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E01614: A tract on the Trinity, written in Latin, probably in Gaul, probably in the 6th century, claims that cities where the churches were founded by the Apostles have never fallen under the control of heretics. It lists Jerusalem; Ephesus, founded by *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042); Alexandria, founded by *Mark (the Evangelist, S00293); and Smyrna, where the first bishop was Polycarp/Polykarpos (S00004). It then lists four founders of sees in Gaul: *Trophimus (bishop of Arles, S00617), *Paulus (bishop of Narbonne, S00503), *Saturninus (bishop and martyr of Toulouse, S00289), and *Daphnus (bishop of Vaison, S00851), and claims them as disciples of the Apostles. The tract has been attributed to Caesarius of Arles, but the attribution is questionable.

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posted on 2016-06-08, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Tract on the Mystery of the Holy Trinity (Libellus de mysterio sanctae Trinitatis) 17

Si nolunt considerare oculis cordis, vel corporis oculos aperiant, et videant, quia, quomodo per totum mundum per apostolos et apostolicos viros Christus ecclesiam fundavit catholicam, ita in ipso fundamento gratia sua cooperante permanet, ut exinde divelli nullis umquam persecutionibus potuisset : in tantum, ut nec ipsis temporibus, quibus imperatores vel reges religionis alterius ecclesiam catholicam totis viribus impugnabant, fundamentum, quod apostoli posuerunt, aut invadere praesumpserint, aut invadere potuerint. Denique, si volumus considerare, in ipsa Hierusolyma, ubi Christus et natus et passus est, ecclesia catholica optinet principatum. In Epheso autem, quomodo a sancto Iohanne evangelista constituta est, ita perdurat : in Alexandria, sicut a domno Marco fundata est, ita deo auxiliante usque hodie perseverat : in Smyrna etiam, ubi sanctus Policarpus et successor apostolorum fuit episcopus, ecclesia catholica privilegium tenet.

Similiter et illas omnes ecclesias, quibus apostolus Paulus scripsit, numquam vel potuerunt vel praesumpserunt alterius religionis principes occupare. Ipsa etiam Romana ecclesia, quae et prius imperatores et postea reges alterius legis habuit, considerent quod nullus ex eis ausus fuerit sedem apostolicam occupare.

In Galliis etiam civitas Arelatensis discipulum apostolorum sanctum Trophimum habuit fundatorem, Narbonensis sanctum Paulum, Tolosana sanctum Saturninum, Vasensis sanctum Daphnum. Per istos enim quattuor apostolorum discipulos in universa Gallia ita sunt ecclesiae constitutae, ut eas per tot annorum spatia numquam permiserit Christus ab adversariis occupari, implens promissionem suam, qua dixerit : super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam, et portae inferi, id est, hereticorum sectae, non praevalebunt adversus eam.

'If they are unable to consider with the eyes of their heart, let them open the eyes of their body and see that, just as, throughout the world, Christ founded the catholic church through the Apostles or apostolic men, so it remained on this foundation, with his grace cooperating, to such an extent that from then on it could not be torn away by any persecutions; to such an extent that not in any times when emperors or kings of another religion attacked the catholic church with all their strength did they dare to attack, or were they able to attack, the foundation which the Apostles laid. So, if we want to think about it, in Jerusalem itself, where Christ was both born and suffered, the catholic church holds the primacy. In Ephesus, just as it was founded by John the Evangelist, so it endures; in Alexandria, just as it was founded by St Mark, so by the help of God it remains to this day; in Smyrna too, where Polycarp, saint and successor of the Apostles, was bishop, the catholic church holds a special position.

Similarly too, emperors of another religion neither were able nor presumed to occupy any of the churches to which Paul wrote. The very church of Rome had first emperors and then kings of another law; let them consider that none of these dared to occupy the apostolic see.

In Gaul too, the city of Arles had Trophimus the disciple of the Apostles as a founder, Narbonne the holy Paul, Toulouse the holy Saturninus, Vaison the holy Daphnus. Through these four disciples of the Apostles, churches were established in the whole of Gaul in such a way that through such long passages of years, Christ has never permitted them to be occupied by adversaries, fulfilling his promise: on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell – that is, the heretical sects – will not prevail against it.'

Text: Morin 1942, 179-80. Translation: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Trophimus, first bishop of Arles : S00617 Paul, bishop of Narbonne (Gaul), ob. mid-3rd c. : S00503 Saturninus, bishop and martyr of Toulouse (Gaul), ob. 250/1 : S00289 Daphnus : S00851 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042 Mark the Evangelis

Saint Name in Source

Trophimus Paulus Saturninus Daphnus Iohannes Marcus Policarpus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Theological works


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

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

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

Major author/Major anonymous work

Caesarius of Arles

Cult activities - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Heretics Ecclesiastics - bishops


The Libellus de mysterio sanctae Trinitatis is a short and incomplete anti-Arian tract. It survives in two 9th century manuscripts, in one of which it is anonymous and in the other attributed to Augustine of Hippo (Morin 1942, 164). It dates from no earlier than 536, since it refers to rule over Rome by Arian kings as being in the past. It was attributed to Caesarius of Arles by Morin on stylistic grounds (Morin 1942, 164). Doubt is cast on this attribution by the text's reference to Trophimus of Arles: on this see below.


