Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 186
Presbyter Severus from Antrodoco is called to the bed of a dying man to help him do penance. Severus is devastated as he arrives too late, busy with pruning the vines. God, however, revives the man who does penance under Severus` supervision and dies once again, ca AD 550. Account in the `Dialogues` by Gregory the Great, writing in Rome, AD 593/594.
I 12.1-3
1. In eo etiam loco Interorina uallis dicitur, quae a multis uerbo rustico Interocrina nominatur, in qua erat quidam uir uitae ualde admirabilis, nomine Seuerus, ecclesiae beatae Mariae Dei genitricis et semper uirginis sacerdos. Hunc cum quidam paterfamilias ad extremum uenisset diem, missis concite nuntiis, rogauit ut ad se quantocius ueniret, suisque orationibus pro peccatis eius intercederet, ut acta de malis suis paenitentia, solutus culpa ex corpore exiret. Qui uidelicet sacerdos inopinate contigit ut ad putandam uineam esset occupatus, atque ad se uenientibus diceret: 'Antecedite, ecce ego uos subsequor'. Cumque uideret sibi in eodem opere aliquid superesse, paululum moram fecit, ut opus, quod minimum restabat, expleret. Quo expleto, coepit ad aegrum pergere. Eunti uero in itinere occurrentes hii qui prius uenerant, obuiam facti sunt, dicentes: 'Quare tardasti, pater? Noli fatigari, quia iam defunctus est'. Quo audito, ille contremuit, magnisque uocibus se interfectorem illius clamare coepit.
2. Flens itaque peruenit ad corpus defuncti, seque coram lecto illius cum lacrimis in terram dedit. Cumque uehementer fleret, in terram caput tunderet, se reum mortis illius clamaret, repente is qui defunctus fuerat animam recepit. Quod dum multi qui circumstabant aspicerent, admirationis uocibus emissis, coeperunt amplius prae gaudio flere. Cumque eum requirerent, ubi fuerit uel quomodo redisset, ait: 'Taetri ualde erant homines qui me ducebant, ex quorum ore ac naribus ignis exiebat, quem tolerare non poteram. Cumque per obscura loca me ducerent, subito pulchrae uisionis iuuenis cum aliis nobis euntibus obuiam factus est, qui me trahentibus dixit: 'Reducite illum, quia Seuerus presbiter plangit. Eius enim eum lacrimis Dominus donauit'.
3. Qui scilicet Seuerus protinus de terra surrexit, eique poenitentiam agenti opem suae intercessionis praebuit. Et dum per dies septem de perpetratis culpis paenitentiam aeger rediuiuus ageret, octauo die laetus de corpore exiuit. Perpende, quaeso, hunc de quo loquimur Seuerum quam dilectum Dominus adtendit, quem contristari nec ad modicum pertulit.
(ed. de Vogüé 1979: 112-114)
I 12.1-3
1. In the same land [province of Valeria] there is a valley called Interorina, which to many is known by its vulgar name Interocrina [Antrodoco]. There lived a certain man of a very admirable life called Severus, who was a priest of the church of blessed Mary the mother of God and ever virgin. A certain father of the family, his final day approaching, sent quickly messangers to Severus. He pleaded for Severus to come to him, the sooner the better, and intercede with his prayers for his sins [to be remitted]. Then, after an act of penance for his wrongdoings, he could leave his body free of fault. However, it so happened that the priest was at that time occupied with pruning of the vines and therefore told those who came to him: 'Go forth, and I will follow soon after.' When he saw that he had almost finished his work, he decided to complete it first, since so little of it was left. Having done that, he started walking to the sick man. However, on the road he met the same messengers that had previously approached him, who told him: 'Father, what kept you so long? You do not have to go any further, for the man is dead.' On hearing that, Severus began to tremble and cry out with a loud voice that he was the one that had killed him.
2. Crying, therefore, Severus came to the corpse and with tears prostrated himself on the earth in front of the bed of the deceased. As he was weeping copiously, beating his head against the ground, and crying out that he was guilty of his death, suddenly the dead man regained his soul. When the many that were surrounding him saw that, after uttering the cries of admiration they started to weep even more plentifully due to joy. And when they asked him where he was and how he came back, he said: 'People that led me were very ugly. From their mouths and noses fire was emerging, which I could not bear. As they were leading me through dark places with some other men, suddenly a young man of beautiful face appeared before us, who said to those who were dragging me: 'Lead him back, for the presbyter Severus laments. The Lord gave him back to him [Severus'] on account of his tears.'
3. At once Severus rose up from the earth, and he supported his penance with the power of his intercession. And when the sick man that had revived had done penance for seven days for the faults committed by him, upon the eighth day he cheerfully departed from the flesh. Consider, I [Gregory] beg you [Peter], how deeply the Lord cared for this Severus we are talking about, so he would not allow him to be saddened even for a little time.
(trans. Gardner 1911: 46-47; changed by J. Szafranowski)


Severus is twice called a priest (sacerdos) and once a presbyter (presbiter) by Gregory, which proves that by using the title sacerdos one could also refer to the presbyter. In the Gregory's narration, Severus is also addressed by the word 'father' (pater).
Severus also serves as an example of a rural priest - Antrodoco (ancient Interocrium) is a small community even nowadays, and Gregory does not even call it a town but simply a valley. At Antrodoco, one can observe some parts of the still standing church of the Virgin Mary that may date from the times of Severus.
It is also worth noticing that the source mentions that Severus was pruning the vines, one cannot say whether they belonged to him personally or to the church he served in.

Place of event:

  • Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia
  • Antrodoco

About the source:

Author: Gregory the Great
Title: Dialogues, Dialogorum Gregorii Papae libri quatuor de miraculis Patrum Italicorum, Dialogi
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Gregory the Great wrote his Dialogues between 593 and 594 in Rome when he was the Bishop of this city. They were written in order to present lives and miracles of Italian saints, many of them contemporary to Gregory, and the greatest of them, saint Benedict of Nurcia. The Dialogues are divided into four books in which Gregory tells the stories of various saints to Peter, who was a deacon and a friend of Gregory, and is also known from the Gregory`s private correspondence.
Grégoire le Grand, Dialogues, ed. A. de Vogüé, Sources Chretiennes 251, 260, 265, Paris 1978-1980.


Functions within the Church - Rural presbyter
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Described by a title - Sacerdos/ἱερεύς
Described by a title - Titles of respect
Ritual activity - Reconciliation/Administering penance
Economic status and activity - Farming
Relation with - Peasant
Described by a title - Pater
Pastoral activity - Visiting the sick
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: J. Szafranowski, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER186,