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AD  392-393


After a stay of more than three years in Italy, the greater part of which time was spent, not at Rome, the old capital of the Republic, but at Milan, which, since the time of Maximian, had become the chief city of the empire, Theodosius hoped it to be safe, and felt it to be high time, for him to return to his own dominions. Accordingly in the early spring of 392 he took leave of Ambrose (Valentinian was absent in Gaul), and set out for the East.

During the time his youthful colleague (now just twenty years old) was in his company, he had carefully imparted to him sound political instruction; and had combined with it earnest exhortations to adopt the faith of his father and brother, the true Christian faith. For the memory of his mother Valentinian had probably but little respect; for Theodosius and Ambrose he entertained the deepest reverence. His Arian leanings, if he ever had any, were soon exchanged for an earnest desire to be admitted to the membership of the Church; and his hatred of idolatry was so decided, as to make many believe that the adherents of the old religion had been for months engaged in a conspiracy against his life. Under these circumstances, Theodosius had but little apprehension in leaving Italy. The affairs of religion, he thought, would be well provided for in the hands of an emperor now become orthodox, and guided by such a counselor as the Bishop of Milan. The Far West, he imagined, would be little disposed to rise, after the fate of Maximus; but, to make matters sure, he had appointed to the post of commander-in-chief of Gaul a Frank named Arbogastes, a man of great ability and energy, loud in his protestations of fidelity to his patrons the emperors. But the appointment was a mistake, and a fatal one. The Frank, all the while that he seemed to be holding the unquiet spirits of his province in check, was secretly playing his own game. The troops were corrupted, Franks were thrust into the most important military posts, and the loyal Italian servants of Valentinian gradually eliminated, their places being filled by friends of his own.

The young emperor had now been residing for some time at Treves. So anxious had he become to be received into the bosom of the Church, that he sent and repeated a pressing invitation to Ambrose to come to him and administer the Sacrament of Baptism, which he was earnestly desirous of receiving at the hands of one who had been so faithful to, and so highly valued by, his father and his brother. Partly owing to the news of some barbarian demonstration on the Italian frontier, partly from a wish to meet Ambrose half-way, he left Treves, and came southward as far as Vienne. This  independent movement, which betokened an intention to act without consulting Arbogastes, was by no means satisfactory to that personage, whose intention was to detain his emperor in a virtual captivity, which might some day be converted into an actual one. His dissatisfaction was raised to its utmost height when Valentinian placed in his hands a formal dismissal from all his offices. Tearing the document into shreds and flinging them on the ground, the Frank insultingly replied, “My authority was not given by you, and you are powerless to take it from me”.

Valentinian had inherited the quick temper which was the death of his illustrious father. In a transport of pardonable rage he snatched a sword from one of his guards, and was with some difficulty prevented from inflicting a mortal wound on his insolent general. An emperor with a will of his own was not to be tolerated by Arbogastes.

A few days after—it was Whitsun live, May 7, 392—Valentinian was found in his own chamber a corpse. The cause of death was strangulation, nor was there the faintest doubt as to the head that planned or the hands which perpetrated the deed. It was well known that the chamberlains of the palace had been tampered with, and by whom, but to the villany of assassination the barbarian general added the baseness of slander, and attempted, though without the smallest success, to persuade men that the pious young emperor was a suicide. He did not, however, detain the body, as Maximus had done that of Gratian; it was conveyed to Milan, and, after resting in the palace, buried by the direction of Theodosius.

