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E05096: Paulinus of Nola, writing in Latin in c.400 in Nola (southern Italy), refers to pilgrim accommodation at the basilica complex surrounding the tomb of *Felix (priest and confessor of Nola, S00000) at Nola/Cimitile, and to the singing of boys and virgins.

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posted on 2018-02-19, 00:00 authored by frances
Paulinus of Nola, Letter 29.13

Tugurium uero nostrum, quod a terra suspensum cenaculo una porticu cellulis hospitalibus interposita longius tenditur, quasi dilatatum gratia domini non solum sanctis illa plurimis, sed etiam diuitum illorum cateruis non incapaces angustias praebuit, in quo personis puerorum ac uirginum choris uicina dominaedii nostri Felicis culmina resultabant.

'We have a cottage here raised off the ground, which runs quite a distance along to the dining hall and had a colonnade separating it from the guest rooms. God in his kindness seemed to make this bigger, and it afforded modest but not too constricted accommodation not only for the numerous holy ladies who accompanied Melania, but also for the bands of rich people as well. The ringing choirs of boys and maidens in the cottage made the nearby roof of our patron Saint Felix resound'

Text: Hartel 1894. Translation: Walsh 1967.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

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

Saint Name in Source


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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Crowds Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


Letter 29 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.


This passage describes this religious singing in the context of an account of the visit to Nola/Cimitile in c.400 of *Melania the Elder (Roman aristocrat and monastic founder in Jerusalem, ob. AD 410, S01185). For a fuller account of this visit see E05102. In this visit, Melania and her entourage stayed in the rooms (cellae) provided for pilgrims. This pilgrim hostel -- constructed under Paulinus' supervision -- is described in more detail in E04768. Paulinus provides early evidence for the practice of singing hymns (see also E04741). Similar accounts can be found in Italy in a similar period. Paulinus himself refers to a Gallic hymnal which he received sometime after 398, in his Letter 41.1. Similarly, Augustine (bishop of Hippo, ob. 430) describes how, from 386, the congregation in Milan were encouraged by Ambrose (bishop of Milan, ob. 397) to sing hymns (Confessions, 9.15). Augustine suggests that this practice was instigated by Ambrose, and had originated in the East. For more on the hymns attributed to Ambrose, see the discussion of E05212.


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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