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E02532: The Martyrdom of *Felix (confessor and brother of the martyr of Rome also called Felix (companion of Adauctus), S01483) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, at an uncertain date, in the 9th c. at the latest. It narrates the tortures endured by Felix and miracles performed by him in Rome, Felix’s travel to Nola, the conversions triggered there, and his peaceful death in the same city after 12 years.

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posted on 2017-03-09, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Martyrdom of Felix (BHL 2885)


§ 1: After the martyrdom of the priest Felix, his younger brother and priest, also called Felix, is brought before Draccus and ordered to perform sacrifices to the idols. He advises Draccus against bringing him around temples like he did with his brother, who destroyed them. He is ready, however, to show God’s power and to destroy the temple of Jupiter at the Capitol if he is brought there.

§ 2: Draccus orders him to be beaten with cudgels and exiled to the hill called Circeius, to end his life there cutting stones. There, Felix exorcises the daughter of the tribune Probus, who proclaims that Felix’s God is the true God. He is a citizen of Nola. Felix also heals Probus’ wife, after asking him to believe, then sending blessed oil to her, which heals her after three days.

§ 3: A colleague of Probus makes plans for Felix to be arrested, but those who come to seize him experience great pain, failing in their task. Felix asks them to proclaim their faith, they agree and are freed. All believe and are baptised.

§ 4: After the end of his appointment as tribune, Probus goes back to Nola with Felix. A pagan priest and soothsayer sees Felix, falls at his feet, telling him that he fears him, since his god fled when Felix arrived. Felix tells him about Christ, and the man believes. Felix stays there and cultivates a garden (hortus). At night people come and steal his vegetables (olera) under the moonlight, working all night with mattocks (vangae). Felix finds them still working in the morning, they fall at his feet.

§5: Later, Felix comes to a nearby temple dedicated to Apollo. He sets a challenge to pagans entering the temple, asking them to guess what he holds in his hands, a copy of the Gospel containing the Lord’s prayer. Nobody is able to guess it, and Felix tries to convince them of Christ’s superior power, notably telling them that they will receive no help from the god (Apollo) any more. As the pagans see that their god does not answer them anymore and that Felix gives sight to the blind, expels demons, cures many illnesses and resurrects the dead, they destroy the statue of Apollo and in the same place build an oratory (oratorium) and they all believe in Jesus Christ.

§ 6: Felix lives in that city for another 12 years; every pagan who tries to seize Christians there is possessed by a demon, believes in God, is freed, and becomes Christian. After 12 years, on Sunday, after celebrating the Eucharist, falling in prayer to the ground, Felix goes to the Lord.

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Ian., I, 951. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Felix priest and confessor of Nola (southern Italy) : S00000 Felix, priest and confessor of Rome : S01483

Saint Name in Source

Felix Felix

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

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

Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Healing diseases and disabilities Exorcism Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Relatives of the saint Officials Women


There is one main version of our text, BHL 2885, with a variant ending BHL 2885a, and variant beginning BHL 2885d. The database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( lists 95 manuscripts of BHL 2885, the earliest from the 9th century: Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. lat. 516, f. 7v-8v; 4 manuscripts for the variant BHL 2885d, the earliest from the 9th-10th century: Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5771, f. 185v-186r; and a single 12th century manuscript for BHL 2885a.


Strictly speaking, our text is not a martyrdom account but a Life of Felix, despite the fact that it includes standard features of late antique martyrdom accounts, such as the tortures endured, the interrogation by a pagan judge and polemical dialogues, the destruction of idols, etc. However, Felix dies peacefully, and is thus generally considered a confessor rather than a martyr. The reason for composing such a text may perhaps be found in a comparison with the Martyrdom of Felix and Adauctus (E02496). This account narrates the trial and death of a priest and martyr of Rome, named Felix, who had a younger brother, also a priest and also named Felix, about whom nothing more is said. It is clear that our Martyrdom represents the continuation to that story, providing the narrative of the younger brother’s sufferings and miraculous achievements. The story about two brothers named Felix possibly resulted from a confused reading of Damasus’ inscription for Felix and Adauctus, as argued by Delehaye and De’Cavalieri. Both hagiographical accounts are incorporated into a single text in some manuscripts (already in the 9th or 10th century manuscript Vat. lat. 5771, witness of BHL 2885d), and the two Felixes have the same feast date situated on 14 January, also the feast day of Felix of Nola. Delehaye, followed by De’Cavalieri, argued that our Martyrdom was written by the same author as the Martyrdom of Felix and Adauctus (BHL 2880). The author would have created the narrative about this obscure confessor Felix from Rome by borrowing features from the much more famous priest and confessor Felix of Nola, celebrated by Paulinus of Nola. Our Martyrdom is of uncertain date, but must have been written by the 9th century at the latest: Ado borrows from it in his martyrology (Quentin, H., Les martyrologes historiques du Moyen Âge. Etude sur la formation du martyrologe romain (Paris, 1908), 520-522), while it is attested in 9th century manuscripts. Repertories of Latin sources date it with uncertainty to the 6th century (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2189; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 65).


Edition (BHL 2885): Acta Sanctorum, Ian., I, 951. Further reading: Delehaye, H., “Les saints du cimetière de Commodille,” Analecta Bollandiana 16 (1897), 17-29. Franchi De’Cavalieri, P., Note agiografiche, vol. 4 (Rome, 1912), 41-53.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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