The bishop of Milan preached the funeral sermon, or, more correctly speaking, pronounced the funeral oration. He enlarged on the moral purity of the deceased, his kindness of heart, his devotion to his duty, and deplored the loss sustained by the Christian cause. “Thou wert smitten, O Church, on one cheek, when thou didst lose Gratian: thou hast turned the other, now that Valentinian has been taken from thee”. The regret expressed by some that he had died without receiving Baptism, the preacher said, was needless; he had wished for it, and had sent for him to administer it: there was no reason to doubt that the gift from above which he had longed for was in effect bestowed on him. As the martyrdom of catechumens was always held to supply the place of the external administration of the Sacrament of regeneration, by the baptism of blood, so it might be hoped that the murdered youth was bathed in his own piety and holy desires. There is more of rhetoric in the discourse, and, we may add, more of the dignity of human merit, than is quite suited to the taste of an English churchman : many of the Scriptural allusions are forced and far­fetched; and we cannot help wondering, as we read the strong encomiums upon the departed, whether Ambrose had forgotten that he of whom he spoke was a few years before not only unbaptized, but an Arian.

Arbogastes was well enough acquainted with the feelings of Romans to be quite aware that he must be satisfied with the power of an emperor without the name. A century and a half had not effaced the remembrance of the brutal Maximin; and notwithstanding the success and renown of Philip, and Diocletian, and Maximian, whose title to the. Roman name was more than questionable, it was clear that a German who should attempt to copy him in his reign over Italians would only be consigned by them to his fate. A puppet emperor must be set up, a degenerate Roman, who would wear the purple and obey his commander-in-chief. Such a person was soon found in Eugenius, the rhetorician, his secretary and master of the offices.


The new emperor sent without delay to announce to Theodosius the unfortunate suicide (as he termed it) of Valentinian. Theodosius was once again obliged to temporize, as he had done with Maximus, and for the same reason. The unhappy affair of Thessalonica had shown him the risk he ran in being absent from his dominions; and Constantinople itself was far from being quiet. He dismissed the envoys with an equivocal answer, and with the usual gifts of honor, but at the same time began to prepare for another civil war.

Eugenius had not long been invested with the purple when a deputation from the pagan party at Rome waited upon him to beg for the restoration of heathen worship and the restitution of heathen endowments. They were dismissed with an answer in the negative; for Eugenius was professedly a Christian. A second deputation received a similar reply, but either perceived some tendency to vacillation on the part of the emperor, or, more probably, got a hint of some inclination on the part of Arbogastes to favor their demands. They persevered, and Eugenius, while still declining to restore the endowments to the temples, agreed to present some of them, as a favor, to certain eminent persons, “of the Gentile observance”, as the euphemistic phrase ran; coupling with this a relaxation of the edicts of Theodosius which forbad all heathen rites and ceremonies.

Not long after, the new ruler of the West crossed the Alps and proceeded to Milan. He had already sent a letter to the bishop to announce his elevation, and to intimate his intention of visiting the capital. To this he received, at first, no answer. Nor did Ambrose await his arrival, but thought it his wisest course to withdraw, as he had done on the approach of Maximus six years before. He first retired to Bologna, and thence to Florence : sending a letter addressed “To the most clement Emperor Eugenius”, in which he explained the reason of his previous silence and of his withdrawal from Milan to be the indulgence shown by a Christian ruler to idolatry. The presenting the heathen endowments to individuals was, he said, a mere quibble: it could not deceive any one, least of all God. “Though the Imperial power is great”, he wrote, “consider, sire, how great God is: He sees the hearts of all, He questions the inner conscience, He knows everything before it is done, He knows the inmost recesses of your soul. You do not permit yourself to be deceived; do you try to conceal anything from God? has this never occurred to your mind? however pertinacious they were with you, was it not your part, sire, to be all the more pertinacious in your resistance, for the glory of the Most High, the true and living God, and to refuse them what was inconsistent with the Sacred Law? Who grudges your giving what you choose to others? we do not pry into your liberality, nor envy the advantages of others : but we are interpreters of your faith. How will you offer your gifts to Christ? Emperor though you are, you ought to be, all the more, the servant of God. How will the priests of Christ dispense your gifts?”

