Site logo

The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


The Lives of the Fathers of Mérida, written in Latin in 633/660, presumably in Mérida (south-west Spain), recounts how Agustus, a young boy serving the church of *Eulalia (virgin and martyr of Mérida, S00407) falls ill and during his illness has a vision of heaven and the saints. On the night following his death he is seen as a figure in white. He is buried in the basilica of *Eulalia.

Evidence ID

E03216

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives

Lives of the Fathers of Mérida, 1

[1] Puerulus quidam non grandi adhuc etate et, ut plenius dicam, effebus, nomine Agustus, insons, simplex et inscius litteris, cum ceteris coeuis ac sodalibus suis puerulis fideli mente in domo egregie uirginis Eulalie sui seruitii ministerium, quod ei a preposito celle uenerabile uiro fuerat deligatum, perageret, repente hunc contigit egrotasse.

[2] Quumque ad eum uisitandum, ut moris est, multi ambularent crebrius que ipse pergerem, accidit nocte quadam, explicitis uigiliarum sollemniis
nam talis in eadem sancta eclesia mos est, ut yemis tempore seorsum excubie et seorsum matutinum officium, facto interuallo modico, adnitente Domino celebretur; [3] quo igitur tempore interuallo ad uidendum eum perrexi ingressus que cellam in qua ipse in stratu recubabat, cunctos qui aderant ita repperi sopore depressos, ut nullus eorum ad meum fuisset expergefactus introitum. Lumen uero quod ibi accensum fuerat extinctum inueni. [4] Qui protinus omnes ante eum iacentes consurgere monui et ut lumen, quod extinctum fuerat, denuo accenderetur imperabi.

Adibito que mox lumine, prefatum Agustum quemammodum haberet sciscitabi. [5] At ille inquit: "Equidem, quantum ad presentis pertinet uite spem, fateor ita iam omnes corporis mei artus resolutos, ut nicil uirium omnino [artus mei] remanserint. Quantum uero pertinet ad spem uite eterne, non solum spem habere me gaudeo, uerum etiam ipsum uite eterne auctorem Dominum Ihesum Xpm cum angelorum cateruas atque omnium sanctorum innumerabiles multitudines me uidisse confiteor".


'1. There was a young boy, not yet of advanced years, in fact still but a youth, called Agustus. Innocent, artless, unlearned in letters, while he was faithfully performing with his fellow youths the tasks laid upon him by the venerable man in charge of the convent in the house of the glorious virgin Eulalia, he suddenly happened to fall ill.

2. When many came to visit him, as is the custom
I myself often went there , it happened that one night, when the solemn vigil had been completed, (for in winter it is the practice in this holy church to celebrate, with the Lord’s help, the offices of Matins and Lauds separately with a short interval between them), 3. I rose to see him and, entering the cell where he lay on his bed, found all who were there so deep in slumber that none of them were wakened by my entry. Indeed, I found the light which had been lit there had gone out. 4. Straightaway I told all those lying before him to get up and commanded that the light which had gone out be relit.

When we had light, I asked this boy Agustus how he was. 5. He replied, "As regards hope for this present life, I confess that all the limbs of my body are undone and no strength remains to me. However, as regards hope for the life eternal, I rejoice that I have not only hope, but say that I have seen that very author of life eternal, the Lord Jesus Christ, with the hosts of angels and innumerable throngs of all the saints."'


The narrator asks Agustus to tell his vision, and the boy agrees. He asserts that he was not asleep and that it was not a fantastical vision (visio fantastica). Then he speaks about the beautiful place where 'countless serving boys, well-dressed and handsome' were preparing a banquet and waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ. Agustus kissed the feet of those servants and they were blessing God for bringing Agustus to this place.

[11] Dum uero hec dicerent et omnem ministerium prepararent, subito aduenit ingens multitudo candidatorum, omnes auro et lapidibus pretiosis ornati et coronis rutilantes redimiti. Et una acies ipsius multitudinis ad dextera, alia uero ad leua parte gradiebatur atque ita altrinsecus properantes regi suo ineffabile obsequium exibebant.

'11. While they were saying this and finishing all their tasks, suddenly there arrived a great multitude of men dressed in white, all adorned with gold and precious stones, and wearing gleaming crowns. And one division of this multitude came on from the right and another from the left and thus hastening from both sides they offered their king ineffable homage.'


The Lord and his retinue of crowned men start a banquet, but then Jesus Christ asks for Agustus, who is brought to his presence. Agustus approaches Him and the Lord asks him to stand behind him and promises to be his protector. Then Agustus takes part in the heavenly banquet. After the feast, the Lord allows the participants to leave. Leaving, however, they bring before the Lord some crying and wailing men whom the Lord orders to be dragged outside as they are 'the wicked servants' (servi mali). Afterwards, the Lord takes Agustus to the heavenly garden.

[22] Hec mici sepe memoratus puer, multis quoram positis, retulit. Quam ob rem ego indignus et omnium peccatorum primus, leuita Xpi., quemammodum narrabit scribere malui, uerbis licet aliis, sensibus tamen ipsis.

[23] Post hec uero cuncta que audieram sanctissimo uiro domno et abbati meo nuntiare procurabi. Quibus ille agnitis, ut ei semper moris est, uiscera pietatis repletus quantocius ad eundem Agustum properauit atque inianter, que dudum narraberat, eius ex ore audire cupiens quidnam uidisset sciscitauit. [24] Atque idem Agustus que prius dixerat nicilominus repetens eius sacris auribus intimabit. Deinde almo hac beatissimo uiro cuidam leuite uniuersis que fratribus se percontantibus que paulo ante dixerat repetebat.

