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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Jerome, in his Letter 108, describes how Paula visited the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, referring to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine), 404.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jerome of Stridon

Jerome of Stridon, Letter 108.10 ('Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae')

Atque inde specum Salvatoris ingrediens, postquam vidit sacrum virginis diversorium et stabulum, in quo agnovit bos possessorem suum et asinus praesepe domini sui.

'From there she entered the cave of the Savior and beheld the virgin's sacred inn and the stall where the ox knew its owner and the donkey its master's crib.'

Text: Hilberg 1996 (1912). Translation: Cain 2013.

Cult Places

Place associated with saint's life

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



In the second half of 404 Jerome composed an Epitaph for his late friend and patron, Paula, which was transmitted to us as letter 108. The work depicts Paula as an example for ascetic women and bears features of hagiography.

Paula died on 26 January 404 in Bethlehem. She was the descendant of a Roman aristocratic family, who traced their lineage back to the Gracchi and Scipiones. She was dedicated to the western ascetic movement and had spent more than twenty years by the side of Jerome of Stridon, whom she had followed with her daughter Eustochium to the Holy Land in 385, where they founded a monastery and a convent in Bethlehem. Paula was not only Jerome's most faithful companion, but also his biggest sponsor.

Letter 108.8-13 describes Paula's pilgrimage through the Holy Land, which lasted from late winter 385 to late spring 386.


The wording of this passage suggests that Mary, as well as Jesus, was a focus of cult when Paula visited the cave of the Nativity.


Hilberg, I., Hieronymus, Epistulae 71-120 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 55; Vienna, 1996).

Translation and commentary:
Cain, A.,
Jerome's Epitaph on Paula: A Commentary on the Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae (Oxford, 2013).

Record Created By

Philip Polcar

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristvirgoCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Philip Polcar, Cult of Saints, E06517 -