Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2145
Presbyter Paulinus, later bishop of Nola, writes to Priest (probably presbyter) Aper from Gaul, a former advocate and judge who adopted a quasi-monastic way of life. Paulinus of Nola, Letter 38, ca 400.
Letter 38 to Aper
Aper is a former wealthy advocate and judge from Gaul who decided to live a solitary and contemplative life.
10. Et ideo rarus, ut scribis, urbium frequentator, familiare secretum taciti ruris adamasti, non otium negotio praeferens neque te ecclesiasticae utilitati subtrahens, sed iam pene forensibus turbis aemulos ecclesiarum tumultus et concilia inquieta declinans. Arbitror autem id ipsum maioribus ecclesiae utilitatibus praeparari, quod salubri consilio instructioni sanctae uacas et intentus studiis spiritalibus, quibus solitudo amica est, formas in te cotidie confirmas que Christum, quo et seruus utilior et magister doctior digniorem te ea in qua nutu dei positus es sede perficias, opere pariter et uerbo potens, ut lingua et mente tibi concors ueram te apostolicae disciplinae formulam praebeas praecepti dominici auctor et doctor. Ita demum constabit non humano suffragio sed diuino te esse iudicio sacerdotem.
(ed. de Hartel 1894: 301-312, summary by J. Szafranowski)
Letter 38 to Aper
Aper is a former wealthy advocate and judge from Gaul who decided to live a solitary and contemplative life.
10. So, as your letter says, you visit cities infrequently, and have grown to love the intimate remoteness of the silent countryside. It is not that you put leisure before activity (non otium negotio praeferens), and you do not withdraw yourself from what is useful to the Church, but you avoid the noisy councils and bustle of the churches which almost rival the crowds of the forum. But I think you are laying the foundation of greater services to the Church by wisely deciding to devote yourself wholly to religious instruction. By concentrating on spiritual studies, to which solitude is conducive, you are fashioning and strengthening Christ within you every day, so that you may become a more useful servant and a more learned teacher, and make yourself worthier of the position in which God's will has placed you; and become equally efficacious by deed and by word, you may achieve harmony of tongue and mind, and make yourself a true exemplar of the apostles' teaching as a writer and a teacher of the Lord's commands. Only in this way will it be clear that you are a priest (sacerdos) not by human choice but by the decision of God.
(trans. Walsh 1894: 2.194, summary by J. Szafranowski)


Aper is described here as a sacerdos, priest, which could denote both a presbyter and a bishop. It seems, however, that if Aper had indeed been a bishop, his see would have been mentioned. It would also be highly unusual for a bishop not to live in his city; furthermore, Aper is seldom visiting cities (in plural) and there is no mention of his flock feeling abandoned, which could be anticipated to be otherwise.
Paulinus sent letters 39 and 44 to Aper as well, both of which are addressed to his wife Amanda. These letters, which seem to predate the one presented here (presumably written after the death of Amanda, since she is not mentioned), picture Aper and Amanda as an exemplar Christian couple. Having fathered multiple children, Aper separates from his marital bed and spends his days on prayers and pious studies. Meanwhile, his wife tends to their multiple estates.
Of the three extant letters of Paulinus to Aper, this is the only place where Aper's ecclesiastical office is mentioned.
It is impossible to date those letters with precision, but they were all written after 397 (one of them incorporates fragments of Augustine's letter to Paulinus from that year) and, most probably, before 407 when Vandals, Alans, Suebi, and other tribes invaded Gaul and the connection between Gaul and Italy was severed.

Place of event:

  • Italy south of Rome and Sicily
  • Gaul
  • Nola

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.


Social origin or status - Social elite
Writing activity - Correspondence
Family life - Marriage
Family life - Permanent relationship before ordination
Family life - Separation/Divorce
Family life - Offspring
Sexual life - Sexual abstinence
Described by a title - Sacerdos/ἱερεύς
Monastic or common life - Hermit
Ecclesiastical administration - Participation in councils and ecclesiastical courts
Public functions and offices before ordination
Economic status and activity - Indication of wealth
Relation with - Another presbyter
Education - Theological interest
Devotion - Ascetic practice
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: J. Szafranowski, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2145,