The name of two abbesses of Saint-Jean in Arles, France.
Caesaria the Elder; b. c. 465; d. c. 525. Addressed in a letter of c. 510 as "holy abbess" by her brother cae sarius of arles (Clavis Patrum latinorum, [CPL] ed. e. dekkers L 1010, trans. Klingshirn, 129–39), she headed a small community of ascetic women, possibly in Marseille. In 507 and 508 the monastery Caesarius was building for her community outside the walls of Arles was destroyed by warfare, but it was promptly rebuilt inside the walls and dedicated on Aug. 26, 512 (Vita Caesarii 1.28, 35; 2.48). The rule Caesarius composed for the new foundation provided for common ownership of goods, strict enclosure, and a communal life of prayer, Bible reading, and good works (CPL 1009, trans. McCarthy). Caesaria governed the institution for more than ten years and was laid to rest in the burial church of St. Mary, dedicated in 524 (Vita Caesarii 1.57–58).
Caesaria the Younger, second abbess of the convent of Arles, possibly a niece of Caesarius and Caesaria; d. before 561. Probably the virgin addressed in the letter "O Profundum" (CPL 1011), she was educated in the monastery from a young age and in c. 525 became its abbess; by 542 there were over 200 nuns in her care (Vita Caesarii 2.47). She was instrumental in inducing Cyprian of Toulon to compose the life of Caesarius of Arles (Vita Caesarii 1.1) and in transmitting Caesarius's Rule to Radegund's monastery in Poitiers (Gregory of Tours, Hist. 9.40; Venantius Fortunatus, Carm. 8.3.81–84). She had many holy books, including the sermons of Caesarius and St. Augustine, copied at Arles. She is the author of a brief treatise on the monastic life addressed to Richild and Radegund (CPL 1054, trans. J. A. McNamara and J. E. Halborg, 112–18). Several sayings and burial regulations pertaining to the monastery are also attributed to her (CPL 1009, 1054). At her death she was succeeded as abbess by Liliola.
Feast: Jan. 12.
Bibliography: g. de plinval, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 12 (1953): 212–16. m. c. mccarthy, The Rule for Nuns of St. Caesarius of Arles (1960); a. de vogÜÉ and j. courreau, Césaire d'Arles: Oeuvres Monastiques, v. 1(1988); j. a. mcnamara and j. e. halborg, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages (1992); w. e. klingshirn, Caesarius of Arles: Life, Testament, Letters (1994).
[m. f. mccarthy
w. e. klingshirn]