[25] Nam mox cepit animus eius fraglare desiderio percipiende penitentie. Qui confestim accepta, dum ego habissem atque ad basilicam sancte Marie semper uirginis, que quinque milibus ab urbe Emeretensi distat, gratia orationis properassem, quam etiam basilicam uulgus sanctam Quintisinam actenus uocitant, inde regressus iam uesperescente die eum defunctum repperi. [26] Et quoniam iam uespere erat, minime ea die sepultus est. Sequenti uero nocte, dum ipsud corpusculum inhumatum in cellula qua defunctus fuerat iaceret, intempesta nocte idem Agustus alium puerulum equeuum suum nomine Quintilianem a foris per nomen uoce magna uocauit. [27] Cuius uoce audita et cognita, quidam puer simplex et uerax nomine Veranianus ilico surrexit egressus que foras ipsum Agustum in albam uidere stantem promeruit, sed pauore perterritus propius ad illum accedere non presumsit; cuius faciem niueo candore uidisse cum iuramento testatus est. [28] Alio uero die corpusculum eius ex more in basilicam sanctissime uirginis domine mee Eulalie sepulture est mancipatum.

'22. These are the things that the boy remembered and told me in the presence of many people. Wherefore I, though unworthy and to the fore in all manners of sinning, a Levite of Christ, chose to write it down as he told it, albeit in different words, but nevertheless ones carrying the same meaning. 23. Then I took care to tell everything that I had heard to that most holy man, my Lord the abbot. When he heard these things, being, as ever, full of piety in his innermost soul, he hurried as quickly as possible to that same Agustus and questioned him eagerly about what he had seen, wishing to hear the tale he had told from his own lips. 24. And Agustus repeated in the same fashion what he had said, intimating it to his blessed ears. Then he repeated once more to a kindly and most blessed Levite and all the brethren who were questioning him what he had said a little while before.

25. Soon his soul began to bum with a desire to receive penance. As soon as he had received it, I went out and hurried to pray at the Basilica of Holy Mary Ever-Virgin which the common people call to this day the church of holy Quintisina, and which lies five miles from the city of Mérida. When, as dusk was drawing on, I returned thence I found him dead. 26. Since it was already evening, he could not buried that day. That night while his little body lay unburied in the cell where he had died, in the stillness of the night that same Agustus standing outside called out in a great voice to another youth of his own age, Quintilias. 27. After his voice had been heard and recognised, an artless and truthful boy called Veranian at once got up, went outside, and was permitted to see Agustus himself standing there clothed in white. Petrified by fear, he did not presume to draw closer to him whose face he testified on oath was snowy white. 28. The following day his little body was entrusted to the grave according to custom in the basilica of the most blessed virgin my Lady Eulalia.'

Text: Maya Sánchez 1992, 6-13 (text numbering from Garvin 1945, as used by Fear). Translation: Fear 1997, 44-51 (slightly altered).

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Composing and translating saint-related texts
Prayer/supplication/invocation
Saint as patron - of a community

Miracles

Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Children
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Source

The Lives of the Fathers of Mérida (Vitas Sanctorum Patrum Emeretensium) is a complex hagiographical work composed c. 633/650. The last bishop mentioned in the text is bishop Renovatus who died in 633. J. Garvin (1946) thought the Lives were composed during the episcopacy of Renovatus' successor, Bishop Stephen (633-638). A.T. Fear (1997, xxxi) following Diaz y Diaz (1981) preferred to date the work slightly later, to the middle of the 7th century, The Lives consist of five parts, the first three recount miraculous stories that took place in Mérida, in imitation of the Dialogues of Gregory the Great (written probably 593/594). The last two tell the history of the bishops of Mérida from the second half of the 6th century: Paul, Fidelis, Masona, and Renovatus. The author of the Lives identifies himself as a deacon of the church of Saint Eulalia.

The edition of Maya Sánchez from 1992 is based on ten manuscripts, the earliest of the 10th c. (Maya Sánchez 1992: x–xxxi).


Discussion

Although Agustus is portrayed as an innocent who went to heaven, the author of the story does not try to present him as a saint he never calls him that, Agustus has no special virtues, he does not perform miracles, there is no cultic activity at his tomb. The story serves rather as a proof that heaven, as well as eternal punishment (the 'wicked servants' judged by Jesus Christ in the vision), are real.

The mention of the church of the Virgin Mary (paragraph 25) is interesting. The author says that he rushed to that church to pray just after Agustus received reconciliation. He also mentions the alternative name given to the church –
sancta Quintisina. No saint of this name is known. Fear 1997, 50, n. 24, suggesting a possible link between this basilica and the practice of prayer for people in pain, proposes to understand Quintisima as a corruption of quietissima (a reading in some manuscripts), which would be a title of the Virgin Mary, 'She Who Brings Rest'.


Bibliography

Editions:
Garvin, J.N., The Vitas Sanctorum Patrum Emeretensium (Washington, 1946).

Maya Sánchez, A.,
Vitas sanctorum patrum Emeretensium (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 116; Turnhout, 1992).

English translation:
Fear. A.T., Lives of the Visigothic Fathers (Translated Texts for Historians 26; Liverpool, 1997), 45-105.

Further reading:
Diaz y Diaz, M.D., "Passionnaires, légendiers et compilations hagiographiques dans le haut Moyen Age espagnol," in: Hagiographie, Cultures, et Sociétés, IVe-XIIe siècles. Actes du colloque organisé à Nanterre et à Paris, 2-5 mai 1979 (Paris, 1981), 49-61.


Record Created By

Marta Szada

Date Last Modified

06/11/2019

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain
S00407Eulalia, virgin and martyr of MéridaEulaliaCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Marta Szada, Cult of Saints, E03216 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E03216