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E04512: Augustine of Hippo preaches in Latin a sermon at the burial of a bishop, or at its anniversary, reflecting on a model, role and sanctity of the bishops. Sermon 335K, delivered in an unknown city in North Africa c. 397/430.

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posted on 2017-12-21, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 335K

[In anniversario depositionis episcopi

'On the anniversary of the burial of a bishop']

1. Sollemnitas ista, fratres mei, in honorem dei est propter seruum Dei. Seruus enim quando recte honoratur, in nomine domini sui honoratur. Beatus ergo ---, seruus Dei, hodie carnis sarcinam deposuit et resurrecturam carnem terrae mandauit. Reddita est terra terrae, spiritus spiritui Dei. Talis autem unicuique homini est depositio corporis, qualis fuit in corpore. Mors enim media quaedam res est, quae per seipsam nec bona nec mala sit: die quippe ueniente ultimo uitae huius, duo quae fuerant coniuncta discernit et separat, animam inuisibilem a carne uisibili, animam sentientem a carne in qua anima sentit, quia caro sine anima nihil sentit. Duo ergo ista coniuncta, ualde inter se dissimilia, anima et caro, separata faciunt mortem. Proinde mors, quae duo ista seiungit et separat, per seipsam nec bona uidetur esse nec mala, sed bonis bona est et malis mala est.

'This solemn occasion, my brothers and sisters, is being held to the honour of God on occasion of a servant of God. When a servant after all is being honoured properly, he is honoured in the name of his master. So the blessed X, the servant of God, today laid aside the burden of the flesh, and entrusted to the earth the flesh that is to rise again. Earth was given back to earth, the spirit to the Spirit of God. Now for every individual the laying aside of the body has the same value as his life in the body had. Death, you see, is a kind of middling thing, which in itself is neither good nor bad; when the last day of this life arrives, it separates two things that had been joined together, the invisible soul from the visible flesh, and you get death. Accordingly, death, which unjoins and separates these two, appears in itself to be neither good nor bad, but it's good for the good and it's bad for the bad.'

Augustine refers to Philippians 1:22-24, in which the Apostle Paul expresses both his desire to be with Christ in heaven and to serve the people on earth.

2. ... Ita et beatus – dispensauit uerbum et sacramentum Dei quamdiu dominus uoluit. Ubi autem patrifamilias placuit euocare seruum suum de habitaculo luteo et in caelum transferre, et ipsa lutea domus terrae commendata est, et ipsa lutea domus exspectat resurrectionem cum uiderit creatorem.

'... So too, the blessed – dispensed the word and sacrament of God as long as the Lord willed. But when it pleased the householder to summon his servant from his mud dwelling and transfer him to heaven, the mud house was committed to the earth, and the same mud house awaits the resurrection, when it is to see the creator.'

Augustine compares the earthly life of Christians to the combat of David, armed just with five stones, against the heavily armed Goliath.

5. ... Et hoc significat aliquid. Fratres mei, prima dispensatione domini nostri Iesu Christi tamquam illius spiritalis Dauid qui uenerat ex genere dauid, accepit in fronte inimicus noster, et prostratus est. Iacuit omnis superstitio gentium, quae non potuit deinceps erigere aduersus ecclesiam Dei, quia et quando se erigebat, ipsa tum ictuabatur, sed martyrium coronabatur. Deinde proficiente ecclesia, quoniam magnam quamdam romphaeam uel frameam, id est immanissimum gladium Golias ille portabat, eloquentiam saeculi huius quae multas sibi mentes subiugabat, multi serui Dei et ipsam eloquentiam didicerunt, ut de suo gladio Golias interficeretur. quam eloquens sanctus Cyprianus, quam fulgens framea eius in litteris eius apparuit. Goliae gladius est, sed iam iacenti extortus ut perimeretur inimicu.

'... This too signifies something. My brothers, at the first appearance and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, as of the spiritual David who sprang from the stock of David, our enemy received a blow on the forehead, and was laid low. All the superstitious religions of the nations lay prostrate, and were unable from then on to rise up against the Church of God, because when they did rise up, the Church was then indeed struck at, but martyrdom was given the victor's crown. Then as the Church made progress, since that Goliath carried a great kris or claymore, that is, a monstrous sword, representing the eloquence of this age, which was subjugating many minds to itself, many servants of God also learned this eloquence, so that Goliath might be killed with his won sword. How eloquent Saint Cyprian was, what a shining claymore flashes through his writings! It's the sword of Goliath, but wrenched from him already lying there, so that the enemy might be finished off.'

Text: Patrologiae Latinae Supplementum 2, 817-820. Translation: Hill 1994, 255-258. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Cyprian, bishop and martyr of Carthage : S00411

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

Latin North Africa

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

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Ceremonies at burial of a saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Neither the place nor the date of this sermon can be determined with any certainty.


We do not know at whose funeral, or its anniversary, this sermon was preached. The name of the bishop is left blank in the manuscripts. The sermon cannot be easily qualified as a cultic text. Yet it is important for the understanding of the cult of dead bishops, which differed from that of martyrs on the one hand and that of monks on the other. Usually, every bishop, if he was not qualified as heretic, was commemorated in his local church at the anniversary of his death. The oldest list of such commemorations is preserved in the so-called Chronographer of 354 (EE01052) from Rome, parallel to the list of the martyrs celebrated in this Church. The commemorations were liturgical and this sermon might have been preached on such an occasion – this is what the lemma in the manuscripts suggests. The late bishop did not have to be considered a powerful intercessor, nor were his remains necessarily deemed to have a power comparable to those of the martyrs. He was commemorated simply because he had "dispensed the word and the sacrament" in his community. Still, Augustine draws a parallel between the martyrs, who fought by their martyrdom, and the preachers (i.e. bishops), who fought by eloquence. Thus, the sanctity of the bishops seems to be mostly institutional, but not entirely so.


Text: Hamman, A., Patrologiae Latinae Suplementum, vol. 2 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1960). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine. A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. III 9, Sermons 306-340A on the Saints (New York: New City Press, 1994). Further reading: Rapp, C., Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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