Paulinus of Nola

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Saint Paulinus (Paolino) of Nola, also known as Pontificus Meropius Anicius Paulinus[1] (Bordeaux, ca. 354 – June 22 431 in Nola, outside Naples) was a Roman Senator who converted to a severe monasticism in 394. He eventually became Bishop of Nola, helped to resolve the disputed election of Pope Boniface I, and was canonized as a saint.



Paulinus was from a notable senatorial family with possessions in Aquitaine, northern Spain, and southern Italy. He was educated in Bordeaux, where his teacher, the poet Ausonius, also became his friend. His normal career as a young member of the senatorial class did not last long—he served as governor of the southern Italian province of Campagna, but returned to Bordeaux where he became a serious Christian. In Paulinus's day the upper classes were in large part Christian, but not strongly observant. Paulinus married a Spanish woman named Therasia, and they moved from Bordeaux to northern Spain in 389 or 390. About the same time their only child, a son, died in infancy; Paulinus and Therasia's life in Spain became increasingly secluded. He was baptized in 389 by Delphinus, Bishop of Bordeaux. Paulinus then decided to live on his estates in Spain. In 393 or 394, after some resistance from Paulinus, he was ordained a priest on Christmas day by Lampius, Bishop of Barcelona.[2] This was very similar to what happened with Saint Augustine of Hippo, who had been ordained against his will in the year 391 by a crowd cooperating with Bishop Valerius in the North African city of Hippo Regius.

Paulinus refused to remain in Barcelona, though, and in late spring of the following year he and his wife moved from Spain to Campagna. Already Paulinus had definite interests in monasticism and engaged in considerable epistolary dialogue about this with Saint Jerome among others.


Already during his governorship Paulinus had developed a fondness for the 3rd century martyr Saint Felix of Nola.[2] Felix was a minor saint of local importance and patronage whose tomb had been built within the local necropolis at Cimitile, just outside the town of Nola. As governor, Paulinus had widened the road to Cimitile and built a residence for travelers; it was at this site that Paulinus and Therasia took up residence. Nearby were a number of small chapels and at least one old basilica. Paulinus rebuilt the complex, constructing a brand new basilica to Felix and gathering to him a small monastic community. Paulinus wrote an annual hymn (natalicium) in honor of St. Felix for the feast day when processions of pilgrims were at their peak. In these hymns we can understand the personal relationship Paulinus felt between himself and Felix, his advocate in heaven. His poetry shares with much of the work of the early 5th century, an ornateness of style that classicists of the 18th and 19th century found cloying and dismissed as decadent—though Paulinus' poems were highly regarded at the time and used as educational models.

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