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E03608: Sermon by Valerianus, bishop of Cimiez (southern Gaul), in praise of martyrdom and of the intercessory power of the saints, written in Latin at Cimiez in the mid 5th century. Includes references to an unnamed local martyr and his relics (including their spread to distant places), possibly *Pontius (martyr of Cimiez, S01486), and also to *Thekla/Thecla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092).

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posted on 2017-08-27, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Valerianus of Cimiez, Sermon 17

(§ 1) For soil to be fertile, it must by ploughed. If the farmer does not tend land, it soon grows wild again. The same is true of religion. (§ 2) Some people have only heard about Christianity, they do not have an example to follow. But we have the example of the martyr who is in our presence:

(2.) ... Et cuius tandem martyris? Illius necessario qui in hoc loco pugnam inclytae virtutis primus exercuit, et quo ordine coelestis regni possessionem obtineremus ostendit, qui in dies quid agendum nobis sit exemplo docet, quid proficiamus inquirit. Nemo autem dubitet illum pro actibus suis esse sollicitum, quem videt sibi parentelae affinitate coniunctum.

(3.) Oportet itaque, primo loco, ut nos huic patrono frequentibus insinuemus officiis; quatenus pro nobis apud Dominum peculiaris intercessor invigilet, et vitam nostram dignationis suae favore commendet. Nihil autem est quod non possit homo in qualibet necessitate positus obtinere, si amicis summi imperatoris non desinat supplicare. Respicite illorum studia, dilectissimi, qui sitientes aquas a peregrinis fontibus petunt: hoc est, qui sanctas ac venerabiles martyrum reliquias per extensa spatia terrarum studio religionis inquirunt, et diffusa per totum orbem virtutum merita peculiaribus officiis prosequuntur; et intelligetis quo honore nobis ille habendus est qui huius urbis locum in conflictu coelestis pugnae suo victor cruore perfudit. Vidimus enim per diversas et longe positas regiones scissi corporis plagas passim dividi, et pretiosa vulnerum documenta toto cominus orbe portari; ita ut non minor sit illis sanctorum cura, quibus sola martyrii creduntur indicia. Patrocinium ergo quod aliis fides praestitit, nobis ultro Dominus maiestatis exhibuit. Non itaque longe quaerendus est quem sequamur. Hic habemus patientiae magistrum, hic exempla praemiorum, hic formam virtutum, hic documenta meritorum. Aptemus itaque, si ita usus venerit, ad omnem patientiam animam; et memores annuae solemnitatis quem veneramur meritis, sequamur et exemplis.

(4.) Videte quae sunt ornamenta pectoris, quae pretioso serico quasi opus Dei tegitis, et fulvo auro sidereum vultum oneratis; et discite quae sit pompa vulnerum, quae corona lacrymarum, in quo stet sustinuisse carnificem, vel quanti constet vicisse tortorem; vel in qua descendat exsultatione victoria suppliciis comparata …

'(2.) ... Who is this martyr in whose presence we are? Necessarily, he who was the first to fight here that fight of renowned power, and to show by what arrangements we can obtain possession of the heavenly kingdom. He daily teaches us by his examples what we should do, and he inquires what progress we are making. Let no one doubt that his own acts fall under the solicitude of this martyr, who, as he sees, is joined to him in an affinity of relationship.

(3.) Hence we should, first of all, take part in the frequent devotions shown to this patron, in order that he may stand ready for us as our own intercessor with the Lord, and commend our life to Him through the good will which springs from his esteem. When a man is placed in any necessity, there is nothing he cannot get if a friend of the highest commander begs for him unceasingly. Dearly beloved, consider the zeal of those who thirstingly seek the waters from springs of pilgrimage; that is, who in their practice of religion eagerly travel over wide regions of the earth to seek the holy and venerable relics of the martyrs, and by their own devotions carry out practices warranted by the meritorious deeds of virtue practised everywhere on earth. Then you will understand in what honor we should hold him who as victor in that battle of the heavenly warfare has sprinkled the territory of this city with his blood. We have seen pieces of cloth from his mangled body distributed here and there through diverse and distant regions, and precious reminders of his wounds carried throughout the world. Consequently, those who had entrusted to them only these souvenirs of martyrdom have a devout care of the saints no less than ours. Therefore, the Lord of majesty has generously granted to us this protection which faith brings to others. Consequently, we need not go far to seek him whom we should follow. We have right here a teacher of endurance, examples of rewards, a pattern of virtues, evidence of his merits. So let us mould our souls to all endurance, in case occasion should arise. Mindful of this yearly festival, let us follow also for his examples him whom we venerate for his merits.

