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E02859: Augustine of Hippo delivers a Latin sermon on the feast of *Cyprian (bishop and martyr of Carthage, S00411) in which he presents martyrs as conquerors of demons and urges the audience to celebrate the feast day in sobriety. Sermon 312, preached probably in Carthage, at an unknown date between 391 and 430.

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posted on 2017-05-28, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 312

[In natali Cypriani martyris

'On the birthday of the martyr Cyprian']

1. Diei tam grati laetique solemnitas, et coronae tanti Martyris tam felix et iucunda festivitas, sermonem a me debitum flagitat. Sed tantam sarcinam orationes illius mecum portant; ut si quid minus quam debetur, exsolvero, non me despiciat loquentem vobis, sed omnes reficiat precando pro vobis. Faciam sane quod ei certum mihi est esse gratissimum, ut eum in Domino laudem, cum de illo Dominum laudo.

'The requisite sermon is demanded of me by the celebration (solemnitas) of such a welcome and joyful day as this, and by such wonderful and happy festivities in honour of the triumph of so great a martyr. But his prayers are carrying together with me the burden of this great responsibility, so that if I pay out to you anything less than is your due, he will refresh you all by praying for you, instead of looking down on me as I speak to you. I will certainly do what I am sure is most acceptable to him, namely, praise him in the Lord, when I praise the Lord on his account. '

Augustine compares the life of Cyprian before and after his conversion, both presented in very general terms, without references to specific episodes, although in ch. 4 he names Cyprian's professional activity as an advocate.

5. Et si adhuc quisquam quaerit forte quis vicerit, ut omittam regnum coeleste sanctorum, quod infideles credere nolunt, quia videre non possunt; nunc in ista terra, in ista vita, in domibus, in agris, in civitatibus in orbe terrarum, ecce sunt ferventes laudationes martyrum: ubi sunt furentes accusationes impiorum? Ecce quemadmodum honorantur memoriae peremptorum, nunc illi ostendant idola daemoniorum. Quid eis iudicando facturi sunt, qui eorum templa moriendo everterunt? Quomodo eorum superbas fallacias resurgentium militum suorum splendore damnabit, qui eorum fumantes aras morientium sanguine exstinxit?

'And if anyone should still perhaps be asking who defeated whom, leaving aside any reference to heavenly kingdom of the saints, which unbelievers refuse to believe in, because they can't see it; right now, on this earth, in this life, in houses, in the fields, in the cities, in the whole wide world, you can see how fervently the praises of the martyrs are sung – but where are the furious accusations of the godless? You can se how the memorial shrines (memoriae) of the slain are honoured; now let those others show us the idols of the demons. Just imagine what those, who overthrew their temples just by dying, are going to do them when they pass judgment on them! How the one who extinguished their smoking altars with the blood of the dying, will condemn their proud deceits by the splendour of his soldiers as they rise again!'

In what follow Augustine praises Cyprian and end the sermon in these words:

Quapropter, carissimi, tam gratae festivitati debito sermone pro viribus persoluto, exhortor dilectionem devotionemque vestram, ut istum diem honeste ac sobrie peragamus, et hoc exhibeamus diei, quo Cyprianus beatissimus passus est, quod amavit ut pateretur.

'So finally, dearly beloved, having paid the debt of a sermon to such a popular feast, I urge upon your love and your devotion that we should spend this day decently and soberly, and exhibit on this day, on which the blessed Cyprian suffered, what he loved enough to die for.'

Text: Patrologia Latina 38, 1420-22. Translation: Hill 1994, 81-85. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


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

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

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

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The sermon is tentatively dated to c. 417 on the basis of intertextual references, but this dating if far from being certain. Since Augustine seems to be invited to preach on this feast, he was evidently not in Hippo, but probably in Carthage.


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 9. Sermons 306-340A for 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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