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Supplment la Revue des 11tudes augustiniennes

Il Battistero di Sant' An1brogio


a Milano
Si deve a Ugo l\fonneret de Yillard l'aver riconosciuto il battistero
della cattedrale antica di l\:Iilano, S. Giovanni alle Fonti, in quei muri a
nicchie semicircolari e rettangolari tagliati nel 1870 per far passare avanti
al Duorno un grande canale collettore della fognatura 1 .
Queste ricerche sull' antico monumento milanese, ancora non indagato,
per quanto facilmente ricostruibile nella pianta, meritaYano uno scavo
clefinitivo e un esame attenta e l' occasione della costruzione della metropolitana era tale che non doveva esser trascurata.
Lo scavo del battistero stato iniziato dallo scrivente (per la Soprintendenza alle Antichit della Lombardia) nel maggio 1961 con lo strappo
del lastricato del sagrato del Duomo e compiuto alla fine del settembre
1962.
L' opera risultata integra planimetricamente, ad eccezione del taglio
prodotto dalla fognatura ricordata 2 , e conservata in altezza per m. 2,40
dal lato della gradinata del Duomo, mentre giunge a meno di un metro
dal lato opposto.
Anche nella parte pi conservata si notano vari meditati danneggiamenti dovuti alle opere di << mina )) fatte per la voluta demolizione dell'
edificio, quando si prevedeva fosse d'ingombro al procedere della costruzione del Duomo. Questa meditata demolizione giunta allo strappo di
varie parti del rivestimento marmoreo delle pareti, all'asporto di lastre
di marmo e dei gradini della vasca, al prelievo di ogni elemento architettonico o scolpito, che potesse essere riadoperato.
Quanta resta dell' opera pero non solo ci informa pienamente sulla
distribuzione delle parti dell' edificio, ma con notevoli resti di ogni eler. U. l\IoxxElU\'l' DE VII.LARD. L'antica basilica di S. Tecla in ldilano, iu << Arch.
Star. Lombardo )), XLIV (1917) pagg. 1-24. E. BIGXAMI, Ruine dell'antica Jlllilano,
in Atti del Coll. d. Ingegneri ed Architetti di l\Iilano )), 1870 (v. in DI<: C~PI'.l'AXI,
La Cltiesa maggiore di 2Vlitano, l\Iilano 1942, pp. 188-r9r e fig. 2).
2. Una smussatura allo spigolo N-E, prodotta dalla fondazione della facciata
del Duomo, costruita in grossi conci di ceppo.

MARIO M.IRABELLA ROBERTI

mento dell'interno ci informa sull'insieme in modo pienamente soddisfacente. lVIeritava percio che quest'opera che, come vedremo, l'attestazione di un tipo di edificio dato alla Chiesa piu antica a :i\Iilano, prima che
in ogni altra sede, fosse resa visitabile a studiosi e a turisti. Il che stato
fatto, costruendo una copertura in cemento armato, che ha modificato,
favorevolmente, l'aspetto della gradinata di accesso all'attuale Cattedrale.
Diamo ora un'occhiata al battistero, quale apparso clallo scavo.
(fig. l).
Il perfetto ottagono ampio esternamente m. 19,30 fra due spigoli
opposti (m. r7 ,60 fra due lati), internamente fra due angoli opposti
ampio m. r2,80. Ogni lato esterno , in media, di m. 7,40 e ogni spigolo
ha una lesena a libro di 46 cm. di lato in media.
In ogni lato si apre all'interno una nicchia, alternamente semicircolare
e rettangolare. Le rettangolari hanno tutte una porta : le quattro porte
si volgono ai punti cardinali deviando dalla linea West-Est di 140,30'
verso Nord e l'edificio, posto, com' noto, a Sud dell'abside dell'antica
cattedrale, non orientato n sulla cattedrale, n sulle strade del centro
della citt romana.
La porta verso la basilica conserva intatta la soglia antica pur sotto
riempimenti di muratura che ne hanno rialzato il vano.
Piu importante sembra la porta orientale, che in et romanica ha avuto
un portale con strombatura fatta di arcate digradanti fra due semicolonne,
ma tutte le porte hanno subito rialzamenti e forse le due a Nord e a Sud
sono state in un certo tempo occluse 3 .
Ad ogni angolo interno, fra le nicchie, era una colonna di cui resta
solo l'ipobase. Al centro la grande ,-asca ottagona, col fondo in lastre
di marmo, e il giro di tre gradini in mattoni (un tempo rivestiti di marmo)
trovati quasi del tutto asportati. La vasca misura fra due lati opposti
m. 5,16, fra due spigoli m. 5,56 ; il lato di m. 2,14. profonda 80 cm.
dal piano di calpestio del battistero, che a m. 2,80 in media dal piano
della piazza attuale (fig. 2).
Una vasca, dunque, davvero molto ampia, piu vicina alla vasca di
un frigidarium che al fonte di un battistero, dove solo il ritmo dell'ottagono ci riannoda a valori simbolici e, insieme, ritmici rispetto all'impianto
generale dell'edificio. Attorno alla vasca, incluso nel muro perimetrale
un canale di deflusso dell'acqua, fatto di mattoni4 , in cui quattro rotture
3. Le porte settentrionale e meridionale ave\ano un protiro, che a Sud stato
pi volte rialzato. La porta occidentale conduceya alla chiesa e l'interYallo fra
battistero e basilica era stipato di tombe a cassa di mattoni con lastroni di pietra
di copertura, dis poste almeno in tre strati (secoli XIII e :s:). Il maggior numero era
in un passaggio coperto che collegaya basilica e battistero, il quale ha avuto vari
rifacimenti : almeno uno coevo al battistero, uno del :s: secolo e uno romanico.
Questo il passaggio attraverso il quale i neofiti videro il corpo di S. Ambrogio
la sera del suo transita, corne attesta Paolino (Vita Ambrosi c. 48). E forse sosto fra
questi muri, che poi accolsero in memoria di lui tante tombe.
+ Nel canaletto perimetrale della vasca sono state troYate moltissime monetine
romane, fra le quali alcuni piccoli bronzi di Valentiniano II, di Teodosio, di Arcadio,
e moite tessere di bronzo.

IL BATTISTERO DI SANT'AMBROGIO

simmetriche suggeriscono bocche di sfioramento, corne nelle vasche dei


frigidaria delle terme.
Un canale di scarico stato scoperto sull'asse della porta meridionale,
ed era stato gi scavato in antico, evidentemente per pulirlo perch
mancavano in corrispondenza elementi del pavimento. Il canale di adduzione termina bruscamente sull' orlo della vasca : da supporre che l esistesse
qualche cosa donde l'acqua usciva. Ricordo ((in labio fontis baptisterii
agnum aureum fundentem aquam )) che papa SilYestro (314 - 335) dono
al Laterano, corne attesta il Liber pontijicalis. 0 anche l'apparato posto
da Eustorgio II (5n-5r8) nel pi tardo battistero milanese di S. Stefano,
riservato alle donne. Ennodio di Arles, vescovo di Pavia e retore (473-521),
in un epigramma dice che in esso (( arida nam liquidos efftmdit pergula
fontes, / et rursus natis unda superna venit )) e nel lemma scritto :
(( aqua quae per columnas venit )),
Sul lato d'oriente era la parte (( fatta per luogo de'battezzatori )), dove i
battezzandi, con le gambe immerse nell'acqua, potevano avvicinarsi
alla sponda per ricevere, volti ad oriente5, il sacro lavacro per infusione
(fig. 3).
Il pavimento in commesso di marmi bianchi e neri, a losanghe nere
fra fasce bianche nell'aula 6 , ad esagoni e triangoletti (neri e bianchi di
varia misura) nelle nicchie semicircolari, mentre nelle nicchie rettangolari
ha quadrati neri inclusi per diagonale in quadrati bianchi, anche qui di
''arie misure (fig. 4).
Esso , corne ho detto, largamente conservato ed la parte decorativa
pi appariscente dell'edificio. La zoccolatura in marmo, con una comice,
su cui si posava il rivestimento in crustae marmoree (attestato in frammenti con eleganti disegni), qua e l superstite. Sulle pareti di due nicchie
restano parti di affreschi della met del sec. xnr (due oranti avanti a
una cascata d' acqua) e dei primi del' 400 (una figura di sauta ?) .
Una gran volta d'oro doveva stendersi sull'aula : fra le migliaia di
tessere vitree trovate, abbondano quelle un tempo coperte di lamina
d'oro, assai piu scarse inYece le verdi chiare e le azzurre, poche le bianche
e le rosse. Anche questa volta (vedi pi avanti) attesta ta da un epigramma di Ennodio.
La copertura del battistero merita qualche considerazione. Abbiamo
notato che esistevano colonne angolari fondate su appositi corpi murari
in conglomerato di ciottoli.
Queste colonne erano decorative o reggevano la volta ?

5. Ritengo assai probabile chc l'asse \l'est-Est del battistero sia oricntato seconda
il sorgere del sole ne! giorno di Pasqua dell'anno in cui l'edificio fu costrnito.
6. A ,-eya Io stesso carattere il padmento in opera settile dell'Ursiana (l\:I. li:IAZZOTTI

J.a cripta della basilica 'isiana di Ravenna, in Felix Riwenna , r95r, fig. 4 p. 36),
costrnito snll'efrngono, n11zich snl rombo.

MARIO MIRABELLA ROBERT!

Per quanto mi consta non ricordo eclifici romani a pianta centrale che
abbiano la volta impostata su colonne. Nel tempio rotondo di Ostia,
in quello di Portumno, in quello di Siepe e, su tutti, nel mausoleo di Diocleziano, le colonne hanno funzione decorativa non portante. Nel tempio
di Portumno pero sostenevano nervature della volta a padiglione. Il
sistema (volte su colonne) pero presente in altri monumenti, corne nelle
terme di Diocleziano o nella basilica di l\fassenzio. Grandi mensole reggevano anche qui, sul capitello, l'imposta della volta, cos che la colonna ne
restava largamente scaricata.
Ma nei battisteri ottagonali la soluzione delle colonne angolari portanti
presente in moite sedi (comme a Frjus), a Novara, ad Albenga), anche
se sempre esistono le grandi mensole che scaricavano notevolmente la
colonna. Nel battistero del Laterano, nella sua fase precedente a quello
di Sisto III, le 8 colonne aderivano alla parete e assai probabilmente
avevano solo funzione decorativa ; corne le sette del battistero di Salona.
N el nostro battistero pero non dovevano esistere arcate concentriche alle
volte delle nicchie, corne ad Albenga e a Frjus, perch ogni spicchio di
muratura agli angoli interni della costruzione di poco piu ampio della
larghezza della base delle colonne (e quindi dei capitelli) e perch il designo
del pavimento sempre uguale a quello delle nicchie fino alla verticale di
queste basi. Poi comincia il tessuto del pavimento a rombi neri, che si
chiude in ottagono.
Non conosciamo bene la disposizione interna del mansoleo di S. Gregorio,
che De Angelis d'Ossat ha ricostruito graficamente 7 senza preveclere
colonne, ma in S. Aquilino, mausoleo annesso a S. Lorenzo, le colonne
erano previste, corne risulta <lai massi di ceppo sovrapposti alle fondazioni
contro ogni angolo 8 . Ed esse non potevano essere che decorative, non
portanti.
Ma osserrnndo le ipobasi che restano, su quella ad occidente della
porta meridionale si nota un volgare restauro del pavimento fatto in
malta signina, che copre l'ipobase stessa. Allora : le colonne c' erano, ma
non erano portanti, tanto che sono state tolte ad un certa epoca (quando
si dovuta restaurare la cattedrale ?) . Pensare che fossero state tolte se
erano solo in qualche modo portanti, mi sembra operazione un po' troppo
ardita. Colonne decorative, sono, corne abbiam visto, di regola negli
edifici a simmetria accentrata romani e paleocristiani pi antichi. E' assai
probabile che questo avvenisse anche nel nostro battistero.
Quanto alla volta impostata sopra le arcate varie soluzioni possono
essere previste : a) un raccordo angolare che porti ad una cupola (com'

7. Relazione del prof. G. De Angelis d'Ossat al C::ongresso di .'\.rcheologin dell'Itnlin


Settentrionnle a Torino, r96r.
8. v. G. C::rrmRrcr, La basilica di S. Lorrn:;o N!ar.;giore in Milano, :IIilnno T95 r,

p.

TTC.

IL BATTISTERO DI SANT'AMBROGJO

nel battistero dell'Ursiana di Ravenna, ma opera del vescovo Neone) ;


b) una serie di arcatelle che aumentino il numero dei lati e preparino la
cupola (com' a Frjus e ad Albenga) ; c) una diretta imposta di una volta
a otto spichi, com' p. es. nel S. Aquilino, che si collega a un tipico aspetto
di volte romane (v. Terme di Pisa) ; d) una modesta copertura piana,
corne nel battistero dell'Ursiana di Ravenna nello stadio iniziale.
E' senz'altro da escludere questa copertura che sarebbe assai inetta
conclusione di un impianto cos massiccio, con nodi di scarico ben segnati
e che esclusa dalla presenza di blocchi di volta trovati nello scavo.
Per la soluzione ad archetti abbiamo gli echi di Frjus e di Albenga,
ma non abbiamo alcuna prova che possa esser stata adottata qui ; il
raccordo angolare assai raro. Resta la soluzione a spicchi, la piu logica
e la piu semplice, attestata dal mausoleo di S. Aquilino.
Questa ha anche qualche precedente a Milano, nel Mausoleo di S. Vittore
(detto S. Gregorio), p. es., se giusta, corne credo senz'altro, la ricostruzione grafica del De Angelis d'Ossat, ed esempi epigoni nel S. Sisto presso
S. Lorenzo, oltre che egli echi del battistero di Firenze, che il De Angelis
d'Ossat ha riconosciuto paleocristiano 9 . Tutto ci stabilisce una continuit,
a cui il nostro battistero, sembra, non pu sfoggire.
La volta doveva essere in muratura, dati gli esempi milanesi seguenti
ma i frammenti scoperti nello scavo non lo chiariscono esattamente.
Non che si possa pensarla in tubi fittili, ch di questo materiale si sono
trovati esempi, solo presso le absidi di S. Tecla, ma dai blocchi informi
scoperti nello scavo sembra fosse, piuttosto che in mattoni organizzati
in corsi, in frammenti di mattoni e tegole impastati in malta abbondante,
corne una sorta di calcestruzzo.
Tutti questi elementi possono assumere particolare interesse agli
effetti del valore del monumento nella storia dell' architettnra paleocristiana milanese, dato che al battistero connesso il nome di S. Ambrogio.
Stabilirne la data puo essere perci particolarmente importante.
E qui, per ora, occorrer solo accennare ed essere, quanto l'entusiasmo
ce lo concede, prudenti.
Una cosa mi sembra sicura. La struttura muraria nel suo nucleo essenziale appare interamente unitaria. Le due fasi supposte dal De Capitani
(La Chiesa maggiore, p. 99, n. 5; p. r2r e fig. 6 e 7) non mi sembrano provate,
perch il paramento della stessa tessitura, dalle fondazioni alla estrema
parte conservata, anche se possono ammettersi opere di restauro locali.
La diversa apparenza del contesto murale, eroso fra mattone e mattone
ad una certa altezza a partire dalla fondazione in ciottoli, non dovuta
a diversa struttura, ma al logorio prodotto dalle acque scorrenti in
superficie.
9. G. DE Axcm,1s n'OssAT, Il battistero di Firenze : la decora .. ione tarda-romana e
le 111odifica"Jioni successiiie, in IX Corso <li cnltura snll'architetti.1ra nwennnte e
hizantinn , RaY(llllf\ 1962, pagg. zn-232.

MARIO J\IIIRABELLA ROBERT!

I,a struttura in s assai simile per composizione e per il rapporto


malta-mattone a quella di San Nazaro, piu che a quella di San Simpliciano, che conosciamo assai bene. Anche qui mattoni intatti di 7-8 cm.
di altezza assieme a notevole numero di pezzi di mattone di ricupero,
qualche strato di frammenti a mezza spina pesce, qualche rocchio in
mattone cilindrico per ipocausti. All'interno (negli strati piu bassi)
un' ordinata serie di ciottoli e spezzoni di mattoni, mentre le parti di volta
cadute appaiono all'interno composte di confusa opera a sacco.
Il vescovo Lorenzo (489-5rr) ha certo operato nel battistero e suo il
rivestimento musivo della volta, esaltato da Ennodio 10 , data l'assidua
presenza dell'oro e lo scarso numero di tessere che suggeriscono figure o
meglio una vigorosa decorazione vegetale11 .
Piu antico dell' et di Lorenzo peraltro certo il pavimento in commesso
di marmi12, cosi simile ad altri pavimenti noti in Lombardia e fuori nel
sec. v (vedi per es. i battisteri di Novara e di Riva San Vitale), cosi
simile per spirito e materiali al padmento della cattedrale.
l\Ia l'impianto ottagono con le lesene angolari e le nicchie alternate,
con la grande vasca centrale, nato di getto, non denuncia riprese, che
ne menomino l'unit e non pu riferirsi alla prima met del v secolo.
Nel battistero, noto, c'era il famoso epigramma accolto nella silloge
di Lorsch.
Ambrogio in quell' epigramma esalta l' opera sua, l'idea di fare sacri
baptismatis aulam surgere ottagona in memoria del giorno della risurrezione
di Cristo, qui claustra resolvit mortis et e tumulis suscitat exanimes.
L' epigramma sar stato scritto nel marmo o in musaico sulla volta
d'oro : probabilmente prima nel marmo, corne l'iscrizione di S. Nazaro,
poi sul musaico attribuito al vescovo Lorenzo, un distico per lato.
Gli otto distici sono espressione del desiderio di vedere nelle cose esteriori allegoria di interiori valori spirituali, comune alla cultura religiosa
del tempo del santo Vescovo, che pur sull' << ogdoade >>con compiacenza si
trattiene nei suoi scritti. Ma l'idea di scegliere corne sede del sacro lavacro
un tipo di edificio - ben definito nell' architettnra del suo tempo, sorto
per scopi diversi e, se vogliamo, profani - certo scatnrita assai presto
nella sua mente, quando il battesimo gli aveva dato coscienza della morte
dell' uomo vecchio per la nascita dell' nomo nnovo. Allora S. Ambrogio

IO. Nell'epigramma Venus in baptisterio mediolanensi dice : mundior excocti


julgescat lztce metalli / ... mannora, picturas, tabulas, subliine lacunar /ipse (Laurentius)
dedit templo (lacunar vuol dire qui genericamente soffitto, 11011 11ecessariamente
soffitto piano).
II. Oltre alle tessere sciolte, si sono trovati vari gruppi di tessere legati al letto,
che faticosamente si cercato di collegare. I piani di posa avevano andamento
concavo.
12. Risulta app1icato su! sottofondo in cocciopesto dopa la posa in opera del
rhestimento marmoreo delle nicchie.

