A highly educated Spanish nobleman after whom the ascetic movement of priscillianism is named; b. Spain, c. 340; d. Trier, 386. After his conversion to Christianity Priscillian joined a lay community of ascetics, who became wandering preachers. After seeking to reform the clergy, they turned to a wider mission and encountered considerable success but also a fanatical reaction in Lusitania. Priscillian and his supporters, Bps. Instantius and Salvian, were denounced by Bp. Hyginus of Córdoba to their metropolitan, Bp. Hydacius of Mérida. The Council of Saragossa (380), at which only ten Spanish bishops were present, passed canons against the participation of women with men in religious gatherings; against lay doctors or teachers; and against Christians absenting themselves from church during Lent (c.1; 7.2). Canon five was probably directed at the rebellion of Priscillian, Instantius, and Salvian against their metropolitan. Despite this, Priscillian was elected bishop of Ávila. His opponents, Hydacius and Ithacius of Ossonoba, appealed against him to the secular authorities, alleging charges of Manichaeism and magic. Exiled from their province, Priscillian, Instantius, and Salvian traveled to Rome; Salvian died there, and the others journeyed to Milan. They failed to win the support of Pope damasus or St. ambrose, but were reinstated by the civil authorities. Upon the successful revolt (383) of the usurper Maximus, however, their position was again jeopardized; and Instantius was deposed by a Council at Bordeaux (384–385). When Priscillian unwisely appealed to Maximus, he was condemned as a Manichaean, together with six supporters, and was executed at Trier.
Bibliography: Works, ed. g. schepss (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 18; 1889), including Pauli Apostoli epistolas: Canones, rev. by an unknown Bp. Peregrinus, and Tractatus 9, possibly by Instantius. sulpicius severus, Chronicon 2.46–51 and Dialogi 2.11, ed. c. halm (Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 1; 1866). Patrologia Latina 84:315–318, Council of Saragossa. e. babut, Priscillien et le priscillianisme (Paris (1909). j.m. ramos y loscertales, Prisciliano. Gesta rerum (Salamanca 1952); Clavis Patrum latinorum ed. e. dekkers, 785–789. j. martin, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 8:768–769.
[j. n. hillgarth]