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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Proclus of Constantinople composes his Homily 1, On *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), which he delivers during her feast of 26 December at the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. It was received as a landmark text for the theology of the role of Mary in the Incarnation of Christ. Written in Greek in 430.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Major author/Major anonymous work

Proclus of Constantinople

Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 1, On the Holy Virgin and Mother of God Mary, delivered at the Great Church of Constantinople, while Nestorius was presiding (CPG 5800 = BHG 1129)

For the text, translation, and commentary, see Constas 2003, 128-156.

Liturgical Activities



Saint’s feast

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The life and career of Proclus of Constantinople (c. 380-446) are closely tied into the vibrant intellectual life and tumultuous ecclesiastical politics of Constantinople under the Theodosian dynasty. He was born around AD 380 in Constantinople, where he was trained in rhetoric. An associate of John Chrysostom, his clerical career started under bishop Atticus of Constantinople (406-425) whom he served as a secretary and author of his sermons, and by whom he was ordained to the priesthood. He was elected bishop of Cyzicus in 426, but never took up residence at his see, and continued to reside at Constantinople. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the episcopal throne of Constantinople in 426, 427, and 431, till he was appointed to it at the death of bishop Maximian (431-434). Proclus’ main claim to fame was his celebrated sermons on the Virgin Mary, which he delivered during the episcopate of Nestorius, and which became fundamental texts for the Christology and Mariology of the Council of Ephesus (431). Most of his surviving works are homiletic, on the major feast days of the Church of Constantinople, whose liturgical tradition and calendar were then taking their shape. The relatively small corpus of his genuine works has not been fully assembled yet, and there are a number of dubious or spurious works ascribed to him.

On the manuscript tradition, see Constas 2003, 135, and:


A masterpiece of patristic preaching, this homily is perhaps the most famous sermon on Mary in the history of Christianity. It was preached on the newly established Constantinopolitan feast of Mary on 26 December, during the episcopate of Nestorius, and while the author was bishop of Cyzicus. Proclus’ praises of Mary were pronounced in the midst of a controversy about her place in the history of human salvation, stirred by bishop Nestorius who had been scandalised by the excesses of the already popular Constantinopolitan cult of Mary. By this sermon, Proclus set forth the theological and exegetical principles which defined the cult of Mary throughout the Byzantine period. One year later, the text was included in the acts of the Council of Ephesus, thus acquiring canonical status as an authoritative statement of orthodox Christology and Mariology.

For an excellent edition, translation, and discussion of the homily, see: Constas 2006.


Text, translation, and commentary:
Constas, N.P., Proclus of Constantinople and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity: Homilies 1-5, Texts and Translations (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 66; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2003).

Record Created By

Efthymios Rizos

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαρίαCertain

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