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E04769: Augustine of Hippo, in his treatise On the Care of the Dead of c. 420/422, narrates how *Felix (priest and confessor of Nola (southern Italy), S00000) miraculously appeared on the walls of Nola (southern Italy) when it was being attacked by barbarians. In this passage, he considers the nature of miracles. Written in Latin in Hippo Regius (North Africa).

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posted on 2018-01-30, 00:00 authored by frances
Augustine of Hippo, On the Care of the Dead, 19

Hinc et illa soluitur quaestio, quomodo martyres ipsis beneficiis, quae dantur orantibus, indicant se interesse rebus humanis, si nesciunt mortui, quid agant uiui. non enim solis beneficiorum effectibus, uerum ipsis etiam hominum aspectibus confessorem adparuisse Felicem, cuius inquilinatum pie diligis, cum a barbaris Nola obpugnaretur, audiuimus non incertis rumoribus, sed testibus certis. uerum ista diuinitus exhibentur longe aliter, quam sese habet usitatus ordo singulis creaturarum generibus adtributus. non enim quia in uinum aqua, cum uoluit dominus, repente conuersa est, ideo non debemus, quid aqua ualeat in elementorum ordine proprio, ab istius diuini operis raritate uel potius singularitate discernere; nec quoniam Lazarus resurrexit, ideo mortuus omnis, quando uult, surgit aut eo modo exanimis a uiuente quomodo a uigilante dormiens excitatur. alii sunt humanarum limites rerum, alia diuinarum signa uirtutum; alia sunt, quae naturaliter, alia, quae mirabiliter fiunt, quamuis et naturae deus adsit, ut sit, et miraculis natura non desit. non igitur ideo putandum est uiuorum rebus quoslibet interesse posse defunctos, quoniam quibusdam sanandis uel adiuuandis martyres adsunt, sed ideo potius intellegendum est, quod per diuinam potentiam martyres uiuorum rebus intersunt, quoniam defuncti per naturam propriam uiuorum rebus interesse non possunt.

'Hence too is solved that question, how is it that the Martyrs, by the very benefits which are given to them that pray, indicate that they take an interest in the affairs of men, if the dead know not what the quick are doing. For not only by effects of benefits, but in the very beholding of men, it is certain, that the confessor Felix (whose denizenship among you you piously love) appeared when the barbarians were attacking Nola, as we have heard not by uncertain rumours, but by sure witnesses. But such things are of God exhibited, far otherwise than as the usual order has itself, unto each kind of creatures apportioned. For it does not follow because water was, when it pleased the Lord, in a moment changed into wine, that we are not to regard the worth and efficacy of water in the proper order of the elements, as distinct from the rarity, or rather singularity, of that divine work: nor because Lazarus rose again, therefore that every dead man rises when he will; or that a lifeless man is raised up by a living, in the same way as a sleeping man by one who is awake. Other be the limits of human things, other the signs of divine virtues: other they be that are naturally, other that be miraculously done: albeit both unto nature God is present that it may be, and unto miracles nature is not lacking. We are not to think then, that to be interested in the affairs of the living is in the power of any departed who please, only because to some men's healing or help the Martyrs be present: but rather we are to understand that it must needs be by a Divine power that the Martyrs are interested in affairs of the living, from the very fact that for the departed to be by their proper nature interested in affairs of the living is impossible.'

Text: Zycha 1900. Translation: Browne 1887.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Felix, priest and confessor of Nola (southern Italy) : S00000

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hippo Regius

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

Hippo Regius Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miraculous protection - of church and church property

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Foreigners (including Barbarians) Soldiers


Augustine wrote the treatise On the Care of the Dead c. 420-422, in response to a letter in which Paulinus of Nola asked whether burials ad sanctos bring any profit to the dead. The response was nuanced. If Augustine rejected any direct advantage for such interments and argued that even the total lack of burial cannot affect directly the posthumous fate of the soul, he acknowledged that the practice can bring consolation to the living and indirectly help the dead for whom people visiting the graves of saints will pray.


This passage contains an interesting consideration of the nature of miracles and visions. Compare it with On the Care of the Dead 21, discussed in E01158. The protection Felix apparently provided Nola during the times of war is described in Paulinus of Nola's Natalica 8 and 13 (see E04741).


Edition: Zycha, J. De cura pro mortuis gerenda (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 41; Vienna: Tempsky, 1900), 619-660. English translation: Browne, H., On the Care of the Dead (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 3; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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