The letter, as we might expect, had no effect. It was more important for Arbogastes to conciliate a party at Rome than to procure the doubtful advantage of the bishop’s residence at Milan; he boasted, we are told, to some Frankish chiefs of being the prelate’s intimate acquaintance and dear friend; but this was only because of the exalted idea they entertained of his power; the wily barbarian had no objection to be thought to stand in amicable relations to one whose friendship was supposed to ensure victory : but he did not want him in the capital. Nor did Eugenius care to have one near him who would be continually warning him of the sinfulness of tolerating idolatry, and by whose orders he had already been denied the privilege of worshipping in the churches. So Ambrose still remained at Florence; unwilling, he said, to be near one who had mixed himself up with sacrilege. Nor was he an unwelcome guest. Like his own Milanese flock, the Tuscans were charmed with his preaching.


victory and death.

ad 394-395


The preparations of Theodosius were at last complete, and on January 10, 394, he began to move westwards. Eugenius and Arbogastes set out from Milan to meet him, fulminating dire threats against the Christians. The churches should be turned into stables, and the whole clergy should feel the weight of their vengeance when they returned, as they were sure to do, in triumph. But Ambrose was not terrified by such menaces, and had firm faith in the Providence which he believed to be watching over the orthodox and lawful emperor. No sooner did he hear of their departure than he started for Milan, and arrived there on the 1st of August. Meanwhile, the usurper and his barbarian patron had reached the banks of the Frigidus, a small stream which rises in the Julian Alps, and joins the main stream of the Isonzo at no great distance from Aquileia. Here they awaited the coming of the Eastern emperor.

An indecisive skirmish, terminating rather to the disadvantage of Theodosius, revealed the weakness of his barbarian allies and the inferiority of his numbers; the Western commanders were inspired with fresh courage, while the generals on the other side began to despair. They recommended a cessation of hostilities, and advised their master to wait till the next spring, when he might hope to take the field with an increased and adequate force. But he saw that delay would be certain loss to himself and gain to his opponents, and refused to retire. The Cross, he said, which was the standard of his army, must needs prevail over the image of Hercules, which was borne in the ranks of the enemy. Entering a little chapel which stood on the crest of the hill on which his men were encamped, he prostrated himself, and spent the night in prayer. About the time of cock-crow he was overpowered by sleep. As he slept he thought he saw a vision.

Two men in white garments appeared to him, and announced themselves as the apostles St. John and St. Philip. They bade him take courage, and engage the enemy boldly, for that they were sent to be with him and give him aid. This promise tallied with a prophecy he had received before his march, from his old friend, the ascetic John of Egypt, who predicted that he would gain the victory, but with severe loss.

Awaking from his slumber, he finished his prayer, and then, encouraging his men by an account of his dream, led them on to battle, or, as his opponents thought, to certain destruction. It was a bold step, certainly, for Arbogastes had during the night sent a body of troops to take him in the rear, and they could already be seen occupying the passes that lay behind him. His mind, however, was soon set at rest by a message from the commanders of these troops. Had they been  friendly to their original leader, Theodosius would, in all human probability, have been, before the close of the day, a fugitive or a prisoner; but they were disgusted with the Frank and his creature, their master, and distrustful of their success or of their skill, and were ready to desert them and join the rival emperor. Besides these unhoped­for allies, Theodosius was favoured by the weather. It was the 7th of September, and the ground was covered with dust, which a brisk wind at his back blew into the face of the enemy, at the same time retarding the flight of their spears and arrows, and increasing the velocity of those which were launched against them. A slight appearance of reluctance which presented itself in one place was dispelled by the promptitude and zeal of the Eastern commander. Leaping from his horse, he put himself at the head of the loiterers, and cried, “Where is the God of Theodosius?” It need hardly be said that the victory was decisive.

The miserable Eugenius was dragged by a party of his own men and hurled in fetters at the feet of the conqueror. He pleaded for mercy, but in vain: the soldiers were not likely to listen to such an appeal, and Theodosius himself could not but remember Valentinian. Personally, the poor wretch was beneath contempt, but he wore the purple, and had been saluted emperor : it was not safe to spare him. Arbogastes fled, and wandered for some days among the mountains, desolate and desperate. But escape was hopeless, and the high-spirited Frank, rather than fall into the power of the victor, and die an ignominious death, or sue for a yet more ignominious life, decided the matter for himself with the point of his own sword.

