Caesarius of Arles, St.
CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ST.
Archbishop of Arles (502–542); b. Chalon-sur-Saône, 469 or 470; d. Aug. 27, 542. Caesarius was tonsured in his 18th year (486–87) by Bishop Sylvester of Chalon (c. 485–c. 527) and two years later became a monk at Lérins, where he was appointed cellarer (Vita Caesarii 1.4–6). In the mid-490s, suffering from poor health, he was sent by Abbot Porcarius to Arles, where he was welcomed by his relative Bishop Eonius (or Aeonius, c. 485–c. 502). At the urging of local aristocrats who wished to refine his "monastic simplicity" (Vita Caesarii 1.9), Caesarius received instruction from the noted grammarian and rhetorician Julianus Pomerius. Eonius ordained him deacon and then priest, and made him abbot of a suburban monastery in 498 or 499 (Vita Caesarii 1.12–13). Some months after Eonius's death, probably in December of 502 (Sermon 231.3), Caesarius was consecrated as archbishop of Arles.
The delay in Caesarius's consecration suggests a contested election and helps to explain his continuing difficulties with the local clergy. Charged by a local cleric with conspiring to deliver Arles to the Burgundians, Caesarius was summoned to Bordeaux by the Visigothic king Alaric II in 505 and released early in 506, probably in connection with the promulgation on Feb. 2, 506, of Alaric's Breviarium, based on the Theodosian Code (Vita Caesarii 1.21–24). After Alaric's defeat by the Franks (507), Arles was besieged by Franks and Burgundians (507–8), but relieved by the Ostrogoths of Italy, who held the city until they ceded it to the Franks in 536. In these unsettled political conditions, Caesarius employed church wealth in the ransoming of captives (Vita Caesarii 1.32–34), thereby triggering further attempts by the local clergy to depose him. In 513 he was called to Ravenna by King Theoderic (489–526), but he was once again released, possibly through the intervention of the deacon Ennodius (Vita Caesarii 1.36–38; Dom Morin, Opera omnia 2:3–4). He then visited Rome, where Ennodius's patron Pope Symmachus (498–514) received him warmly and on Nov. 6, 513 granted him the pallium (Vita Caesarii 1.38, 42). The same pope named Caesarius his vicar for Gaul and Spain on June 11, 514, and he continued in this office under succeeding pontiffs. Caesarius presided over synods at Agde in 506, at Arles in 524, at Carpentras in 527, at Orange and Vaison in 529, and at Marseille in 533 (Morin 2:36–89). Of these synods, Agde is renowned for its canonical code; Orange, for its teaching on grace—approved by Pope Boniface II (530–32) on Jan. 25, 531 (Morin 2:67–70), thus vindicating Caesarius's Augustinianism against his detractors (Vita Caesarii 1.60)—and Carpentras and Vaison for their strengthening of rural parishes as centers of Christianization.
Caesarius's biographers praised him for his holiness (Vita Caesarii 1.45, 46; 2.31–35), miracles (Vita Caesarii 1.39–41, 47–51; 2.2–30), and preaching (Vita Caesarii 1.27, 54–55, 59, 61). He visited his outlying parishes regularly, instituted a full Divine Office in his cathedral of St. Stephen, and authorized the preaching of his deacons and priests. In concert with his sister Caesaria the Elder, he founded a nunnery at Aliscamps, to the southeast of the city, and after its destruction during the siege reestablished it within the city walls. It was dedicated on Sunday, Aug. 26, 512, with Caesaria as abbess. In 524 Caesarius dedicated the basilica of St. Mary, which was to serve as the nuns' burial place (Conc. Arles, 524; Vita Caesarii 1.57) and eventually as his own (Vita Caesarii 2.50). His Rule for Nuns, a composite document revised over time, was issued in its final form in 534, during the abbacy of his niece, Caesaria the Younger. The first Latin rule written specifically for women, it was adopted by Radegund's monastery in Poitiers and exercised considerable influence in early medieval Gaul and Germany. For a male community under his nephew, the priest Teridius, Caesarius also composed a Rule for Monks modeled on the Rule for Nuns.