<- - >-

V)

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IL BATTISTERO DI SA.VT'AMBROGIO

pens di dare al luogo del battesimo l' aspetto dell' edificio sepolcrale pi
nobile del mondo antico, il mausoleo ottagonale, che aveva molti esempi
nell' architettura contemporanea : noi conosciamo quello di Spalato,
il mausoleo di Diocleziano, quello di lVIagonza, un mausoleo distrutto
alla fine del sec. III, quello di l\Iilano stessa, il ricordato mausoleo detto di
san Gregorio a S. Vittore ora distrutto, ma altri certo non mancavano.
Non dove\-a sembrar strano ai fedeli del tempo di S. Ambrogio entrare
giovani per il battesimo in un edificio che aveva la forma di una tomba,
dacch una tomba dal Redentore era stata mutata in sede della Resurrezione !
Per le considerzioni prima esposte, e per quelle che dopo queste pagine
fa Mons. Angelo Paredi, si deve ammettere che la costruzione del battistero ottagono di 1\Iilano sia avvenuta assai prima che S. Ambrogio provvedesse - a partire da poco prima il 386 - alle sue molte basiliche
suburbane, poste quasi a guardia della citt, come a Colonia erano, lungo
le strade che vi conducevano, le tombe venerate dei suoi martiri. Cosi
che il battistero di l\Iilano puo collocarsi fra il 378 (discorso sulla morte
del fratello Satiro, che lo aiutava in fabricis ecclesiae) e il 386. Aurelio
Agostino in questo battistero, compendio della dottrina battesimale
di Ambrogio, ricevette l' acqua lustrale nella notte tra il 24 e il 25 aprile,
Pasqua del 387.

***
Conosciamo pochi battisteri anteriori al IV secolo. Basti ricordare il
pi celebre, quello costantiniano del I,aterano, che circolare, e solo pi
tardi diventa ottagono, oppure il battistero della basilica episcopalis di
Aquileia, che il complesso episcopale pi antico meglio conosciuto in
Italia.
Ricostruito alla met del IV sec. 13 , ha un battistero in modesto ambiente
quasi quadrato, legato al resto delle costruzioni e non isolato, e solo la
vasca poligonale (esagonale e stellare). Anche tutti i battisteri sicuramente attestati in Siria prima del sec. v sono magari isolati o ben definiti,
ma sempre in forme tendenti al quadrilatero con o senza abside. Solo il
battistero della basilica della Vergine ad Efeso, attribuito alla met del
rv secolo, pur incorporato nella serie degli edifici annessi, irregolarmente
poligonale all'esterno ed circolare con otto nicchie all'interno 14 .
Dopo il battistero milanese, l'aula del sacro lavacro si stacca decisamente
dagli edifici connessi con la basilica e assume la definita forma di ottagono o ordinata sull'ottagono, che hanno anche i battisteri a pianta
13. :u. J'IIIIL\.BELLA Ro1m1nr, Considera:ioni sul/a basilica postteodoriana settentrionale di Aquileia, in Stud in onore di A. Calderini e R. Paribeni , :\Iilano, r956,
Yol. III, pagg. 863-87 5. Credo di aYer dimostrato che la basilic a e le opere annesse
sono del terzo quarto del IV sec. Il battistero ambrosiano non era encora nato.
q. Una silloge preziosa di dati sui battisteri noti qnella di A. KHATCI-IATRIAX,
Les baptistres palochrtiens, Paris r962.

IO

MARIO MIRABELLA ROBERTT

quadrata, ottagoni al secondo ordine. E ottagone sono le vasche battesimali specialmente in Lombardia e nei territori in relazione con la
diocesi ambrosiana.
Cosi a Rayenna, Ursus costruisce il battistero ottagono con le nicchie
semicircolari estradossate ; ad Aquileia, avanti alla basilica che subir
l'assalto degli Unni, l'ottagono si leva sull'impianto quadrato, che accoglie
negli angoli le nicchie semicircolari ; a Firenze, dove S. Ambrogio nel
393 porta le reliquie dei Santi Vittore ed Agricola e sosta a lungo, sorge
la grande aula ottagona che l'et romanica rivestir di marmi luminosi
e di musaici. A Roma Sisto III (432-440), modificando a fondo l'impianto
del battistero costantiniano circolare, leva il grande ottagono con il giro
di colonne attorno alla vasca.
L' esempio del grande vescovo, imitato prima nei territori della sua
giurisdizione dalla Provenza ad Aquileia ed oltre le Alpi, si estese in
tutto il mondo cristiano con variazioni in pianta e in alzato, che modificano e ravvivano il tipo iniziale, ma l' orientamento, dato dalle energie
edificatrici del suo insegnamento pastorale e dal suo esempio di costruttore,
resto ormai nell' ottagono degli edifici e delle vasche battesimali, consolidato per molti secoli.
:'vIARro l\IIRABELI,A RonERTI.

Dove fu hattezzato Sant' Agostino

r. - S. Agostino ricevette il battesimo a Milano nella Pasqua del1' anno 387 : precisamente nella notte tra il sabato 24 e la domenica
25 aprile. Nelle Conjessioni (9, 6, 1) egli dice che lascio la villa di Cassicico ubi temp1ts adven-it, quo me nomen dare oporteret. A <lare il nome,
ad iscriversi tra i battezzandi, S. Ambrogio capitava che invitasse gi
nella festa dell'Epifania (cfr. expos. evang. sec. Luc. 4, 76). Il momento
preciso di iscriversi, nell'uso milanese del nono secolo, era la domenica
della Samaritana,come si chiamava la domenica che in antico si diceva
la prima, ed ora invece si usa dire la seconda domenica di quaresima.
Al termine della lettura del vangelo, il diacono proclarnava : Qui vult
nomina sua dare, iam offerat : chi vuol iscriversi per ricevere il battesimo
nella prossima Pasqua, venga adesso a dare il nome1.
Vi sono buone ragioni per ritenere che questa disciplina, attestata per
il nono secolo, sia gi stata in vigore a l\tiilano nel secolo quarto.
Se S. Agostino espressamente dice che lascio Cassicico e venue a
Milano (( per dare il nome )), ossia per mettersi insieme con gli altri
battezzandi competenti 2 , che cio insieme chiedevano quell'anno il battesimo, noi dobbiamo dalle sue parole et baptizati sunms (Confess. 9, 6, 2)
concludere che egli fu battezzato insieme con gli altri nella usuale ceri-

Allo scopo di rendere pii't chiare le mgio ni esposte riproduco una pianta del centra
d1: J'dilano verso l'anno r300 disegnata e pubblicata da Ugo Jllonneret de Villard
nel volume Liber Notitiae Sanctorum :i\fediolani, 1\llilano 1917 ; e un grafico di Alberto
De Capitani d' A1zago.
r. Cfr. l\1anuale Ambrosianum, ediz. l\fagistretti, vol. II, Milano, 1905, pag. 135;
Evangeliario di Busto, fol. 5or.
2. Si chiamano competenti (<de ... simul petendo atque 1mum aliquid adpetendo :
AVGUS'l'., serin. 2r6, r (P.L. 38, 1865, col. ro77). S. Agostino attesta formalmente
di aver avuto il hattesimo dalle mani <li S. Ambrogio : per illiits (i. e. Amhrosii)
ministerium: AvGrsr., epist. ad Paulinani, 147, 23, 52 (CSEI,, 34, 328).

A. PAREDI

I2

monia che si comp\a una volta all'anno, nella notte pasquale, nel battistero dove usava battezzare S. Ambrogio. Dove si trovava questo battistero ?
2. La parola cc battistero n si trova due volte negli scritti di S. Ambrogio. Spiegando il battesimo egli dice che il battistero lo si pu considerare
corne la seconda tenda, o santo dei santi, del santuario mosaico (cfr.
Hb 9, r-7) ; il secondo tabernacolo mosaico ora il battistero in quo
vos introduxit sacerdos, in quo semel in anno summus sacerdos itrare
consuevit, hoc est ad baptisterium ubi virga Aaron floruit (de sacram. 4,
r, 2) 3 . Le vicende dell'assedio alle basiliche nella settimana santa del
386 S. Ambrogio le descrisse in una lettera alla sorella Marcellina : quando
gli vennero a dire che veniva posto il sequestro alla basilica Porziana,
egli stava nel battistero : symbolum aliquibits competentibtts in baptisterii tradebam basilica (epist. 20, 4) : stava nella basilica del battistero,
cio nell'aula, nella sala, nell'ambiente del battistero 4 .
In un'altra pagina, ancora parlando del battistero, lo chiama con un
altro nome : ingressus es 1'egenerationis sacrarium (de myster. 2, 5).

3. trovava
de sacr.
de sacr.
de sacr.
de sacr.

de sacr.
de sacr.
de sacr.
de myst.
de
de
de
de
de

myst.
myst.
myst.
myst.
myst.

Molte volte S. Ambrogio accenna alla vasca d'acqua che s1


nel battistero ; sempre la chiama Jons, sempre al singolare
venimus ad f ontem ...
I, 2, 4
vidisti jontem, vidisti et sacerdotem supra fontem ...
I, J, 9
I, 4, I2 qui per hmzc fontem trans ...
itsus hoc !tabeat, 1-tt ante Jons consecretur, tune descendat
I, 5, I8
qui baptizandus est.
I, 6, 24 de sacra fonte li basse mysteria ...
2, 6, r6 venisti ad jontem, descendisti in eum ... levitas, presbyterum in Jonte vidisti.
cum venir et ad jontem et mergeretur in jontem... I deo
2, 6, 19
Jons quasi sepultura est.
et in hune fonteni sacerdos pracdicationem dominicae
3, 14
crucis mittit ...
in hune fontem vis di vina descendit ...
4, 23
descendisti igitur ...
5, 28
post haec utiqite ascendisti ad sacerdotem ...
6, 29
ascendisti de fonte ...
6, JI
,mperveniens in fontem spiritus ...
9, 59

----3. L'opuscolo de sacramentis viene c0111unemente ora riconosciuto come autentica opera di S. Ambrogio ; cio sermones tenuti da lui ai neofiti, ma a quodam
excepti, cio non pnbblicati da lui. Per talnne recenti sconsiderate negazioni si
veda A. P.uumr, La litiwgia del de sacramcntis in Miscellanea Carlo Figini ,
Yenegono Inf. 1964, pp. 59-72.
-t Il p. O. Falier mi assicura {sua Jettera del rz-r-65) che nella maggioranza
dei mss. finora da lui esmninati pet la edizione critica dell'epistolario si legge non
in baptisteriis tradrbam basilicae, ma in baptistrrii tradebam basilica.

DOVE FU BATTEZZATO SAj\'T'AGOSTINO

in ps.

13

37, ro

: I ordanis enim descensio et adscensio est ; qitoniam


qui in fonte1n sacrum, descenderit et ascendit ...
exp. evang. sec. Luc. 2, 79 : licet etiam in ipso fonte sanctificatio divinitatis
adspiret ...
exp. evang. sec. Luc. 5, 25 : servemus igitur vestem, quam nos sacra dominus
emergentes fonte vestivit ...

Come queste citazioni dimostrano, S. Ambrogio ripetutamente afferma che nel fonte il battezzando discende gi ; che, dopo, battezzato, sale fuori. In altro luogo dice che il battezzato durante il battesimo
viene lavato in tutto il corpo :
in ps. rr8, 16, 29 : nunc quoque in emngelii mysteriis recognoscis quia
baptizatus licet toto corpore, postea tamen esca spiritali
potuque mundaris.
La vasca quindi doveva avere notevoli dimensioni. Doveva essere
provvista di gradini per scendere gi nell'acqua, e per poi risalire fuori 5 .
Dato che parecchie persone \' scendevano in una stessa notte pasquale,
dobbiamo supporre che vi fosse acqua corrente, o almeno, che l'acqua
potesse essere di frequente cambiata. Dove\a essere quindi provveduta
di un canale per addurre 1' acqua, e di un canale di cleflusso. Con ogni
probabilit vi erano anche dispositivi per riscaldare l'acqua : perch a
l\Iilano nel mese di aprile un bagno frecldo non lo fa nessuno.
4. - Il battistero a Milano al tempo di S. Ambrogio doveva troYarsi nelle immecliate adiacenze della cattedrale : egli dice che i neofiti,
subito dopo aver ricevuto il battesimo, partecipavano alla celebrazione
dell'eucaristia, anda,ano all'altare. Cfr. A1vrnROS., de sacr. 3, 2, II ;
4, 2, 7 ; de myst. 8, 43 ; PAur,rn., V. A., 48. Il hattistero e la cattedrale
quindi dovevano essere due edifici complementari, contigui.
5.
Ogni citt episcopale aveva una sola cattedrale ; e quindi di
solito un solo battistero. La cc gravissima eccezione >> di un secondo hattistero nella stessa citt, corne a Ravenna e a Salona, deve spiegarsi con
l' esistenza di due diverse comunit cristiane, per esempio una cattolica e
una ariana o scismatica ; o per ragioni speciali, corne il battistero extraur-

5. Vcdi la foto dei gradini ne! lrnttistero di Cuicui (Djmila) in F. \".\X DER :\Lwm,
Saint Augustin pasteur d'mes, II, Paris 1955, pag. 145, taY. VU ; ,-edi pure Io
schema del battistero ortodosso di Salona con qnattro gradini in B. DYGGYE, History
of Salonitan Cltristianity, Oslo 195 l, fig. III, 9 ; nei mosaici bizantini raffignranti
il battesimo di Ces, qnesti nell'acqna fino al yentre o fino al petto : cfr. il mosaico
del battistero di San :i\larco a Venezia, quello del hattistero ortodosso a RaYemrn
(cfr. Garncci IY, taY. 226), quello della chiesa di Daphni in Grecia ; cfr. anche
DACL, 2, rgro, col. 36r, 362, 369, 370, 372, 37-1, 407.

A. PAREIJI

bano di S. Pietro a Roma 6 . A meno che venga dimostrato vero il contrario,


a lVIilano nel quarto secolo da presumere che il battistero fosse unico
e che si trovasse vicino alla unica chiesa cattedrale.

6. - Della chiesa cattedrale di l\Iilano S. Ambrogio parla almeno


due volte. All'inizio della epist. 20 scritta alla sorella Marcellina nel 386
egli la chiama basilica nova, hoc est intramurana, quae maior est. Questa
basilica maior della epist. 20 sembra che nel pensiero di S. Ambrogio
sia lo stesso edificio di cui egli parla nella epist. 63 scritta nell'anno 396.
Ricorclando gli avvenimenti dell'anno 355, S. Ambrogio scrive che i
vescovi Dionisio di lVIilano ecl Eusebio di Vercelli furono strappati fuori
dalla cattedrale milanese per essere condotti in esilio : cum raperentur
de ecclesia maiore (epist. 63, 68).
Alla medesima catteclrale accenna pure S. Ilario di Poitiers nel ricordare anch'egli le vicende del concilio di Milano del 355. S. Ilario scrive
che le riunioni dei vescovi a un certo punto la fazione ariana le fece trasferire dalla cattedrale al palazzo imperiale : e dominico ad patatimn transeunt (CSEL, 65, 1916, p. 187).
Paolino scrive circa l'anno 422 la prima biografia di S. Ambrogio.
Parlando della cattedrale, nella quale ha luogo 1' elezione del successore
di Aussenzio, la chiama semplicemente ecclesiani (V.A., 6) ; invece nel
riferire i funerali di S. Ambrogio, la chiama ecclesiam maiorem (V.A.,48).
Una carta dell'anno 787 conserva l'atto di fondazione dell'ospedale
che l'arciprete Dateo ha voluto erigere nella sua casa milanese, la quale
si trova iuxta eccles1:am maiorem (Cod. Diplom. Langob., n. 61, col. rr5),
cio presso la cattedrale.
Il sacramentario Bergomense, scritto poco dopo la met del secolo
nono, nota che la seconda messa di Pasqua viene celebrata in ecclesia
maiore (cfr. ediz. di Bergamo, 1962, pag. 168) ; e cosi pure per parecchie
altre messe.
Altrettanto ci testimoniato dall' evangeliario del secolo nono della
Biblioteca Ambrosiana (ms. A. 28 inf.), ed anche clall'evangeliario di
Busto Arsizio (ms. JVI. I. 14, della Capitolare di Busto) 7

7. - Forse nel secolo quinto, e certamente prima del secolo ottavo, la ecclesia maior o catteclrale di l\!Iilano fu dedicata a Santa Tecla
e cominci a chiamarsi ecclesia sanctae Teclae. Che le due denominazioni

6. Per il battistero di S. Pietro a Roma cfr. A. FHRRUA, in Civilt Cattolica, r939,


II, pp. r46-157 ; per l'unico battistero nelle citt episcopali, cfr. G. VrscoxTI,
Observat. ecclesiast. yoJ. I, :i\Iediolani 1615, pp. 19-24 ; E. lVIARTI>NE, de antiqitis
ecclcsiae 1itibus, vol. I, Rotomagi 1700, p. 12; 1'. TI\S1'IXI, Archeologia ciistiana,
Roma 1958, p. 623.
7. Si vedano le attestazioni di questi cvangeliari riportate da A. Dl> CAPITAKI
D'ARZAGO, La chiesa maggiore di 1liilano, :i\Iilano, editrice Ceschina 1952, pp. 61-72.

