[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Paulinus of Nola

IV/V Centuries
A baptizer of classical poetry, Paulinus (353-431) wrote Christian hymnography in standard Roman forms, and some modern scholars see his life as an embodiment of the Christianization of the Roman empire. The scion of a wealthy senatorial family, Pontius Meropius Paulinus was born at Bordeaux and, after studying law, pursued a bureaucratic career: he held the posts of consul and senator before becoming the governor of Campagna. Retiring from public life, he returned to Gaul and later lived in Spain, where he married Therasia. After the death of their only child, he became increasingly religious, and the couple began to give their wealth to the poor. He was ordained to the priesthood at the insistence of a crowd in Barcelona, and in 395, he returned to Campagna, where he established a church and a monastery near the tomb of St. Felix of Nola. As he became more solitary, his tutor Ausonius wrote verse epistles expressing his distaste for Paulinus' behavior; he defended himself in kind. (Henry Vaughan translated one of these poems.) Most of Paulinus' other poetry, typical in form for the verse of his day, honors St. Felix and echoes the work of Virgil and Horace; its language is complex and difficult. Chosen bishop of Nola c. 411, Paulinus corresponded with Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose, as well as with Martin of Tours and Sulpicius Severus. Paulinus is said to have protected his see from Alairic's army.

Karen Rae Keck


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