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E06520: Jerome describes how Paula travelled through Palestine in 385 and visited the tomb of *Lazarus (friend of Jesus, *S01417) and the home of *Mary and Martha (followers of Jesus and sisters of Lazarus, S01326) in Bethany; 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 108.12 ('Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae')

Ingressa sepulchrum Lazari Mariae et Marthae vidit hospitium et Bethfage, villam sacerdotalium maxillarum, et locum in quo pullus lasciviens gentium domini frena suscepit apostologrumque stratus vestibus mollia terga praebuit ad sedendum.

'She [Paula] entered Lazarus' tomb, saw the home of Mary and Martha as well as Bethphage, the "town of priestly jaws", and the place where the frisky foal, symbolizing the Gentiles, was fitted with the Lord's bridle and was draped with the apostles' garments and offered its soft back as a seat.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Lazarus, friend of Jesus : S01417 Maria and Martha of Bethany, sisters of Lazarus : S01326

Saint Name in Source

Lazarus Martha; Maria

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

Place associated with saint's life


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.


By the 4th century one cave in Bethany was identified by Christian tradition as the tomb from which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11). In the late 4th century the Lazarium church was built there, which was destroyed later by an earthquake and rebuilt in the 6th century. It is not clear if the Lazarium was already (being) built when Paula visited, since Jerome only mentions the grotto. Another grotto, know as the Cave of Bethany, located between Bethphage and the Lazarium church, was identified as the former home of Mary and Martha. Apparently the site was not venerated as a Christian site before the 4th 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: Taylor, J.E., Christians and the Holy Places: The Myth of Jewish-Christian Origins (Oxford, 1993).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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