Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1871
Bishop Ambrose of Milan (Italy) in a letter to Irenaeus, possibly a cleric in Milan, explains why it is unclean, according to the Scripture, to wear clothes of the sex different than one`s own. Ambrose of Milan, Letter 15 (Maur. 69), written in Milan, AD 374/397.
XV (Maur. 69)
Ambrosius Irenaeo Salutem.
1. Pertulisti ad me quasi filius quaesivisse aliquos de te, quid sibi velit quod tam severe lex inmundos eos dixerit, qui alieni sexus uterentur vestibus, vel viros scilicet vel mulieres. Sic enim scriptum est: Non erit res viri super mulierem neque induetur vir stolam muliebrem, quia inmundus est domino omnis qui fecerit hoc.
In what follows, Ambrose explains that pollution arises from breaking the laws of nature according to which the difference of sex and gender is fixed.  
7. [...] Haec sunt quae referas requirentibus. Vale et nos dilige, quia nos te diligimus.
(ed. Faller 1968: 112-114; summary M. Szada)
XV (Maur. 69)
Ambrose to Irenaeus, greetings.
1. As if you were my son, you have referred to me the question others have asked of you, why the Law was so severe
in pronouncing unclean those persons who wear garments of the other sex, whether men or women, for it is written: "Let
not men's apparel cover a woman, neither shall a man be clothed with a woman's garment, for he that doeth these things is abominable before God." [Deut 22: 5].
In what follows, Ambrose explains that pollution arises from breaking the laws of nature according to which the difference of sex and gender is fixed.
7. [...] You must thus answer those who make inquiries. Farewell, and love us, because we love you.
(trans. Beyenka 1954: 428-431; in the translation Letter 78)


The present letter is not dated and it can only be said that it was written at some point during the episcopacy of Ambrose. Ambrose's addresee, Iraeneus, is treated with paternal affection. Irenaeus received several letters from Ambrose and is known only from this correspondence. He is never explicitely called a presbyter (or a cleric) and there is a scholarly discussion whether he actually was one - see especially Palanque 1933. That Irenaeus was a lay man is claimed by Paredi 1968: 498 and Zelzer 1978: 15. He is considered a cleric by Mazières 1979 and later by Zelzer 1990: XXI, n. 6. See PCBE, Italie 1, Irenaeus 1.

Place of event:

  • Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia
  • Milan

About the source:

Author: Ambrose of Milan
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Milan (Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Ambrose was a bishop of Milan from 374 until his death in 397. We have a collection of his letters organized in three parts. The first one consists of 77 letters organized in ten books most probably by Ambrose himself. He published his letters at some point after the death of Theodosius in 395. From this collection, Book 4 is missing, as are some letters of Books 2 and 4. The second part is the group of letters that survived outside the collection (extra collectionem), and the third is a group of letters concerning the council of Aquileia in 381 (together with the acts of this council). For a detailed discussion on the letters and further reading see Liebeschuetz 2010: 27–48 and Nauroy 2016: 146–160.
O. Faller ed., Epistulae et acta, epistularum libri I-VI, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Lationorum 82/1, Wien 1968
Saint Ambrose, Letters, trans. M. M. Beyenka, Washington D.C. 1954
J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz, Ambrose of Milan: political letters and speeches, Liverpool 2010.
J.-P. Mazières, "Les lettres d’Ambroise de Milan à Irenaeus.”, Pallas. Revue d’études antiques 26 (1979), 103–114.
G. Nauroy, "The Letter Collection of Ambrose of Milan", [in:] Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide, ed. C. Sogno, B.K. Storin, E.J. Watts, Oakland, CA 2016, 146–160.
G. Nauroy, "Édition et organisation du recueil des lettres d’Ambroise de Milan: une architecture cachée ou altérée?", in: La correspondance d'Ambroise de Milan, textes réunis et préparés par A. Canellis, Saint-Étienne 2012, 19-61.
J.-R. Palanque, "Deux correspondants de saint Ambroise: Orontien et Irénée”, Revue des Études Latines 11 (1933), 153–163.
A. Paredi, S. Ambrogio e la sua età, Milano 1960.


Writing activity - Correspondence
Reverenced by
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Education - Theological interest
Devotion - Reading the Bible and devotional literature
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER1871,