Preeminent among works of Caesarius are 238 sermons edited by Dom Morin (Opera omnia v. 1, reproduced in Corpus Christianorum, v. 103–104) and other sermons substantiated as his (Frede, Kirchenschriftsteller 4, 345–47; Clavis Patrum latinorum 1008a). A portion of his correspondence is preserved (Morin, Opera 2:3–32, 65, 67–70, 125–26, 134–44). So also are the texts of the councils at which he presided; his Rule for Nuns and Rule for Monks, with annexed documents; Opusculum de gratia; De mysterio S. Trinitatis; Breviarium adversus hereticos; Expositio de Apocalypsi; and Testament. The first book of the Vita Caesarii was composed prior to 549 by Bps. Cyprian of Toulon, Firminus of Uzès, and Viventius, the second book by the priest Messianus and the deacon Stephanus, two clerics of Arles.
Caesarius's Sermons, popular in his own time, have proven a most revealing source for Church life in 6th century France. Recent investigators have plumbed his moral and doctrinal teachings, his scriptural exegesis, his attitude to magic and other aspects of popular culture, and his efforts at Christianization. Though his theology is not original, his constant pastoral concern places him among the truly relevant writers of the patristic age.
Feast: Aug. 27.
Bibliography: Opera omnia, ed. g. morin, 2 v. in 3 (Maredsous, Bel. 1937–42); rev. ed. of v. 1.1–2, Sermones, 2 v. (Corpus Christianorum. Series latina 103–104; 1953). Eng. Sermons, tr. m. m. mueller, The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, 31(1956), 47 (1964), 66 (1973); The Rule for Nuns, ed. and tr. m. c. mccarthy (Washington 1960); Life, Testament, Letters, tr. w. e. klingshirn (Liverpool 1994). Fr. Sermons au peuple, tr. m.–j. delage, Sources Chrétiennes 175 (1971), 243 (1978), 330 (1986); Oeuvres monastiques, 2 v., tr. j. courreau and a. de vogÜÉ, Sources Chrétiennes 345 (1988), 398 (1994); L'Apocalypse expliquée par Césaire d'Arles, tr. j. courreau (Paris 1989). Clavis Patrum latinorum, ed. e. dekkers 1008–19a. Literature. Acta Sanctorum, Aug. 6:50–83. b. krusch, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (SRM) III, 433–501. g. terraneo, "Saggio bibliografico su Cesario vescovo di Arles," La scuola cattolica 91 (1963), suppl. bibliogr. 272–94. g. langgÈrtner, "Der Apokalypse-Kommentar des Caesarius von Arles," Theologie und Glaube 57 (1967), 210–25. w. m. daly, "Caesarius of Arles: A Precursor of Medieval Christendom," Traditio 26 (1970), 1–28. j. courreau, "L'exégèse allegorique de Saint Césaire d'Arles," Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 78 (1977), 181–206, 241–268. s. felici, "La catechesi al populo di S. Cesario di Arles," Salesianum 41(1979), 375–92. l. navarra, "Motivi sociali e di costume nei sermoni al populo di Cesario di Arles," Benedictina 28 (1981), 229–60. c. munier, "La pastorale penitentielle de saint Césaire d'Arles (503–543)," Revue de droit canonique 34 (1984), 235–44. d. bertrand et al., Césaire d'Arles et la christianisation de la Provence (Paris 1994). w. e. klingshirn, Caesarius of Arles: The Making of a Christian Community in Late Antique Gaul (Cambridge 1994). k. berg, Césarius von Arles: Ein Bischof des sechsten Jahrhunderts erschließt das liturgische Leben seiner Zeit (Thaur 1994). y. hen, Culture and Religion in Merovingian Gaul,a.d.. 481–751 (Leiden 1995). g. de nie, "Caesarius of Arles and Gregory of Tours: Two Sixth-Century Gallic Bishops and 'Christian Magic,"' in Cultural Identity and Cultural Integration: Ireland and Europe in the Early Middle Ages, ed. d. edel (Dublin 1995), 170–96. p. mikat, Caesarius von Arles und die Juden (Opladen 1996). r. h. weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy (Macon, Ga. 1996). a. ferreiro, "Modèles laïcs de sainteté dans les sermons de Césaire d'Arles," in Clovis: Histoire et mémoire, ed. m. rouche (Paris 1997), 97–114. m. heijmans, "La topographie de la ville d'Arles durant l'Antiquité tardive," Journal of Roman Archaeology 12 (1999), 142–67.
[h. g. j. beck/
w. e. klingshirn]