Ambrose was made aware of the victory by a letter from the emperor, which called upon him to render special thanks to God for His merciful preservation of the empire and His care of its ruler. The letter contained a gentle hint that the bishop’s protracted absence from Milan looked as if he had begun to lose faith in the writer’s cause, or to fancy that he was no longer an object of Divine favor and under the protection of Providence. Ambrose hastened to disavow such a feeling, and to assure the emperor of the real cause of his absence. He congratulated him heartily on his success, and commended his pious humility in the midst of triumph. “I took your Piety's letter with me”, he wrote, “and laid it on the altar, and held it in my hand when I made the oblation”. Finally, he reminded him of the duty of being merciful. There was every reason why he should refer to this subject.

A large number of persons, most of them more or less compromised by adherence to Eugenius, but some few of them guiltless of any but compulsory submission to him, had taken refuge in the churches. Ambrose knew, by experience, what Theodosius’s temper was, and what direction the counsel of his advisers was likely to take, and dreaded both that the sanctity of churches might be invaded, and that severity might be used towards men who might be won by clemency, or, indeed, towards those who had rather deserved encouragement and consolation. He, therefore, not only mentioned their case in writing, but instructed Felix, his deacon (afterwards Bishop of Bologna), who was the bearer of the letter, to plead for them. Not long after, he wrote again to intercede on behalf of these wretched fugitives, mercy to whom would be a fit thank-offering for victory. “Their tears”, he said, “I cannot endure without sending a supplication to forestall your Clemency’s coming”. The emperor responded to his appeal by dispatching an officer to take charge of the suppliants; and Ambrose thought it best not to trust to letters, but to have a personal interview. He went to Aquileia, and was received with every mark of respect and affection. The emperor granted his requests; he knew, he said, how much he owed to the prayers of Ambrose; he felt also, doubtless, that to be merciful was to be wise. The event did not disappoint him : the pardoned adherents of Eugenius were among the most faithful to him and to his sons.

Theodosius was on the point of starting for Milan, but Ambrose returned with all possible speed, and was fortunate enough to be in the city in time to receive him with those honors which he was glad to see bestowed, not so much on a triumphant soldier as on a God-fearing prince. There was in truth every cause for rejoicing. Once more there was a gleam of hope for mourning Italy, a glimpse of peace for the distracted empire; once more East and West were united—though for the last time—under a single and a capable head.


It was not to last long. The anxieties of rule, and the fatigues and perils of the late campaign had told upon Theodosius. But a few weeks had elapsed from the date of his victory at the Frigidus, when he was taken ill of dropsy. The unusual inclemency of the weather, excessive rain and dense fog having prevailed for many days, perhaps aggravated his disease; at all events, he became convinced before very long that his end was near. He had left Arcadius, the elder of his sons, in charge of the East, and now sent for the younger, Honorius, whom he intended to place on the Western throne. The young Caesar reached his destination safely, and the satisfaction of seeing him and his elder brother, who accompanied him, caused the Imperial sufferer to rally for a short time; so that Arcadius felt justified in returning forthwith to the Eastern capital, where his presence was needed. A splendid show of horse and chariot races in the Circus (a favorite exhibition at Milan, as indeed at all Italian cities), in honor of the prince’s arrival, was fixed for January 16th, 395. The emperor attended the morning’s show, took interest in the proceedings, and seemed to all to be in improved health. But appearances were delusive. After the midday meal the more aggravated symptoms of his malady began to show themselves; the exertion had probably been too much for him. He was unable to appear again at the races, and Honorius was compelled to attend alone and represent him. He grew rapidly worse, and in the course of the night passed away from the troubles of his high dignity to rejoin his beloved Flaccilla in another world. In his last moments he commended his young sons to the care of the great Stilicho, husband of his niece Serena; then called for Ambrose, entreated him to be a father to them, as he had been to Gratian and Valentinian, and told him how very near to his heart was the welfare of the Church of Christ.

