Dieser Artikel ist im Augustinus-Lexikon in dessen 5. Band, Faszikel 3/4 (2021) auf den Spalten 578-582 erschienen.

Das Martyrium des hl. Stephanus. Mariotto di Nardo (1408). The National Museum of Western Art, TokyoDas Martyrium des hl. Stephanus. Mariotto di Nardo (1408). The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo – Bildquelle: wikimedia commons

1. Historical and liturgical context – 2. S. in the works of A.

1. Historical and liturgical context. According to tradition, the relics (↗Reliquiae (martyrum)) of the first martyr S. who appears in Act 6-8 were discovered in December 415 together with those of Gamaliel and Nicodemus at Caphar Gamala near Jerusalem – a discovery that was due to three revelations received by the local priest Lucianus [1]. The relics were transferred to the city, but some bones and dust (‹puluis›) remained in the possession of Lucianus, who dictated a Greek report of the events for the exiled Avitus of Braga. Part of the remains as well as a Latin translation of the report were passed on by the latter to Paulus ↗Orosius, whom A. had sent to Palestine in the context of the latter’s conflict with Pelagius. The remains were meant to be transferred to Avitus’ bishop Balconius of Braga, but eventually did not reach him. However, around 418, parts of S.’s relics arrived in Menorca and also in Uzalis (↗Vzalis), where the martyr’s cult was promoted by A.’s friend and fellow bishop ↗Euodius and whence the relics were distributed over other North-African localities: Aquae Tibilitanae, Castellum Sinitense, ↗Calama and ↗Hippo Regius. A small amount of the ashes arrived in the latter city in 424/425 [2], where they were deposed in June/July 425 under an altar in a ↗‹memoria› [3] that was constructed near the main basilica at the expense of the deacon and A.’s future successor ↗Eraclius [4]. This ‹memoria› bore a now lost epigram of four verses that was probably written by A. himself, and possibly also a fresco or mosaic representing S.’s stoning [5].

The transfer of S.’s relics from Caphar Gamala to Jerusalem took place on 26 December – a date the Eastern Church had been celebrating as the saint’s feast since the late fourth c. [6]. The African Church took over this feast [7] (↗Festa sanctorum et martyrum, 2,1298sq.), for which A. reserved the reading of (part of) Act 6sq. [8]. The same text was also read at (the anniversary of) the dedication of the ‹memoria› [9] and during the ‹lectio continua› of Act that started every year on Easter Sunday [10]. Additionally, contemporary miracle records – the so-called ‹libelli miraculorum› – were also used in the liturgy for S. [11] (↗Lectio, 3,915sq.).


[1] Cf. Saxer, Morts 245sq.258-260; Meyers. – [2] S. 317,1: «exiguus puluis». – [3] S. 318,1; ciu. 22,8. – [4] S. 356,7. – [5] S. 319,7: «quatuor uersus quos in cella scripsimus»; 316,5: «dulcissima pictura»; cf. Perler 321-326; Sanders. – [6] Cf. Saxer, Origines 41-45. – [7] It has been suggested on the basis of the composition of manuscript Paris, BNF, lat. 3798 that there must have existed a North-African city that celebrated S.’s ‹natalis› and the deposition of his relics on 26 December and one of the first days of August. This opinion has been refuted by Partoens 49-52.55sq.75-77. – [8] S. 314,1sq.; 315,1.5-7; 316,1-3; 317,5sq.; s. Weidm. 13,4. – [9] S. 318,1; 319,1-4.7. – [10] Mentioned in s. 315,1. For the readings during celebrations in honour of S., cf. Margoni-Kögler, Perikopen 77-80.148. – [11] S. 94; 319,7; 320; 322; cf. Delehaye; Saxer, Morts 269-278; Duval; Klöckener, Festa 1287 n. 21; Margoni-Kögler, Reliquiae 1150sq. An example of such a ‹libellus› is s. 322, while parts of ciu. 22,8 depend on ‹libelli› too.

2. S. in the works of A. – From his early works onwards, A. frequently referred to S. [12]. The latter’s importance for A. was based on his being the first martyr (↗Martyres, martyrium), whose death preceded even that of the apostles and was the only martyr’s death narrated in a canonical text [13]. Additional factors were parallels between S.’s ‹passio› and Christ’s as well as Paul’s involvement in his martyrdom (hence the frequent association of both saints in A.’s works) [14]. Most of A.’s references occur in homilies, particularly in those linked with the cult of S. himself (↗Sermones (ad populum), 5,296- 300.307-318.340sq.): s. 314-317 and s. Weidm. 13 were delivered on his ↗‹dies natalis› (26 December) [15]; s. 318-319 at the dedication of the saint’s ‹memoria› and one of its anniversaries [16]; s. 320-324, which testify to the miraculous healing of the Cappadocians Paul and his sister Palladia, on four consecutive days starting from Easter Sunday 426 [17].

The discovery of S.’s relics and their spread in Africa marked a change in A.’s attitude towards miracles [18]. The bishop’s initial scepticism regarding the possibility of miracles in Africa in his own time [19] gave way to acceptance and even promotion of the belief that such miracles did still happen (↗Mirabilia, miraculum). However, A.’s veneration of the martyrs, and of S. in particular, always remained centred on Christ and avoided any form of martyrolatry [20]. The extensive list of contemporary miracles in ciu. 22,8 – including several attributed to S.’s intervention – was to prove in the first place that miracles were performed not only during the Church’s earliest history, but also in A.’s own days, in order to strengthen faith and to bear witness to the belief that Christ rose in the flesh and thus ascended into heaven [21].

Major recurring topics in A.’s references to S. as a martyr are the following (apart from those applying to martyrs in general): the rhetorical comparison of the ‹natalis domini› (25 December; ↗Natiuitas Christi (natalis domini)) and the ‹natalis Stephani› (26 December) [22]; the etymological explanation of the name Στέφανος as referring to the crown of martyrdom [23]; the representation of S. as a humble deacon who underwent martyrdom prior to the apostles by whom he was ordained [24]; the claim that while speaking hard words to the Jews at the end of his oration to the Sanhedrin (Act 7,51-53), S. still loved them in his heart [25]; the association of Jews’ hard-headedness (Act 7,51) with their having killed S. by throwing hard stones at him [26] or having received the Law on stone [27]; the comparison of the protomartyr’s ‹passio› with Christ’s, specifying both differences and similarities [28]; the observation that when praying for himself (i.e. for a just man) S. was standing, whereas he was kneeling down when praying to God to forgive his persecutors (Act 7,60) [29]; the claim that the conversion of Saul, who is frequently said to have stoned S. with the hands of all persecutors [30], was the best proof of the effectiveness of S.’s prayer [31]. Imitating with his prayer Christ’s request to the Father to forgive those crucifying him (Lc 23,34) [32], S. obeyed the Lord’s commandment in the Sermon on the Mount to love one’s enemies and to pray for one’s persecutors (Mt 5,44) [33]. Moreover, as a ‹conseruus› of all Christians, he thus proved that even an ordinary human being, and not only Christ, was able to fulfill this extraordinary commandment [34] (↗Seruus dei). For A., love for one’s enemies was essential to the ‹imitatio Stephani› [35].

The account of S.’s death is also referred to in other theological and exegetical contexts. Considering S.’s long oration in Act 7,2-53 an authoritative text on the history of the Jews, A. uses the oration in his exegesis of Genesis and Exodus [36]. S.’s claim that he could see «caelos apertos et filium hominis a dextris stantem dei» (Act 7,56) was referred to as proof of the corporality and visibility of the risen Christ [37] and as an argument in favour of a nonliteral interpretation of the formula «sedet ad dexteram patris» in the Creed [38]. Finally, A. stresses the Church’s universal character by referring to the events immediately following the stoning of S., when Saul’s persecution dispersed the Christians of Jerusalem (Act 8,1-3) and thus contributed to the expansion of the Church throughout the world [39].


[12] Cf. Mayer; Bastiaensen; Dupont; Weidmann, Sermo 165-171. – [13] S. 315,1; 318,1. – [14] Cf. Bastiaensen 115- 118; ↗Passio domini (dominica), ↗Passiones martyrum, ↗Paulus apostolus. – [15] Because of its reference to the habit of reading Act from Easter Sunday onwards (cf. [10]), s. 315 has also been situated during the Easter period. – [16] S. 316 presupposes the existence of the ‹memoria›, while s. 317 was delivered shortly after the arrival of the relics in Hippo (Partoens 51sq.). S. frg. Verbr. 40 is a short excerpt from a sermon that was not necessarily dedicated to S., but it ended up in the above series because it is part of a medieval cento on the first martyr (s. app. 212 (PL 39,2141sq.); cf. Verbraken 265sq.). The authenticity of s. Weidm. 13 is still debated (Weidmann, Problem), while s. 382, also dedicated to the protomartyr, is considered inauthentic (Bouhot). Some manuscripts present s. 327 as a sermon for the ‹natalis› of S. too (Partoens 89 with n. 17). – [17] Cf. also the extensive discussion of these events in ciu. 22,8. – [18] Cf. Mayer 221; Fraïsse; Duval 98; Klöckener, Martyres 1194; Roessli 27sq. – [19] Vera rel. 47; s. 88,2sq. – [20] Cf. Mayer 236; Dupont 44-46. Striking expressions of this christological focus are s. 316,1 («numquid enim legimus, aut in doctrina sana alicubi legere possumus, quia faciebat aut facit signa Iesus per nomen Stephani? fecit Stephanus, sed per nomen Christi») and 318,1 («nos enim in isto loco non aram fecimus Stephano, sed de reliquiis Stephani aram deo»). – [21] Ib. 22,9: «cui, nisi huic fidei adtestantur ista miracula, in qua praedicatur Christus resurrexisse in carne et in caelum ascendisse cum carne?». – [22] S. 314,1; 317,6; s. Weidm. 13,1. – [23] S. 204,3; 314,2; s. Guelf. 24,1; en. Ps. 58,1,5. – [24] S. 315,1; 316,1; 317,1; en. Ps. 78,2. – [25] S. 49,10; 90,9; 315,5; 317,5; en. Ps. 132,8; Io. eu. tr. 6,3. – [26] S. 49,10; 316,2; 317,5; 319,2; s. Mai 86,4. – [27] S. 49,10; 315,5. – [28] S. 315,2; 319,5 (cf. [32]- [34]). – [29] S. 49,11; 90,9; 315,5-7; 316,3; 317,6; 319,4; s. Weidm. 13,3. – [30] When he kept their coats: s. 168,4; 175,7; 279,1; 299,6; s. Dolbeau 4,6; s. Guelf. 23,4; 24,1; s. Weidm. 13,4; en. Ps. 147,25; cf. also ep. Rm. inch. 15. – [31] S. 317,6; s. Weidm. 13,4. – [32] S. 90,9; 317,5; 319,4sq.; 386,2; s. Weidm. 13,3; Io. eu. tr. 6,3; ep. Io. tr. 5,4. – [33] S. 149,16; en. Ps. 69,3; 108,4; 132,8; cf. also s. dom. m. 1,73. – [34] S. 49,10sq.; 56,16; 149,16; 315,8; 317,3. – [35] Cf. Bastiaensen 114sq.; Dupont 53-56. – [36] Qu. 1,25,3; 1,56; 2,2; ciu. 16,15sq.32; c. Adim. 9; trin. 3,24-26; s. 7,6. – [37] Io. eu. tr. 95,3; ep. 120,9. – [38] S. 213,5; 214,8. – [39] S. 111,2; 116,6sq.; s. Mai 86,4; cath. fr. 30.


A.A.R. Bastiaensen, Augustine on the Deacon- Preacher-Martyr Stephen: Aug(L) 54 (2004) (= Mélanges offerts à T.J. van Bavel à l’occasion de son 80e anniversaire, Lovanii 2004) 103-127. – J.-P. Bouhot, Le sermon «Dominus et Salvator» première forme dérivée d’un sermon perdu de saint Césaire: RB 80 (1970) 201-212. – H. Delehaye, Les premiers «Libelli miraculorum»: AB 29 (1910) 427-434. – P.C. Dilley, Stephanus: RAC Lfg. 242 (im Druck). – A. Dupont, Imitatio Christi, imitatio Stephani. Augustine’s Thinking on Martyrdom Based on his Sermones on the Protomartyr Stephen: Aug(L) 56 (2006) 29-61. – Y. Duval, Sur la genèse des libelli miraculorum: REAug 52 (2006) 97-112. – R. Etaix/B. de Vregille, Le «Libellus» bisontin du XIe siècle pour les fêtes de saint Etienne: AB 100 (1982) 581- 605. – A. Fraïsse, La théologie du miracle dans la Cité de Dieu et le témoignage du De miraculis sancti Stephani: Saint Augustin. La Numidie et la société de son temps (éd. par S. Lancel), Bordeaux 2005, 131-143. – M. Klöckener, Festa sanctorum et martyrum: AL 2 (1996-2002) 1281-1305. – Id., Martyres, martyrium: ib. 3 (2004-2010) 1185-1196. – M. Margoni-Kögler, Die Perikopen im Gottesdienst bei Augustinus. Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung der liturgischen Schriftlesung in der frühen Kirche, Wien 2010. – Id., Reliquiae (martyrum): AL 4 (2012-2018) 1145-1152. – C. Mayer, «Attende Stephanum conservum tuum» (Serm. 317,2,3). Sinn und Wert der Märtyrerverehrung nach den Stephanuspredigten Augustins: Fructus Centesimus. Mélanges offerts à G.J.M. Bartelink à l’occasion de son soixante-cinquième anniversaire, Steenbrugis/ Dordrecht 1989, 217-237. – J. Meyers et al., De la découverte des reliques à la composition du De miraculis: Les miracles de saint Etienne. Recherches sur le recueil pseudo-augustinien (BHL 7860-7861) avec édition critique, traduction et commentaire, Turnhout 2006, 11-25. – G. Partoens, A Medieval French Homiliary? A New Look at the Collectio Colbertina (Paris, BN lat. 3798): MinSerm 3. Praedicatio 37-94. – O. Perler, L’église principale et les autres sanctuaires chrétiens d’Hippone-la-Royale d’après les textes de saint Augustin: REAug 1 (1955) 299-343. – J.-M. Roessli, Mirabilia, miraculum: AL 4 (2012-18) 25-29. – G. Sanders, Augustin et le message épigraphique: le tétrastique en l’honneur de saint Etienne: Aug(L) 40 (1990) 95-124. – V. Saxer, Morts, martyrs, reliques en Afrique chrétienne aux premiers siècles. Les témoignages de Tertullien, Cyprien et Augustin à la lumière de l’archéologie africaine, Paris 1980. – Id., Aux origines du culte de saint Etienne protomartyr. La préhistoire de la révélation de ses reliques: Les miracles de saint Etienne. Recherches sur le recueil pseudo-augustinien (BHL 7860-7861) avec édition critique, traduction et commentaire (éd. par J. Meyers), Turnhout 2006, 37-46. – P.-P. Verbraken, Les fragments conservés de sermons perdus de saint Augustin: RB 84 (1974) 245-270. – C. Weidmann, Sermo 319B: CSEL 101 (2015) 165-185. – Id., Zum Problem der Pseudepigraphie in patristischen lateinischen Predigten: Das Christentum im frühen Europa. Diskurse – Tendenzen – Entscheidungen (hrsg. von U. Heil), Berlin/Boston, Mass. 2019, 93-116.

Direktor des Instituts für Lateinische Literatur an der Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

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