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E05338: Gaudentius of Brescia composes a Latin sermon (Sermon 17) in Brescia, northern Italy, in c. 402/3, on the dedication of a basilica to *John (the Baptist, S00020), *Andrew (the Apostle, S00288), *Thomas (the Apostle, S00199), *Luke (the Evangelist, S00442), *Gervasius and Protasius (martyrs of Milan, S00313), *Nazarius (martyr of Milan, S00281), the *Anaunian Martyrs (Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander, ob. c. 397, S00605), and the *Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (S00103).

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posted on 2018-04-16, 00:00 authored by frances
Gaudentius of Brescia, Sermon 17

The congregation are blessed with holy gifts:

Nam ut venerandas sanctorum reliquias haberemus, deus noster tribuit; deinde, ut hanc honori eorum fundare basilicam valeremus, ipse largitus est.

‘For our God has granted that we might have the relics of saints for veneration. He has given that we might be able to lay the foundation of this basilica in their honour.’

Gaudentius then refers to the fact that the actions of barbarians mean that many in the congregation and several bishops are not present. He then lists the saints whose relics are to be honoured. These include John the Baptist, the precursor of Christ who was ‘angel, apostle and chief prophet’ (angelus, apostolus et propheta praecipuus); the apostles Andrew and Thomas; and the Evangelist Luke.

Horum quattuor beatas habemus in praesenti reliquias, qui regnum dei et iustitiam praedicantes ab incredulis et iniquis occisi deo semper vivere operationum suarum virtutibus demonstrantur. Iohannes in Sebastena urbe provinciae Palaestinae, Thomas apud Indos, Andreas et Lucas apud Patras Achaiae civitatem consummati referuntur.

‘We have at present relics of these blessed four. As proclaimers of the kingdom of God and his justice slain by unbelievers and wicked men they are shown by the power of their works to live always with God. John is reported to have been put to death in Sebaste, a town in the province of Palestine, Thomas among the Indians, Andrew and Luke at Patras, a town of Achaia’.

The church also possesses blood from Gervasius, Protasius and Nazarius – discovered by Ambrose in Milan. Nothing more is needed, as this blood is the witness of suffering. Additionally, it possesses ashes (cineres)of Sisinnius, Martyrius and Alexander, who were killed in Anaunia (the Val di Non, northern Italy) as they practiced the Christian religion. They were burned.

As well as the relics of these ten saints, Gaudentius also has the relics of the forty martyrs who were famed in Caeserea (of Cappadocia). A monastery of virgins had received relics of these martyrs from ‘their maternal uncle, the high priest and blessed confessor Basil (of Caesarea)’ (Quibus ab avunculo suo summo sacerdote ac beato confessore Basilio). Gaudentius relates how he received the relics of these forty martyrs from the virgins. He then narrates the martyrdom of the forty martyrs, even if he is – as he claims – far less eloquent than Basil. The martyrs were soldiers stationed in lesser Armenia. They were Christian and refused to recant when pressed by the emperor. They were tortured by being forced to remain outside, naked, in freezing weather. One man gave in and was led to the baths, but all the others were received by a heavenly host. A witness to this event also tore off his clothes and declared he was a Christian. He was the fortieth martyr. As the bodies were being taken off to be burned, one man was left behind as he was still alive. His mother loaded him on to the cart so he might be burned with the other martyrs. Gaudentius states that he is confident they possess the ashes of all forty of the martyrs.

Since the community have relics of fifty saints, Gaudentius states that the basilica ought to be named 'The Council of Saints’ (Concilium Sanctorum). The faithful can now petition these saints to intercede on their behalf.

Text: Glück 1936. Translation: Boehrer 1965.
Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thomas, the Apostle : S00199 Luke, the Evangelist : S00442 Anaunian Martyrs (Sisinnius, Martyrius, Alexander), ob. c. 397 : S00605 John the Baptist : S00020 Gervasius and Protasius, martyrs of Milan : S00313 Nazarius and Celsus, companion martyr

Saint Name in Source

Thomas Lucas Sisinnius, Alexander, Martyrius Iohannes Gervasius, Protasius Nazarius Andreas Quadraginta martyres

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)

Brescia Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gaudentius of Brescia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Soldiers Torturers/Executioners Monarchs and their family Women Relatives of the saint

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic Bodily relic - corporeal ashes/dust Bodily relic - blood Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


A sermon of Gaudentius of Brescia. Gaudentius was ordained bishop of Brescia by Ambrose of Milan at some time between 384 (the earliest possible date of the death of his predecessor, Philastrius) and 397 (the year of Ambrose’s death). He was bishop of Brescia for at least fourteen years. During this time, he authored several tracts, many of which were intended to be preached to his congregation in Brescia. The dating of the work to 402/3 is based on the reference to the actions of the barbarians, who threatened Brescia. This most likely refers to gothic incursions into northern Italy, under Alaric, which took place in 401 and 402.


This consecration should be viewed in the context of other, similar consecration ceremonies which took place in northern Italy in the later fourth century. In each case, the relics of saints were deposited in the altar of the church. See for example references to Ambrose consecrating churches in this way in Milan (E05211) and Florence (E05209); or Chromatius consecrating a church in this way in Concordia, near Aquileia (E05301). Additionally, the relics listed here are similar to those present in Concordia, which was also consecrated using the relics of the apostles Thomas and Andrew, John the Baptist and Luke the Evangelist. The relics of Gervasius, Protasius and Nazarius were no doubt sent by Ambrose, who sent relics of these same martyrs to Nola (southern Italy) (E05104) and Rouen (Gaul) (E00717).


Text: Glück, A., Tractatus XXI. Gaudentius Brixiensis (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 68; Vienna, 1936). Translation: Boehrer, S., Gaudentius of Brescia: Sermons and Letters (Studies in Sacred Theology Second Series: Doctoral Dissertation, 165; Washington D.C., 1965) Further Reading: Lizzi, R., "Ambrose’s Contemporaries and the Christianization of Northern Italy," Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990) 156-173. Truzzi, C., Zeno, Gaudenzio e Cromazio. Testi e contenuti della predicaione Cristiana per le chiese di Verona, Brescia e Aquileia (360 – 410 ca.) (Brescia: Paideia, 1985).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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