DOli FU BATTEZZATO SAXT'AGOSTLYO

15

si riferiscano ad un solo e medesimo edificio lo dimostrano con certezza


vari passi del Liber N otitiae Sanctorum M ediolani 8 e di Galvano Fiamma.
Il pi antico documento che ci parla di una chiesa milanese di S. Tecla
e che quindi ci attesta che la cattedrale milanese si chiamava anche chiesa
di S. Tecla, la silloge di iscrizioni che un monaco di Lorsch trascrisse circa
la fine del secolo nono e che ci conservata nel ms. Vaticano Palatino
lat. 833. Il De Rossi e il Silvagni hanno dimostrato che il monaco Laureshamense copiava da una raccolta scritta 9 . Dai marmi originali le aveva
copiate con ogni probabilt un erudito pellegrino (facilmente un Franco)
nel secolo ottavo.
Alla prima iscrizione il raccoglitore d come titolo :
IN CIVITATE lVDIOLANIVM
IN ECCLESIA SCAE TECI,E

Prisca rediuiuis consurgimt culmina templis


In formain rediere sitain quae flamma cremarat
Heddidit ltaec uotis xpi qui templa noitauit
Eusebii meritis noxia flamma perit
Alcune parole di questi versi sembrano tolte da un sermone in reparatione ecclesiae ,tfediolanensis, attribuito a un S. l\fassimo, e che fu tenuto
a Milano nell'anno 452, in occasione della inaugurazione dei restauri,
compiuti dal vescovo Eusebio, nella cattedrale, dopo l'incendio causato
dai barbari di Attila10 . La pi ragionevole spiegazione delle concordanze
verbali tra 1' epigramma e il sermone questa : che le due composizioni
non soltanto si riferiscono allo stesso edificio, ma anche furono probabilmente scritte dal medesimo autore.

8. Item dicam si vobis placet aitdire quare ecclcsia salvatoris ubi dicitur sancta
Tcgla est 111aior illa sancte }vlarie ... : Liber Sotitiac Sanctorum 111ediolani, eiz.
:'II. IIL\GIS'tlTTI - U. IIIOXXERI\T Dl\ Vn,I,ARD, J\Iilano r9r7, col. 340 I3 ; il Liber
Sotitiae fu compilato nel I304-13rr, ma contienc 111atcriali molto antichi. Vedi i
testi di GalYano Fiamma in DE CAPITAXI, op. cit., pag. 82-83.
9. Cfr. A. SILVAGXI, Studfo ci'itico sopra le due sillogi medicvali di iscri.c:ioni cristiane 1vlilanesi, in Rivista di Archeologia Cvistianci, XV, Roma, 1938, pp. Io7-r 22 ;
249-279.
ro. Il sermone ln reparatione ecclesiae i\I ediolanensis si troya nel J\IrGxn, P.L.
57, col. 469-472. Si Yeda su questo discorso quanta scriye il DE C.\PITAXI, op. cit.,
pp. 29-35; anche Yedi F. S.\YIO, Gli antichi vescovi d'Italia, Lei Loinbardia, parte 1,
"~Jilano, Firenze 1913, pp. 172-173. I,a prima cattedrale, la chiesa maggiore
rimase sempre questa di sauta Tecla ; anche quando dal secolo nono in poi ci fu
Yicino a S. Tecla la chiesa di S. Maria :Maggiore. Questa di Santa ::\Iaria fu la cattcdrale seconda , la minore, la iemale ; precisamentc come a Roma la basilica di
Santa ::IIaria :Maggiore , o Liberiana, non soppiant mai nella qualit di chiesa
cattedrale la basilica Latcra11ense. Queste cose gi le ha dimostrate il SAVIO (cfr.
\olume citato pp. 868-869) fin da! 1913 ; eppure yari antori ancora continuano a
confonclere e dicono Santa Tecla la cattedrale seconda e Santa Maria la prima :
cfr. per esempio il I,eclercq in Dict. d'Arch. Chrt. et Lit. XI, Paris 1933, pag. ro65.

A. PAREDJ

10

8. - La stessa cattedrale, chiamata maior da S. Ambrogio, dal biografo suo Paolino, dai libri liturgici rnilanesi del nono secolo, denominata
di Santa Tecla >> nella silloge Laureshamense, comincia nel secolo nono
ad essere chiamata anche ecclesia aestiva. Essa viene indicata con questo
nome nel testamento di Ansperto dell'anno 879 (Cod. Dipl. Lang., n. 290,
col. 492) ; nell' evangeliario di Busto citato sopra, e poi nel Beroldo. La
ragione di questa nuova denominazione sta nel fatto che circa 1' anno 836
accanto alla chiesa di Santa Tecla venne costruita una chiesa pi piccola,
detta di Santa l\Iaria, o hyemalis, che serviva per l'ufficiatura nella stagione invernale, dalla terza domenica di ottobre fino al sabato santo.
9. - Nella silloge di Lorsch, dopo l'iscrizione che stava nella chiesa
di S. Tecla, segue corne seconda iscrizione milanese un epigranuna, che,
secondo il raccoglitore, composizione di S. Ambrogio ; e stava nel battistero della medesima chiesa di Santa Tecla.
VERSUS AMBROSII AD FONT. EIUSD. ECCL.

Octachorum scos templum surrexit in usus


Octagonus Jons est munere dignits eo
Hoc 1rnmero decuit sacri baptismatis aulam
Surgere q1w popul1:s 1ra salus rediit
Litce resurgentis xpi qui claustra resoluit
M ortis et e tumulis suscitat ex animes
Confessosq. reos macitloso crimine soluens
Fontis puriflui diluit inriguo
Hic quicumq. uolunt probrosa(e) crimina uitae
Ponere corda lauent pectora munda gerant
Huc ueniant alacres quamuis tenebrosus adire
A udeat abscedet candidior niuibtfS
Huc s properent non expers ullus aquarum
Ses : In his regnuni est consiliuniq. dei
Gloria iustitiae. Nam quid diuinius isto
Ut puncto exiguo citlpa cadat populi
cc Ouesto tempio dalle otto nicchie fu innalzato per uno scopo santo,
il fonte ottagono degno di una tale funzione. Era ben conveniente che
su questo numero venisse costruita l'aula del sacro battesimo, mediante
il quale viene alle genti la salvezza vera, nella luce del risorgente Cristo,
che apre le porte chiuse della morte, e chiama fuori dalle tombe i morti ;
mentre quelli che si riconoscono peccatori egli li libera dalle loro brutte
colpe e li lava nella corrente del fonte purificatore.
Tutti coloro che sentono il desiderio di liberarsi dalle colpe di una vita
di obbrobrio, comincino a lavare il loro cuore, a venire con anima puro.
Vengano qui volonterosi. Per quanto uno si senta avvolto dalle tenebre
della colpa, venga qui con fiducia : si trover partendo pi candida della
neve.

DOVE FU BATTEZZATO SANT'AGOSTINO

r7

Si affrettino a venire qui anche i santi : nessuno, anche se santo, pu


far senza delle acque del battesimo : in esse il regno e il disegno di Dio,
lo splendore della sua giustizia. Quale cosa infatti potrebbe essere pi
divina di questa, che in un breve istante le colpe del popolo vengano
tolte via ? >>.
L'autenticit del lemma, che introduce l'iscrizione (cio che tale iscrizione fu letta nel battistero accanto alla chiesa di S. Tecla), non si vede
quale ragione ci possa essere per metterla in dubbio, corne gi hanno
osservato G.B. De Rossi, A. Silvagni e A. De Capitani d' Arzago. Inyece
l' autenticit ambrosiana della iscrizione molti l'hanno negata. La questione fu studiata ancora di recente da .Giovanni Battista Pighi in un articolo del 1944 : il Pighi osserva con ragione che non si pu rifiutare la
tradizione unanime che attribuisce tale epigrafe a S. Ambrogio, per il
solo fatto che tale tradizione ci attestata soltanto dal secolo VIII in
poi11 .
Per altra via, cio con argomenti interni, ha dimostrato l'autenticit
ambrosiana dell'epigrafe Othmar Perler in un notevole lavoro del r95r 12 .
Adducendo molti luoghi paralleli da opere autentiche di S. Ambrogio,
il Perler ha fatto vedere la perfetta identit di vocabolario, di stile, di
idee tra gli otto distici dell' octachorum e altri scritti del santo. In modo
particolare Perler ha dimostrato la perfetta consonanza tra varie espressioni dell'iscrizione e passi paralleli dell' opuscolo de sacramentis. Anzi il
Perler crede di poter affermare che nell'iscrizione il vescovo ha derivato
frasi dal de sacramentis, e che quindi la iscrizione deve ritenersi composta
probabilmente dopo l'anno 386. Veramente, se ci sono evidenti affinit
tra il de sacramentis e l' octachorum, nessuno pu dire se questo derivi da
quello o invece viceversa. Inoltre il de sacramentis uno stenoscritto di
istruzioni che il santo vescovo ebbe a ripetere press'a poco uguali per
oltre vent'anni. Non sembra quindi che si possa dare una data agli otto
distici solo in base alle affinit con il de sacramentis. Sono pensieri e
parole che S. Ambrogio doveva avere abituali ; persuasioni, su le quali
ritornava di frequente, e che perci noi ritroviamo in parecchie sue opere.
Importa qui rilevare corne sia un'idea cara a S. Ambrogio il simbolismo
del numero cc otto >>, della cc ogdoade >> : tal numero il simbolo dell' ottavo
II. Cfr. lo studio di G. B. PrGHI in Aevum r8, l\1ilano 1944, pp. 16-23. Da dove
ha potuto saperc il collettore dell'epigrafe che i versi erano una composizione di
sant'Ambrogio ? Io penso
mi scrive il p. Antonio Ferrua in una lettera del
22.2.1966 che egli lo seppe da qualche parte in prosa della epigrafe che egli
non trascrisse, corne fecero alcuni di questi collettori che andavano dietro soltanto
alle belle poesie e lascia,-ano tutto il resto. Cosi fece appunto lo stesso collettore di
Lorsch per il carme di Gorgonio, Nereo ed Achilleo, Eusebio, altri. N erano gente
da far richieste su gli autori delle poesie, che essi copiavano .
12. Cfr. Othmar PERLER, L'inscription du baptistre de Sainte-Thcle Milan
et le De Sacramentis de Saint Ambroise, in Rivista di Arch. Cristiana, 27, Roma
1951, pp. 145-166. Al verso 9 il Perler legge uolent: io preferisco la lezione del manoscritto che uolunt ; invece si deve leggere, corne fa il Perler, probrosae, e correggere
1'errore del copista.

giorno che si aggiunge alla settimana dell' antico testamento, del giorno quindi della risurrezione di Cristo, della Pasqua, del riposo eterno, a cui si giunge
con la salvezza che ci ha ottenuto il Risuscitato, e che ci comunica con il
battesimo, il quale viene appunto amministrato nel giorno di Pasqua.
Tutta la epist. 44 una lunga esposizione dei valori simbolici prima
del numero sette, che a S. Ambrogio sembra il numero proprio dell' Antico
Testamento ; e poi e pi ancora del numero otto, simbolo della perfezione
che abbiamo nel Testamento Nuovo. Novit ogdoaden islam, quam octavam
Latine dicinii1s, velus testamentum, siquidem ait Ecclesiastes : Da parem
illis septem, et illis quidem octo >> (Eccle. II, 2). '' Hebdomas veteris testamenti est, octava novi, quando Christus resurrexit ... (Epist. 44, 6). E ancora:
<< A biit ergo hebdomas, venit octava. A biit heri, venit liodie... A biit ergo
ille dies testamenti veteris, venit dies novus, quo testamentitni consummatum
est novum ... >>(ibidem I7) <<Inoctavo numero resurrectionis est plenitudo >> :
expos. ev. sec. Luc., 7, I73
Vedi anche : explan. ps. 47, I, 3 ; expos. ps. u8, prol.

2.

IO. - Nel I870 per sistemare le acque di scolo in piazza del Duomo
il municipio fece scavare una trincea davanti alle porte della cattedrale
milanese. Nel sottosuolo furono trovati gli avanzi di un edificio circolare
e ottogonale di et romana. Non si capi allora l'importanza di una tale
scoperta e il suo significato. In uno studio del r9I4 Ugo J.\fonneret de Villard
sostenne per il primo che in quegli avanzi si doveva riconoscere il battistero
ottogonale dell' et ambrosiana.
Nel Ig43, dovendosi preparare in quella stessa area un rifugio antiaereo,
Alberto De Capitani pot verificare i reperti del I870 e almeno iniziare
lo scavo per scoprire il battistero13 .
Nel Ig6o in occasione dei nuovi scavi per una stazione della linea
metropolitana Mario l\Iirabella Roberti comincio uno scavo nuovo. Ai
fini di questo nostro studio interessano soprattutto i risultati riguardanti non la basilica di S. Tecla, ma quelli dell' eclificio ottogonale.
Nelle irnmediate vicinanze dell'absicle della chiesa di S. Tecla venne scoperto un ampio battistero. Lo scavo del battistero fu iniziato
13. Per gli scavi del 1870 e pi ancora per quelli del 19+3 si veda il volume citato
di Alberto De Capitani d'Arzago. Lo studio di lT. :i\Io~xrm.ET DE VII,I,ARD, Note
di archeologia Lombarda, in Arch. Storico Lombardo, XI,I, Milano, r9q, pp. 5-46.
Si deve ricordare che il suo volume su la chiesa maggiore di J\Iilano il De Capitani lo
lasci> manoscritto e incompiuto : non deve quindi meraYigliare che egli basandosi
snl Sayio (op. cit. pp. 877-879) parli di un battistero accanto alla basilica vetus e di
un diYerso battistero accanto alla basilica nova (cfr. nel suo libro citato, pag. 85).
Questo duplice battistero fu immaginato dal Savio in funzione della sua teoria su la
posizione della vetus. Se avesse potuto condurre a termine il suo studio anche il De
Capitani avrebbe dovuto concludere che il battistero milanese nell'etit ambrosiana
non poteYa essere che 11110 solo, donmque fosse. Anche qnanto dice il I'erler (art.
cit. p. 166) su il battistero della vetus suppone che la vetus sia da identificare con
San Lorenzo ; e che accanto a S. I,orenzo ci fosse un battistero: cose tutte ipotetiche.

JJO l'E FC BATTEZZATO SANT' AGOSTINO

ltJ

nel maggio 1961 e compiuto alla fine del 1962. E' questo battistero
che nel medioevo venne chiamato ecclesia sancti I ohannis ad fontes.
Lo scavo rivelo un perfetto ottagono, ampio esternamente metri 19,30
fra due spigoli opposti. In ogni lato si apre all'interno una nicchia, alternamente semicircolare e rettangolare. Ad ogni angolo interno, fra le otto
nicchie, stava una colonna su base con plinto quadrato. Al centro la
grande vasca ottagona col fondo in lastre di manno, e il giro di gradini
in mattoni (un tempo rivestiti di marmo) trovati quasi del tutto asportati.
La vasca misura fra due lati opposti m. 5,16; il lato di m. 2,14 E' profonda
cm. 80 dal piano di calpestio del hattistero, che si trova a m. 2,80 in media
dal piano del sagrato della piazza attuale. Una vasca davvero molto
ampia ... Attorno alla vasca, incluso nel muro perimetrale, un canale
di adduzione dell'acqua, in cui quattro rotture simmetriche suggeriscono
bocche di adduzione, corne nelle vasche dei frigidaria delle terme ...
Un canale di scarico stato scoperto sull' asse della porta meridionale ... >>14.
Si noti la perfetta corrispondenza di questi reperti archeologici con
la descrizione dell' epigrafe : costruzione ottcora, a otto nicchie ; e
fonte ottagono.
Un battistero accanto alla cattedrale milanese con ogni probabilit esisteva da parecchi clecenni prima che S. Ambrogio fosse eletto
yescovo. Ma la iscrizione Octachorurn cla lui composta e cla lui fatta
collocare nel battistero accanto a Santa Tecla un forte argomento per
inclurci a ritenere che sia stato lui S. Ambrogio a dare a quel battistero
la forma ottagona ; o insomma almeno a ornarlo, a clargli nuovo splendore. Questo lavoro o cli innovazione o di trasformazione sommamente
probabile che sia stato fatto nei primi anni dell'episcopato di S. Ambrogio,
negli anni in cui Satiro lo coadiuvava precisamente in fabricis ecclesiae
(de exc. Sat., I, 20). Pur nelle molte opere sue queste tre parole del discorso
in morte del fratello, tenuto nel 378, costituiscono l'unico accenno che
il vescovo faccia a costruzioni da lui promosse. Sembra che a nuovi
edifici per la chiesa abbia pensato soprattutto nei primi anni del suo
episcopato (avviene cosi anche ora, di solito). Certamente egli fece costruire due nuove basiliche a Milano, la Romana (poi chiamata Nazariana)
e 1' Ambrosiana, entrambe anteriori al 386. Prima che a costruire tali due
basiliche, probabile che S. Ambrogio abbia cominciato a sistemare,
a fare, o almeno ad abbellire il battistero accanto alla cattedrale : first
things first, dicono gli inglesi.
q. Cito da J\Iario i\Irn.ABELLA ROBERTI La Cattedrale antica di 11/lilano e il sua
Battistero, in Arte I,ombarda VIII, J\Iilano r963, pp. 77-98. Ci pennettialllo di
ossenare al chiar. lllo professore che quanto egli dice a pag. gr, cio che il famoso
epigramma Octachorum fu letto da Ennoclio ne! battistero, cosa assai probabile,
clato che Ennodio Yisse a l\filano quasi Yent'anni prima di cliventare \esco\o di
Pmia ; ma 11011 provata da alcun testo di En11oclio. Che poi S. Ambrogio abbia
portato a Firenze reliquie clegli Apostoli (pag. 95) non vero : a Firenze S. Ambrogio
porto qualche reliquia dei martiri Vitale e Agricola clai lui dissepolti a Bologna
(cfr. A~!BROS., exhortatio virginitatis, Migne. P. J~. 16, 1880, col. 351) i:~tili grafici
e foto dei battisteri paleocristiani si troyauo nel yo!ume di J. G. D.wrns,. The Architectural Setting oi Baptism, I,ondon 1962.

