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E07234: In his Sermon 216, On the nativity of St. John the Baptist, Caesarius bishop of Arles (southern Gaul), explains and extols the feast of the nativity of *John the Baptist (S00020), and enjoins his congregation to behave appropriately. Written in Latin at Arles, 503/542.

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posted on 2018-12-30, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 216, In natale Sancti Iohannis Baptistae

Caesarius explains that this is the feast of the nativity of John (not the feast of his martyrdom), a unique honour for a saint:

1. Natalem sancti iohannis, fratres carissimi, hodie celebramus: quod nulli umquam sanctorum legimus fuisse concessum. Solius enim domini et beati Iohannis dies nativitatis in universo mundo celebratur et colitur [...]

'1. Today we are celebrating the day St. John was born, dearest brethren, something which we read has never been granted to any of the [other] saints. Only the birthday of our Lord and that of Blessed John are celebrated and honoured throughout the world ...'

John’s greatness is extolled, above that of all other men, but Caesarius also stresses his inferiority to Christ:

2. [...] Vt humiliaretur homo, eo die natus est iohannes, quo incipiunt decrescere dies; ut exaltetur deus, eo die natus est christus, quo incipiunt crescere dies. Magnum sacramentum, fratres dilectissimi: ideo celebramus natalem iohannis sicut et christi, quia ipsa nativitas plena est mysterio [...]

'... In order that man might be humbled, John was born on the same day that the days begin to grow shorter; in order that God might be exalted, Christ was born on the very day when the days begin to grow longer. It is a great mystery, dearly beloved, and for these reason we celebrate the birthday of John like that of Christ, because birth itself is full of mystery ...'

John’s greatness is further extolled, before Caesarius exhorts his congregation to behave properly before and at the feast:

4. [...] nec permittamus voluptuosos quosque sollemnitatem sanctam luxoriosa proferendo polluere. Tunc enim pro nobis sanctus iohannes quicquid petierimus poterit obtinere, si nos festivitatem suam pacificos, castos, sobrios absque ullo turpiloquio cognoverit celebrare.

'… let us not permit pleasure-seeking men to defile the sacred feast with sensual behaviours. Then St John will be able to obtain for us whatever we ask, if he knows that we are celebrating his feast as peaceable, chaste, and temperate men, free from any immodest speech.'

Text: Morin, vol. 2, 858-861. Translation: Mueller, vol. 3, 117-120, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Arles Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Caesarius of Arles

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)


After an early career as an ascetic monk, first at the island monastery of Lérins, Caesarius became bishop of Arles in 503, and held this post, through many political vicissitudes, until his death in 542 (for his Life see E06283). Caesarius acquired a considerable reputation as a preacher, delivering sermons in a straightforward style and language, with limited use of rhetorical effects; most of his sermons address issues of Christian morality and practice, and the handful that he delivered on the feast days of saints are often concerned with proper behaviour at their festivals. His sermons were popular, and are widely attested in the manuscript tradition. Germain Morin, the most recent collector and editor of his sermons, attributed nearly 250, in whole or in part, to Caesarius; many, according to Morin, are reworkings of earlier sermons, with shorter or longer additions by Caesarius. Although Morin's attributions are not always certain, we have accepted them without question, since to look into this issue is beyond the scope of our project. Morin divided the sermons into five groups: sermons or admonitions on various topics (1-80), sermons on Scripture (81-186), seasonal sermons (187-213), sermons on the saints and feast days (214-232), and sermons to monks (233-238).


The nativity of John the Baptist is celebrated on 24 June. This sermon in based on Augustine's Sermon 287 (E02345).


Edition: Morin, G., Sancti Caesarii Arelatensis sermones: nunc primum in unum collecti et ad leges artis criticae ex innumeris mss. recogniti (Corpus christianorum. Series Latina, 103-104; Turnholti: Brepols, 1953). Translations: Caesarius of Arles, Sermons, vol. 1-3, trans. M. Mueller (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 31, 47 and 66; Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2004). Césaire d’Arles, Sermons au peuple, vol. 1, ed. and transl. M.-J. Delage (Sources Chrétiennes, Volume 175; Paris: Éd. du Cerf, 1971), 13-216. Further reading: Klingshirn, W.E., Caesarius of Arles: the Making of a Christian Community in Late Antique Gaul (Cambridge, 1994).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity