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E05319: Maximus of Turin, in a Latin sermon composed in Turin, north Italy, between c. 390 and 408/423, praises *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) and compares his faith to a mustard seed.

online resource
posted on 2018-04-12, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Maximus of Turin, Sermons 24-25


Sermon 24
This sermon follows the reading which compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19). The small mustard seed appears mean, but when rubbed it gives off a powerful odour and taste. The Christian faith can be thought of in the same way. So too can the holy martyr Laurence: he was previously unknown, but his sufferings allowed him to glow in his martyrdom and spread his noble odour throughout all churches. The heat of mustard is also compared with Laurence’s manner of death: he was burned on an iron grate.

Sermon 25
This sermon does not refer explicitly to Laurence, but it is framed as a sequel to the previous sermon. Maximus emphasises the importance of humility and lamentation for all Christians. He ends by comparing the Christian Church to a tree. Christ, the Apostles *Peter (S00036) and *Paul (S00008), and the apostles and martyrs more generally, are all branches of this tree.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

Saint Name in Source


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)

Turin Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Maximus of Turin

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Torturers/Executioners


Maximus was bishop of late antique Turin, but the exact dates of his episcopate has been contested over the centuries. Gennadius of Marseille, writing in the late-fifth century, refers to a prominent bishop of Turin – called Maximus - who composed sermons on a variety of topics. According to Gennadius (De viris illustribus 41), this Maximus died in the reign of Honorius and the younger Theodosius, which would place Maximus’ death between 408 and 423. This was challenged in the early 17th century. Cardinal Baronius believed that the author of the sermons was the same Maximus who signed the acts of the Council of Milan in 451 and the Council of Rome in 465. He claimed that there was a mistake in Gennadius’ account: Maximus did not die, but instead ‘flourished’ (claruisse) between 408 and 423. Although this view was held until the end of the 19th century, it is now widely accepted that there were two bishops of Turin called Maximus, and that the author of the sermons did in fact die between 408 and 423. For a full overview of this argument, see Mutzenbecher’s preface to her critical edition of Maximus’ sermons. Mutzenbecher’s edition contains 119 sermons, of which 106 are viewed as authentic. 89 of these apparently constituted the collection available to Gennadius in Marseille at the end of the fifth century. These sermons were preached to the congregation in Turin on a variety of different topics. Many of them were preached to celebrate the feast day of a specific saint. Andreas Merkt has identified three main motivations guiding Maximus’ sermons on the saints. Firstly, he argues that Maximus preached on saints to provide examples for his congregation to follow. Secondly, that Maximus uses stories of martyrdom to communicate messages about the importance of Christ’s passion and the nature of the Eucharist to his congregation. Thirdly, Merkt argues that the saints Maximus focused on reflect his view on the ideal structure of the Church: he emphasises the primacy of Peter and Paul and the Roman church.


Although these sermons are not direct evidence of Laurence’s cult in Turin, other sermons preached by Maximus demonstrate that Laurence’s feast day was celebrated in the late-fourth-century city (see E05318). There are parallels between this passage and Ambrose of Milan’s characterisation of *Nabor and Felix (soldiers and martyrs, buried in Milan, S00609) and *Victor (‘Maurus’/the Moor, soldier and martyr of Milan, S00312) as mustard seeds in his Homilies on Luke, preached around 386 (see the discussion of E05214). It is possible this image influenced Maximus’ representation of Laurence.


Edition: Mutzenbecher, A., Maximi episcopi Taurinensis Collectionem sermonum antiquam (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 23; Turnhout: Brepols, 1962). Translation: Ramsey, B., The Sermons of Maximus of Turin (Ancient Christian Writers 50; Westminster MD: Newman Press, 1989). Further Reading: Lizzi, R., "Ambrose’s Contemporaries and the Christianisation of Northern Italy," Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990), 156-173. Merkt, A., Maximus I. von Turin. Die Verkündigung eines Bischofs der frühen Reichskirche im zeitgeschichtliche liturgischen Kontext (Leiden:Brill, 1997).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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