20

A. PAREDI

Riassumendo diversi studi recenti, J. G. Davies ha osservato che


i battisteri pi antichi, cio del terzo e quarto secolo, erano quadrati
o rettangolari. Tale tipo persiste fino al secolo settimo in Egitto, Grecia, Africa, Palestina. In accidente invece (in Italia, Gallia, Istria, Dalmazia, Austria) dalla met del secolo quinto in poi al tipo quadrato si
sostituisce il tipo rotondo oppure ottagonale. Caratteristico il caso del
battistero Laterano, che negli anni 432-440 viene trasformato in ottagono. Il Davies sar lieto di vedere confermata la sua osservazione dagli
scavi del battistero milanese e di sapere che la stessa osservazione l'aveva
gi fatta il Mirabella Roberti al Congresso di Archeologia Cristiana di
Ravenna nel 1962.
II.
In un seconda tempo questo stesso unico battistero accanto alla cattedrale milanese fu o restaurato o ricostruito (si ricordi la
devastazione che fecero a Milano gli Unni di Attila nella primavera
del 452), e certamente ornato di marmi, di pitture, di un nuovo soffitto,
per iniziativa del vescovo Lorenzo I (circa 489 ; circa 5n). Lo sappiamo
dal seguente epigramma di Ennodio, nel quale il poeta gioca anche su
la omonimia del vescovo di Milano con il santo diacono di Roma :

VERSUS IN BAPTISTERIO MEDIOLANENSI FACTOS

M undior excocti julgescat luce metalli,


Munera disponit qiti dare digna deo.
Ante vaporati s Laurenti vita caminis
Constitit, ut blandum nobilitaret opus.
Jl,J armora picturas tabulas sublime lacunar
Ipse dedit templo, qui probitate nitet.
Aedibus ad pretium sic mores conditor addit,
Vellera ceu Srum murice tincta feras,
Qualiter inclusas comit lux hospita gemmas,
Nix lapidis quotiens pulchrior arte rubet 1 5.
Pi nitido brilli della luce del metallo fuso chi si accinge a fare donatiYi degni di Dio. Per dare maggiore nobilt all'elegante farnro, la
vita di L.orenzo fu prima esposta ad ardente fuoco. Colui stesso che
per le virt sue gi risplende ha dato in dono a questo sacro edificio
marmi, pitture, quadri e il sublime soffitto. Il fondatore al valore del1' edificio quello pure volle aggiungere delle virt sue, quasi uno che
la costruzione l'adorni con cortine di seta tinta con la porpora dei Seri ;
corne quando la luce che entra nell' edificio rende lucenti le gemme che
ci sono dentro, ogni volta che il candore niveo della pietra, reso pi bello
dall'arte, d riflessi purpurei )).

I5. Testo di VOGEL : MGH, Auct. Antiq. VII, Berolini 1885, p. I57 ; cfr. anche
DAC:L, XI, Paris I933, p. 1014; SAVIO, op. cit., p. 209.

DOVE FU BATTEZZATO SANT'AGOSTINO

2I

Ennodio visse a lVIilano dal 496 circa fino al 513. Con il vescovo milanese
Lorenzo egli era stretto da vincoli di parentela e gli fece da segretario
e, nonostante le sue astruserie, fu considerato corne il poeta ufficiale
a lVIilano in quegli anni.
Si noti pero che i reperti ottenuti dal recente scavo di questo battistero milanese di S. Giovanni accanto a S. Tecla, secondo il 1\Iirabella Roberti, sembrano da riferire all'et di S. Ambrogio piuttosto
che al tempo di Lorenzo I, almeno per l'impianto ottagono e il pavimento musivo. Lorenzo I potrebbe aver fatto dei restauri, o una nuova
volta a mosaico.
Come si detto sopra, il battistero di Santa Tecla venne usualmente
chiamato chiesa di San Giovanni al Fonte nei documenti medievali :
cadente ormai dopo un millennio fu demolito nel 1355, o meglio nel
l4ro1s.
12. Alcuni anni dopo i lavori compiuti da Lorenzo I nel battistero di San Gioyanni, sappiamo da un altro epigramma di Ennodio
che il vesco\-o Eustorgio II (circa 5n) forse costrui e certamente provvide di nuovi impianti d'acqua il battistero di Santo Stefano. La pi antica testimonianza che possediamo della esistenza di questo secondo
ba ttistero milanese (che la tradizione posteriore afferma riservato alle
donne) appunto il seguente epigramma di Ennodio :

DE FONTE BAPTISTERII SANCTI STEFANI


ET AQUA QVAE PER COLUJVINAS VENIT

En sine nube pluit sub tectis imbre sercno


Et caeli facies pura ministrat aquas.
Proflua marmoribus decurrunt flumina sacris
A tque iterum rorem parturit ecce lapis.
A rida nam liquidas effund pergula fontes,
Et rursits natis unda superna venit.
S ancta per aetherios emanat limpha recessus,
Eustorgi vatis ducta ministerio17 .
Ecco che qui a cielo sereno, senza pure una nube, piove, e la serena
faccia dell'azzurra volta lascia scendere gi l'acqua. Onde scorrevoli
discendono lungo i sacri marmi, e una volta ancora ecco che dalla pietra

16. Sembra da assegnare al 1410 la definitiva demolizione della chiesa-battistero


di San Giovanni al Fonte, perch in quell'auno il ID luglio fu consacrato un nuovo
altare in Duomo e dedicato a San Giovanni Battista : in esso furono messe le reliquie
che stavano nella clemolita chiesa-battistero : cfr. la nota di Magistretti in Bnotdus,
pag. 17I.
17. Testo di VoGEL : op. cit., pag. 271 ; DACL, XI, eol. 1015 ; SAVIO, op. cit.,
pag. 217-218,

22

A. PAREDI

scaturisce l'acqua. Da un arido pergolato zampillano fonti limpide e


un' onda celeste scende su quelli che sono rinati. L' acqua sacra per cura
provvida del vescovo Eustorgio fluisce da cavit eteree .
Nei l\fanuali ambrosiani del secolo X-XI vengono ricordate nella
ufficiatura domenicale al termine del rnatutino una processione de
ecclcsia in baptisterium, e una seconda processione de baptisterio in aliud
(cfr. Man. Ambr. ediz. l\fagistretti, II, l\Iilano r905, p. 25, e la nota a pag.
r70 della ediz. del Beroldus, lVfilano r894). Fino a prova contraria, non
si possono far risalire queste processioni e questa << pluralit )) di battisteri a Milano oltre il secolo VI, appunto perch il seconda battistero
(per le donne) con agni probabilit fu una innovazione del vescmo
Eustorgio II.
Tale battistero di S. Stefano stava su l'area su la quale ora sorge
la sacrestia aquilonare del Duorno ; ad una clistanza cli circa r50 rnetri
dal fianco orientale del battistero di S. Giovanni. La vasca del battistero di S. Stefano venne scoperta nel r899 dall' architetto Gaetano
l\Ioretti sotto il pavimento della suddetta sacristia. Anche questa vasca
ottagona e anch'essa si trova a metri 2,80 sotto il pavimento attuale ;
ma molto pi piccola della vasca del battistero di S. Giovanni : questa
ha il diametro di m. 5,r6 e ogni lato lungo m. 2,r4 ; invece la ,-asca cl
S. Stefano ha il diametro di m. 3, e ogni lato misura m. r,2orn.
r3. - Che un altro battistero paleocristiano sorgesse a l\Iilano presso
la chiesa di S. Eustorgio fuori porta Ticinese una leggenda. Ivi venne
costruita nel secolo XII una chiesetta di S. Barnaba al Fonte, che \-enne
restaurata e rifatta dal card. Federico Borromeo nel 1623, e poi fu soppressa nel secolo seguente. In tale luogo e in tale fonte il seconda vescovo
di Milano, San Caio, avrebbe battezzato i primi cristiani milanesi : questo
il racconto che abbiamo dall'anonimo autore clell'opuscolo De situ
civitatis lVI ediolani. Ma questo opuscolo una composizione del secolo
XI, corne bene hanno giudicato il Duchesne e il p. F. Saviorn
18. La relazione clegli scavi del r870 riportntn da De Capitani nel volume citnto,
pp. r87-r9r.
TC). Il problema clell'ctit clelln rednzione del de situ fu giit risolto e definiti\amente
da L. DrcmiSXE nei 1V!langes G.B. De Rossi, Paris-Roma I 892. Ampiamente riprese
la questione F. S.1xro, op. cit., pp. 661-758, cheginnse alle stesse conclusioni del
Duchesne. Non Yero che il J\[onneret nella sua introduzione al Liber Xotitiae nbbia
dimostrato la impossibilit di attrihuire il de situ n Lnndolfo Seniore. Giit I,. A.
Muratori consigliava ai lettori di Lanclolfo la massima prudenzn : adagio a credere
alle sue affermazioni, perch un falsario ! E cosi lo hanno giuclicato anche il GIES1'BRI\CH'l', Gescliichte der deulschen Haisrn:eit, II, 574 ; e il \YA't'fXB.\CH, ::\IGH,
Script., VIII, p. 34. Le lunghissime pagine di Ar,ESS. Cor,o~rno nella prefazione alla
nuon1 edizione del de situ nei RR.II.55., Balogna r952, 11011 apportnno nulla di novo.
Anche A. VrscA1rnr, che riportn nella Storia di Jl'Iilano. III, 1954, pp. 736 ss. le
considerazioni del Colombo, sembra consentire alla sua opinione e fa risalire la
composizione del de situ all'et di Carlo :i\Iagno o all'etit di Ansperto. Questi studiosi
11011 hanno capito la forza dell'argomento liturgico ; il Duchesne prima di scrh-ere
le sue pagine si prese cura di esaminnre sette messali milanesi del secolo X-XT.

DOT'E FU BATTEZZATO SANT'AGOSTINO

23

Una iscrizione che stava una volta su tale fonte di S. Barnaba faceva
risalire la costruzione della chiesetta al tempo di S. Protaso, vescovo
del secolo IV. Tutti ora ammettono, dopo quanto hanno scritto il De
Rossi, il Mommsen e il Duchesne, che quella iscrizione << alciatina n,
ossia una falsificazione o una esercitazione letteraria di Andrea Alciato
(1492-1550).
Scavi recentissimi nella basilica eustorgiana hanno messo in luce
nuove tombe, anche cristiane : alcune del quarto secolo. Di un battistero antico non si trovato nessuna traccia. Nessuna traccia neppure
di un qualche edificio cultuale paleocristiano. Non si capisce quindi
corne si sia potuto scrivere che i recenti scavi di S. Eustorgio danno
ora un fondamento storico alla leggenda barnabiana : gi Achille Ratti
nel 1897 disse e pnbblic che tale leggenda scientificamente insostenibile.

14. - Che un altro battistero paleocristiano sorgesse a JVIilano presso


la basilica di San Lorenzo rimane una pura ipotesi. Gli scavi compiuti
da Gino Chierici sotto la cappella di S. Aquilino hanno accertato <<la
mancanza di ogni traccia di fonte battesimale >> 20 . Non ostante questo
sicuro reperto, tanto il Chierici che il Calderini scrivono che tale cappella
<< nata forse corne battistero n. L'unica prova per questa loro teoria
sarebbero due cunicoli profondi centimetri 15, e larghi centimetri 25.
Queste misure sembrano veramente minime, se tali cunicoli furono fatti
come canali di adduzione e di scarico dell'acqua di un fonte battesimale.
Comunqne, supposto anche che la cappella di 8. Aquilino sia stata costruita
o iniziata corne fonte battesimale per 1' attigua basilica di S. Lorenzo,
rimane sempre da dimostrare che il complesso risalga veramente al secolo
IY, e non invece al V.
15.
La tradizione che S. Agostino sia stato battezzato nella chiesetta a lui dedicata e che sta in via Lanzone a pochi passi dalla basilica
Ambrosiana, gi nel 1695 Ludovico Antonio Muratori la climostro senza
fonclamento storico e non antica21 .

11 nome di Barnaba Io si legge perla prima yo!ta nei testi liturgici milanesi ne! secolo
XII inenute, cio ne! Ca!endario cosi cletto Sitoniano ( cfr. :lbGISl'RRTTI, Beroldus,
pp. 7 e 139) e poi ne! messale di Bedero (ms. ambrosiano D. 87. strp., fol. 221 r)
del secolo XII, e poi in tutti i messali posteriori. :?lfanca inyece in tutti i messali
del secolo IX e X e XI. Vedi la prefazione alla edizione recente del Sacramenta1'io
Bergomense, Bergamo 1962, pag. XXII.
I; argomento liturgico documenta in maniera indiscutibile che il de situ non
pu essere anteriore al secolo XI. Si yedano le recensioni al lrworo del Dnchesnc
in Civilt Cattol., serie XV, ml. VI, r7 giugno r893 ; e in Analecta Bolland. \'II,
l 893, pp. 454-459 : pagine ancorn utili ed efficaci.
20. Cfr. A. CALDRRIXI, G. CHIFRIC'I, C. C:rtCCHIU,LI San Lorenzo Afaggiore, :l'1ilano,
r 952, pp. 183, 49, I ro, 141 ecc.
zr. J,. A. MrRA'IORI, Anecdola q1rne ex A111b1osia11ae bibl. codicilms nunc primum
eruit ... , tom, I, :?lfc;diolni r607. pp. r74-r75.

A. PAREDI

Non erano ancora passati vent'anni da quando i monaci Cistercensi


vi avevano murato la lapide che vi si ,-ede ancora con l'iscrizione che
consacra tale tradizione : eppure il Muratori non ebbe scrupolo di sostenere che la lapide diceva il falso. Il battistero antico di Milano, sosteneva
il Muratori, doveva sorgere non fuori dalle mura, ma nel centro della
citt, vicino alla cattedrale. Cita va quindi dalla Historia M ediolanensis,
composta da Landolfo Seniore circa l'anno lIOO, le righe seguenti :
Tandem nutu divino (Augustinus) non post multos dies, sicut multis videntibus et sibi consen#entibus palam oberraverat, sic in fontibus qui beati
]ohannis ascribuntur, Deo opitulante, a beato Ambrosio, cunctis fidelibus
huius urbis adstantibus et videntibus, in nomine sanctae et individuae
Trinitatis baptizatus et confirmatus est22 ...
Queste righe di Landolfo dimostrano che a Milano nel secolo XI si
sapeva benissimo prima di tutto che la cattedrale antica era Santa
Tecla e non Santa Maria Maggiore ; e poi che il battistero del tempo
di Sant'Ambrogio era quello accanto a Santa Tecla, quell'edificio che
veniva chiamato ecclesia sancti I ohannis ad fontes.
La Historia Mediolanensis di Landolfo Seniore fu pubblicata nel IV
volume dei Rerum Italicarum Scriptores nel 1723 per cura di Orazio
Bianchi su un codice della biblioteca del Capitolo 1\Ietrop. milanese,
codice che poi ando perduto e che, in margine al passo citato sopra,
portava scritto di mano antica : Fuit ergo b. Augustinus baptizatiis
in ecclesia S. ] oannis ad fontes, quae erat inter ecclesiam maiorem et S. Theclae funditus eversae (cfr. RR. II. SS., IV, Mediolani 1723, p. 65). Questa
nota la riporta anche W. Wattenbach nella sua edizione (MGR, Script.,
VIII, 1848, p. 41). Si noti che questo annotatore, probabilmente del
secolo XV, chiama per errore ecclesiam maiorem la chiesa di S. l\Iaria
Maggiore.
Contro il Muratori sostenne la tradizione della chiesetta di S. Agostino
Nicola Sormani (1732), un tipico difensore di cause perse, che nella serie

22. MGH, Scriptor., VIII, 1848, pp. 41-42 ; Migne, P. L. 147, Paris r879, col.
833. Dopo il battesimo, continua Landolfo, i due santi cantarono il Te Deum. Questa
la pi antica attestazione milanese della leggenda dell'origine ambrosianoagostiniana del Te Deum; mentre in Francia gi ricordata in uno scritto dell'anno
859 di Hincmaro di Reims, cfr. Migne, P. L. 125, 1879, col. 290. Vedi E. KAHLER,
Studien zum Te Deum, Gottingen r958, pp. l l l-l 13. Il passo citato di Landolfo Seniore
tolto dalla sua Historia J![ediolaneiisis, che non ha niente ache fare con laDatiana
o de situ. Anche il Kahler, corne ancora il Leclercq (DACL. XV, r950, col. 2030),
cita quel passo corne se fosse da una Chronica Datii o Datiana : questo errore gi in
parecchi scrittori (il Corio, l'Alciati ecc.), corne gi spieg il Muratori nella prefazione a Landolfo (Rer. Ital. Script., IV, l 723, p. 51). Difatti una mano recenziore
al principio del ms. ambrosiano H. 89. inf., che contiene la Historia M ediolanensis,
scrisse il titolo spurio di Chronica Datii. La mano recenziore fu sicuramente quella
di Francesco Castelli (1532-1578), corne si pu vedere confrontando nel ms. il fol.
SR con il fol. IR. Invece fu il primo L. Biraghi a dare il titolo di Datiana Historia
all'opuscolo de situ civitatis M ediolani nella sua edizione del r 848. Vedi il Savio,
op. cit., pp. 661-662.

Tavob l. -

IL CENTRO DI MILANO VERSO L'ANNO 1300.


Disegno di Ugo Monneret de Villard .

J~

!~
i

50

Tavola II. - GRAFICO DAL VOLUME


di A. DE CAPITAXI D'ARZAGO, La chiesa di 111ilano, Milano 1052.
li n. 2 indica il battistero di S. Giovanni ; il n. 4 il battistero di S. Stefano.

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Tavola IV. -

MS. VAT . PAL. LAT. 833, fol. 41 vo.

-~

DOVE FU BATTEZZATO SANT'AGOSTINO

25

dei dottori della Biblioteca Ambrosiana non brilla davvero di chiara


luce. Invece il suo prefetto Giuseppe Antonio Sassi accetto e riporto gli
argomenti del Muratori. Altrettanto hanno fatto Serviliano Latuada
nel quarto tomo della sua Descrizione di Milano (1738), il conte Giorgio
Giulini nelle sue Memorie (IV, Milano 1760, p. 460), Angelo Fumagalli
nel quarto tomo delle Antichit Longobardico-Milanesi (1793) ; Giulio
Ferrario nel suo splendido volume su i monumenti della basilica di
S. Ambrogio (1824).
Nel 1843 viene interessato della questione anche Alessandro Manzoni.
J.-J.-F. Poujoulat stava allora preparando la sua Histoire de Saint
Augustin : per conoscere <love si doveva collocare la villa di Cassicicum
e dove era stato battezzato il grande africano si rivolse al Manzoni
corne a l'illustre reprsentant de la pense catholique Milan)). Cosi
in appendice al primo volume del Poujoulat (Paris 1845, pp. 325-330)
leggiamo la lettera di risposta del Manzoni, in data I I luglio 1843. Questi
scrive che les recherches que j'ai faites auprs de plus savants que
moi n'ont abouti qu' me faire ignorer en connaissance de cause ce qu'il
m'intresserait plus que jamais de connatre de la manire la plus positive>>. Fa lunghe considerazioni su Cassicicum ; poi per il luogo del
battesimo scrive : << A Milan il n'y a malheureusement aucune trace
des lieux que la conversion de saint Augustin aurait d illustrer jamais.
Prs de la basilique ambrosienne il y a une petite glise ddie au grand
saint, dans l'endroit o l'on a cru assez longtemps qu'il avait reu le
baptme. Mais cette opinion, tout a fait arbitraire et contraire l'usage
de ces temps, de n'admettre qu'un baptistre dans chaque ville (V. SAssr,
Archiepiscoporum M ediolanens. Series, etc. T.I., page 83, et les auteurs
qui y sont cits), est abandonne de tout le monde ... J>.
Le persone pi erudite di lui il Manzoni deve averle cercate alla Biblioteca Ambrosiana. Il prefetto di allora Bartolomeo Catena (1838-1855)
in una memoria letta all'I.R. Istituto Lombardo di Scienze, Lettere ed
ed Arti il 14 dicembre 1843 apertamente combatt la tradizione della
venuta di S. Barnaba a Milano 23 ; e deve essere suo anche l'articolo che
fu pubblicato anonimo da L'A mica Cattolico nel novembre 1843 : Dov' era
in Milano il battistero in cui da S. Ambrogio ju battezzato S. Agostino ? >> :
quattro pagine precise e documentate, scritte per dimostrare falsa la
opinione che il Manzoni nella lettera dice abbandonata da tutti. L'articolo
con ogni probabilit fu scritto appunto in seguito alle consultazioni >>
di Alessandro Manzoni.
Non senza motivo che qui insistiamo su questa polemica del settecento, e del primo ottocento. A Pavia nell'anno 1887 Francesco l\fagani
pubblico una monografia su La data e il luogo del battesimo di Sant'
Agostino )), Era allora il Magani prevosto del Carmine a Pavia ; poi nel
23. Cfr. Giornale dell'I. R. Istituto Lombardo di Sciente, Lettere ed Arti e Biblioteca
Italiana, tomo VIII, Milano 1843, pp. 153-179.

A. PAREDJ

26

1893 divenne vescovo di Parma. Si era fatto conoscere con la pubblicazione di tre volumi su Ennodio nel 1886. Nel nuovo libro del 1887 il
Magani sosteneva contro il Muratori che S. Agostino era stato battezzato
il 5 maggio e non a Pasqua 24 ; e, sempre contro il Muratori, che era stato
battezzato nella chiesetta di via Lanzone. A leggere oggi le verbose
pagine del l\fagani e i suoi strambi ragionamenti ci si meravigilia corne
ci fosse gente che Io prendeva sul serio. Eppure ancora nel 1930 un uomo
corne Filippo J.VIeda in una sua monografia su S. Agostino si attiene
alle opinioni del l\fagani e si sforza di tmrnrle non del tutto improbabili.
Il p. Fedele Savio invece pubblicanclo nel 1913 la sua fondamentale
opera su i vescovi antichi di lVIilano non cita mai il nome del Magani,
neppnre quanclo parla di Ennodio e di Lorenzo I ; il che significava, a
chi voleva capire, la nessuna fiducia che i libri del l\fagani meritavano.
16. - Speriamo che tra breve tutti potranno scendere a veclere
gli avanzi del battistero paleocristiano di l\Iilano. E molti yerranno da
molte altre contrade a meditare su l'incontro della Pasqua 387 tra il
vescovo di lVrilano e il futuro vescovo di Ippona.
Lo scavo ha dato ragione non soltanto alle intuizioni dei nostri migliori
storici del settecento, ma anche ai pochi solidi dati della pi antica
tradizione milanese.
Angelo PAREDI
l\Iilano, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Pasqua 1965*.

24. Nei martirologi a partire dalla fine del secolo X\T, e quim1i anche nel ::-Oiartirologio Romano, la ConYcrsione di S. Agostino segnnta al 5 maggio : Quaerenti
quam ob causam com,ersio S. Augustini ad dirm 5. maii recoli coepta sil, id unum
rtpo11i11ws non eo die sed Proxima 7. maii in hicronymianis iterato recurrere memoriam
. 1ugustini episcopi, q1tem la111en non esse Hipponensem alio loco oslendimus : cosi
i Rollandisti uel Jllartyrol. Roman. sclioliis historic-is instn1ctum, J3ruxelles 1940, p. r74.
::\' ei libri liturgici milancsi non c' la memoria della Comersionc di S. Agostino ;
imece la festa della sua depositio al 28 agosto c' in tutti i messali fin clal secolo
nono, ma non c' nei due eyangeliari milanesi pi nntichi : ynol dire che tale fcsta
si introclnsse a ::-Oiilano nel secolo ottavo, non molti nnni dopo che il re Lintpranclo
circa il 726 fece portare dalla Snrclegna a PaYia le reliqnic del santo: cfr. Sacram.
Bergomeme, Dergan.o r962, pp. XXIII-XXIV.
* Estrntto clall'Archivio Ston'co Lombardo, ::-Oiiscellanea in memoria del prof.
Gian Piero DOG::\ETTI, Anno XC, Srie rx, Vol. ff, 1964, (::-.Iilnno, 1967).

.A Pioneering Work
111

Augustinian Iconography *

A systematic and exhaustive work on the iconography of St. Augustine


of Hippo has long been overdue. 1 It is, therefore, a pleasure to welcome
a volume that constitutes the first part of a comprehensive study of
the cycles of Augustinian iconography. M. and Mme Courcelle, to
whom we are already indebted for valuable and substantial contributions
to the vast and cornplex problems of the iconography of the striking
figure of the bishop of Hippo 2 , are peculiarly qualified to undertake
jointly a vvork which in a rare degree requires mastery in more than one
field. In this first volume the authors offer a scholarly and most enlightening interpretation of the cycles of the fourteenth century, that is,
of that period in which the cyclic treatment of St. Augnstine's life
made its beginning and experiencecl its first flowering.
The splendid volume, superbly producecl by the tudes Augustiniennes
'vith the aicl of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, is
entitled to rank with the best that European scholarship and technical
skill in book making have been able to achieve in recent years. The
paper and binding are excellent. The press work leaves nothing to be
clesired. In 'riew of the fact that these are times in which cost is necessarily a vital consicleration, both the authors and the tudes AugustiJeanne and Pierre C::orRCELLE, Jconor;rapMe de saint Augustin : Les cycles
du XJT'e sicle. l'aris, J::tur1es Augustinien;1es, r965. l'p. "54,includingiro plates.
I. On this gap in Augustinian scholarship, see F. JJOLGI.\:'.\1, La conveYsione di
S. Agostino e l'FIJJo libro delle Confessioni , Torino 1956, pp. 161-176 (Appe11dice
II : Per l'iconografia della comersione di S. Agostino >>) ; morcover, the introduction
of ::\I, aml Mme Courcelle to the present yolume, p. l3f.
" Les <' Confessions de saint A U/!llstin dans la traditfon littraire : A ntcdeuts
tf postrit, Appenr1ice VI (pp. 6.p-683, 62 plates).
Paris, Ihucles Augustiniennes,
1963. ~ Vila Sancti Augustini inwr;inibus adornata. i'\'Ianuscrit de Boston, Public
Library, n 1483, s. XV, indit (pp. 256, including 109 plates). Paris, Jhudes Augustiniennes, 1964. - Les dctH A u.gustin dans une miniature du X ['e sicle in Revue des
tudes augustiniennes 8 (1962) 169-175 (4 plates). - Scnes anciennes de l'iconographie m.tgustinienne, ibid. ro (1964) 5r-96 (including ;q plates). - Xomelles illustrations des Conjessinns augustininmes, ibid. pp. 343-35 r.

28

R. ARBESMANN

niennes showed very good judgrnent in deciding to he lavish with essentials


but frugal with luxuries. There are one hundred and nine pages of
clear and accurate rnonochrorne illustrations. A considerable number
of scenes have here been reproduced for the first tirne and thus made
accessible to the scholarly world. We mention especially the scenes
of the little known fresco cycle in the church of Notre-Darne du Bourg
at Rabastens. There also is a frontispiece in full color to indicate the
color scherne of the four predella paintings preserved in the Old Pinakothek of Munich.
The appearance of M. and Mrne Courcelle's study coincided with
the publication of the second volume of G. Kaftal's rnonurnental work
on the Saints in Italian Art : Iconography of the Saints in Central and
South Italian Schools of Painting (Florence 1965). Kaftal (cols. 129143 : figs. 139-153, 155-161, 163) has also reproduced the scenes of the
fresco cycle in the church of Sant' Agostino in Gubbio, arnong thern sorne
which have been listed by JYI. and Mrne Courcelle as unpublished (compare plates LXXXII, LXXXIII, LXXXV, LXXXVI, LXXXVII,
LXXXVIII, XCI, XCII, XCV, XCVI, XCVII and CI with Kaftal,
op. cit., col. 131-143 : figs. 143, q4, 146, 147, 148, J49, 152, 155,
156, 157, 158 /159, 163). Kaftal's volume also contains an illustration
of one of the scenes of the fresco cycle in the church of Sant'Agostino
in Fabriano, likewise listed as unpublished by our authors (compare
plate XLIX with Kaftal, op. cit., cols. 143-144, fig. 162). Without
rninimizing Kaftal's great scholarly accomplishrnents and the excellent
production of his work by the Florentine publishing house Sassoni, we
think the difference of purpose between his work and that of l\1. and
Mme Courcelle should here be pointed out. Kaftal's volume is essentially a reference work. In accordance with its purpose, no atternpt
at a critical study of the cycles and their scenes is rnade. The scenes
are reproduced and identified, their literary sources are listed, and the
art and hagiographical bibliographies relating to the cycles are given.
Moreover, the illustrations are of rnuch srnaller size than the full-page
illustrations provided by M. and Mrne Courcelle. Finally, unlike
Kaftal's volume, the work of JYI. and Mrne Courcelle also contains fullpage illustrations of the entire scenery of the Gubbio cycle (see plate
LXXV) as well as of details of sorne of its units (see plates LXXVIII
and LXXIX).
The authors approach their subject quite rnethodically. After an
introduction (pp. 13-16), in which they discuss the particular historical
contexts within which the earliest known examples of a serial treatrnent
of St. Augustine's life in painting and sculpture carne into existence,
they proceed to examine the following eight cycles 3 according to the
3. The authors are yery circumspect. They do not claim that the cycles studied
by them represent the entire fourteenth-century Augustinian cyclic iconography,
but consider it quite possible that additional cycles, hitherto unnoticed, may be
discovered (see p. r3f.).

AUGUSTINIAN ICONOGRAPHY

29

chronological sequence in which they were produced : (1) the medallions


of the Augustinusfenster of Erfurt (pp. 17-38) ; (2) the frescoes of NotreDame du Bourg at Rabastens, Arrondissement Gaillac, Dpartement
Tarn, in southern France (pp. 39-46) ; (3) the frescoes of the church of
the (( Eremitani )) at Padua (pp. 47-51 ); (4) the frescoes of the church
of Sant' Agostino at Fabriano, in the province of Macerata, central Italy
(pp. 53-59) ; (5) the low reliefs of the tomb of St. Augustine in ((San Pietro
in Ciel d'Oro )) at Pavia (pp. 61-72) ; (6) the predella preserved in the Old
Pinakothek of Munich (pp. 73-79) ; (7) the frescoes of the church
of Sant' Agostino at Gubbio,
in the province
of Perugia
(pp. 81-99) ; (8) the panels preserved in the Pinacoteca Vaticana
(pp. l01-ro5). The data pertaining to the origin of each cycle are supplied. Drawings, accompanying the study of cycles l, 2, 4, 5 and 7,
give a clear idea of the sequence of the scenes and their location within
these cycles. Alle the scenes, including their present state of preservation, are carefully described and their underlying literary sources listed.
One of the most interesting sections in this part of the study is, in our
opinion, that on the A ugustinusfenster of Erfurt. The renovation of
nine medallions which had been destroyed, the disturbance of the original sequence of the scenes in the course of subsequent restorations,
as well as the fact that the pictures in this cycle are for the most part
limited to tvvo persons, make the interpretation of a number of scenes
very difficult. The authors' thorough familiarity with the pertinent
sources of St. Augustine's life enabled them to correct the misinterpretations of several scenes by their predecessors 4 , or, where the latter had
been unable to suggest an interpretation, to discover one that is at least
probable. The satisfactory interpretation of all the scenes in turn made
it possible to propose a rearrangement of the units (see Tables I and II
on pp. 22 and 23) that would restore their original grouping and make
the cycle again a coherent whole.
In the concluding section of their study (pp. ro7-rr6), M. and Mme
Courcelle present an exquisite summary of their findings. The remarkable inventiveness of the creators of the Erfurt cycle and the importance
of this cycle as the fountain-head of all later Augustinian iconography
are stressed. There is a lucid description of the various ways in which
the motifs, chosen by the originators of the cyclic treatment of St. Augustine's life, as well as their general scheme of grouping the scenes, were
adopted in the subsequent cycles of the period and modified by the
addition of details and individualizing features, and the accession of
new scenes. The reader also learns vvhich of the scenes in these cycles,
because of their dramatic or suggestive power, became favorites with

4. E. HAE'.rGE, Die A ugustinerkirche zu Erfurt, in : Die Kunstdenkniiiler der Provin:


Sachsen II. 1 (Burg 1931) 63-141 ; D. REN'.rSCH, Glasinalcrci des frhen vierzehnten
] ahrhunderts in Ost-Mitteldeutschland : Mitteld,utsche Forschungen ro (Koln and
Graz 1958) 25-41, 52-55, 6r-63, 75-76, ro2-ro5, r25-r36.

