Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2107
Presbyter Paulinus, later bishop of Nola, writes to Presbyter Sulpicius Severus from Primuliacum (Gaul). Paulinus sends to Sulpicius relics of the True Cross for his newly built basilica in Primuliacum. Paulinus of Nola, Letter 31, AD 402/403.
Letter 31 to Sulpicius Severus
1. Frater Victor inter alias operum tuorum et uotorum narrationes retulit nobis desiderare te ad basilicam, quam modo apud Primuliacum nostram maiorem priore condideris, de sacris sanctorum reliquiis benedictionem, qua adornetur domestica tua ecclesia, ut fide et gratia tua dignum est. Testis est autem dominus quod, si uel scripulum sacri cineris habuissemus supra quam nobis ad basilicam, quae proxime in nomine domini consummabitur, dedicandam necessarium erit, misissemus unanimitati tuae; sed quia nos non habuimus huius muneris copiam et ille se spem eiusdem gratiae copiosam habere dixit a sancta Siluia, quae illi de multorum ex Oriente martyrum reliquiis spopondisset, inuenimus quod digne et ad basilicae sanctificationem uobis et ad sanctorum cinerum cumulandam benedictionem mitteremus, partem particulae de ligno diuinae crucis. Quod nobis bonum benedicta Melanius ab Hierusalem munere sancti inde episcopi Iohannis adtulit, hoc specialiter sorori nostrae uenerabili Bassulae misit conserua communis; sed quod alteri uestrum datur utriusque uestrum est, quia in utroque uestrum una ratio manet et sexum euacuat fides, qua in uirum perfectum ambo concurritis. [...]
2. Non autem uobis et hoc scribimus, ut imitemini conpositionem istam, qua tubello aureolo rem tantae benedictionis inclusimus. Magis enim nos tali paratu fidem uestram imitati sumus, ut uestram uobis formulam mitteremus in specie auri, quia scimus uos ut aurum ignitum intra uos habere regnum dei hoc est fidem crucis, qua regnum caelorum inuaditur.
(ed. de Hartel 1894: 267-269)
Letter 31 to Sulpicius Severus
Paulinus greets his holy and loving brother Severus.
1. In telling me of your other activities and desires, our brother Victor has reported to me that you desire for our basilica, which you have built in the village of Primuliacum on bigger lines than your previous one, some blessed object from the sacred relics of the saints, with which to adorn your family church in a manner worthy of your faith and service. The Lord is my witness that if I had even the smallest measure of sacred ashes over and above what we shall find necessary for the dedication of the basilica soon to be completed here in the Lord's name, I should have sent it to you, my loving brother. But because I did not possess abundance of such a gift, and because Victor said that he had great hope of a similar favour from the holy Silvia who had promised him some of the relics of many eastern martyrs, I have found instead a fragment of a sliver of wood of the holy Cross to send you as a worthy gift. This will enhance both the consecration of your basilica and your holy collection of sacred ashes. This goodly gift was brought to me from Jerusalem by the blessed Melania, a gift of the holy bishop John there; my fellow servant Therasia has sent it specially to our venerable sister Bassula. Though presented to one of you, it belongs to you both, for you are both animated by a single vocation, and the faith which brings you together into a perfect man empties you of your sex. [...]
2. But I do not also bid you imitate the arrangement by which I have enclosed the relic, which imparts a great blessing, in a golden casing. Rather in this adornment I have imitated your faith. I sent you your own exemplar clothed with gold, for I know that you have within you, like gold tried in the fire, the kingdom of God: in other words, faith in the cross, by which we enter the kingdom of heaven.
(trans. Walsh 1966: 2.125-126)


This letter was sent after Melania the Elder visited Nola and before Sulpicius' basilica was dedicated, hence in 402 or 403.
Melania the Elder visited Nola after she came back from Jerusalem (where she lived for twenty-seven years) in the very end of the 4th century.
Primuliacum was one of Sulpicius' estates that he did not sell when he was rejecting his wealth [2095]. Its exact location was lost. Recently, Frank Riess (Riess 2013: 66-69) has, once again, proposed the identification of Primuliacum with Elusio, present-day Monferrand, which Paulinus mentions in his first letter to Sulpicius ([2055]). The hypothesis that it also served as the later site of Sulpicius’ monastery is strengthened by the recent excavations of two 4th- or 5th-century basilicas, positioned side by side, just as in Primuliacum (see the beginning of letter 32 [2108]).
Bassula was Sulpicius' mother-in-law, see letter 3 of Sulpicius which is addressed to her, [980].

Place of event:

  • Italy south of Rome and Sicily
  • Gaul
  • East
  • Nola
  • Primuliacum
  • Jerusalem

About the source:

Author: Paulinus of Nola
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Nola (Italy south of Rome and Sicily)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Paulinus of Nola (Pontius Metropius Paulinus) was born into a very affluent family ca 335. Although most of his estates were located near Bordeaux in Gaul, he was appointed the governor of Campania in his early twenties. He then returned to Gaul. In 389, after being baptized, Paulinus and his wife moved to Spain. They both started to follow a semi-monastic way of life. Following the death of his newborn son, Paulinus was ordered a presbyter at Christmas 394. In 395, Paulinus established a monastery in Nola in Campania. He served as a bishop of that city from 409 till his death in 431. Paulinus corresponded with many principal Christian intellectuals of the era, including Sulpicius Severus, Jerome, Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine of Hippo. Of this rich epistolographic corpus, however, only fifty-one letters survived. For the list of all letters Paulinus sent as a presbyter, and their addressees, see [2059].
G. de Hartel ed., S. Pontii Meropii Paulini Nolani opera, vol. 1 Epistulae, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 29, Prague-Wien-Leipzig 1894.
Letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, trans. P.G. Walsh, Ancient Christian Writers 35, New York 1966.
F. Riess, Narbonne and its Territory in Late Antiquity. From the Visigoths to the Arabs, Farnham-Burlington, VT 2013.


Writing activity - Correspondence
Ecclesiastical administration - Construction/Renovation
Economic status and activity - Indication of wealth
Economic status and activity - Gift
Relation with - Another presbyter
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Relation with - Noble
Relation with - Woman
Devotion - Veneration of saints and relics
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: J. Szafranowski, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2107,