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E03606: Augustine of Hippo delivers a Latin sermon at the deposition of relics of *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030) in Hippo. He recalls the discovery and distribution of these relics and refers to the finding of the relics of *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313) in Milan (North Italy), which took place when he was living there. Sermon 318, preached c. 425 in Hippo Regius (North Africa).

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posted on 2017-08-26, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 318

1. Exspectat sanctitas uestra scire quid hodie in isto loco positum sit. Reliquiae sunt primi et beatissimi martyris Stephani. Audistis, cum passionis eius lectio legeretur de libro canonico Actuum Apostolorum, quemadmodum lapidatus sit a Iudaeis, quemadmodum domino commendauerit spiritum suum, quemadmodum etiam in extremo genibus fixis orauerit pro lapidatoribus suis. Huius corpus ex illo usque ad ista tempora latuit; nuper autem apparuit, sicut solent apparere sanctorum corpora martyrum, reuelatione dei, quando placuit creatori. Sic ante aliquot annos, nobis iuuenibus apud Mediolanum constitutis, apparuerunt corpora sanctorum martyrum Geruasii et Protasii. Scitis quod Geruasius et Protasius longe posterius passi sunt, quam beatissimus Stephanus. Quare ergo illorum prius, et huius postea? Nemo disputet: uoluntas dei fidem quaerit, non quaestionem.

Verum autem reuelatum fuit ei, qui res ipsas inuentas monstrauit. Praecedentibus enim signis locus demonstratus est; et quomodo fuerat reuelatum, sic et inuentum est. Multi inde reliquias acceperunt, quia deus uoluit, et huc uenerunt.commendatur ergo charitati uestrae et locus et dies: utrumque celebrandum in honorem dei, quem confessus est Stephanus. Nos enim in isto loco non aram fecimus Stephano, sed de reliquiis Stephani aram Deo.

'Your Holinesses are waiting to hear what has been enshrined in this place today. They are the relics of the first and most blessed martyr, Stephen. You heard, when the account of his passion was read from the canonical book, The Acts of the Apostles, how he was stoned by the Jews, how he commended his spirit to the Lord, how also at the end he knelt down and prayed for those who were stoning him. From that day to these times his body lay hidden. Recently, however, it came to light, as the bodies of the martyrs usually do come to light, by a revelation of God, when it so pleased the Creator. In this way, some years ago, when I was a young man living in Milan, the bodies of the martyrs Gervasius and Protasius came to light. You know that Gervasius and Protasius suffered a long time after the blessed Stephen. So why their bodies first, and his later? It's not something to be argued about; the will of God calls to faith, not questioning.

But the truth was revealed to the man who pointed out the things that were discovered. The place, you see, was indicated by preceding signs; and it was discovered to be just as it had been revealed in them. May people received relics from there, because that was God's will, and they came as far as here. So both this place and this day is being commended to your graces' devotion; each is to be celebrated to the honour of God, whom Stephen confessed. After all, we haven't built an altar in this place to Stephen, but an altar to God from Stephen's relics ...'

There follow general reflections about the martyrs.

3. ... Habetis ergo, charissimi, non paruum solatium, orationum locum. Martyr Stephanus hic honoretur: sed in eius honore coronator stephani adoretur.
'... So then, dearly beloved, you have no small consolation and comfort, a place to pray in. Let the martyr Stephen be honoured here; but in his honour let the one who crowned Stephen be worshipped.'

Text: Patrologia Latina 38, 1437-1438 and 1440. Translation: Hill 1994, 147 and 149.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030 Gervasius and Protasius, martyrs of Milan (Italy), ob. 1st/4th c. : S00313

Saint Name in Source

Stephanus Gervasius, Protasius

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

Hippo Regius

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

Hippo Regius Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Anniversary of relic invention/translation

Cult activities - Places

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

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - unspecified Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Division of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


The sermon is evidently preached at the ceremony of the deposition of Stephen's relics in Hippo, either just after their arrival, or, more probably, later on, when a shrine was built for them in the episcopal basilica.


The relics of Stephen were brought to Africa probably by Orosius, and deposited in several cities, including Hippo, Calama, and Uzalis. They came from the tomb which was discovered in Caphargamala in 415. After the discovery the martyr's body was taken to Jerusalem, but some dust, earth and small particles were given to priest Lucian, the finder of the grave (see E07605). Orosius, who was coming back from Jerusalem to the West in 416 took some of these relics with him. He left some of them on Minorca (see EXXXXX), and brought the rest to Africa. The story of the arrival of these relics to diverse cities in this region can be found in Augustines' City of God (E01109, E01111, E01116) and in the anonymous Book of the Miracles of St Stephen (E00165). The discovery of the relics of *Gervasius and *Protasius, which took place in Milan in 386, in referred to in several texts which can be easily found using this database.


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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