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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, in Mérida (south-west Spain), makes numerous references to the church in the city of *Eulalia (virgin and martyr of Mérida, S00407).

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives

Lives of the Fathers of Mérida

Book 1, §§ 1-28: The story of Agustus, a serving boy of the church, who dies, but whose passage to heaven is assured; he is buried in the church (see E03216).

Book 3, §§ 2-7: The story of the monk Nanctus who frequntly comes at night to the church of Eulalia to pray.

Book 4, ch. 2, §§ 1-18: Bishop Paul, former doctor, goes to the church to pray after being asked to perform surgery on a dying woman. He is given divine guidance there, and afterwards go to the house of the woman, and saves her life.

Book 4, ch. 4, § 8: Bishop Paul, as an old man, retreats to a cell near the church of Eulalia where he dies.

Book 4, ch. 6, §§ 1-8: Bishop Fidelis, Paul's successor, on Sunday according to the custom, goes in procession with his clergy from the episcopal palace to the basilica of Eulalia. Just as the procession leaves the palace, it collapses. Miraculously, no one is hurt which is interpreted as a divine favour for such a worthy priest as Fidelis and an intercession of Eulalia. Later Fidelis rebuilds his palace and makes it more beautiful. He also refurbishes the basilica of Eulalia.

Book 4, ch. 8, §§ 1-4: Bishop Fidelis is once seen by a certain devout man to go at night with a host of saints from the church of Eulalia to the basilicas of the martyrs (probably the extramural basilicas of Faustus and Lucretia mentioned in another story about Fidelis, see E03508).

Book 4, ch. 10, §§ 1-2, 6: Bishop Fidelis, taken seriously ill, orders that he be carried to the basilica of Eulalia. There he weep over his sins, gives alms, and remits debts, returning pledges. For a miraculous story concerning one of the debtors, see E03509.

Book 5, ch. 3, § 2: Bishop Masona, successor of Fidelis, before his ordination lives at the basilica of Eulalia and belongs to its clergy.

Book 5, ch. 3, § 9: Bishop Masona gives 1,000 solidi for the needs of the sick and poor to the deacon Redemptus who is in charge of the basilica of Eulalia.

Book 5, ch. 5, §§ 7-22: An Arian bishop Sunna is appointed in Mérida by King Leovigild. He tries to seize the basilica of Eulalia and re-dedicate it for the Arian Church. Masona refuses, and then Sunna asks the king to assign the church to the Arians by the royal decree. In response, however, it is ordered that two bishops discuss in front of the judges. The winner of the debate will have the church. Before the debate, Masona prays for three days before the altar above the tomb of Eulalia. He wins the debate decisively, and the Catholic congregation goes triumphantly to the church to give thanks to God. See E03292.

Book 5, ch. 6: Masona is accused by Sunna of many crimes and in consequence, he is called to the king's court in Toledo. There, the king threatens Masona and orders him to hand over the tunic of Eulalia so that it could be hang in the Arian Church in Toledo. Masona refuses but the king sends his servants to Mérida to look for and grab the tunic. They search for it in the treasuries of the church of Eulalia and in the church of Mary called the Holy Jerusalem, but cannot find it. The king tries further to force Masona to give him the relic but achieves nothing. Eventually he sends Masona into exile. See E03292.

Book 5, ch. 8, § 17: After being recalled from exile, Masona returns to Mérida and the first thing he does is go to the basilica of Eulalia.

Book 5, ch. 11, §§ 2-3: A Gothic nobleman, Witteric, involved in the conspiracy against Masona, confesses to the bishop that there is a plot to murder him during the customary Easter procession from the cathedral church to the basilica of Eulalia.

Book 5, ch. 11, §§ 17-21: One of the members of the uncovered conspiracy against Masona, Vargila, seeks sanctuary in the basilica of Eulalia. King Reccared orders that Vargila and his family be humiliated, and binds them to the service of the basilica of Eulalia. Later, however, Masona sets them free.

Book 5, ch. 12, § 6: After the defeat of the Arian uprising against King Reccared in Gallia Narbonensis, Bishop Masona goes with his people to the basilica of Eulalia to rejoice. Afterwards the solemn mass of Easter is celebrated.

Book 5, ch. 13, §§ 1-10: Masona is very sick and close to death, so he frees the slaves who had served him faithfully. The archdeacon of Masona, Eleutherius, threatens the slaves, ordering them to return to him their writs of freedom. They complain about it to Masona who, after finding out that it is true, orders that he be carried to the church of Eulalia where he prays and weeps. His prayers are heard, and he recovers from his illness. The archdeacon, however, soon dies.

Book 5, ch. 15, §§ 1-2: All the bishops mentioned in the Lives are buried in the same place close to the tomb of Eulalia. People who pray to God at this tomb are granted the grace of recovery from their illnesses.

Text: Maya Sánchez 1992. Summary: M. Szada.

Liturgical Activities


Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)
Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Non Liturgical Activity

Burial ad sanctos
Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings


Miracle after death
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Miraculous protection - of people and their property
Miraculous protection - of church and church property
Healing diseases and disabilities
Punishing miracle


Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Monarchs and their family
Other lay individuals/ people


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).


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


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

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