The Libellus de mysterio sanctae Trinitatis is a tract directed against Arianism. In this passage, the author, after putting forward various theological arguments against Arianism, turns to an argument based on the facts (or alleged facts) of church history, claiming that churches founded by the apostles or disciples of the apostles had always been under the control of catholic bishops, and that rulers 'of another religion' (in context this means Arianism) had never tried to impose their own bishops on these sees. He lists the sees of Jerusalem, Ephesus, founded by John the Evangelist, Alexandria, founded by the apostle Mark, and Smyrna, founded by the disciple of the apostles Polycarp. He then mentions the churches which had been addressed by Paul in his epistles, and the church at Rome. The passage concludes with the claim that Gallic churches founded by disciples of the apostles had also been held continuously by the catholic church, naming Arles, founded by Trophimus, Narbonne, founded by Paulus, Toulouse, founded by Saturninus, and Vaison, founded by Daphnus. It is on the basis of its reference to these churches that the Libellus, which contains no direct indications as to its place of origin, is assumed to have been composed in Gaul. It is important to note that the author's overall argument depends on the claim that these figures were immediate disciples of the apostles, like Polycarp, not just the founders or first bishops of the churches in question. The list bears an obvious resemblance to a list of founding bishops of sees in Gaul given by Gregory of Tours (Histories 1.30; E01530), but there are important differences between the two. First, the lists only partially overlap: Gregory lists seven bishops, of whom only three appear in the Libellus: Trophimus of Arles, Paul of Narbonne, and Saturninus of Toulouse. Four bishops are listed by Gregory but not in the Libellus (Catianus of Tours, Dionysius of Paris, Stremonius of Clermont, and Martialis of Limoges). Conversely one bishop, Daphnus of Vaison, appears in the Libellus but not in Gregory. The most important difference, however, relates to the supposed dates of the figures mentioned: while the Libellus claims that they were disciples of the apostles, Gregory dates their arrival in Gaul very precisely to the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251). There are interesting inconsistencies in the references to these figures by Gregory himself, as well as other literature from late antique Gaul. Of the four bishops mentioned in the Libellus, Saturninus of Toulouse is repeatedly mentioned by Gregory as well as in other sources. Most of these references contain no indications as to his date; however in Glory of the Martyrs 47 (E00545), Gregory states that Saturninus 'is said to have been ordained by disciples of the apostles' (ut fertur, ab apostolorum discipulis ordinatus). Paul of Narbonne, though attested as a patron saint of Narbonne by Prudentius (E00801) is not mentioned by Gregory except in the passage from the Histories about the seven bishops. Daphnus of Vaison is attested as attending the Council of Arles in 314. He does not appear in Gregory's works and, indeed, does not seem to be mentioned in any later texts except the Libellus. All this suggests that both Gregory and the author of the Libellus were drawing on a set of traditions about early bishops in Gaul which by the 6th century had become very confused as to points of detail. The figure of Trophimus, the supposed first bishop of Arles, is first attested in a group of letters written by Pope Zosimus in 417 (E00954; E01617; E00960; E00988), probably at the instigation of the bishop of Arles at the time, Patroclus. These claim that the see of Arles deserves special status in Gaul because Trophimus, its founding bishop, introduced Christianity to Gaul. Later, in 450, in a letter from the bishop of Arles and other southern Gallic bishops to Pope Leo I (E00957), the further claim appears that he was a disciple of the apostles, evidently based on identifying the Arlesian figure with a Trophimus mentioned in the New Testament. In spite of the fact that bishops of Arles through the 5th and 6th centuries continued to argue for their see to have higher status than others in Gaul (well documented in the Epistolae Arelatenses collection, on which see the references to Zosimus above, as well as in other sources), there is no reference to Trophimus in their arguments after the mid 5th century: evidently it was felt that the claims being made about him were unsustainable. Notably, Trophimus is never mentioned anywhere in the works of Caesarius of Arles. This clearly places a very serious question mark over the idea that Caesarius was the author of the Libellus, which not only claims that Trophimus founded the see of Arles, but that he was a disciple of the apostles: it is difficult to see how Caesarius could have put forward this claim in the fairly casual way that it is advanced in the Libellus, but not made a single reference to Trophimus elsewhere in his extent works. It should finally be noted that the reference to Trophimus in the Libellus differs from the claims made about him in the 5th century texts. The basis of their use of Trophimus was that his status as a founding bishop in Gaul and a disciple of the apostles made him unique, and therefore justified the claim of the see of Arles to special status. In the Libellus it is claimed that all four bishops mentioned were disciples of the apostles.


Edition: Morin, G., Sancti Caesarii Arelatensis opera varia (Maredsous, 1942), 165-180.

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