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E07562: In two sermons, Sermons 13 and 55, Caesarius bishop of Arles (southern Gaul) inveighs against those who attend the feasts of saints only in order to drink, sing and dance. Written in Latin at Arles, 503/542.

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posted on 2019-05-20, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 55, Sermo castigatorius contra eos qui in festivitatibus per ebrietatem multa inhonesta committunt ….

2. Sunt et alii, qui pro hoc solo desiderant ad natalicia martyrum convenire, ut inebriando, ballando, verba turpia decantando, choros ducendo et diabolico more saltanto, et se subvertant, et alios perdant; et qui deberent exercere opus Christi, ministerium conantur implere diaboli. Istos tales non amor dei sed amor luxuriae ad festivitatem consuevit adducere: quia se non ad exemplum bonorum operum, non ad fidei medicamentum, sed ad venenum vel ad laqueum diaboli praeparare contendunt; et dum istos tales aliqui aut exspectare volunt aut imitari, animas suas in perpeua poena condemnant.

‘There are others who come to the feast days of the martyrs for this sole purpose, that they may destroy themselves and ruin others by getting drunk, dancing, singing shameful songs, leading the choral dance, and leaping about in a devilish fashion. While they should be doing the work of Christ, they are attempting to fulfil the service of the Devil. Not love of God but love of pleasure brings such people to the festival, because they do not prepare themselves to give a good example of good works or for the remedy of faith, but for the poison and snares of the Devil. If anyone wants to seek out and imitate these men, they condemn themselves to eternal punishment.’

Caesarius then also criticises those who pursue their lawsuits on festival days, when they ought to be in church.

Text: Morin, vol. 1, 242. Translation: Mueller, vol. 1, 271-2, modified.

Sermon 13, Sermo in parochiis necessarius:

4. sed magis vicinos et proximos vestros iugiter admonete, ut semper quod bonum est et honestum loqui studeant; ne forte detrahendo, male loquendo, et in sanctis festivitatibus choros ducendo, cantica luxuriosa et turpia proferendo, de lingua sua, unde deberent deum laudare, inde sibi vulnera videantur infligere. Isti enim infelices et miseri, qui ballatores et saltationes ante ipsas basilicas sanctorum exercere nec metuunt nec erubescunt, et si christiani ad ecclesiam veniunt, pagani de ecclesia revertuntur; quia ista consuetudo ballandi de paganorum observatione remansit.’

4. ‘Rather, continually admonish your neighbours and friends to endeavour to say what is good and honourable. Otherwise, perhaps, by calumny, evil speech, leading the chorus on the holy festivals, or singing dissolute and disgraceful songs, they may be seen to inflict wounds upon themselves with their own tongue which should be praising God. The unfortunate and miserable people who neither fear nor blush to dance and jig before the very churches of the saints, even if they come to church as Christians, return from it as pagans, because that kind of dancing has carried over from pagan practice.’

Text: Morin, vol.1, 67. Translation: Mueller vol. 2, 77-78, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Saints, unnamed : S00518 Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

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 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).


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).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity