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E04767: Paulinus of Nola, writing in Latin between 395 and 408, in Spain and later Nola, southern Italy, in his fourteen poems (the Natalicia) in honour of *Felix (priest and confessor of Nola, S00000), identifies Felix as the special protector (patronus) of Nola. The special association of other saints with various regions is also detailed.

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posted on 2018-01-30, 00:00 authored by frances
Paulinus of Nola, Natalicia


Throughout the Natalicia, Paulinus refers to Felix as the patron (patronus) of Nola. For example, Nat. 2., verse 27; Nat. 6, verses 5, 111, 400; Nat. 7, verses 99, 202, 214, 318; Nat. 8, verses 64, 211, 232; Nat. 9, verses 136, 142, 198, 502; Nat. 12, verses 11, 17, 254, 278; Nat. 13, verse 7, 27, 186, 344, 245, 754-6, 793; Nat. 14, verses 8, 23.

Natalicium 11, verses 45-341 [AD 405]
Paulinus elaborates on Felix's role as patron of Nola. He compares Felix’s presence at Nola to the presence of other relics in other locations, and the special protection these saints provide. These include the Apostles, *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00008) at Rome; *Andrew (the Apostle, S00288) at Patras; *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) at Ephesus; *Matthew (Apostle and Evangelist, S00791) in Parthia [Persia]; *Thomas (the Apostle, S00199) in India; *Jude Thaddaeus (Apostle, one of the Twelve, S00792) in Africa [Libya]; *Philip, (the Apostle S00109) in Phrygia; *Titus (disciple of Paul, S01204) in Greece [Crete] and *Luke (the Evangelist, S00442) in Boeotia; *Mark (the Evangelist, S00293) in Alexandria; Cyprian (bishop and martyr of Carthage, S00411) in Carthage; *Ambrose (bishop of Milan, ob. 397, S00490) in Italy; *Vincent (deacon and martyr of Saragossa and Valencia, S00290) in Spain; *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) in Gaul; *Delphinus (Bishop of Bordeaux, ob. 403, S01852) in Aquitaine; and Andrew the Apostle and *Timothy (disciple of Paul, S01204) in Constantinople. These patrons all replace devotion to pagan deities.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Felix, priest and confessor of Nola (southern Italy) : S00000 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Andrew, the Apostle : S00288 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042 Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist : S00791 Thomas, the Apos

Saint Name in Source

Felix Paulus Petrus Andreas Johannes Matthaeus Thomas Thaddaeus Philippus Timoteus Lucas Marcus Cyprianus Ambrosius Vincentius Martinus Titus Delphinus

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

Italy south of Rome and Sicily Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Nola Cimitile

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

Nola Adriatic Sea Adriatic Sea Adriaticum Mare Cimitile Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Paulinus of Nola

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics – unspecified Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Unspecified relic

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles Precious cloths Flowers


The Natalicia are a series of poems which were composed by Paulinus of Nola (ob. 431), to be delivered annually on Felix’s feast day (14 January) between 395 and 408. These poems were composed and delivered before Paulinus became bishop of Nola. Natalicium 1 was composed in Spain whilst the rest of the poems were composed and delivered at Nola. They provide an insight into the development of the cult of Felix in Nola under Paulinus. They are often understood in the classical tradition of ‘birthday poems’ – in this case Felix’s birthday being the day he was reborn in heaven. Yet Roberts (2010) has argued they equally incorporate tropes from epideictic poetry and speeches delivered at public festivals. Additionally, Nat. 3 and 4 – sometimes called the Vita Felicis – draw on hagiographic tropes. The Natalicia have been re-edited in their original order by Dolveck (2015). The concordance with the numbering Wilhelm Hartel's earlier edition (1894) is offered below: Natalicium 1 (395) - Carmen 12 Natalicium 2 (396) - Carmen 13 Natalicium 3 (397) - Carmen 14 Natalicium 4 (398) - Carmen 15 Natalicium 5 (399) - Carmen 16 Natalicium 6 (400) - Carmen 18 Natalicium 7 (401) - Carmen 23 Natalicium 8 (402) - Carmen 26 Natalicium 9 (403) - Carmen 27 Natalicium 10 (404) - Carmen 28 Natalicium 11 (405) - Carmen 19 Natalicium 12 (406) - Carmen 20 Natalicium 13 (407) - Carmen 21 Natalicium 14 (408) - Carmen 29 For a fuller discussion of the Natalicia see E04741.


Paulinus' promotion of Felix as a saint with a special responsibility for Nola ought to be seen in the context of other fourth-century efforts to make certain saints patrons of cities. See for example Ambrose's promotion of *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313) as patrons (patroni) of Milan or Damasus' promotion of the Apostles *Peter (S00036) and *Paul (S00008) as especially Roman saints. Apostolic saints and martyrs are associated with specific regions or cities - usually the place where their bodies lay. Alongside these more ancient saints, Paulinus also associates more recently deceased saints with specific regions. The reference to Ambrose as a special saint of Milan in Nat. 9 (composed in 404) suggests that Ambrose was venerated as a saint very shortly after his death in 397. The reference in the same poem to Delphinus, the Bishop of Bordeaux - whose death in 403 was even more recent - may hint at a developing cult in this region. Yet perhaps this reference can be better explained by the fact that he baptised Paulinus in c. 388 in Aquitaine and corresponded with him throughout his life (see Paulinus, Letters 35, 10, 14, 19 and 20, written ca. 390-401).


Edition Dolveck, Franz, Carmina, Paulini Nolani, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015) no. 21, pp. 293 – 493. Translation P. G. Walsh, The Poems of Paulinus of Nola, Ancient Christian Writers (New York: Newman Press, 1975) pp. 73-105; 114-201; 209-220; 254-307. Further Reading Mratschek, Sigrid, ‘Multis enim notissima est sanctitas loci: Paulinus and the Gradual Rise of Nola as a Center of Christian Hospitality’, Journal of Early Christian Studies, 9(4) (2001) 511-53. Trout, Dennis, Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters and Poems (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975). Roberts, Michael, ‘Rhetoric and the Natalica of Paulinus of Nola’, Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica, 95(2) (2010), 53-69

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