It  was determined that his body should not be interred at Milan, but should be conveyed to Constantinople, there to lie with the remains of his predecessors in the Empire of the East. Before its departure, and forty days after his death, solemn obsequies were celebrated at the city where he had sinned the great sin of his life, where he had shown his deep penitence, where he had celebrated his last triumph, and drawn his last breath. The funeral oration could be spoken by none but Ambrose. The rhetorical element, though present and palpable, is not so painfully prominent in it as in that on the death of Valentinian. The preacher spoke feelingly of the ability, clemency, and many virtues of the departed emperor, paying a compliment to the talents of his sons and successors which a few years unhappily showed to be entirely undeserved. Most of all, however, he extolled his humble piety. “No doubt”, he said, “the devout emperor is now at rest, in peace and light, in the company of the saints who have gone before”. An allusion to Constantine the Great here led him to digress into an apparently purposeless narration of the story—or rather the strange legend—of the finding of the Cross by Helena. Finally, he comforted poor little Honorius, who sat crying bitterly at not being allowed to accompany his father’s body and go back to his brother Arcadius at Constantinople, his old home. The preacher reminded him that he was now an emperor, and had a solemn duty towards all, so that he must no longer think of his father only. “Do not fear”, he concluded, “that your father’s triumphant remains, wherever they may go, will appear shorn of honor.   

Italy does not think so, she who has beheld magnificent triumphs, and whose children, freed a second time from tyrants, are waiting to extol the author of their liberty. Constantinople does not think so, who sent forth her prince a second time to victory, and, much as she would, could not retain him. She looked for triumphal solemnities on his return, to do honor to his victories; she looked for an emperor of the whole world, surrounded with an army from Gaul, supported by the forces of the whole world. But Theodosius now returns to her with higher power, with greater glory, for it is a troop of angels that accompanies him, a crowd of saints that follows him. Blessed indeed is the city that is receiving an inhabitant of Paradise, and will entertain, in the splendid abode where his body is to rest, a denizen of the heavenly city above.”



the end of a great life.

ad 395-397


Ambrose's own term was now drawing to a close. He was in his fifty-fifth year, scarcely more than a middle-aged man according to our reckoning. But the anxieties and labors of twenty years had had their effect upon him; and his ascetic mode of life, if it enhanced his spiritual powers, did not certainly increase his physical strength.

He allowed himself no midday meal except on Sundays and saints’ days, and, owing to a fortunate peculiarity of his own church, on Saturdays also; the Saturday feast, we learn, was one of the usages of the Church of Milan, for in Rome the ‘Sabbath’ (the day before the Lord’s Day) was kept as a fast. And at the same time he was continually engaged in preaching, writing (not by an amanuensis, but with his own hand), and in giving counsel to those who resorted to him.

The wear of this branch of the pastoral office must have been excessive. Numbers flocked to him to give him their confidences before performing that public penance for sin which was customary at that time, and to ask his advice and consolation; and he threw himself heart and soul into each case, “rejoicing”, says Paulinus, “with them that did rejoice, and weeping with them that did weep; for he would weep so with one who acknowledged his errors with a view to penance, as to force him to weep also”.

His assiduity about the due performance of the rites of religion was equally great, and involved almost an equal tax on his energies, for he would do single-handed at baptisms what five bishops of his time could scarcely perform together. When we remember that at Milan in the fourth century “a baptism” implied commonly the immersion of a number of adults, and was not confined to the pouring of water on a few infants, we shall see that the bodily fatigue of a solemn baptismal day to the officiating bishop (for it was he, not the presbyters, still less the deacons, who usually administered the sacrament) must have been enormous.

