Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2055
Presbyter Paulinus, later bishop of Nola, describes to Presbyter Sulpicius Severus in Primuliacum (Gaul) the circumstances of his presbyterial ordination, which took place at Christmas 394 in Barcelona (Iberian Peninsula). Paulinus of Nola, Letter 1, AD 395.
Letter 1 to Sulpicius Severus
10. Nos modo in Barcinonensi, ut ante scripseram, ciuitate consistimus. Post illas litteras quibus rescripsisti die domini, quo nasci carne dignatus est, repentina, ut ipse testis est, ui multitudinis, sed credo ipsius ordinatione correptus et presbyteratu initiatus sum, fateor, inuitus, non fastidio loci (nam testor ipsum, quia et ab aeditui nomine et officio optaui sacram incipere seruitutem), sed ut alio destinatus, alibi, ut scis, mente conpositus et fixus, nouum insperatumque placitum diuinae uoluntatis expaui. Data igitur ceruice in iugum Christi uideo maiora me meritis et sensibus opera tractare [...]. Scito tamen uoti communis eodem domino praestante saluam esse rationem; nam ea conditione in Barcinonensi ecclesia consecrari adductus sum, ut ipsi ecclesiae non adligarer, in sacerdotium tantum domini, non etiam in locum ecclesiae dedicatus.
11. Veni igitur, si placet, ante pascha, quod nobis optatius est, ut sacras ferias me sacerdote concelebres.
(ed. de Hartel 1894: 8-9)
Letter 1 to Sulpicius Severus
10. As I wrote previously, I am now staying in the city of Barcelona. After my letter which you answered, on the day on which the Lord deigned to be born as a man, I was ordained into presbyterate. The Lord witnesses that it happened through the sudden compulsion of the crowd, but I believe that I was forced into it at His command. I confess that I was unwilling. Not that I despised the rank (for I call the Lord to witness that I longed to begin my holy slavery with the name and office of sacristan (aedituus)), but since I was bound elsewhere and had my mind, as you know, firmly intent on another place, I trembled at this strange and unexpected decree of the divine will. I offered my neck, then to the yoke of Christ, and I see myself engaged on tasks which are too great for my deserts and for my understanding [...]. But you are to know that the plan on which we were both set is unaffected, since the Lord has also granted us this. For I was prevailed upon to be ordained in the church of Barcelona only on condition that I was not attached to that church. I was dedicated to the priesthood of the Lord only, not to a particular place in the Church.
11. So please come here preferably before Easter, so that now I am priest you may join me in celebrating the sacred festival.
(trans. Walsh 1966: 1.37-38, slightly altered by J. Szafranowski)


Paulinus stayed in Spain between 389 and 395. At some point between 390 and 393 his wife, Therasia, bore him a son who died within eight days. After this tragedy, Paulinus and Therasia decided to separate from their marital bed (see Paulinus of Nola, Poem 21.449-450). It is impossible to determine whether son's death had any impact on Paulinus' consent to become ordained.
Paulinus' ordination took place almost certainly at Christmas 394. This dating is based on the Natalicia that Paulinus wrote every year in January to commemorate Felix of Nola. In the first, written in 395, he asked Felix to watch over him during his journey from Barcelona to Nola.
Paulinus was ordained by Bishop Lampius of Barcelona [2063].
The end of this letter seems to indicate that Paulinus wanted to concelebrate Easter eucharist with Sulpicius Severus, which would testify to the latter's presbyterial ordination (for other evidence of his ordination, see [670] and [1002]).
According to Paulinus, Eluso, where Sulpicius then lived, was eight days' journey away from Barcelona. It should probably be identified with Primuliacum, Sulpicius' villa-monastery, possibly near present-day Montferrand close to Toulouse, see Riess 2013: 66-69 and [2107].
Paulinus was indeed anxious as to whether his ordination would not hamper the monastic way of life he wanted to pursue. Shortly before or after he accepted the holy orders, he sent the letter to Jerome, asking how to combine monasticism and an ecclesiastical career. Jerome's response was simple: it is impossible to do so (see [2057]).

Place of event:

  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Gaul
  • Barcelona
  • Primuliacum

About the source:

Author: Paulinus of Nola
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Barcelona (Iberian Peninsula)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Paulinus of Nola (Pontius Metropius Paulinus) was born into a very affluent family ca 335. Although most of his estates were located near Bordeaux in Gaul, he was appointed the governor of Campania in his early twenties. He then returned to Gaul. In 389, after being baptized, Paulinus and his wife moved to Spain. They both started to follow a semi-monastic way of life. Following the death of his newborn son, Paulinus was ordered a presbyter at Christmas 394. In 395, Paulinus established a monastery in Nola in Campania. He served as a bishop of that city from 409 till his death in 431. Paulinus corresponded with many principal Christian intellectuals of the era, including Sulpicius Severus, Jerome, Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine of Hippo. Of this rich epistolographic corpus, however, only fifty-one letters survived. For the list of all letters Paulinus sent as a presbyter, and their addressees, see [2059].
G. de Hartel ed., S. Pontii Meropii Paulini Nolani opera, vol. 1 Epistulae, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 29, Prague-Wien-Leipzig 1894.
Letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, trans. P.G. Walsh, Ancient Christian Writers 35, New York 1966.
F. Riess, Narbonne and its Territory in Late Antiquity. From the Visigoths to the Arabs, Farnham-Burlington, VT 2013.


Family life - Marriage
Family life - Separation/Divorce
Family life - Offspring
Functions within the Church - Wandering presbyter/Without office
Functions within the Church - Monastic presbyter
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Impediments or requisits for the office - Monastic rule
Act of ordination
Ritual activity - Eucharist
Ritual activity - Concelebration
Ritual activity - Celebrating feasts
Public functions and offices before ordination
Relation with - Another presbyter
Former ecclesiastical career - None
Monastic or common life
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: J. Szafranowski, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2055,