JO

R. ARBESJWAXX

the artists and acquirecl a permanent place in Augustinian iconography,


and which hacl but an ephemeral existence and clisappearecl altogether.
Attention is, finally, callecl to the rather restricted geographical area
within which these cycles macle their appearance. All of them, with
the exception of those of Erfurt and Rabastens, are creations of Italian
art. Three of them
the cycles of Padua, Pavia and Verona (now
in .Munich) - belong to northern Italy, the other three - the cycles of
Fabriano, Gubbio and the :'.\Iarch of Ancona (now in the Vatican)
ong1natecl in central Italy. The authors close their stucly with an interpretation of the cycles in the light of the artistic and religions history of the
period.
The study itself is followed by the above-mentioned monochrome
illustrations (pp. rr7-241). The reader will be gratifed by finding the
index of proper names (pp. 243-245) and a table of the scenes and illustrations (pp. 247-249). At the end (p. 251), the authors acknowledge
the provenience of the illustrations reproduced in the volume.
In two places of their study (pp. l4f. and rr5) l\I. and l\Ime Courcelle
have called attention to the fact that the appearance of the cycles coincidecl with a brilliant periocl in the history of the Augustinian Hermits.
It is certainly noteworthy that the earliest known cycle, namely, that
of Erfurt, is found in a church of the Augustinian Hermits 5 , and that at
least five out of the eight fourteenth-century cycles which have been
preserved (Erfurt, Padua, Fabriano, Pavia, Gubbio), originated beyond
doubt in churches of this Order. A brief excursion into the Order's
history during this period may be profitable for a fuller unclerstancling
of this phenomenon.
After the Great Union of 1256, by which a number of rather loosely
organized eremitical groups had been welclecl into a strictly unifiecl body
uncler one central direction, the Ortler hacl experienced a rapicl growth that
>vas beyond all expectation. Provinces of the Ortler had been establishecl
in all parts of Europe. Its members were active in every enterprise of
the Church, clistinguishing themselves by their zeal in the care of souls
5. Henry of Grnenberg, bishop of Naumburg (see C. Enim,, Hierarchia cat!wlica
I 913] 3 7 4), commissionec1 the famous A ugustinusjenster
for the church of the Augustinian Hermits, anc1 not for the , Reglerstift ', as the
monastery of the A ugustinian Canons or Canons Regnlar in Erfurt was called.
A. ZU)IKm,r,1m (Hevmann von Schildesche [Cassiciacum, vol. XIV, \Vrzburg 1957]
pp. q-26) "hom the authors quote 011 this point (p. r9 11. r), quite e\ide11tly means
the mnnastery and the clrnrch of the A ugustinia11 Hermits when he describes the
acti\ity of the Augustinian Hennit Hermann of Schildesche in Erfurt and, in this
connection, also mentions ' the magnificent staincd-glass windo\YS [in the apse of
the newly finishecl friary church~ wl10se last, the exquisite A ug11sti11usie11ster,
may well haye been executecl cluring the years of Hermann's actiYity in Erfurt '.
Also Reutsch's references to the ' Angustinerkirclte ' always mean the clrnrch of
the Augustinian Hermits (see his excursns on the architectural history of the chnrch,
pp. ro2-ro5). \Ye may add that the mec1allions of the stained-glass winclows of the
clrnrch hacl intime been stored in safety to protect them from harm cluring the \1ar.
111edii a'evi r 2 (:Jlnster

A cc0-snx1 AX ICO.VUGHAPH y

Jl

and a strict mode of life ; and it was not long before men of learning
became also numerous in the Order. To be sure, this signal success
was in part due to the leading role that a number of Augustinian Hermits
played in the intellectual and spiritual history of the Church during the
fourteenth century. But over and above that, another most influential
factor must not be overlookecl, because it gave to the Order as a whole a
remarkable oneness in spirit and action, namely the conscious effort to
clraw inspiration from a more thorough study of St. Augustine's \vorks
and the great zeal in promoting his cult.
Augustinian scholarship of the fourteenth century produced, for
instance, the truly monumental work of the Milleloqitium S. A1tgitstini
by the Augustinian Hermit Bartholomew of Urbino (+ 1350). The
Milleloquium contains, beside a concordance of approximately fifteen
thousand excerpts from the works of St. Augustine grouped under about
one thousand alphabetically arranged keywords (e.g., ecclesia, /ides,
haeresis, iustitia, iustificatio, lex, praedestinatio, etc.), a regular recension
of the whole literary output of St. Augustine, an astounding accomplishment for that time. Upon examination of Bartholomew's work it becomes evident that he personally read the original works from which he
made his excerpts. For the purpose of ferreting original texts out of
the libraries he undertook journeys and spared no trouble. The Milleloquiimi S. Aitgustii, which had the special distinction of a poetic
foreword contributed by Petrarch at the author's request, was a success.
Witness of its wide diffusion and appreciation are over fifty manuscripts
still extant. It had five printings : I,yons 1555, Paris 1645, 1649 and
1672, Brixen 1734 Since the indices of the great editions of the Latin
Fathers from the J\Iaurists to the Corpus of Vienna (the edition of the
Corj>us Christianornm began only twelve years ago) are no cloubt insufficient, Bartholomew's M illeloquium S. A ugustini, clespite its defects
due to the state of scholarship at his time, is still toclay of consiclerable
value. Here we may acld that the iclea of a concordance of St. Augustine's
works had already been conceived by another Augustinian Hennit,
Agostino Trionfo (+ 1328). Trionfo's work, however, never went
beyoncl the stage of sketches. It is preservecl in Cod. Laurent. Plut.
13.15 (saec. XIV). Its title reads : Flores Beati Aug1tstini seu J.11illeloquiimi ex scriptis S. Augustini 6 . Among the fourteenth-centurytheologians of the Order who belong to the milieu created by the Milleloq11ium, we mention especially Gregory of Rimini, the most remarkable
exponent of Augustinian theology in the fourteenth century, who,
because of his intimate acquaintance with the works of St. Augustine,
has been callecl ' the best Augustine scholar of the l\Iidclle Ages ' 7 . In
6. On J3artholomew of Urbino and his 1'dilleloquium S . .Aitgustini, see R. AR1msDn A ugustiner-Eremitcnorden und dn Beginn der httmanistischen Bewegung
(Cassiciacum, YOl. XIX, Wrzburg 1965) pp. 36-54.
7. D. TR.\PP, A ugustinian Theology of the 1-lth centur.i'. in A ugustiniana 6 (r956)

}IA:-<:\,

181.

32

R. ARBESMANN

this connection we should like to mention that some fourteenth-century


libraries of the Augustinian Hermits contained impressive collections
of works of St. Augustine. This is especially true of the library of their
studium generale in Paris 8 . It was in this \'ery library that some of the
Order's great masters of theology, for instance, Gregory of Rimini,
Alphonse of Toledo, Hugolin of Orvieto, John of Basel, acquired their
thorough knowledge of St. Augustine's works. The writings of these
authors abound in Augustinian quotations. Their love for St. Augustine
most opportunely coincided with the rising wave of humanism that
displayed a kindred admiration for the great Doctor of the Church. It
was an Augustinian Hermit, Denis of Borgo San Sepolcro, who directed
Petrarch to the works of St. Augustine, made him see the dangerous
course of his past life and understand ever more clearly that beside
ancient pagan literature there existed a no less important literature of
Christian antiquity in which the works of St. Augustine deserved a special
place. Petrarch treasured for the rest of his life the handy pocket edition
of the Confessiones of St. Augustine given him by Denis. He always
had it in his travels and toward the end of his life bequeathed it to another Augustinian Hermit, his youthful friend Fra Luigi Marsili of Florence. The study of this work of St. Augustine made a very deep impression on Petrarch and gave his personal life and literary activity a new
content and a quite discernible direction. This influence can be traced
especially in his ethico-philosophical treatises, the fruits of his later years
of full maturity. He never tired of quoting the Confessiones and of
recommending their reading to his friends 9 .
The use of St. Augustine's works as a main source of erudition was
especially suited to one of the Augustinian Hermits' most cherished
traditions of the tirne, the tradition that linked the beginnings and
unfolding of their institute directly to the early monastic foundations
of St. Augustine. Recognizing that History failed to reveal the desired
bond of continuity, the theologians of the Ortler tried to give supplementary support to this tradition by a doctrinal Augustinianism that
would prove beyond all doubt that they were the true and real sons of
St. Augustine 10 . The great importance that the theologians of the
Ortler attributed to the study of St. Augustine, as well as the prominent
part played by the Augustinian Hermits in the life of the university of
Paris, explain the fact that, in r36r, at the request of Ralph of Citt

8. See the list of Augustinian works which once belonged to the library of this
house of study, in A. ZUMKELLER, Hugolin von Orvieto und seine theologische Erkenntnislehre, Wrzburg 1941, pp. 57-6r. For the libraries of the houses of study in
Padua and Siena, see D. GUTIRREZ, De antiquis Ordinis Eremitarum sancti A ugustini
bibliothecis, in Analecta Augustiana 23 (1953) 242-243 ; 302-303.
9. On Denis of Borgo San Sepolcro and his friendship with Petrarch, see ARBESMANN, Der Augustincr-Eremitenorden (n. 6 supra) pp. 16-36, and the literature cited
there.
IO. See TRAPP, Augustinian Theology (n. 7 supra) p. 189 n. 46.

AUGUSTINIAN ICONOGRAPHY

33

di Castello, magister regens of the Order's studium generale, the university


declared the last day of February, the feast of the secimda translatio
S. Augiistini, an official holiday, to be celebrated with a solemn procession and a sermon in honor of St. Augustine 11 . The example set by the
university of Paris was soon followed by the faculty of theology of Bologna. In the Statuti of the faculty, the drafting of which had been entrusted to Hugolin of Orvieto, an Augustinian Hermit, we read : Dies vero,
quibus infra annum nullus de universitate legere debet, sunt infrascripti :
. . . Die quo fit officium translationis beati Augustini, scilicet ultima
Februarii ... Vigilia et festum sancti Augustini )) 12 .
The Augustinian Hermits also bestowed great care on promoting the
popular devotion to their spiritual father and patron. Apart from dedicating most of their churches to him, they spread his veneration among
the populace that came to them for spiritual addce, sought their prayers,
and filled their churches. The principal feast of St. Augustine (August
28) was celebrated in their churches with great solemnity and amid a
large concourse of people. Soon three secondary feasts in his honor
were added to the calendar of the Ortler : the feast of his conversion
(May 5), the feast of the translation of his body from Hippo to Sardinia
(October n), and the feast of the translation from Sardinia to Pavia
(last day of February) 13 It was quite natural that the sermons preached on these festival occasions aimed at stimulating devotion to their
patron saint and at strengthening the trust of the faithful in his intercession. They usually abound in stories about St. Augustine coming
to the aid of persons who had recourse to him. A great number of
these sermons have corne clown to us. Among Jordan of Saxony's
two hundred and seventy-one Sermones de Sanctis alone, for instance,
there are twenty-three (sermones 129-151) for the principal feast of St.
Augustine (August 28) and two (sermones 59 and 185), entitled De translatione S. Augustini (last day of February and October n) 14 .
That the Augustinian Hermits were successful in their efforts of promoting the veneration of their spiritual father, we may see from a statement in an anonyrnous Vita Aurelii Augustini Hipponensis Episcopi,
written by an Augustinian friar of the Order's Tuscan province of Pisa
probably a short time before 1331 and preserved in Cod. Laurent. Plut.
go sup. 48, fol. lr-fol. l3r. The main body of the narrative is followed
by a number of appendices, the last of which (fol. 12r-fol. l3r) is a list
of miracles which, according to the author, occurred in Florence in his
rr. H. DENIFLE, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis 3 (Parisiis 1894) 1256.
12. F. EHRLE, I piantichi statuti della Facolt Teologica dell' Universit di Balogna
(Universitatis Bononiensis lYionumenta, vol. I, Balogna 1932) pp. 25, 27, 30.
13. On these feasts, see E. ESTEBAN, De festis et ritibus sacris Ordinis Eremitarum
S.P. Aitgustini, in Analecta Augustiniana r6 (1937-38) 6-11.
14. \Ve quote J ordan's Opus Sernzonum de Sanctis according to the Strasbourg
edition of r 484, printed by Johannes von Grningen (Hain 9440). The edition has no
pagination.

34

R. ARBES,WA.VN

day through the intercession of St. Augustine. He introduces his account


by saying: Non etiam dignum existimavi silentio praeterire quod nostris
temporibus dignatus est dominus operari precibus tanti patris [Augustini]
maxime in civitate Florentiae, ubi eiits devotio de die in diem crescit ))
(fol. I2r). We may add that, in recounting the first miracle (fol. 12r),
the author incidentally mentions a fresco representing St. Augustine
in Santo Spirito, the church of the Augustinian Hermits in Florence.
Unfortunately he furnishes no further description of the painting, and
his account contains, as far as we know, the only information about
the existence of a fresco of St. Augustine in old Santo Spirito. When
the church was replaced by a new building in the course
of the fifteenth century, the fresco perished, and we shall probably
never learn the name of the painter, though we know that early Florentine
masters, among them Giovanni Cimabue, had worked in old Santo
Spirito. The friars of Santo Spirito were in a position to promote the
popular devotion to their patron also by unobtrusively guiding the
religious fervor of the Compagnia di Laudesi of their church 15 , especially
since a friar of the community was always assigned to them to make the
relationship between the confraternity and the Ortler more intimate. An
early fourteenth-century hymn-book (laudario) of the Compagnia of
Santo Spirito, beautifully illuminated in gold and colors 16 and providing
the notations for chant, which has been preservecl in Cod. lVIagliabecchianus II, I, 122 of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence, contains two hymns (nr. 69 and nr. 70 of the collection) in honor of St. Augustine. The incipit of the first reads : cc Gaudiamo tucti quanti / al cui
fervor siamo ragunati )).
The second hymn, beginning with << Sancto

r 5. In the course of the thirteenth century special confraternities had been formed
in many cities and towns of Italy for the express purpose of promoting the devotion
to the Blessed Virgin. Their members, the laudesi (' praisers '), assembled in the
clrnrches in the evening and sang hymns (laude) in honor of Our Lady. In time
almost every church in Florence had such a confratemity (compagnia). The most
renowned Compagnie di Laudesi, however, \Yere attached to the churches of
the religions Orders. Though they were primarily dedicated to the Blessed Virgin,
the laudesi did not confine themselves to singing 'praises ' in honor of their heayenly
patroness. Hymn-books (laudari) of the laudesi, which have been preserYed in
manuscript form, contain numerous hymns addressed to Christ and to saints, or
treat themes on the varions mysteries of the faith. Because of their connection
\Yith Santo Spirito the laudesi of that church also sang special hymns in honor of
the Roly Spirit (for a more detailed history of the Florentine laudc:,i, ineluding
those of Santo Spirito, see R. DA YIDSOHN, Fircnse ai tempi di Dante, Ital. transl.
by E. Dupr Theseider, Florence 1929, pp. 171-180). The Compagnia di Laudesi of
Santo Spirito was founded toward the end of the thirteenth century. Qyer the
door of its headquarters, on the corner of Via S. Agostino and Via Maffia, the following words were engraved in stone : Dive Marie Laudum Sanctique Spiritus
Societas (see S. BELLANDI, Rievoca::ione di mi antico Laudario di S. Spirito, in
Bollettino Storico Agostiniano 9 [1932-33] 122).
r6. One of the miniatures represents a group of Augustinian Hermits and laudesi
of Santo Spirito in the act of singing a hymn in honor of St. Augustine.

A UGUSTINIAN ICONOGRAPHY

35

Agostin doctore ii, is of special interest for us, because it praises St. Augustine's relentless struggle for the purity of the faith against the heretics
and celebrates him as' the vanquisher of every error ', a theme represented
in one of the scenes of the Munich predella 17 . The same hymn is also
found in a laudario of the Compagnia of the church of Sant' Egidio in
Florence 18 . We may reasonably assume that the devotion of St. Augustine was characteristic of all the confraternities attached to the churches
of the Augustinian Hermits in Italy. That St. Augustine was one of
the special patrons of Siena, we learn from a sermon preached by the
humanist and Augustinian friar Andrea Biglia in the church of his Order
(Sant' Agostino) in that city on the feast of St. Augustine (August 28)
before King Sigismund 19 In the course of his sermon Biglia addresses
the King thus : << Iam tibi, imperator gloriosissime, Augustinus Senenses
suos tutandos tradit, quos ferme - ita credo
post Beatissimae Virginis
praesidia unus singulari tutela commissos habet. Tantum ille debet
Senensibus, quibus Ordinem suum tantae curae et gubernationi esse
conspicit, ut nullos plus salvos cupiat quam ubi ipse quoque intelligit
nomen suum celeberrime propagatum >>20.
The veneration of St. Augustine gained a great impetus when, in
1327, the Augustinian Hermits, by a special pridlege granted them by
Pope John XXII, were appointed custodians of the body of St. Augustine in the basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro at Pavia, thus supplanting
the Canons Regular of St. Augustine to whom the care of the sacred
relie had hitherto been entrusted 21 . An inevitable result of this action
of John XXII was a feud between the two rival Orders, both claiming
St. Augustine as their true founder. The fend which grew ever more bitter,
especially during the fifteenth century, found its literary expression in a
great number of treatises and polemical pamphlets full of subtle argu~
ments and steadily moving farther away from the original question at
issue. We are looking forward to JVI. and Mme Courcelle's second volume

17. See M. and Mme Courcelle's discussion of the scene, p. 78 f., "Che frontispiece
and plate LXXIV.
18. The laudario is presened in Cod. Magliabecchianus II, I, 212 of the second
half of the fourteenth century. The hymn is nr. 77 in the collection.
19. On the jonrney to his coronation in Rome, King Sigismund stayed in Siena
from Jnly Il, 1432, to the end of the year.
20. The ser111on, carrying 110 title, is preserved in a mannscript of the Ambrosiana in Milan: Cod. Ambros. N. 280 sup., fol. 29r - fol. 3ov. The passage qnoted is
on fol. 30'". On the veneration of St. Augustine in the fourteenth century, and the
pre-eminence lus cuit attained through the Augustinian Hermits, see also F. Ro'rH,
The English Austin Friars 1249-1538, vol. I (New-York 1966) pp. 40-43.
2r. The source !11aterial relating to this important event in the history of the
Ordcr of the Augustinian Her111its has been collected by R. Maiocchi and N. Casacca,
Codex diplomaticus Ord. E.S. Aitgustini Papiae r (Papiae 1905) 13-75. As a rather
amusing curiosity we mention that an Augustinian Hermit even made John XXII
a poet on this occasion. The poem allegedly written by the pope is preserved in
MS 212 of the Bibliothque de Lyon, fol. 126 (see Catalogue Gnral des klanuscrits
des Bibliothques Publiques de France 30.1 [Paris 1900] 48).