The death of Theodosius, while it could have no effect upon his austerities and his labors, must have increased tenfold his anxieties for Church and State. The Huns, a new and terrible enemy, were beginning to threaten the East. The Goths, under Alaric, were stirring in Greece. Gildo the Moor (the brother of that Firmus whom the father of Theodosius had subdued for Valentinian I in 374) was a rebel, and all but independent, in Africa, and had proclaimed himself a supporter of the persecuting Donatists. With a gentle but unpromising boy of ten (Honorius) for emperor of the West, and an equally gentle fool of eighteen (Arcadius) ruling in the East, guided by the contemptible and irreligious Rufinus, the most dismal forebodings respecting the Empire were inevitable. But the battle of the Faith was already won in the West, and no one had contributed more to the victory than the great Bishop of Milan himself. That man could not fail to leave his mark upon the Church who had brought a Theodosius to do penance and converted an Augus­tine. Three years later (398), John, the eloquent and fearless preacher of Antioch, was to ascend the patriarchal throne of Constantinople, and leave his mark too behind him, as a champion of the truth in the East, following up and completing the work of Basil and Gregory Nazianzen. The Church was sure to hold her own when it pleased her Divine Master to send her such rulers as Ambrose and Chrysostom.

Stilicho, who was during the minority of Honorius the virtual Emperor of the West, and had taken care to prevent, by the death of Rufinus, the presence of a rival in the East, discovered soon that the old spirit was not extinct in the Bishop of Milan. One Cresconius, a criminal, had been condemned to be exposed to the wild beasts in the Amphitheatre. Christianity had not yet succeeded in inducing the Romans to lay aside their barbarous delight in the sanguinary spectacles of the arena; it has not yet led their Spanish descendants to give up the bull-fight, and only a century ago similar “sports” were not unknown to the inhabitants of a western isle who prided themselves on possessing a purer form of Christianity than that of modern Spain, or, as some of them even said, than that of Milan fourteen centuries before. The unhappy wretch had managed to make his escape, and fled for refuge into a church. Stilicho was persuaded to order a detachment of soldiers to drag him from the sanctuary. Disregarding the protests and the resistance of the bishop and his clergy, a body of men, headed, said the Catholic gossip of the day, by some Arian officers (probably Goths), forced their way into the sacred building and tore the miserable Cresconius away.

The privilege of sanctuary would be justly considered by nations like ourselves, with a settled constitutional government and a regular judicial system, to be a meaningless and intolerable interference with the due course of the law; it was by no means without its use at other times and among other people. It often afforded a means of appeal against an unjust or too rigorous sentence, against the passion of a despot, or the baseness of a mercenary judge. It would nowadays be a dangerous advantage to the guilty; it was once a shield to the innocent. Guilty therefore as the man was, and little as Ambrose desired to infringe on the majesty of the law or thwart its action, he felt deeply moved at this desecration of his church by the violent encroachment on its recognized privilege. It was in his sight an insult to Him to Whom the place was dedicated, and implied a disregard of its sanctity which might eventually terminate in such buildings being handed over for Arian worship, or secular or even heathen purposes. Throwing himself on his knees before the altar, he prayed with many sighs and tears. Stilicho, meanwhile, had begun to regret (we may believe for religious as well as political reasons) the order he had given, and the intelligence brought to him of the conduct of the bishop and clergy increased the feeling. It chanced that the soldiers who had been foremost in the proceedings at the church contrived, in some manner or other, to get into the way of some African leopards which had been let into the arena to do their murderous work, and the beasts, not being able to distinguish between criminals and executioners, had attacked and severely wounded them. This occurrence, in which some imagined that they saw the interposition of a Higher Power, may possibly have influenced Stilicho still further; it certainly did not prejudice the people against his decision, which was that the criminal’s life should be spared, and his sentence commuted to exile. The Christians could overlook the arrest of a malefactor within the walls of a church, provided such arrest did not lead to the shedding of blood.

It was about the same time that Ambrose received a deputation from a new convert to Christianity, Fritigil, queen of the Marcomanni, a German tribe inhabiting part of the modern Bohemia, and in past times, with their allies the Sarmatian Quadi, a terrible disquiet to the Roman Empire. The missionary who won Fritigil to the faith had told her much of the greatness of the Milanese prelate, to whom she accordingly sent, entreating him to give her further instruction. He replied by writing, and placing in the hands of her messenger, a catechism, which she gladly received. It has unfortunately been lost. He did not forget the statesman; with his religious instruction he joined a recommendation, which she acted upon, to persuade her husband to make peace, and join in alliance with Rome.



