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E05455: Proclus of Constantinople composes his Homily 26, On the *Innocents (children killed by Herod, S00268), which he delivers during the inauguration of their church at Constantinople, which had been built by a widow. Written in Greek in the early 5th c.

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posted on 2018-05-17, 00:00 authored by erizos
Proclus of Constantinople Homily 26, On the Innocents and the Widow who established their church and festival (CPG 5825 = BHG 827f)

The text refers in a rhetorical manner to the martyrdom of the Innocents and the cruelty of the murder ordered by Herod. the last three paragraphs (6-8) refer to the founder of the shrine, who is described as a wealthy widow.

6. (23) Καὶ ἐτεκνώσατο χήρα τὰ τοῦ Κυρίου νήπια. Εὗρεν τόκον ἄνευ φθορᾶς καὶ ὠδῖνα ἄνευ ὠδῖνος καὶ ἐτέκνωσεν οὐ φύσει ἀλλὰ προθέσει. (24) Τοιγαροῦν θαύμασον μεγαλοψυχίαν, τὴν τοῦ οἴκου βλέπων εὐπρέπειαν, καὶ βλέπε χήρας φιλοτιμίαν, πᾶσαν ὑπερβαίνουσαν ὑπατείαν. (25) Ἀνήλωσεν πλοῦτον ἵνα τεκνώσηται μάρτυρας, ἐδαπάνησεν τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ἵνα συλήσῃ τὰ οὐράνια, ἀπέβαλεν τὸν ἄνδρα ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχήρευσεν τῇ πίστει· ἤγειρεν οἶκον ἵνα ἀντιλάβῃ παράδεισον, ἐξενοδόχησεν ἁγίους ἵνα μισθώσηται συνηγόρους. (26) Ἀσμενίζει τὴν χηρείαν ἐπειδὴ ποθεῖ τὴν βασιλείαν, ὅπως εὕροι εὐγνώμονας κληρονόμους καὶ μὴ κολακεύοντας διαδόχους.

'And the widow adopted the Lord's infants. She found a harmless way of giving birth and a painless form of labour, and had children, not physically, but by choice. Therefore, admire her generosity, as you see the splendour of the building, and behold the widow's benefaction, which surpasses every consul's largess. She consumed her wealth, in order to adopt the martyrs! She lost her husband, but did not become a widow to the faith. She erected a church, in order to receive back heaven. She hosted saints, in order to hire them as advocates. She willingly endures her widowhood, because she desires the Kingdom, and in order to have grateful heirs, and successors who will not be fawners.'

Text: Leroy 1967. Summary and translation: E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Innocents, children killed on the orders of Herod : S00268

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Proclus of Constantinople

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Anniversary of church/altar dedication

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Women Children Aristocrats


The life and career of Proclus of Constantinople (c. 380-446) are closely tied into the vibrant intellectual life and tumultuous ecclesiastical politics of Constantinople under the Theodosian dynasty. He was born around AD 380 in Constantinople, where he was trained in rhetoric. An associate of John Chrysostom, his clerical career started under bishop Atticus of Constantinople (406-425) whom he served as a secretary and author of his sermons, and by whom he was ordained to the priesthood. He was elected bishop of Cyzicus in 426, but never took up residence at his see, and continued to reside at Constantinople. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the episcopal throne of Constantinople in 426, 427, and 431, till he was appointed to it at the death of bishop Maximian (431-434). Proclus’ main claim to fame was his celebrated sermons on the Virgin Mary, which he delivered during the episcopate of Nestorius, and which became fundamental texts for the Christology and Mariology of the Council of Ephesus (431). Most of his surviving works are homiletic, on the major feast days of the Church of Constantinople, whose liturgical tradition and calendar were then taking their shape. The relatively small corpus of his genuine works has not been fully assembled yet, and there are a number of dubious or spurious works ascribed to him. This homily is preserved in one manuscript, on which see Leroy 1967, 174, and:


This sermon was probably preached during the consecration ceremony, or the patronal feast, of a shrine dedicated to the infants massacred by Herod, which was built by a wealthy widow. In 448, we find a priest and archimandrite (abbot) of the shrine of the Innocents (τὸ μαρτύριον τῶν Νηπίων) among the signatories of the deposition of Eutyches. This is very probably the same shrine, suggesting that it was developing into a monastic house. The shrine is likely to be the Monastery of the Infants (μονὴ τῶν Νηπίων) which is mentioned in the 10th century De Caeremoniis (append. ad I; Bonn p. 496) as being in the quarter of Salloustios, west of the palace of Hebdomon. Since no other shrine of this dedication is attested in Constantinople, it is plausible to assume that this is the church dedicated by Proclus. Raymond Janin (1969, 55-56, 366) believed that the Monastery of the Innocents was the same as the shrine of *Babylas in the Salloustios quarter (mentioned in the Synaxarium of Constantinople), identifying the Innocents as the boys who accompanied Babylas of Antioch in his martyrdom. However, our text demonstrates that the dedication refers to the Holy Innocents, and the two shrines must have been different. The title of the text suggests that the anonymous widow, besides founding the church, also established the feast of the Holy Innocents in Constantinople. The date of that feast is not named. The later Byzantine tradition celebrated it as a part of Christmastide, on 29 December. The text is preserved in a late manuscript as a reading for that feast. The text provides no evidence for its precise date, but it is likely to stem from Proclus' episcopate at Constantinople, if it indeed was preached at the dedication ceremony of the new shrine.


Text, French translation, and commentary: Leroy, F.J., L'homilétique de Proclus de Constantinople (Studi e Testi 247; Città del Vaticano, 1967), 174-183. Further reading: Constas, N.P., Proclus of Constantinople and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity: Homilies 1-5, Texts and Translations (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 66; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2003). Janin, R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire byzantin. I 3: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople 2nd ed. (Paris, 1969).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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