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E02740: Augustine of Hippo (North Africa), preaches in Latin a sermon for the feast of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037), briefly retelling his story, emphasising his fame in the city of Rome and other places, and admonishing his audience against indecent ways of celebrating feats. Sermon 305A , preached c. AD 401, at Carthage.

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posted on 2017-04-26, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 305A

[De natali sancto Laurentii Carthagine habitus in basilica Restituta, III Idus Augusti

'On the birthday of St Laurence. Preached in the Basilica Restituta on 10 August']

1. Propter fastidium auditoris sermo subtrahendus fuit, sed propter obsequium martyris exhibendus: ita ergo adiuuante domino moderabitur, ut nec onerosus sit, nec forte deminutus, quantum sufficientiae satis est. Illuxit dies Romae sollemnissimus, qui magna frequentia populi celebratur: adiungimur nos, quamuis absentes corpore, praesentes tamen spiritu, fratribus nostris in uno corpore, sub uno capite. Neque enim ubi sepulcrum corporis eius est, ibi tantum memoria meriti eius: deuotio ubique debetur; caro uno loco ponitur, sed spiritus uictor cum illo est qui ubique est.

Erat beatus Laurentius in corpore, sicut accepimus, adulescens, uir grauis in animo, quem multum commendabat aetas uiridior, corona immarcescibilior. Erat autem diaconus, officio inferior episcopo, corona aequatus apostolo. Haec autem sollemnitas omnium martyrum gloriosorum ad hoc instituta est in ecclesia, ut ad imitationem, qui non uiderunt patientes, adducantur fide, commemorentur sollemnitate. Excideret enim fortasse de cordibus hominum, quod non anniuersarius ordo repeteret. Et non omnium martyrum ubique possunt esse feruentes sollemnitates, nam cotidie non deessent: non enim uel unus dies inueniri in anni cursu potest, quo non per diuersa martyres coronati sunt. Sed feruentiores sollemnitates si continuae essent, afferrent fastidium; interualla autem renouant affectum. Nos tantum audiamus quod iussum est, attendamus quod promissum est. In cuiuslibet martyris sollemnitate ita praeparemus cor nostrum festiuitati eius, ut non separemur ab imitatione eius.

'Because the audience is getting bored and restless, the sermon was to have been canceled; but out of respect for the martyr, it has to be given. So with the Lord's help it will be so timed that it is neither burdensome, nor yet cut too short to do justice to the subject. In Rome today has dawned as one of the greatest feasts there, which is celebrated by a great concourse of the people; we are uniting ourselves to our brothers and sisters there in one body, under one head, absent indeed in body, but still present in spirit. After all, it's not only where the tomb of his body is, that the memory of his merits is celebrated. Devotion is owed to him everywhere; his flesh is laid in one place, but his spirit is triumphantly with the one who is everywhere.

The blessed Laurence was, as we have been informed, a youth in body, but a man of gravity in spirit; the greener his age, the more unfading was the victor's wreath that commended him so much to our devotion. Well, he was a deacon, subordinate to the bishop in rank, equal to an apostle in his crown. Now this kind of festival of all the glorious martyrs has been instituted in the Church so that those who didn't see them suffering may be led by faith to imitate them, and may be reminded of them by the festival. It's probable, you see, that what wasn't repeated by an annual commemoration would escape people's minds altogether. And we can't have fervent celebrations of all the martyrs everywhere, because then not a day would pass without them; I mean, you could scarcely find a single day in the whole course of the year, on which some martyrs were not somewhere rewarded with the victor's crown. But if fervent celebrations were a continuous event, they would induce boredom; while intervals between them renew our loving interest. For our part, let us simply listen to what we have been commanded, attend to what we have been promised. On the festivals of any martyrs you like, let us prepare our hearts to celebrate them in such a way that we do not cut ourselves off from imitating them.


4. Et nunc consideremus qui sint filii occisorum, et qui sint filii occidentium. Et videtis multos currere ad memorias martyrum, benedicere calices suos de memoriis martyrum, redire saturatos de memoriis martyrum; et tamen discute illos, et invenies inter persecutores martyrum. Per ipsos enim tumultus, seditiones, saltationes, omnes luxuriae, quas odit Deus; et modo, quia illos iam coronatos lapidibus non possunt, calicibus persequuntur. Qui erant, et quorum filii erant, quorum saltationes recenti et prope hesterna memoria de loco sancti martyris Cypriani prohibitae sunt? Certe saltabant ibi, et gaudebant ibi; et sollemnitatem ipsam, quasi gauderent, magnis votis expectabant, et ad eum diem semper venire cupiebant.

'And now let us consider who are the children of the slain, and who the children of the slayers. And you can see many people running along to the memorial shrines (memoriae) of martyrs, blessing their bottles at the memorial shrines of martyrs; and yet examine them more closely, and you will find they are among persecutors of the martyrs. They are ones responsible for the tumults, the riots, the dances, the licentious activities which God hates. And now, because they can't get at the martyrs, now crowned in glory, with stones, they persecute them with bottles. Who were those people, and whose children were they, whose dances were barred from the place of the holy martyr Cyprian at the recent memorial feast, scarcely longer ago than yesterday? They were certainly dancing there, and enjoying themselves there; and they were looking forward with great eagerness to that celebration, expecting to enjoy it, and they were always very keen to come to that day.'

In what follows Augustine keeps comparing those who celebrate the feast of martyrs in the way described above to the persecutors.

Text: Morin 1930, 44-56 and 58. Translation: Hill 1994, 324 and 326-327. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Laurence, martyr of Rome, ob. 258 : S00037 Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (Africa) and martyr, ob. 258 : S00411

Saint Name in Source

Laurentius Cyprianus

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


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

Carthage 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

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Condemnation/rejection of a specific cultic activity

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


The lemma informs us that this sermon was preached in Carthage. It is dated to AD 401 on the basis of intertextual links with other writings of Augustine.


Text: Morin, G., Sancti Augustini Sermones post Maurinos reperti (Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 1, Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1930). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine. A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. III 9, 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.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity