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E06491: Jerome describes how Paula travelled through Palestine in 385 and visited: Antipatris, place of imprisonment of *Paul (the Apostle, S00008); Lydda/Diospolis, associated with a visit and a healing by Paul; Arimathea, hometown of *Joseph of Arimathea (New Testament figure, S01787); Nob, burial-site of *Eighty-five priests (killed by Saul in the Old Testament, S02453); Joppa, associated with *Jonah (Old Testament Prophet, S01237); and Nicopolis/Emmaus, where Jesus consecrated as a church the house of *Cleopas (pupil of Jesus, S00249). Letter 108, written in Latin, in 404, in Bethlehem.

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posted on 2018-09-13, 00:00 authored by Philip
Jerome of Stridon, Letter 108.8 ('Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae')

Dein Antipatrida, semirutum oppidulum, quod patris ex nomine Herodes uocauerat, et Lyddam uersam in Diospolim, dorcadis atque Aeneae resurrectione ac sanitate inclitam, haut procul ab ea Arimathiam, uiculum Ioseph, qui dominum sepeliuit, et Nob, urbem quondam sacerdotum, nunc tumulos occisorum, Ioppen quoque, fugientis portum Ionae et - ut aliquid perstringam de fabulis poetarum - religatae ad saxum Andromedae spectatricem, repetitoque itinere Nicopolim, quae prius Emmaus uocabatur, apud quam in fractione panis cognitus dominus Cleopae domum in ecclesiam dedicauit.

'Then she visited Antipatris, a little town partly in ruins which Herod had named after his father, and then she went to Lydda, whose name had been changed to Diospolis, a place renowned for the resurrection of Dorcas and the healing of Aeneas. She visited nearby Arimathea, the village of Joseph, who buried the Lord, and Nob, once a city of priest but now the site of the tombs in which their slain bodies lie. She also saw Joppa, the seaport from which Jonah had taken flight and which – if I may just briefly mention a figment of the poets – witnessed Andromeda being bound to a rock. Doubling back on the road she came to Nicopolis, which used to be called Emmaus and where the Lord, recognized for who he was after the breaking of bread, consecrated Cleopas' house as a church.'

Text: Hilberg 1996 (1912). Translation: Cain 2013.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Jonah, Old Testament Prophet : S01237 Joseph of Arimathea, New Testament figure : S01787 Cleopas, pupil of Jesus : S00249 Eightyfive priests of Nob : S02453 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Iona Ioseph Cleopas sacerdotes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Bethlehem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jerome of Stridon

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



In the second half of 404 Jerome composed an Epitaph for his late friend and patron, Paula, which was transmitted to us as letter 108. The work depicts Paula as an example for ascetic women and bears features of hagiography. Paula died on 26 January 404 in Bethlehem. She was the descendant of a Roman aristocratic family, who traced their lineage back to the Gracchi and Scipiones. She was dedicated to the western ascetic movement and had spent more than twenty years by the side of Jerome of Stridon, whom she had followed with her daughter Eustochium to the Holy Land in 385, where they founded a monastery and a convent in Bethlehem. Paula was not only Jerome's most faithful companion, but also his biggest sponsor. Jerome's Letter 108.8-13 describes Paula's pilgrimage through the Holy Land, which lasted from late winter 385 to late spring 386.


One part of the epitaph, from which this extract is taken, describes Paula's journey to holy places, especially to those in Palestine, but also elsewhere. The fact that Paula visited the following places on her pilgrimage suggests that some kind of cultic activity could have been found there, though this is not explicit in the text: Antipatris is a place of Paul's imprisonment (Acts 23:31). The precise location of ancient Arimathea is unknown, but Eusebius and Jerome identified it with Ramah or Remphthis. Joseph of Arimathea was famous, because in all four gospels he asks to bury Jesus (Mt. 27:57-60; Mk. 15:43-6; Lk. 23:50-3; Jn. 19:38-42). Lydda (Lod in Hebrew, Diospolis in Greek) is famous for the healing of Aeneas by Paul during his second missionary journey (Acts 9:32-4). Here the apostle also received word from the Christians of Joppa that Dorcas (Tabitha in Greek) had died. He goes there and raises her from the dead (Acts 9:36-42). Jerome does not mention the cult of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259), which was later firmly established in Diospolis. This could be evidence that the cult had not yet emerged; however, Paula's visit (as described by Jerome) was exclusively to biblical sites, so it is possible that she simply didn't visit an existing shrine to George (or that Jerome chose to ignore such a visit). The town Nob is described in the Book of Samuel (1 Sam 22:19) as a 'town of priests' with a temple. The priest Ahimelech helps *David (Old Testament king of Israel, S00269) to hide there from King Saul. When the latter finds out about the aid, he takes revenge by slaughtering everybody in Nob, including women, children, and animals (1 Sam. 22:11-19). The purported tombs of the priests may have been a cult site at the time of Paula's visit. Joppa was famous for Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, as he tried to flee from God by ship from Joppa (Jon. 1:3). The following reference unambiguously indicates cultic activity: Cleopas conversed with Jesus after the Lord's resurrection, on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-34), a place which Jerome (after Eusebius) identified as Nicopolis. The church mentioned here is the earliest reference to a church in Nicopolis. Archaeological excavations could only prove a church in the 5th or 6th century.


Edition: Hilberg, I., Hieronymus, Epistulae 71-120 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 55; Vienna, 1996). Translation and commentary: Cain, A., Jerome's Epitaph on Paula: A Commentary on the Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae (Oxford, 2013). Further Reading: Stern, E., Lewinsona-Gilboa, A., and Aviram, J. (eds.), The New Encyclopedia of Archeological Excavations in the Holy Land, I-IV (Jerusalem, 1993), 2.363-4.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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