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E05215: A hymn, almost certainly by Ambrose of Milan, is written in Latin in Milan (northern Italy) after 386 (Grates tibi, Iesu, nouas). It is dedicated to *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313).

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posted on 2018-03-19, 00:00 authored by frances
Ambrose of Milan, Grates tibi, Iesu, nouas

Grates tibi, Iesu, nouas
noui repertor muneris
Protasio Geruasio
martyribus inuentis cano.

Piae latebant hostiae, [5]
sed non latebat fons sacer;
latere sanguis non potest,
qui clamat ad Deum Patrem.

Caelo refulgens gratia
artus reuelauit sacros; [10]
nequimus esse martyres,
sed repperimus martyres.

Hic quis requirat testium
uoces, ubi factum est fides?
Sanatus impos mentium [15]
opus fatetur martyrum.

Caecus recepto lumine
mortis sacrae meritum probat.
Seuerus est nomen uiro,
usus minister publici. [20]

Vt martyrum uestem attigit
et ora tersit nubila,
lumen refulsit ilico
fugitque pulsa caecitas.

Soluta turba uinculis, [25]
spiris draconum libera,
emissa totis urbibus
domum redit cum gratia.

Vetusta saecla uidimus,
iactata semicinctia [30]
tactuque et umbra corporum
aegris salutem redditam.

‘To you, O Jesus, I sing new thanks,
I who unearthed a new gift
when the martyrs Protasius
and Gervasius were discovered.

The pious victims were lying hidden, [5]
but the holy source was not concealed;
for the blood that cries
to God the Father cannot be hidden.

Grace shining in the sky
revealed their holy limbs; [10]
we cannot be martyrs,
but we discover martyrs.

What sort of person would demand
witnesses’ reports, when what has happened is proof?
The healing of those who lost their sense [15]
acknowledges the work of the martyrs.

The blind man who received his sight
proves the value of their holy death.
The man’s name is Severus,
He is employed as a servant of the state. [20]

As he touched the martyrs’ garb
and he rubbed his cloudy eyes,
immediately his eyes shone
and blindness, beaten, fled.

The crowd was released from chains, [25]
And freed from the serpents’ coils,
they emerged from all the cities
and returned home with thanks.

We saw again the days of old
Semi-girdles were thrown off, [30]
and by the touch and shadow of the bodies
health was restored to the weak.’

Text: Fontaine 1992. Translation: Dunkle 2016, adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Gervasius and Protasius, martyrs of Milan : S00313

Saint Name in Source

Gervasius, Protasius

Type of Evidence

Liturgical texts - Hymns


  • 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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people Heretics Officials

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes Bodily relic - blood Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


This hymn was most likely composed to be sung on the feast day of Gervasius and Protasius. In this hymn Ambrose recounts many of the events which he described in Letter 77 (E05211). Ambrose discovered the relics of these previously unknown martyrs before the shrine of *Nabor and Felix (soldiers and martyrs, buried in Milan, S00609). Their bones,which were discovered amongst much blood, effected several miracles and were translated to the newly built Basilica Ambrosiana in Milan. The doubters referred to are the Homoian/Arian Christians, with whom Ambrose had being in conflict throughout 385 and 386. The revelation of the two martyrs to the Nicene Christians demonstrated that they followed the true faith. This hymn is one of several, which is attributed to Ambrose and dedicated to saints. The majority of these saints are martyrs with a special connection with Rome, or in this case, Milan. As a group, they can be associated with the conflict with the Homoian/Arian Christians in Milan in the 380s, which came to a head with the conflict over the basilicas in 385 and 386 (for a full account of this conflict see the discussion on E05211). In his Confessions, Augustine referred to the way Ambrose encouraged the congregation to sing together ‘in the eastern manner’ (mores orientalium, Confessions 9.7) during this period. Scholars have identified many motivations which led to the composition of these hymns, and it is likely they served multiple purposes. The hymns promoted a specifically Nicene form of Christianity and were likely composed by Ambrose to respond to doctrinal rivals. This is a view promoted by Brian Dunkle and Daniel Williams. The hymns on the martyrs in particular should be seen in the context of Ambrose’s use of the cult of the martyrs to bolster his own authority in the conflicted Milanese church. He also sought to connect his Nicene followers with the Roman church, in contrast to the ‘foreign’ Homoian church. Additionally, they promoted a sense of unity and group identity amongst the singers, particularly in the face of a hostile Homoian sect. Michael Williams refers to this motivation as he draws parallels between the hymns and late Roman acclamations. The attribution of the hymns on the martyrs to Ambrose has been questioned over the years. Yet more recent work, especially by Cécile Lanéry has argued that the manuscript witness for the hymns supports the argument that they were composed by Ambrose.


Edition: Fontaine, J., Ambroise de Milan: Hymnes (Paris: Cerf, 1992). Translation: Dunkle, B., "Appendix," in: Enchantment and Creed in the Hymns of Ambrose of Milan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Further Reading: Dunkle, B., Enchantment and Creed in the Hymns of Ambrose of Milan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). Lanéry, C., Ambroise de Milan hagiographe (Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes, 2008). 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). Williams, M., The Politics of Heresy in Ambrose of Milan: Community and Consensus in Late Antique Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

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