(4.) You see the marks of honour on his breast. You cover them, like a work of God, with precious silk, and you heap yellow gold on his heavenly countenance. Learn what is the splendour of his wounds, and the crown for his tears. Learn what it means to have endured the executioner, and how much it is worth to have overcome the torturer; or in what exaltation that victory issues which is gained through torments …'

Valerianus goes on to instruct his listeners to despise temporal goods, following the example of the martyr, and since they do not have the immediate opportunity of martyrdom, to do so by striving against sin (§§ 4-5). He admonishes them to resist temptation (§ 6.):

Occurrat tibi Theclae inter flammas et rabidas bestias custodita pudicitia; quae in tantum mundi huius ornamenta despexit, ut amore servandae pudicitiae coniugales thalamos desponsata contemneret, et integritatem professae virginitatis pugnando nutriret, vincendo servaret.

'Let the purity of Thecla be before your mind. She guarded it amid the flames and the raging beasts. To such an extent did she despise the trappings of this world that, although engaged, she desired so much to preserve her chastity that she considered the bridal chamber unimportant. By struggling she nourished in its integrity that virginity which she professed, and by conquering she preserved it.'

He concludes by stating that people should arm themselves against anger, lust avarice and other vices in order to achieve fellowship with the saints.

Text: PL 52, 744-746. Translation Ganss 1953, 409-415. Summary: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060 Pontius, martyr of Cimiez (southern Gaul) : S01486 Thekla, follower of Apostle Paul : S00092

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

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Cimiez Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - cloth Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Valerianus was bishop of Cemelium in Provence (Cimiez, now part of Nice) in the mid 5th century: his name appears several times in episcopal letters and the records of church councils between 439 and 455. Only the first of the twenty sermons now attributed to Valerianus of Cimiez was actually transmitted under his name (although in most manuscripts it is attributed to Augustine). The others survive in a single, anonymous manuscript (now BnF Lat. 13387) and were attributed to Valerianus by the 17th-century scholar Jacques Sirmond on the basis of stylistic similarities with the first (on the attribution, see Quantin 2013, 700-705). Sirmond's identification of Valerianus as the author of these sermons continues to be accepted by scholars.


This is one of three closely-related sermons on martyrdom in Valerianus' collection (see also E03604, E03607). Each seems to have been delivered on the feast of a martyr and stresses the congregation's link to the martyr and the presence of his body. However, the sermons as transmitted do not mention the martyr's name. It has generally been assumed that the martyr is Pontius, whose cult was celebrated at Cimiez in later times, but is not directly attested before the 9th century; however, some have expressed scepticism about this (e.g. Duval 1986, 79). It is likely that that the martyr was mentioned by name when the sermon was delivered, but his name and any details specific to his martyrdom were edited out to make it easier for the sermon to reused by others. This sermon uses many of the themes common to the group, such as the need for ordinary Christians to use the martyrs as examples (§ 2), the role of the martyr as intercessor (§ 3), and the need for the congregation to consider their good fortune in possessing their own martyr in view of the fact that people travel great distances on pilgrimages to the shrines of the martyrs (§ 3). This sermon includes more detail about the martyr's body, stating that contact relics from his body (plagas ?– pieces of cloth) had been sent to many other places (§ 3), and mentioning the adornment of his body with silks and gold (§ 4). An admonition to his congregation to despise temporal goods is illustrated by a reference to the story of Thecla, and her struggle to preserve her virginity (§ 6).


Edition: J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Latina 52, 744-746. Translation: Ganss, G.E., Saint Peter Chrysologus, Selected Sermons, and Saint Valerian, Homilies (Fathers of the Church 17; New York, 1953). Further reading: Duval, Y., "Nice-Cimiez," in: N. Gauthier and J.-Ch. Picard (eds.), Topographie chrétienne des cités de la Gaule des origines au milieu du VIIIe siècle, vol. 2: Provinces ecclésiastiques d'Aix et d'Embrun (Narbonensis Secunda et Alpes Maritimae) (Paris, 1986), 77-88. Quantin, J.-L., "Philologie et querelle de la grâce au XVIIe siècle: Sirmond, Valérien de Cimiez et le Saint-Office," in: J. Elfassi, C. Lanéry, and A.-M. Turcan-Verkerk (eds.), Amicorum Societas. Mélanges offerts à François Dolbeau pour son 65e anniversaire (Florence, 2013), 700-739.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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