Paulinus of Nola, St.
PAULINUS OF NOLA, ST.
Meropius Pontius Paulinus, bishop of Nola from 409 to 431, and man of letters; b. Bordeaux, France, c. 353;d. Nola, Campania, Italy, 431. He came of a rich and powerful family with extensive property in Aquitaine, Gallia Narbonensis, Nola, and probably also in Spain. Paulinus was placed under the special patronage of St. felix of nola at an early age (Carmen 21. 348–350). He studied under Decimus Magnus Ausonius at Bordeaux and later corresponded with him in verse letters. At the age of 30, he had been consul (probably consul suffectus ) and governor of Campania (c. 379) and had married Therasia, a wealthy Spanish woman of distinguished family.
Baptized at Bordeaux in 389, he settled near Barcelona, where his only child, a son Celsus, died eight days after birth. Soon both he and his wife adopted an ascetic mode of life and began distributing their goods to the poor. At Christmas in 395, despite his objections, he was ordained a priest, and in the following year he and his wife went to Nola, where he devoted himself to promoting the cult of St. Felix. About 409 Paulinus succeeded Paulus as bishop of Nola. Paulinus built or restored a number of churches dedicated to the cult of St. Felix and may well have been the first to use the bell in church. Of his episcopal administration little is known.
Paulinus wrote in both prose and verse. In prose, some 50 letters are extant, addressed to sulpicius severus, Bp. (St.) Delphinus of Bordeaux (instrumental in Paulinus's conversion, d. 404), augustine, rufinus of aquileia, and others. Of them Goldschmidt said, "His loquacity … spoils his lucidity," and "not one of his contemporaries interlards his writings with so many Biblical quotations."
Of his 35 poems, the most interesting are a series of carmina natalicia commemorating each year, from 395 to 407, the feast day of St. Felix on January 14. In these Paulinus shows considerable narrative skill. In one passage (Carmen 16.82) he describes how Felix escaped his persecutors when he slipped through a hole in an old wall and a spider promptly spun a web over the opening. In such passages there is a good sense of liveliness and verve.
Feast: June 22.
Bibliography: p. g. walsh, tr., Letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, 2 v. (Westminster, Md. 1966–67); The Poems of St. Paulinus of Nola (New York 1975). w. von hartel, ed. (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 29, 30; 1894). b. altaner, Patrology, tr. h. graef from 5th German ed. (New York 1960), 482–483. r. helm, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. 18.4 (1949) 2331–51. r. c. goldschmidt, ed., Paulinus' Churches at Nola (Amsterdam 1940). p. fabre, Essai sur la chronologie de l'oeuvre de Saint Paulin de Nole (Paris 1948); Saint Paulin de Nole de l'amitié chrétienne (Paris 1949). r. p. h. green, The Poetry of Paulinus of Nola (Brussels 1971). j. t. lienhard, Paulinus of Nola and Early Western Monasticism (Cologne 1977), with annotated bibliography. k. kohlwes, Christliche Dichtung und stilistische Form bei Paulinus von Nola (Bonn 1979). g. luongo, Lo specchio dell'agiografo: S. Felice nei carmi XV e XVI di Paolino di Nola (Naples 1992). f. ceparano and d. ruocco, eds., I gigli di Nola (Naples 1994). d. e. trout, Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters, and Poems (Berkeley, Calif.1999). c. conybeare, Paulinus Noster: Self and Symbols in the Letters of Paulinus of Nola (New York 2000). r. courcelle, Revue des études latines 25 (1947) 250–280, and St. Jerome. f. murphy, Revue des études augustiniennes 2 (1956) 79–91, and Rufinus.
[m. p. cunningham]