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E04380: Paulinus of Nola, writing in Latin in 393/408 in Spain or Nola, southern Italy, composes a consolation poem for the death of an aristocratic child. He reflects on the earlier death of his own son and describes the spiritual benefits which his burial near the tombs of unidentified saints in Complutum (Spain) will bring.

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posted on 2017-11-17, 00:00 authored by frances
Paulinus of Nola, Carmen 31, verses 605-612

credimus aeternis illum tibi, Celse, uirectis
laetitiae et uitae ludere participem,
quem Conplutensi mandauimus urbe propinquis
coniunctum tumuli foedere martyribus,
ut de uicino sanctorum sanguine ducat,
quo nostras illo spargat in igne animas.

forte etenim nobis quoque peccatoribus olim
sanguinis haec nostri guttula lumen erit.

'We believe that he shares your joyful life, Celsus, sporting with you in eternal glades. In the city of Complutum we buried him, alongside the martyrs with whom he shares the compact of the tomb, so that with the blood of the saints close by he may sprinkle our souls when they are in the fire after death.

Indeed, perhaps this tiny drop of blood will some day be a source of light even for us sinners.'

Text: Dolveck 2015. Translation: Walsh 1975, slightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Iustus and Pastor, schoolboys and martyrs of Alcala, Spain : S00504

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy south of Rome and Sicily Iberian Peninsula

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Nola Adriatic Sea Adriatic Sea Adriaticum Mare Osset Osset Osen (castrum) Osser castrum

Major author/Major anonymous work

Paulinus of Nola

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Women Aristocrats Children

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Carmen 31 was composed on the occasion of the death of Celsus, an eight-year-old son of an aristocratic couple, Penumatis and Fidelis, who were related to Paulinus. Paulinus uses this poem as an opportunity to reflect on the death of his own son - also called Celsus - who also died as an eight-year-old infant. Guttilla (1987) attempts to narrow the broad range of possible dates for the composition of this poem by arguing that Paulinus' unwillingness to suggest almsgiving can benefit the souls of the deceased means this poem must predate a similar claim made in a letter of 396/7. More certain is the date of Paulinus' son, Celsus', death in 392/3. This event took place when Paulinus and his wife had retreated from public life to Spain, but before their ascetic renunciation.


Celsus was buried in a saints' shrine in Complutum, Spain (present-day Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid). The saints are unidentified in this passage, but it is possible that they were the martyrs *Justus and Pastor (S00504). A shrine dedicated to these martyrs is described by Prudentius Crowns of Martyrdom 4.41-44 (see E00801). This passage is an interesting reference to the practice of burial ad sanctos and the possible spiritual benefits this practice was expected to bring. Especially interesting is the suggestion that the burial of a loved one near a saint not only benefits the soul of the deceased, but also those of the bereaved. For a more detailed account of Paulinus' view on burial ad sanctos and the debates surrounding this topic: see the discussion in E04655.


Edition: Dolveck, Franz, Carmina, Paulini Nolani, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 21 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015). Translation: Walsh, P.G., The Poems of Paulinus of Nola, Ancient Christian Writers (New York: Newman Press, 1975), 309-329. Further Reading: Guttila, G., "Una nuova lettura del carme 31 di S. Paolino di Nola", Koinonia 11 (1987), 69-97. Trout, Dennis, Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters and Poems (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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