We find Ambrose in the same year (396) not only seconding missionary endeavors, but also called upon to remember his duty as archbishop. The bishopric of Vercelli had become vacant by the death of Limenius, and there was so much strife and party feeling that no election could be made, and the see had remained for some time unfilled. The metropolitan was held responsible for this state of things, either because he had thrown difficulties in the way, or because he had neglected to take the necessary steps towards reconciling the differences and procuring an election. In either case the charge against him was unfair, and without real grounds. In self-defence, and in discharge of his archiepiscopal duty, he addressed a long letter to the Church of Vercelli. It is the last of his which we possess. He urges Churchmen to lay their strife aside, and be at peace, as though Christ Himself were standing among them; and then cautions them against Sarmatio and Barbatianus, two monks whom he had ejected from his monastery in 391 for teaching some of the doctrines of Jovinian. Next he gives a sketch, illustrated from Scripture, of the qualities needed in their bishop, who ought to combine the virtues of the clerical and monastic life; and winds up with some holy counsel to the laity : the rich, the young, the married, masters, and servants, have their special precepts in this fatherly exhortation. The episcopal election was soon made; the choice of the Church fell upon Honoratus, who was consecrated as Limenius’s successor.

It was not long after writing this letter,—sometime in February, 397,—that he was called upon to officiate at the consecration of the Bishop of Pavia. After returning from the service he was taken ill, and compelled to retire to his bed. It was soon only too evident to all that his danger was extreme. Stilicho, who had learnt his worth from Theodosius and from his own experience, felt that his loss would be a terrible blow to Italy. Something must be done, he thought, to bring it about that so valuable a life might be spared. Summoning all the most influential and valued of the bishop's friends, he by turns entreated and commanded them to go to his bedside and bid him pray to be permitted to live. They went and proffered their strange request: the dying prelate calmly replied, “I have not so lived among you as to be ashamed to live on : but I do not fear to die, for our Lord is good”. The prayers, if offered, were in God’s providence not granted; the end drew visibly nearer, and men began to think who should be chosen to fill his place when he was taken from them. It happened that four deacons (one of whom, Venerius, afterwards became Bishop of Milan himself) were standing at the farther end of the gallery in which his couch was placed, and conversing, as they thought, in a scarcely audible tone on this important question. But either they forgot, in their warmth, to moderate their voices, or the sick man’s senses, as not unfrequently happens, were preternaturally sharpened : when they mentioned the name of Simplician, they were terrified to hear the bishop express his approval by exclaiming three times, “Old, but good”. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that Simplician was his successor.


He sank rapidly; but as the outward man perished, the inward man was renewed; the Lord Jesus, he told Bassianus, bishop of Lodi, who had been praying with him, had come to his side and smiled upon him. At last (it was Good Friday, April 3, 397) he ceased to speak : he lay for some hours with his arms stretched out in the form of the Cross, his lips moving, but no sound audible. Midnight passed, and Honoratus the newly-consecrated bishop of Vercelli, who had been with him, had left his side, and was retiring to rest, when he thought he heard a voice which repeated thrice, “Up, hasten, he is departing”. Without delay Honoratus entered the sick chamber, and gave the dying prelate the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood. He received it, and a moment after was at rest. It was Easter Eve, April 4, and his body was carried to the “greater” church : thence on Easter Day to the church which bears his name. There he was laid, close to his beloved brother Satyrus. His funeral was attended by a throng of all ranks and ages: and not Christians only, but Jews and heathen, came to testify their respect for the great and holy man who had departed from among them. His catechumen Fritigil journeyed all the way from her German home to see and speak with him : but she came too late; she could only gaze weeping on his honored tomb.