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Anon., Passion of St. Saturninus (2013) Preface


In the middle of the 3rd century, in the consulate of Decius and Gratus (250 A.D.), the Christian bishop of Toulouse, Saturninus, was lynched by a mob of pagans at the capitol in the town, after the oracles in the pagan temples stopped working.  Tied to a wild bull which was turned loose, he hit his head and died, and was buried obscurely outside the town.  Perhaps the persecution ordered by Decius may have influenced this rough treatment.

We owe this information to the Passio S. Saturnini: the Passion of St. Saturninus, bishop of Toulouse and Martyr.  This is a martyrological text with a substantial historical core.  In its current form it clearly dates from ca. 410-20, and certainly before 450 A.D.  This is some two centuries after his death.  But it was the moment when his remains were transferred from the modest chapel in which he had been buried into a new and impressive basilica by Bishop Exuperius.  There seems to have been local opposition to the translation; the dream of Exuperius recorded at the end of the text, in which the bishop said that the Saint urged him "not to hesitate", was curiously convenient for this ambitious clergyman.

The text that we read today is made up of a number of elements.  The actual story of the martyrdom of Saturninus (chapters 2-5) is no doubt the most ancient, and has some literary pretensions.  Chapter 6 adds details of the 5th century transfer of the remains.  The prologue and conclusion (chapters 1 and 7) were added to tie the whole thing together.

This text is one of the most ancient witnesses to a Christian community around a bishop in Gaul.

The work is numbered BHL 7495-6.  Note that a later, 7-8th century text is much longer and numbered BHL 7491, and  was edited in 2002 and published by Herder.

The text of the Passio S. Saturnini was edited by Ruinart in his collection of selected non-fiction acts of the martyrs: Thierry Ruinart, Acta Martyrum sincera et selecta, 1689, p.109-113; The second edition, here, has the text on p.128 f, and a list of manuscripts used on p.lxxix.

The standard modern text is that of Cabau: Patrice Cabau, “Opusculum de passione ac translatione sancti Saturnini, episcopi Tolosanae ciuitatis et martyris. Édition et traduction provisoires”, in: Mémoires de la Société archéologique du Midi de la France 61, 2001, p. 59-77.  This includes a French translation and a full bibliography.  This may be found online here.

A further French translation was made by Maraval for the Cerf: Pierre Maraval, Actes et Passions des martyrs chrétiens des premiers siècles. Introduction, traduction et notes, in: Sagesses Chrétiennes, Cerf, 2010, pp. 181-192.  Online here.

The translation by Andrew Eastbourne given below is, as far as I know, the first to appear in English.  It is translated from Cabau.


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This text was written by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2013. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Greek text is rendered using unicode.


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