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E06518: Jerome describes how Paula travelled through Palestine in 385 and visited 'the cells' of *Sarah (Old Testament matriarch, wife of Abraham, S00278), the oak tree of *Abraham (Old Testament patriarch, S00275), and the birthplace of *Isaac (Old Testament patriarch, S00276); Letter 108, written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine), 404.

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posted on 2018-09-17, 00:00 authored by Philip
Jerome of Stridon, Letter 108.11 ('Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae')

A Bethsur venit Eschol, quae in 'botruum' vertitur. Unde in testimonium terrae fertilissimae et typum eius qui dicit 'torcular calcavi solus et de gentibus vir non fuit mecum', exploratores botruum mirae magnitudinis portaverunt. Nec post longum spatium intravit Sarae cellulas videns incunabula Isaac et vestigia quercus Abraham, sub qua vidit diem Christi et laetatus est.

'From Beth Zur she came to Eshcol, meaning 'cluster of grapes', because spies brought back a cluster of grapes which proved the land was fertile and foreshadowed him who says: 'I have trodden the winepress alone and not a single man was with me'. Shortly thereafter she entered Sarah's cells and saw Isaac's birthplace and the remains of the oak tree beneath which Abraham foresaw the day that Christ would come and rejoiced.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sarah, Old Testament matriarch, wife of Abraham : S00278 Isaac, Old Testament patriarch : S00276 Abraham, Old Testament patriarch : S00275

Saint Name in Source

Sarra Isaac Abraham

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

Holy cave

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.


According to the Old Testament, the Israelites sent spies into their 'promised land' before invading it. The valley in which the spies obtained a cluster of grapes was called Eshcol (see Num. 13:23-24; 32:9; Deu. 1:24). It appears as a site on Paula's pilgrimage. The other mentioned sites refer to an area known as Mamre near Hebron. 'Sarah's cells' could suggest a convent of nuns.


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).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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