R. ARBESMANN

in the series 22 to learn whether this rivalry is also reflected in the great
cyclic compositions of the fifteenth century.
A closing remark.
In examining the medieval sermon literature on
St. Augustine which has corne down to us, we may well be surprised that,
in their sermons, the preachers did not make use of the material they
had at their disposal in many a church and occasionally explain to their
audiences the sacred paintings and sculptures representing the saint
and his deeds. Today such explanations would be of great value. We
are thinking especially of fresco scenes which are difficult to interpret
either because of the deterioration they have suffered through the ravages
of time or because of the loss of explanatory inscriptions. Only seldom
do we have in such cases the good fortune of being aided by other sources.
As an example we may cite an early fifteenth-century cycle in the former
church of the Augustinian Hermits (now Dreifaltigkeits-Pfarrkirche)
in Constance, a gift of King Sigismund to the friars who had been his
hosts during the latter part of the Council of Constance. Introducing
a new theme into Augustinian cyclic iconography, the artists commissioned by Sigismund pictured St. Augustine as the originator and father
of the Rule that is followed by a great number of Orders and Congregations. They developed the theme by representing,.in scene after scene,
always a group of five religious kneeling in re,erential attitude before
the towering figure of St. Augustine, clothed in his episcopal robes over
his religious habit, and receiving from his hand the Rule. Unfortunately the explanatory inscriptions perished, and we would not be in a
position to know which Orders and Congregations the artists represented
in the various scenes, if there had not corne down tous a note giving their
names. The note which may be helpful in a critical study of the cycle
is preserved in the following four manuscripts which we list according
to A. ZUMKELLER, lvianuslripte von Werken der A utoren des A ugustinerEremitenordens in mitteleuropaischen Bibliotheken (Cassiciacum, vol. XX,
Wrzburg I966) p. 527, nr. I543 :
London, British Museum, Arundel 6, a. I460, fol. 4or, in Middle High
German.
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Germ. Fol. 696, saec. IS, fol. 4nra, in :Middle
High German. The manuscript is now in Tbingen, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz : Depot der Staatsbibliothek, Wilhelmstrasse 32.
Danzig, Stadtbibliothek (now Biblioteka Gdanska Polskiej Akademii
Nauk), St. Marien, F. 286, saec. IS, fol. I73r - fol. I73v, in Latin; and St.
Marien, F. 300, saec. IS, fol. I88r - fol. I88v, in Latin.
W e add the incipit of the text in Middle High German according to
Arundel 6 : << Hie hieben sich an die orden die der Romisch Kunig Sigmundt hat lassen malen zu constintz in der Kirchen zu den Augustinern )).
Rudolph ARBESMANN, O.S.A.
Fordham University
22.

Iconogrnphie de saint Augustin: Les cycles du XV sicle (in preparation).

Scnes anciennes
de l'iconographie augustinienne Ir*
l.

AUGUSTIN DIALOGUE A CASSICIACU:\I.

Deux miniatures du xne sicle reprsentent le jeune Augustin dialoguant avec ses amis Cassiciacum; elles introduisent le Contra Academicos
sur les manuscrits d'Admont zr (r25), fol. r v 0 (Pl. II) 1 et de
Vienne roo9, fol. r r 0 (Pl. III) 2 . Les deux miniatures offrent une
ressemblance gnrale. L'une n'a pourtant pas t copie sur l'autre.
Remontent-elles un archtype commun ? Toutes deux ressortissent
l'art allemand du xne sicle et prsentent de grandes analogies de
style. D'autre part, les images du Contra F austum semblent dmontrer
l'existence d'une tradition iconographique constitue ds avant le
xne sicle pour tel ou tel trait de controvers.
La miniature d' Adrnont est la plus fidle au texte, la plus belle et la
plus originale. Le lieu du dialogue est suggr et les personnages qui y
ont pris part mis en scne selon une hirarchie qui suppose une bonne
connaissance du trait.
<< Sur mon invitation, crit saint Augustin, nous tions tous runis dans
nn lieu commode , et la suite prcise qu'il s'agit d'un pr attenant la

Cet article fait suite notre 1Jremier article portant le mme titre, paru dans
Revue des tudes augustiniennes, t. X, 1964, p. 51-71 et vingt-quatre planehes.
I. P. Bi:BERL, Die illuminierten Handschriften in Steierniark, Leipzig, 19II,
t. I, Die Stiftsbibliothellen zu Admont im Vorau, p. 49, fig. 44.
2. H.-J. HERllIAXX, Die deutschen romanischen Handschriften, Leipzig, 1926,
p. 72 et fig. 36.
3. Cf. J. et P. CouRCf,LE, Quelques illustrations du ' Contra Faiistum ' de
s. Augustin, dans Oikoumn, Studi paleocristiani pubblicati in onc,re dd Concilia
Ecumenico Vaticano II, Catania, 1964, p. 1-9 et cinq planches.
4. Aucus'l'Ix, Contra Acadcnzicos, I, 2, 5, d. P. Knoll, dans CSEL, t. LXIII,
p. 6, 18 : Cum igitur omnes hortatu meo unum in locum ad hoc congregati essemus,
ubi oportunum uisl.lm est ... ,

JEANNE ET PIERRE COURCF-LLE

maison de campagne 5 . Le rideau dploy au-dessus de la scne n'a donc


que la valeur d'un cadre idologique ; la porte de bois ferme, surmonte
d'un fronton rustique, indique suffisamment que les acteurs sont runis
en plein air; du reste, les deux personnages, de part et d'autre de la porte,
sont assis mme le sol. AVGUSTINVS, figure imposante, sige au centre
sur une chaise curule orne de griffes et de gueules de chiens ; en dpit
de la moustache et d'une courte barbe, son visage est jeune, comme il
convient pour cette poque de sa vie. Il est coiff d'une calotte et tient
avec la main gauche un grand livre ouvert sur ses genoux ; il semble
diriger la discussion en pointant l'index droit vers le texte du livre.
Tous ses interlocuteurs sont imberbes, encore plus jeunes d'aspect.
A sa droite, son ami ALYPPIVS est assis sur un banc, envelopp dans
sa toge comme Augustin ; le menton appuy sur la main droite ouverte,
il mdite ; c'est exactement l'attitude de l'arbitre, comme il se dfinit
lui-mme6. Sur un autre banc en face de lui NAVIGIVS, frre d'Augustin,
maintient de la main gauche une tablette sur ses genoux et porte la droite
sur la poitrine ; il coute avec attention. Les deux interlocuteurs
d'Augustin, constamment interpells et interrogs, sont les '' jeunes
gens 7 , ses disciples LICENTIVS gauche, TRIGETIVS droite. Ils
sont figurs assis par terre, plus petits que 1' ami et le frre d'Augustin,
et vtus d'une simple robe. Le peintre a bien marqu, par la mimique
de leurs doigts, qu'ils sont avec Augustin les acteurs principaux. Trygetius
numre ses arguments ; Licentius lve l'index droit comme pour contredire aux enseignements qu'Augustin tire sans doute de l' H ortensiits s.

5. Ibid., I, r, 4, p. 6, r r : In agro uiuere coepimus ; I, 5, r5, p. 15, 28 : diesque


paene totus ... in rebus rusticis ordinndis ... peractus fuit ; II, 4, ro, p. 30, 13 :
Et forte dies ita serenus effulserat, ut nulli prorsus rei magis quam serenandis
animis nostris congruere uideretur ; maturius itaque solito lectos reliquimus paulnlumque cum rusticis egimus quod tempus urgebat ... Quod cum factum esset et in
eo paene totum antemeridianum tempus consumtum uideremus, redire ab agro,
qui deambulantes nos acceperat, domum instituimus ; II, 6, r4, p. 33, 9 : Deinde,
cum tanturn alimentorum accepissenrns, quantum compescendae fami satis esset,
ad pratuin regressis no bis Alypius ... ; II, rr, 25, p. 4r, 12 : Ad pratum processimns ...
Itaque cum ad arborem solitam uentum esset... ;III, r, I, p. 45, 10: Brat tristior
(dies), quam ut ad prntum liberet descendere ; Conf. IX, 3, 5 21, d. I.,abriolle,
p. z l 2 : < Rure illo eius Cassiciaco, ubi ab aestu saeculi requieuimus in te .
6. Ac:GUSTIX, ContraAcademicos, I, z, 5, p. 6, 23: HicA!ypius :' Huiusquaestionis
inquit, iudicem me tutius puto. Cum enim iter mihi in urbem sit constitutum, oportet
me onere alicuius suscipiendae partis releuari, simul quod facilius iudicis partes
quam cuiusquam defensionis cuipiam delegare possum. Quare dehinc pro alterutra
parte ne a me quidquam exspectetis .
7. Ibid., I, r, 4, p. 6, 6 : Nam disputationem quam inter se Trygetius et
I,icentius habuerunt, relatam in litteras tibi misi. Illum enim quoque adulescentem
quasi ad detergendum fastidium disciplinarum aliquantum sibi usurpasset militia,
ita nobis magnarum honestarumque artium ardentissimum eclacissimumque restituit ; II, 7, rg, p. 36, 22 : Qua hilaritate ad1t1escentulormn cum essemus laetiores .
8. Ibid., I, r, 4, p. 6, 13 : Volui temtare pro aetate quid passent, praesertim
cum Hortensius liber Ciceronis iam eos ex magna parte conciliasse philosophine
uideretnr ;cf. III, 4, 7, p. 50, 26; III, 14, 3r, p. 7r, 9.

SCANES AXCIENl'-lES AUGUSTJ.VJKVNES -

II

39

Cette miniature constitue un parfait avant-propos au texte du dialogue.


La qualit artistique gale la qualit intellectuelle. Les personnages sont
dessins la plume et coloris ensuite de brun, de vert, de jaune, de bleu.
La porte et le cadre sont rouges, le rideau vert ; les attitudes de ces
jeunes lacs doivent paratre fort libres, si l'on songe l'art hiratique
habituel l'poque romane. Les draperies marquent certaines parties
du corps et retombent en plis souples entre les jambes. Les expressions
sont varies comme les ges et les gestes. Les inscriptions paraissent
presque superflues, tant la scne est raliste.
Tel n'est pas l'art de la miniature de Vienne. L'auteur commet un
grossier anachronisme en peignant Augustin vque, mitr, nimb, sa
crosse la main droite; de la gauche, il interpelle LICENTIVS et TRIGETIVS. Ses interlocuteurs ont encore l'air jeunes et portent le mme duvet
de barbe qu'Augustin ; seul Trygetius porte en outre une barbe deux
pointes, boucle comme sa chevelure. Tous font le mme geste d'approbation. ALIPPIVS, assis la partie infrieure, rpte la mimique des
disciples ; Navigius, lui, a disparu. On remarquera qu'ici c'est Licentius
qui porte un livre sur son sein, alors que, dans l'image d' Admont, c'tait
Navigius. Il faut peut-tre voir l une allusion au pome de Licentius 9 .
A ce dtail prs, l'image de Vienne est beaucoup moins fidle au texte
que l'image d' Ad mont.

II. --

ACGUSTIN PRCHE.

Nous avons publi nagure une miniature de Fleury-sur-Loire, peinte


an xe sicle1 o, o saint Augustin dicte un moine-stnographe. Cette
scne, disions-nous, est nouvelle par rapport aux << portraits d'auteur ))
des poques carolingienne et romane. Or voici maintenant une image
de la fin du vme sicle o le portrait cl' auteur perd dj sa rigidit et
prend une allure familire. A ce titre, cette miniature d'une grande beaut
mrite d'tre examine de plus prs (Pl. I).
Cet homiliaire, dit<< codex d'ginon )), du nom de celui qui le commanda,
contient diYers sermons runis par cet vque de Vrone 11 . Quatre
grandes miniatures pleine page (335 ~< 260 mm.) reprsentent les
auteurs des diffrents sermons : Augustin (fol. 18 vo), Lon le Grand
(19 ro), Ambroise (24 r 0 ) et Grgoire le Grand (25 v 0 ). Tandis que les

9. 1 bid., III, 4, 7, p. 50, I4 : < Inuenimus Licentium, cui numquam sitienti Helico
subuenisset, excogitandis uersibus inhiantem... malim auribus nostris inculces
tuos uersus ... >> ; cf. III, 4,9, p. 51, 26. Sur I,icentius pote, cf. :'.1. Scruxz, Geschichte
der rimischen Litteratur, t. IV, 2, Mnchen, 1920, p. 462
ro. J. et P. COL'RCELLE, art. cit, p. 52-53 et pl. I.
r r. J. KmcI-Ixrm, Beschreibende Verzeichnisse der JVIiniati!1'en-Ha11dscll1'i/te11 dn
prrussische11 Staatshib!iothel, nt Brr{in, Leipzig, 1926, p. 6 et sniY.

JEANNE ET PIERRE COURCELLE

trois derniers, assis en majest, crivent sous l'inspiration, tels des \'anglistes, et sont conformes la tradition du portrait d'auteur)), l'image
d'Augustin montre plus d'originalit. La scne est enferme dans un
cadre semblable celui des autres miniatures. Dans une bordure rectangulaire, deux colonnettes soutiennent une arcade ; deux ibis sont finement
dessins dans les coinons. La partie arrondie, l'intrieur de 1' arc,
est occupe par une coquille dont le centre a malheureusement t mutil ;
la partie dcoupe comportait probablement un animal dcoratif comme
ceux qui surmontent les portraits de Lon, Ambroise et Grgoire 12 . Cinq
personnages sont disposs devant un rideau suspendu une tringle, tir
vers la gauche et la droite et nou aux colonnettes.
Le style de ces lments dcoratifs, tout comme celui des figures, est
proche du groupe de miniatures carolingiennes dnomm<< groupe d' Ada )),
Ce style a vu le jour Aix-la-Chapelle dans les milieux artistiques proches
de Charlemagne. Or ginon de Vrone avait des relations avec l' Allemagne ; en 799, il Yivait et btissait Reichenau 13 ; il n'est donc pas
tonnant qu'il ait choisi un peintre du nord, mme si ce codex fut crit
Vrone.
Par leurs attitudes, le model des visages et du corps, les plis des vtements, ces cinq personnages rvlent des survivances antiques, comme il
est habituel dans l' cole d'Ada >>.Sur fond d'or, le peintre allie le rouge
au gris, l'argent au violet sombre. Les figures sont cernes de noir ; de
grands yeux aux pupilles rondes s'ouvrent dans les visages models par
des ombres vertes sur incarnat.
Augustin nimb est d'une taille un peu suprieure ceux qui l'entourent:
quatre clercs large tonsure. Assis sur une chaire surleve, garnie
d'un coussin long, il porte le pallium sur ses habits d'vque. Il se tourne
et s'incline lgrement vers le clerc qui est assis au premier plan, calame
dans la main gauche, encrier dans la droite, devant un pupitre aux
montants en forme de poissons. Le saint accompagne sa parole d'un geste
de la main droite, dont les longs doigts carts semblent argumenter.
Trois autres clercs sont debout : l'un gauche lve la main avec le
mme air d'attention respectueuse que le stnographe. Augustin ne
s'adresse donc pas seulement celui-ci, il prche. Son visage jeune est
empreint de srieux et d'autorit. Il montre sur son genou, avec la main
gauche, un livre ouvert. On y lit, dispose sur huit lignes, la premire
phrase de l'vangile selon saint Jean:<< IN PRINCIPIO ERAT VERBVl\1
E(T) VERBVl\I... >>. Le livre ouvert sur le pupitre devant le clerc porte
les premires lignes du sermon qui figure en tte de l'homiliaire :
<< AVDISTIS FF KMI )), Ce sermon pseudo-augustinien est, en effet, une
rz. Voir ce portrait de Grgoire le Grand chez A. BOI'KET, La miniatzwe carolingienne, Paris, 1913, pl. CXLVII.
13. V. Rosi,;, Ver~eichnis der lateinischcn Handsclwiften der hiJniglichen Bibliotheh
zu Berlin, t. I, Berlin, 1893, p. 83 ; l.YI. l\IA::;JI'!'IUS Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur
des Mittelalters, t. I, Mnchen, r9rr, p. 266.

SCNES ANCIENNES A UGUSTINIENZ\TES -

II

paraphrase du premier verset du prologue johannique et commence :


Audistis, fratres, quemadmodum beatus euangelista hodie generationis
Christi retulit sacramentum : ' Christi, inquit, generatio sic erat ' )) 14 .
Nous avons affaire ici une scne vritable, car tous les personnages
tournent les yeux vers Augustin, et les inscriptions prcisent les circonstances. Le beau geste d'Augustin et ses traits attentifs forment un lien
psychologique entre lui et ses auditeurs. Ce n'est plus un << portrait
d'auteur )), mais l'image anime d'un prdicateur au milieu de ceux qui
l'coutent. Voici clone l'anctre d'une longue tradition dans l'iconographie augustinienne.
L'enseignement oral d'Augustin prend une forme plus naturelle au
xrve 'sicle. Dans l'initiale G d'un manuscrit espagnol de la Cit de
Dieu,' conserv San Lorenzo de El Escorial, P. I. r9, fol. r r 0 15 , le
prdicateur est assis, spar de son public par une colonnette (Pl. IV,
fig. r). Il parle cinq moines qui l'coutent mains jointes et genoux
flchis. Augustin ne manque pas de grandeur malgr la simplicit de
l'image et l'absence de nimbe. Il porte la mitre sur une chevelure sans
apprt ; son visage est imprieux comme son geste, qui souligne sa parole
par la mimique des longs doigts ; sa main gauche tient un livre. Le pluvial
et la robe, traits en grande surface, sans ornements, ajoutent la sobrit
de la figure.
L'initiale se termine en volutes ; trois tours surmontent les arcades. Le
tout tient dans un cadre form de plusieurs bandes colores ; des carreaux
dcoratifs servent de fond toute la surface peinte.
Un artiste d'origine franaise a dcor un manuscrit des Sermo11s
d'Augustin (Valence, Universit, 481, fol. r 0 ,s. xrv, (Pl. IV, fig. 2).Lepetit
tableau est d'un syle plus anecdotique. On voit l'vque debout dans
sa chaire, mitr, nimb, barbe et che'\'eux boucls ; son manteau est
richement orn au col. L'orateur ramne la main gauche vers l'paule,
tandis qu'il pointe en avant l'index droit avec beaucoup de vivacit. Au
pied de la chaire, six personnages sont disposs en gradins : on croit
identifier un pape assis sur une chaise curule, un cardinal reconnaissable
au chapeau, un vque indiqu seulement par la mitre ; les trois dernires
figures, largement tonsures, portent le froc des moines. Malgr l'allure
raliste de l'image, l'artiste a montr de manire symbolique que l'enseignement cl' Augustin s'adresse l'glise entire. Le sujet de ce sermon
illustr est l'utilit de la << lectio diuina >> 16 .
<<

r4. P.L. t. XXXIX, 1997, note b.


r 5. Rappelons que l'incipit de la Citl de Dieu est : <1 ('loriosissimaun Dei
ciuitatem ... .
r6. On lit: <1 De uerbis et scriptur1s ueteris Testamenti. Quam bonum sit lectionem
diuinam legere et quam malmn al) illa uel eius inquisitione desinere .

