University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E01760: Augustine of Hippo, in a sermon preached in an unknown location, mentions the *Martyrs of Massa Candida (close to Utica, S00904), emphasising their great number. Exposition on Psalm 49, written in Latin in North Africa, 392/417.

online resource
posted on 2016-07-23, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Exposition on Psalm 49, ch. 9

Augustine reflects upon the number of martyrs in the Kingdom of Heaven named in the Book of Revelation and other biblical books. On this occasion he mentions 153 fish, caught by Peter who followed the command of Jesus, and says the following:

Adtendite martyrum numerositatem: sola in proximo quae dicitur Massa Candida, plus habet quam centum quinquaginta tres martyres.

'Mind the great number of martyrs. In the place alone which is called Massa Candida, there are more than one hundred and fifty-three martyrs.'

Text: Dekkers and Fraipont 1956. Translation and summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martyrs of Massa Candida, ob.Martyrs of Massa Candida (Utica), ob. c. 258 : S00904 c. 258 : S00904

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

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

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Other

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The Expositions on the Psalms are based on Augustine's homilies, preached either in Hippo or in other places in North Africa in the period from 392 to 417.


The martyrs of Massa Candida, close to Utica, are known mostly from short mentions in a few sermons by Augustine (see E01836 and E02745. The term Massa Candida referred to a pit of lime into which the martyrs were thrown. They were supposedly much more numerous than 153 – Augustine quotes this number here only to show that the number of 153 fish, caught by Peter the Apostle, cannot be taken as reflecting the total number of the saints.


Edition: Dekkers, E., and Fraipont, J., Enarrationes in psalmos (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, 38, Turnhout: Brepols, 1956). About the text: La Bonnardière, M.A. "Les Enarrationes in Psalmos prêchées par saint Augustin à l'occasion de fêtes des martyrs," Recherches Augustiniennes 7 (1971), 73-104. Further reading: Monceau, P., "Les Martyrs d'Utique et la légende de la "Massa Candida"," Revue Archéologique 37 (1900), 404-411.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager