University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E05208: Ambrose of Milan, writing in Latin in Milan (northern Italy) in c.386, in his sermon Contra Auxentium (Against Auxentius) refers to his visits to tombs of unspecified *martyrs (S00060) of Milan.

online resource
posted on 2018-03-18, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Ambrose of Milan, Letter 75a.15 (Contra Auxentium)

Ego ipse non cottidie vel visitandi gratia prodibam vel pergebam ad martyres?

‘Have I not been in the habit of going out every day, going to visit people, or going to the martyrs’ tombs?’

Text: Zelzer 1982. Translation: Liebeschuetz 2005.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Milan Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Ambrose of Milan

Cult activities - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic


This sermon was preached in the midst of a conflict with the imperial court – presided over by the empress Justina - over the court's use of churches in Milan. In 385 Ambrose was asked to hand over a Milanese basilica, the Basilica Portiana, for for the emperor's use. Since the imperial family subscribed to the Arian/Homoian creed, Ambrose refused. His church was surrounded by soldiers and he came under pressure to leave Milan. This conflict bubbled on into the following year. A law, which allowed freedom of assembly for Homoians, was passed and Ambrose was summoned to debate with Auxentius, Ambrose's Homoian predecessor as bishop of Milan. Ambrose refused and preached Contra Auxentium, which described the conflict of the previous year. This conflict continued into the following year as the imperial court demanded the use of two Milanese basilicas - the Basilica Nova and the Basilica Portiana - to celebrate Easter in 386. Again, Ambrose refused and received support from the people of Milan who occupied the Portiana and kidnapped an Homoian priest at the start of Holy Week. A tense week followed as Nicene Christians loyal to Ambrose occupied the besieged Basilica Nova. Troops surrounded both this church and the Basilica Vetus, in which Ambrose celebrated mass. Punitive measures were enacted against Ambrose’s prominent supporters, many of whom were fined and imprisoned. By the end of Holy Week, the imperial court rescinded their claim on the basilicas and withdrew all troops. The discovery of the relics of the martyrs *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313) in June 386 – and the triumphant ceremony which accompanied their translation and deposition in the newly built Basilica Ambrosiana in Milan – is often seen as the closing act of this conflict which finally secured Ambrose’s victory (see E05211.).


The martyrs referred to here may well be *Nabor and Felix (soldiers and martyrs, buried in Milan, S00609). Ambrose referred to these martyrs in other writings (for example in his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 7.1952) and it was near this shrine that he discovered the relics of Gervasius and Protasius in June 386 (E05211).


Edition: Zelzer, M., Sancti Ambrosii Opera: Epistulae et Acta (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 82.3; Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1982). Translation: Liebeschuetz, J. H. W. G., Ambrose of Milan: Political Letters and Speeches (Translated Texts for Historians 43; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005). Further Reading: Kaufman, P.I., "Diehard Homoians and the Election of Ambrose," Journal of Early Christian Studies 5:3 (1997), 421-440, with responses from Daniel Williams and Neil McLynn, ibid. 441-450. McLynn, N., Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). Williams, D., Ambrose of Milan and the End of the Arian-Nicene Conflicts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager