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E02980: Peter Chrysologus, bishop of Ravenna (attested 448/449, died before 458), preaches a Latin sermon in Ravenna, about the mother of seven martyred sons, probably for the feast of *Felicitas and her seven sons (martyrs of Rome, S00525).

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posted on 2017-06-13, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 134

The title De sancta Felicitate ('On saint Felicitas') seems not to be original but added later to this sermon, which does not mention Felicitas nor any other saint by name.

The sermon is in praise of a mother of seven martyred sons, to whom she gave birth a second time in martyrdom. For Peter, in fact, she was a true mother, because she exhorted them to martyrdom. The sermon also particularly refers to the manner of the sons’ death, their bodies being pierced through (confossa cadavera).

Text: Olivar 1982, 818-819. Translation: Ganss 1953, 221-222.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Felicitas, martyr in Rome and her seven sons (Ianuarius, Felix, Philippus, Silvanus, Alexander, Vitalis, Martialis) : S00525 Maccabean Brothers, 2nd-century BC Jewish martyrs in Antioch : S00303

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Ravenna Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Peter Chrysologus

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women


Peter Chrysologus was bishop of Ravenna in the second quarter of the 5th century. The chronology of his life remains uncertain: he is attested as bishop in 448/449 and he died before 458 when there is evidence of his successor Neo receiving a letter from pope Leo the Great: see PCBE 2, 'Petrus Chrysologus 9', pp. 1728-9. While most of Peter's sermons were transmitted in a collection put together by bishop Felix of Ravenna in the 8th century, the current body of sermons attributed to him has been established and critically edited by Olivar, who rejected a number of sermons from Felix's collection as spurious and added 15 sermons not transmitted in the collection but which he considered authentic. All the sermons were preached in Ravenna, generally on specific topics or liturgical feasts that can be identified. Most, however, do not bear indications of their date, although Olivar has attempted to find chronological units within Felix' collection. For an overview of these sermons and hypotheses on their chronology, see A. Olivar, Los sermones de San Pedro Crisologo: estudio critico (Montserrat, 1962); F. Sottocornola, L’anno liturgico nei sermoni di Pietro Crisologo (Cesena, 1973); V. Zangara, “I silenzi nella predicazione di Pietro Crisologo”, Rivista di storia e letteratura religiosa 32 (1996), 225-265, and further bibliography in W.B. Palardy, Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons, vol. 2, (Fathers of the Church 109; Washington DC, 2004), xiii-xvi.


While the title of the sermon seems to be a later addition, given the diffusion of Felicitas’ cult in Italy by the 5th century (S00525), it is most probable that Peter was preaching about Felicitas and her sons on their feast day, rather than about the model story found in 2 Maccabees 7 (narrating the martyrdom of a Jewish mother and her seven sons who refused to eat pork). It cannot be certain however, which (if any) of the preserved martyrdom accounts of Felicitas and her sons was known to Peter (on which see E02494). Olivar 1982, 817, points to the fact that the late antique Homily 32 in the collection of the Eusebius Gallicanus (E06054), preached on the Maccabees, employs phrases similar to our sermon, as does a homily on the Gospels by Gregory the Great preached for Felicitas’ feast (EXXXX).


Edition: Olivar, A., Petrus Chrysologus, Sermones (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 24B; Turnhout, 1982), 818-819 Translation: Ganss, G.E., Saint Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, and Saint Valerian, Homilies (Fathers of the Church 17; New York, 1953), 221-222.

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