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E04654: In Praise of St John, a metrical account of the life of *John the Baptist (S00020), often attributed to Paulinus bishop of Nola (ob. c. 431), is written in Latin in Gaul, probably in the 5th c.; John’s gifts of prophecy and ability to cleanse the sins of others are emphasised.

online resource
posted on 2018-01-23, 00:00 authored by frances
Pseudo-Paulinus, In Praise of St John

Zachary, a priest, was told by an angel that he and his wife, Elizabeth were to bear a holy son who would possess many virtues and who would be called John. This son will cleanse sinners and be a paragon of sobriety (lines 27-107). This is followed by an account of the Annunciation to Mary (lines 108-138). John’s future greatness is revealed both within the womb – when he moved as the pregnant Mary came near (lines 139-172) – and throughout his childhood (lines 205-219). As he became an adult, John retreated to the wilderness and his bodily deprivations are described (lines 219-254). He is called by God to cleanse sinners with the waters of the river Jordan (lines 255-268). God’s mercy in cleansing sins is praised (lines 269-302). John is explicitly identified as a miracle worker and prophet who paves the way for Christ’s coming (lines 303-328).

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • 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 name in other Language(s)

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

Major author/Major anonymous work

Paulinus of Nola

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Unspecified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Relatives of the saint Other lay individuals/ people Angels


This metrical account of the life of John the Baptist is largely based on the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, with additional material on John’s childhood (lines 205-219). For a long time, it was attributed to Paulinus, bishop of Nola (ob. 431) and dated to around 389/90 when Paulinus was seeking a life of greater Christian commitment. It was edited as Paulinus' 'Carmen 6' by Wilhelm Hartel (1894), while Dennis Trout argued that Paulinus sent this poem to Jerome whose lukewarm response to it can be observed in Jerome's Letter 58. More recently, however, the attribution of this poem to Paulinus has been challenged, prominently by Franz Dolveck. The work is only attested in two manuscripts: Paris, BnF, lat. 8093 and Paris, BnF, lat. 7558 both of which were written in the ninth century in Lyon. In neither manuscript is the poem attributed to Paulinus. There is, in Dolveck’s view, too little evidence to connect the poem with Paulinus. Instead, he argues that it is a product of fifth-century Gaul with some ninth-century additions.


Edition: W. Hartel, Paulinus of Nola. Carmina, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 30 (Vienna, 1894), 7-18. Translation: P.G. Walsh, The Poems of Paulinus of Nola, Ancient Christian Writers (New York: Newman Press, 1975), 39-50. Further Reading: Franz Dolveck, "L’ultime commerce épistolaire d’Ausone et de Paulin de Nole," Mélanges de l’Ecole française de Rome. Antiquité, 127:1 (2015). Online: DOI : 10.4000/mefra.2789 Dennis Trout, Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters and Poems (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). Franz Dolveck, Carmina, Paulini Nolani, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 21 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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