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E02991: Peter Chrysologus, bishop of Ravenna (attested 448/449, died before 458), preaches a Latin sermon in Ravenna, probably for the feast of the *Innocents (Children killed on the orders of Herod, S00268).

online resource
posted on 2017-06-14, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 152, De Herode et infantibus (‘On Herod and the infants’)

The sermon comments on Matthew 2:16-18, about the killing of the Innocents by Herod, a passage that was read that day. They are presented as martyrs, baptised in their own blood, while their mothers shared their reward, being baptised in suffering. The sermon ends, emphasising that martyrdom cannot be gained by merit but comes through grace. The preacher presents martyrdom as a gift received from God that cannot be attained trusting on one’s own ability.

Text: Olivar 1982, 949-955. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Innocents, children killed at the order of Herod : S00268

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

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 Children 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. This sermon had a complex transmission, both inside and outside Felix’ collection, and was attributed to different authors, on which see Olivar 1982, 947-948. The authenticity is accepted by Olivar, although it has been argued that it may have been by Severianus of Gabala (see Clavis Patrum Latinorum 227).


This sermon was probably preached for the feast of the Innocents, as was Sermon 153 (E02992); it similarly praises the Innocents as martyrs. It includes an interesting discussion towards the end about the fact that the crown of martyrdom can only be obtained through grace and not through one’s own merits. This sermon may constitute some of the earliest evidence on the celebration of a feast for the Innocents.


Edition: Olivar, A., Petrus Chrysologus, Sermones (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 24B; Turnhout, 1982), 949-955. Translation: Ganss, G.E., Saint Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, and Saint Valerian, Homilies (Fathers of the Church 17; New York, 1953), 254-259.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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