from a Jew and hung on a hair-girdle around her neck. When she reached the river Bagradas she found the ring lying at her feet in spite of the fact that the girdle remained unfastened and intact. She recognised the miracle and threw the ring into the river. The healing itself is not described. Augustine emphasises that the veracity of his account can be checked, for the miracle occurred to a well-known person in a well-known city. This leads the author to the following conclusion:

Fiunt ergo etiam nunc multa miracula eodem deo faciente per quos uult et quem ad modum uult, qui et illa quae legimus fecit; sed ista nec similiter innotescunt neque, ut non excedant animo, quasi glarea memoriae, crebra lectione tunduntur. Nam et ubi diligentia est, quae nunc apud nos esse coepit, ut libelli eorum, qui beneficia percipiunt, recitentur in populo, semel hoc audiunt qui adsunt plures que non adsunt, ut nec illi, qui adfuerunt, post aliquot dies quod audierunt mente retineant et uix quisque reperiatur illorum, qui ei, quem non adfuisse cognouerit, indicet quod audiuit. Unum est apud nos factum, non maius quam illa quae dixi, sed tam clarum atque inlustre miraculum, ut nullum arbitrer esse hipponiensium, qui hoc non uel uiderit uel didicerit, nullum qui obliuisci ulla ratione potuerit.

'Even now, therefore, many miracles are wrought, the same God who wrought those we read of still performing them, by whom He will and as He will; but they are not as well known, nor are they beaten into the memory, like gravel, by frequent reading, so that they cannot fall out of mind. For even where, as is now done among ourselves, care is taken that the written accounts of those who receive benefit be read publicly, yet those who are present hear the narrative but once, and many are absent; and so it comes to pass that even those who are present forget in a few days what they heard, and scarcely one of them can be found who will tell what he heard to one who he knows was not present.'

There follows a long description of a miracle which occurred at Easter ($E01135).

Text: Dombart and Kalb 1955. Translation: Dods 1887 (slightly changed).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Saint Name in Source


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 - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Power over objects Other specified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Jews Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Registers of miracles


Augustine wrote the Book 22 of the City of God in Hippo, c. 426/427. Chapters 8-9 enumerate a number of contemporary miracles, most of which took place in Hippo and other cities of North Africa, either at the relics of Stephen, the first martyr or those of *Gervasius and Protasius, martyrs in Milan.


This passage brings testimony to the beginnings of the custom of producing and reading written accounts of healings which took place at saints' relics. It is not clear whether Augustine should be credited with the invention of this practice – it is possible that in Calama it started earlier than in Hippo – but he certainly was eager to propagate it. It was at his initiative that this habit was introduced in Uzalis. Interestingly, the book of miracles from Uzalis survived to our days (see E00165). In all these cities the new practice appeared shortly after the arrival of Stephen's relics. They were brought to Africa only around 420 AD, in Hippo, as Augustine says, they were deposited only two years before the completion of this chapter, that is around 425 AD. The story of Petronia shows that Stephen's relics in Hippo quickly became renowned enough to attract people from Carthage (near modern Tunis, over 300 km east of Hippo, modern Annaba) in which many famous African martyrs were deposited. This passage also shows why aristocrats are over-represented in the miracle-stories. They were simply considered to be better witnesses than ordinary people.


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: Delehaye, H., "‪Les premiers libri miraculorum," Analecta Bollandiana 29 (1910), 427-434. Delehaye, H., "‪Les recueils antiques de miracles des saints," Analecta Bollandiana 42 (1925), 5-85, 305-325. Meyers, J., Les miracles de saint Etienne. Recherches sur le recueil pseudo-augustinien (BHL 7860-7861), avec édition critique, traduction et commentaire (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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