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E02787: Latin letter from the deacon Paschasius of Rome to the abbot Eugippius of Lucullanum (near Naples), acknowledging receipt of the Life of Severinus (see E02347) and its accompanying letter (E02786), and underlining the significance of putting the deeds of saints into writing.

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posted on 2017-05-10, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Eugippius of Lucullanum, Life of Severinus

Letter of Paschasius to Eugippius

Acknowledging receipt of Eugippius' Life of Severinus ($E02347) and the letter asking him to write a more extensive account (E02786), Paschasius replies that this is not required since Eugippius has done a much better job than he himself would have done in narrating the deeds of Severinus. He emphasises the importance of relating the deeds of saints as examples, recalling the advice of Peter (1 Peter 5:3) and Paul (1 Tim. 4:12; Heb. 11), and the example of Mattathias (1 Macc. 2:49).

Relevant passages:

§§ 2-3: Direxisti commemoratorium, cui nihil possit adicere facundia peritorum, et opus, quod ecclesiae possit universitas recensere, brevi reserasti compendio, dum beati Severini finitimas Pannoniorum provincias incolentis vitam moresque verius explicasti et quae per illum divina virtus est operata miracula diuturnis mansura temporibus tradidisti memoriae posterorum – nesciunt facta piorum praeterire cum saeculo – ut omnes praesentem habeant et secum quodam modo sentiant commorari, quibus eum relatio pervexerit lectionis. Et ideo, quia tu haec quae a me narranda poscebas elocutus es simplicius, explicasti facilius, nihil adiciendum labori vestro studio nostro credimus.’

'You have sent me your memorandum, to which nothing can be added by the eloquence of learned men. You have compressed in a short compass a work worthy to be placed before the whole Church. You have made known truthfully the life and character of blessed Severinus, who lived in the provinces bordering on the Pannonias, and you have handed down to posterity the memory of the miracles which the power of God has worked through him and which will last for all time – the works of the pious cannot perish with their age. You have done this in such a way that all those to whom the reading of your report brings him can see him, as it were, present, and, in some way, experience his company. And, therefore, since you have told with greater simplicity, and explained more gracefully than I could do what you ask me to relate, I believe that nothing can be added to your work by our effort.'

§ 4: Divinis charismatibus inspiratus scis, bonorum mentibus excolendis quantum gesta sanctorum utilitatis impertiant, quantum fervoris attribuant, quantum puritatis infundant.

'Inspired by divine gifts, you know what great stimulus the deeds of the saints can add to the improvement of the minds of good men, what great fervour they give them, what strength of purity they instil.'

Text: Noll 1981, 46-49. Translation: Bieler-Krestan 1965, 101-102 (from which paragraph numbers are taken; lightly adapted).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Severinus, hermit and monk in Noricum, ob. 482 : S00848

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Unspecified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


This letter is transmitted as part of the dossier accompanying the Life of Severinus (see more details and bibliography at E02347).


It is impossible to tell how much Eugippius' introduction to his Life of Severinus is a factual account of an exchange of letters, and how much a literary construct; but either way it is very interesting on the writing of saints' Lives, stressing the simplicity and immediacy of Eugippius' text. This letter states that, although Eugippius had asked Paschasius to write about the deeds of Severinus, the deacon refrained from writing a novel account, accepting Eugippius' Life as excellent, and stating its worthiness to be diffused widely (ecclesiae possit universitas recensere) presumably starting from Rome. Paschasius' letter also more broadly praises and promotes the practice of writing accounts of the deeds of the saints, thus providing a good starting point for the diffusion of this text in later periods.


Edition: Noll, R., Eugippius. Das Leben des heiligen Severin, 2nd edition (Passau, 1981), 46-49. Translation: Bieler, L., and Krestan, L., Eugippius, The Life of St. Severin (Fathers of the Church 55; Washington D.C., 1965), 101-102.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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