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E02323: Augustine of Hippo preaches in Latin a sermon on the feast of the discovery of the relics of *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313), in an undetermined place in North Africa where some of their relics were deposited. He also mentions the martyrs, *Agnes (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00097), *Crispina (martyr of Theveste, S00905), *Nemesianus (child martyr in Africa, S01811), and *Peter the Apostle (S00036). He relates miracles performed by Gervasius and Protasius in Milan (Italy) and those which occur in Africa and which are documented by written accounts (libelli). Sermon 286, preached probably c. 425-430.

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posted on 2017-02-03, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 286

Augustine explains that the word martyr means 'witness' in Greek. The blood of the martyrs is the seed from which the Church grows. He compares Peter to other martyrs and say that that Peter was outdistanced by the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius, martyr boy (puer) Nemesianus, and women martyrs Agnes and Crispina.

4. Celebramus ergo hodierno die, fratres, memoriam in hoc loco positam sanctorum Protasii et Geruasii, Mediolanensium martyrum. Non eum diem quo hic posita est, sed eum diem hodie celebramus, quando inuenta est pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum eius per Ambrosium episcopum, hominem Dei: cuius tunc tantae gloriae martyrum etiam ego testis fui. Ibi eram, Mediolani eram, facta miracula noui, attestante deo pretiosis mortibus sanctorum suorum: ut per illa miracula iam non solum in conspectu Domini, sed etiam in conspectu hominum esset mors illa pretiosa. Caecus notissimus uniuersae ciuitati illuminatus est, cucurrit, adduci se fecit, sine duce reuersus est. Nondum audiuimus quod obierit: forte adhuc uiuit. In ipsa eorum basilica, ubi sunt eorum corpora, totam uitam suam seruiturum se esse deuouit. Nos illum gauisi sumus uidentem, reliquimus seruientem.
5. Non cessat deus attestari: et nouit quomodo ipsa miracula sua debeat commendare. Nouit agere, ut magnificentur: nouit agere, ne uilescant. Non omnibus donat per martyres sanitatem: sed omnibus promittit imitatoribus martyrum immortalitatem.

'So today, brothers, we are celebrating the memorial shrine (memoria) set up in this place in honour of Saints Protasius and Gervasius, the martyrs of Milan. Not the day when it was set up here, but the day we are celebrating today is the day of the discovery of the death of these saints, precious in the sight of the Lord, by bishop Ambrose, that man of God. Of that glorious occasion for the martyrs I was myself a witness. I was in Milan, I know about the miracles that occurred, when God bore witness to the precious deaths of his saints, so that by means of those miracles that death might be precious not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. A blind man, known to the whole city, had his sight restored; he ran, he had himself led to the spot, he went home without guide. I haven't heard that he died; perhaps he's still alive. He vowed that he was going to serve all the rest of his life in that basilica of theirs, where their bodies are. We all rejoiced at his being able to see, we left him at his service. God never stops bearing witness; and he knows the right way to bring his miracles to our notice. He knows how to act, so that they may be famous; he knows how to act, do that they don't become commonplace. He doesn't grant health to everyone through the martyrs; but to all who imitate the martyrs, he does promise immortality.'

Even martyrs do not always receive from God what they request. Some of them, like the three boys in the fiery furnace do, some, like the Maccabean brothers don't, yet they receive a more splendid crown.

7. Ego aliquando memoror de libellis miraculorum martyrum, quae in conspectu uestro leguntur. Ante dies lectus est quidam libellus, ubi cuidam aegrotae quae doloribus acerrimis torquebatur, cum dixisset, ferre non possum; ait illi ipse martyr qui sanare uenerat: quid, si martyrium duceres?

'I on occasion am reminded of the written accounts (libelli) of the miracles of the martyrs, which are read in your presence. A few days ago a written account was read, in which a sick woman, wracked by the severest pains said "I can't bear it." The martyr, to whom she had come to be healed, said, "What if you were enduring martyrdom?" So it is that many people endure martyrdom on their sickbeds, very many indeed.'

Text: Patrologia Latina 38, 1299-1300. Translation: Hill 1994, 103-105 (slightly changed). Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gervasius and Protasius, martyrs of Milan (Italy), ob. 1st/4th c. : S00313 Agnes, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00097 Nemesianus, child martyr in Africa : S01811 Crispina, martyr at Thagasta, ob. c. 304 : S00905 Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source

Gervasius, Protasius Agnes Nemasianus Crispina Petrus

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, 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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Unspecified relic


This sermon is tentatively dated to the years 425-430, on the basis of intertextual relations with other Augustine'es writings. According to one manuscript it was preached in otherwise unknown place called Argentarium, perhaps near Hippo Regius.


Text: Migne, J.P., Patrologia Latina 38 (Paris, 1865). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. III 8. Sermons 273-305A. On the Saints ‬(New York: New City Press, 1994). Dating: Kunzelmann, A., "Die Chronologie der sermones des hl. Augustinus," Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 2 (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1931), 417-452.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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