Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 38
Novatus, presbyter in Carthage (North Africa), after commiting a series of crimes comes to Rome looking for somewhere to hide; afterwards he induces Novatian to become a schismatic bishop of Rome. Account of Pacian of Barcelona, Letter 3 to Sympronianus, 2nd half of the 4th c.
Letter 3
6. Tum forte quidam presbyter Novatus ex Africa, fraudatis in Carthaginiensi ecclesia viduis, spoliatis pupillis, pecunia ecclesiae denegata, proiecto extra domum patre, et eodem fame mortuo nec sepulto, uxoris gravidae utero calce percusso partuque eius effuso, Romam venit. percusso partuque eius effuso, Romam venit. Et cum apud Carthaginem, urgentibus in ecclesia fratribus, dies cognitionis ipsius immineret, et hic latitavit. Nec multo post, Novatianum istum episcopatu Cornelii anxium (nam sibi speraverat) cum aliquantis, ut in tali re solet, ex sua parte fautoribus nutantem impellit, dubitantem fovet; ut magnum aliquid speret, hortatur. Invenit aliquos ex eorum numero qui tempestatem persecutionis illius evaserunt; apud quos hanc ipsam de lapsis receptis, Cornelio conflaret invidiam. Dat eorum epistolas ad Novatianum. Ille ex auctoritate epistolarum, sedente iam Romae episcopo, adversum fas sacerdotii singularis, alterius episcopi sibi nomen assumit: Cornelium lapsis communicasse arguit: se vindicat innocentem.
19. Nos cum adulteris et furibus convenimus; an illi qui Novatum, vitae suae et capiti praetulerunt; post interceptam pecuniam pupillorum atque viduarum; miseri parentis et partus uxoris parricidam, non modo non poenitentem, verum etiam gloriantem? Verum Paulus Apostolus dixit: Manus cito nemini imponas. Docet idem; vel tarde, vel post poenitentiam non negandas.
(ed. Granado 1995: 220, 220)
Letter 3
6. As it so happened, at that time a certain presbyter, Novatus, having defrauded the widows of the Church of Carthage, robbed orphans, embezzled the money of the Church, cast his father out of his house and allowed him to die of hunger and without burial, and having kicked the womb of his pregnant wife and caused her to abort her child, came from Africa to Rome. And at Carthage, when the brethern in the Church pressed hard upon him in pursuit and the day of the investigation of his activities was imminent, he went into hiding. Not long after, when this Novatian was disturbed about the episcopate of Cornelius - for he had hoped to have it for himself - Novatus together with some partisans of his side, as is usual in such cases, urged him on when he was wavering, encouraged him when he was uncertain, and exhorted him to hope for something great. He came across some people, out of the number of those who had escaped the storm of that persecution, among whom he aroused against Cornelius this very hatred on the subject of receiving the lapsed. He gave to Novatian their letters. And Novatian, by the authority of these letters, although there was already a bishop sitting at Rome, assumed for himself the title of the "other" bishop in opposition to the proper tradition decreeing a singularity of the priesthood; he accused Cornelius of having been in communion with the lapsed; and he asserted his own blamelessness.
19. Do we have the dealings with adulterers or thieves? Or is it those who have preffered Novatus to their own life and head, after he has embezzled the money of orphans and widows; those who have preffered the murderer of his own wretched parent and of his wife's offspring; those who have preffered a man who was not only unrepentant [of his crimes], but even glorifying in them?
(transl. Hanson 1999: 45-46)


Pacian of Barcelona borrows the account about the Presbyter Novatus from the letter 52.2 of Cyprian of Carthage (North Africa) [1275].

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Latin North Africa
  • Carthage

About the source:

Author: Pacian of Barcelona
Title: Letter 3 to Sympronianus, Epistulae III ad Sympronianum
Origin: Barcelona (Iberian Peninsula)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Jerome notes in the De viris illustribus composed in AD 393 that Pacian, bishop of Barcelona (Iberian Peninsula) died during the reign of Theodosius (AD 379-395) as an old man. He became a bishop of Barcelona sometime between AD 343 and 377. The three letters to the otherwise unknown Novatianist Sympronianus were composed during Pacian`s pontificate. Pacian`s responses in them to Sympronianus`s inquiries about baptism and penance, staunchly defending the prerogatives of the Catholic Church, and criticising the Novatianist views (see Hanson 1999: 6-7). On Sympronianus see Rubío Fernández 1958: 21-23 and Wohleb 1930.
C. Granado ed., Pacien de Barcelone, Écrits, Sources Chrétiennen 410, Paris 1995.
L. Rubío Fernández ed., San Paciano, Obras, Barcelona 1958.
L. C. Hanson, Iberian Fathers, v.3, Pacian of Barcelona, Orosius of Braga, Washington D. C 1999.
L. Wohleb, "Bischof Pacianus von Barcelona und sein Gegner, der Novatianer Sympronianus”, Spanische Froschungen der Görresgesellschaft 2 (1930), 25-35.


Family life - Marriage
Family life - Offspring
Travel and change of residence
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Ecclesiastical administration - Administering Church property
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Relation with - Wife
Relation with - Father/Mother
Relation with - Children
Relation with - Woman
Relation with - Heretic/Schismatic
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER38,