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E05095: Paulinus of Nola, writing in Latin in c.400 and 401/2 in Nola (southern Italy), describes how both a courier and Sulpicius Severus resemble in their behaviour *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) and *Clarus (monk of Marmoutier, ob. c. 397, S00479). Paulinus also states that he and the courier wash the hands and feet of others in imitation of Martin.

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posted on 2018-02-19, 00:00 authored by frances
Paulinus of Nola, Letter 23.3-5 (to Sulpicius Severus)


Paulinus discusses the courier of the letter, Victor, a monk of Primuliacum.

Vere recognouimus in eo sanctorum formulam beatorum Martini et Clari, quem proximo interuallo inlustris magistri sequacem te auctore cognouimus.

‘I truly recognised in him the pattern of the blessed Martin and Clarus and shortly afterward I discovered from your letter that he has become a follower of the illustrious master.’

Paulinus continues to describe Victor’s virtues. One of these is humility – the courier would not allow Paulinus to wash his hands. Paulinus elaborates on this, saying that he had begun to do this in imitation of Martin.

Ex libro enim tuo istius gratiam seruitutis adamaui, ut minimam saltem guttulam de sacris Martini actibus delibarem. ipse uero cotidie non solum pedes meos lauare, sed et calciamenta, si paterer, tergere cupiebat, auarus dominationis internae et idcirco corporeae seruitutis inpiger.

‘For I have come to love this gesture of service mentioned in your book, so that I savoured at least this tiny part of the holy actions of Martin. Victor himself desired every day not only to wash my feet but also clean my sandals.’

Paulinus allowed him to do this because the Apostles had allowed Christ to wash their feet.

Paulinus of Nola, Letter 27.3

The couriers of a letter from Severus described to Paulinus the virtuous deeds and words of their master.

Totum in te spirare Martinum, florere Clarum, maturari euangelium praedicabant.

‘They proclaimed that in you Martin wholly breathes, Clarus blooms, and the Gospel is brought to ripeness’.

Text: Hartel 1894. Translation: Walsh 1966-7.
Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397 : S00050 Clarus, monk of Marmoutier, ob. c. 397 : S00479

Saint Name in Source

Martinus Clarus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy south of Rome and Sicily

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Nola Adriatic Sea Adriatic Sea Adriaticum Mare

Major author/Major anonymous work

Paulinus of Nola

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


Letter 23 in the letter collection of Paulinus of Nola (ob. 431). It is one of many letters which Paulinus addressed to aristocratic and ascetic Roman circles in the later fourth and early fifth centuries. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Paulinus did not curate any collection of his letters: instead collections were compiled by friends and admirers.


This letter dates from c. 400. In it, Paulinus refers to the Life of Martin of Tours, which Severus had sent to him in c.397 (E05093), and describes how he imitated certain behaviours he found in the text. In other letters, he praised this Life and described himself reading it aloud to honoured guests (E05103). Severus also played a role in the development of Clarus’ cult: his relics rested in the church at Primuliacum (modern Prémillac) in southern Gaul. The courier Victor appears in several other letters. He had previously been in the army in Gaul, before converting to the monastic life and acting as a courier for Severus.


Edition: Hartel, W., Sancti Pontii Meropii Paulini Epistulae, 2nd ed., revised M. Kamptner (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 29; Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, 1999). Translation: Walsh, P.G., Letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, vol. 2 (Ancient Christian Writers 35; Westminster MD: Newman Press, 1967). Further Reading: Conybeare, Catherine, Paulinus Noster: Self and Symbols in the Letters of Paulinus of Nola (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 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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