JEANNE ET PIERRE COURCELLE

42

III. -

AUGUSTIN CRIT.

Quatre miniatures du xrre sicle voquent sous des aspects diffrents


Augustin crivain. Celle du manuscrit de Tours 29r, fol. 132 vo, originaire
de Saint-Gatien, reprsente l'auteur au travail (Pl. V, fig. l). Le P de
Posteaquam persuquutores... )), en tte du Tractatus in 1 ohannem
CXIII, l, r, CC., t. XXXVI, p. 636, forme le cadre de l'image. L'homme
qui crit sous une coupole surmonte d'une croix et soutenue par deux
colonnettes est sans doute Augustin. Assis sur un banc, il est tonsur,
mais non nimb ; son manteau agraf sur l'paule retombe en arrire,
laissant voir une robe drape selon le style particulier l'cole de Tours.
Il se courbe sur un livre grand ouvert pos sur un pupitre ; le miniaturiste
a saisi sur le vif l'crivain l'uvre, calame dans la main droite, grattoir
dans la gauche. Derrire lui un aide, galement tonsur, lui apporte avec
empressement une feuille couverte d'criture. Dans la haste du P, un
serviteur lve deux mains une coupe. Ce manuscrit est clbre pour la
beaut de sa dcoration 17 , car il contient un grand nombre d'initiales
histories. Celle-ci brille par sa vivacit, son ralisme et sa finesse d' excution.
A la mme date, la miniature du manuscrit de Bruxelles, Bibliothque
Royale, 9137, fol. 8 r 0 , d'origine mosane 18 , procde d'une autre intention
(Pl. V, fig. 2). Plus proche de l'image que de la scne proprement dite,
l'initiale J du chapitre des Rtractations mis en tte de la Cit de Dieit 19 ,
est cependant inspire directement du texte qu'elle dcore. Augustin
porte les vtements et insignes piscopaux : aube, dalmatique, chasuble,
pallium timbr de croix ; ses pieds reposent sur les deux tiges des volutes
qui s'lvent de part et d'autre, dans l'initiale, et font la figure un cadre
souple. Le beau visage du saint, aux grands yeux recueillis, au nez long,
aux lvres minces, rappelle celui du manuscrit de Bruxelles ro791,
fol. 2 ro, issu de la mme cole 20 . l:rn large nimbe entoure la tte tonsure.
Lgrement tourn vers la droite, Augustin montre, en le soutenant
de la main gauche, un livre ouvert ; de la droite, il tient sa crosse. Au-dessus
de lui, dans une mandorla, le Christ, reconnaissable son nimbe crucifre,
bnit de la main droite et tient avec la gauche le haut de la mme crosse.
Contrairement MM. Gaspar et Lyna21 , nous ne pensons pas qu' Augustin reoive ici la crosse de la main du Seigneur. Le motif principal de
I. E.-K. RAXD, A Su1Tey of the l\!lanuscripts of Tour_;, Cambridge :.\Iass., r929,
p. 202 ; J. PORCHER, Les manuscrits peinti;,res en France du VII au XII sicle.
(Catalogue de l'exposition de la Bibliothque Nationale), Paris, 1954, p. 83.
18. C. GASP.\R et F. LYX.\, Les principaux manuscrits il peintures de la Bibliothque
1'oyale de Belgique, t. I, Paris, r937, p. 90-91.
19. AUGUSTIX, Retract., II, 43, (70), r, d. G. Bardy, Paris, 1950, p. 523 :
Intererea Roma Gothorum irrnptione agentimn suh rege Alarico atque impetu
magnae cladis enersa est .
20. J. et P. COC:RCEUE, art. cit, pl. XVIII.
2r. C. G.\SP.~R et F. I,vxA, op. cit., p. 91.

SC!?NES ANCIEN"YES ACGUSTINIENXES -

II

43

l'image est en ralit le livre, plac d'ailleurs en avant de ia crosse. Le


Christ tient cette crosse en mme temps qu'Augustin ; il lit le livre et
bnit le zle de l'auteur qui crit contre les blasphmes profrs par les
paens l'occasion de la prise de Rome par Alaric. C'est ce que prcise,
en effet, le texte de cette Rtractation : '' Vnde ego exardescens
z e 1 o cl o m u s D e i (Ps. LXVIII, IO ; I oh. II, 17) acluersus eorum
blasphemias uel errores libros' De ciuitate Dei' scribere institui ))2 2
Le sujet de l'initiale est donc parfaitement adapt au texte qui l'entoure;
nous n'avons pas ici le portrait interchangeable qu'on trouve si souvent
au dbut des manuscrits, mais une scne vritable, adapte nn ouvrage
prcis.
Un autre crit d'Augustin est mis en vedette dans le manuscrit de
Vienne, Nationalbibliothek, 1488, fol. l v 0 , du milieu du xne sicle,
originaire de Salzbourg (Pl. VI). L'initiale A, dont le dessin souple
fait sur parchemin l'encre brune et rouge avec lavis de lilas est conforme au style de cette cole23 , enferme trois personnages. Le buste d' Augustin est joliment encadr dans la partie suprieure de la lettrine. Un
nimbe large entoure sa mitre et son visage aux traits marqus, la barbe
et aux cheveux abondants. Le pallium se dtache sur l'aube. Augustin
bnit de la main droite ; de l'index gauche il dsigne un livre au centre
du registre infrieur que dessine la lettre. Deux moines en buste surgissent de feuillages dcoratifs et tiennent ouvert entre eux ce grand
livre, de manire montrer l'inscription : '' Factus Augustinus prespiter
monacus clericus secunclum regulam sub sanctis apostolis constitam (sic). )) 24 . Ces moines lvent le regard vers l'auteur de leur Rgle,
avec cette expression candide et lgrement caricaturale que les
peintres romans leur ont souvent prte. Ici encore, Augustin est
figur comme auteur de l'crit que l'initiale introduit. L'inscription
S. A V GVST JNVS, trace sur la barre transversale, place la scne hors
du temps.
La mme initiale A, plus ornementale encore et peinte avec l'art
consomm de l'cole mosane vers l'an 120025 , voque cette fois Augustin
pistolier (Pl. VII). Le manuscrit de Bruxelles, B.R., II 2526, fol. l vo,
contient au dbut les Lettres cl' Augustin Aurelius. Le miniaturiste a

ArcrsTrx, Retract., /oc. cit., p. 52-1.


G. S\YARZE~SKI, Die Sahlmrger i\lalcrei, Leipzig, I9I 3, pl. CXVIII, fig. 397 ;
H.-J. HER~L\xx, D1:e deutschen romanisclten Handsclwiften, Leipzig, 1926, p. r3.+,
fig. So.
24. Notice issue
peut-tre tr:n-ers quelque T'ie mdi\ale - de PoSSIDIUS,
lta s. Augustini, V, r, d. Pellegrino, p. 52 : 1 Factusque presbyter monasterium
intra ecclesiam mox instituit et cum Dei seruis uiuere coepit secundum modum et
regulam sub sanctis Apostolis constitutam . Cette initiale A se trouve au dbut
<le la Rer;1a A ugustini qui commence : Ante omnia, fratres ... .
25. C. GASPAR et F. ,Y:\".\, of'. cit., p. 94-95 et pl. XIX.
oo

23.

JEANl'lE ET PIERRE COURCELLE

44

donc install les deux vques cte cte sur une banquette. Il les a
nimbs tous deux, vtus pareillement et dots des mmes traits. L'intitul
de la lettre qui suit : cc Aurelio episcopo Augustinus presbyter >> suffit
prciser de quels personnages il s'agit : Augustin, gauche, tend une
feuille de papyrus droule Aurelius. Cette petite scne, trs lisible en
dpit du cadre de volutes qui la presse, semble rare dans l'iconographie
augustinienne de ce temps. Nous avons pourtant vu dj, au xne sicle,
Augustin donnant un lh~re Volusien 26 . Dans les deux cas, le miniaturiste
se montre au courant du texte qu'il dcore.

IV.

AUGUSTIN LUTTE CONTRE LES HRI~TIQUES.

Augustin \ainqueur de l'hrsie a fourni le sujet de nombreuses reprsentations. L'iconographie en est varie, de la simple prdication la
discussion passionne. Une des images les plus anciennes que nous
connaissions est une figure encore symbolique, du xne sicle, peinte
la fresque dans 1' glise de Saint-] acques des Gurets, Loir-et-Cher
(Pl. VIII). Augustin fait ici pendant saint Georges, car les deux
figures occupent chacun des brasements de la petite fentre au centre
de 1' abside. Malheureusement, si le dragon que saint Georges crase est
encore parfaitement visible, l'hrtique qui se dbat sous les pieds d' Augustin se trouve, par suite de restaurations dans la maonnerie, trop
effac pour qu'il apparaisse sur une photographie. Cette dcoration reste
nanmoins perceptible l'il nu, et conforme au dessin publi autrefois
par Clemen27 (Pl. IX).
La main divine sort du ciel pour bnir Augustin ; lui-mme esquisse
de la main droite un geste de bndiction et tient en diagonale, de la
gauche, une longue crosse. Un grand nimbe rouge met en \aleur son visage
aux traits fins, coiff d'une mitre jaune deux pointes. Les vtements
piscopaux dtaills allongent la silhouette. Mais l'intrt iconographique
de cette belle composition rside dans l'image presque efface de l'hrtique : cette petite figure nue, au profil volontairement repoussant, n'est
pas conue comme un simple attribut ; sous les pieds d'Augustin, le
\aincu se dbat et cherche discuter encore de sa main leve.
Le Sermo XLVI d'Augustin, intitul De pastoribu.s 28 , est illustr, dans
le manuscrit de Cambrai 559, fol. 57 v 0 , par une peinture d'aspect nigmatique au premier coup d'il (Pl. X). Les deux longues figures cte

26. J. et P. COURCELLE, art. cit, p. 53 et pl. II.


27. P. CLJC~IEX, Die romanische :vionuinentalmalerEi in den Rheinlanden, Dsseldorf,
I9I6, fig. 294.
28. P.L., t. XXXVIII, 270-293. Sur ce manuscrit, cf. J. PoRCHlR, L'e11Zumi11urc
f1anaise, Paris, r959, p. 37-38.

SCNES ANCIENNES AUGCSTINIE1\TNES -

II

45

cte, influences par l'art oriental, dsignent coup sr des pasteurs,


car des moutons s'tagent entre eux. Ces figures, malgr leur caractre
dcoratif, prsentent une apparence et une expression trs tudies. Les
deux pasteurs sont tonsurs et nimbs. Ils tiennent chacun une houlette
en forrn.e de crosse; le geste de leurs index souligne leur pense. L s'arrte
la similitude. Le personnage de gauche est habill en vque, dont les
insignes sont dtaills avec soin : pallium, dalmatique, aube, tole. Ses
traits sont jeunes. Trois ouailles paisibles, un bouc et deux brebis, s'tagent le long de sa houlette, au pied de laquelle est assis un chien de berger.
Son interlocuteur, troitement drap dans un manteau capuchon, porte
des traits accuss, peu aimables, qui font contraste avec l'expression
anglique du jeune Yque. Le geste des index tmoigne d'une vive controverse entre les deux personnages. Le texte claire le sens prcis de cette
image ; car ce sermon, qui date de l'an 409-4ro, est dirig contre les
Donatistes, plus spcialement contre leur vque Macrobius d'Hippone 29 ,
et roule << sur les pasteurs qui veulent jouir du titre de pasteur sans en
remplir les devoirs >> 30 ; Augustin, commentant une page d'Ezchiel3 \ oppose
<< le pasteur qui ne pat que soi-mme (Ewch. xxxrv, 2), c'est--dire
qui se repat de sa dignit, au vrai pasteur qui rassemble et pat ses brebis.
Voil pourquoi, sur l'image, le ptre donatiste est reprsent escort,
non d'un troupeau, mais d'une seule brebis, l'air vindicatif. C'est par
erreur que l'artiste ou le copiste a nimb l'vque donatiste. On peut
supposer si l'on veut que les deux pasteurs reprsentent Augustin et
.l\facrobius en personne.
Au folio 73 v 0 du mme manuscrit (Pl. XI), une miniature de mme
style prcde le dbut du De mendacio. A premire vue elle parat surtout dcorative : une figure aux cheveux pars, retenus par un diadme
sur le front, semble voler ou danser dans l'espace au bout d'un lazzo.
Jean Porcher, qui publie cette image, n'en offre aucune interprtation32
En ralit, il suffit de se reporter au texte pour constater que l'artiste,
ici aussi, s'en est inspir directement : << Magna quaestio est de mendacio ,
crit Augustin, << Latrebrosa est enim nimis et quibusdam quasi cauernosis anfractibus saepe intentionem quaerentis eludit, ut modo uelut
elabatur e manibus quod inuentum erat, modo rursus adpareat et rursus
absorbeatur. Ad extremum tamen sententiam nostram uelut certior
indago conprehendet. In qua si ullus error est, cum ab onmi errore ueritas

29. Exactement entre la fin de 409 et le mois d'aot 410, selon A. Kuxzr,:r,MAl\X,
Die Chronologie der Sermones des heiligen Augustinus, dans Afiscellanea A r;ostiniana,
t. II, Roma, 1931, p. 443. Car ce Sermon est en rapport avec les Epist. CVI-CVIII:
nous y apprenons qu'Augustin a vainement adress deux de ses clercs l'vque
donatiste J\Iacrobius d'Hippone pour le prier de ne pas rebaptiser un de ses sousdiucres pass au parti donatiste.
30. AuGuS'l'Il\, Sermo XL VI, P.L., t. XXXVIII, 270 : Sunt pastores, qui pastorum nomine gaudere uolunt, pastoris antem officium implere nolunt .
3 r. Ezchiel, XXVII, 1-16.
32. J. PORCHER, L'enluminure franaise, Paris, 1959, p. 37 et fig. 41.

JEANNE ET PIERRE COL'RCELLE

liberet atque in omni errore falsitas implicet, nunquam errari tutius


existimo quam cum in amore nimio ueritatis et reiectione nimia falsitatis
erratur )) 33 .
L'artiste a traduit ce passage de la manire la plus concrte, non sans
fantaisie. Du coin gauche, en bas, un petit amour nu, que ses pieds fourchus,
ses griffes et sa queue dnoncent comme un dmon malgr ses ailes dans
le dos et aux chevilles, enserre cle ses lacets (implicet) la figure principale,
l'empche cle s'vader, en sorte qu'elle va s'engloutir (absorbeat) dans la
gueule ouverte de Lviathan, figure au coin droit.
Comme dans l'image du mme manuscrit prcdemment dcrite,
nous sommes en prsence d'une scne exceptionnelle. L'illustrateur est
non seulement un artiste inventif, mais un intellectuel qui s'attache
peindre par tous les moyens la lutte entre le vrai et le faux 34 .
En 1348, une version pittoresque de la scne de controverse est
fournie par la miniature du trs prcieux manuscrit de Paris, B.N.,jranais
241, fol. 222 v 0 (Pl. XII, fig. l). Cette Lgende dore, crite pour le libraire
Richard de J.\foulaston, est illustre avec la finesse, le got, la vivacit de
coloris propres l'cole franaise du xrve sicle 35 . Augustin, nimb de rouge
et en habit monastique noir, est reprsent de profil, imberbe, l'air trs
jeune, gesticulant des deux mains, index tendu. Devant lui l'hrtique,
couvert d'un bonnet phrygien vert et drap dans un manteau orange,
gesticule avec la mme animation. Il porte des cheveux et une barbe gris.
Le coloris vif, le mouvement expressif suggrent que les contradicteurs
restent chacun sur sa position.
A la fin du xve sicle, on choisit le mme sujet pour illustrer la vie
d'Augustin dans un autre manuscrit delaLgende dore, en trois volumes36.
Une petite miniature (ro >< 9 cm.), insre au fol. 65 v 0 du manuscrit
de Paris, B.N., franais 245, prsente l'originalit cle doubler Augustin
par <<Valrien)) (Pl. XII, fig. 2). Les inscriptions prcisent les noms des
personnages, qui sont assis face un long pupitre. Nimbs, vtus des mmes
habits piscopaux o l'or luit sur les mitres et les chapes, ils font de la
main droite le mme geste de persuasion l'adresse d'un groupe qui leur
fait face. Un yolume ouvert, deux livres ferms, l'un rouge, l'autre bleu,
se dtachent sur l'or du pupitre et donnent une allure savante la controverse. Les hrtiques rsistent ; chevelus, barbus, coiffs de chapeaux
pointus, vtus de rouge et de bleu vif, ils gesticulent avec vhmence.
Le prener tient un rouleau la main. On lit sur leur robe : << Herezes )).

33. AUGC>TIX, De mendacio, I, I. d. l. Zyclla, <laus CSEL, t. Xl,I, p. 414,1-415,2.


34. Symbole analogue, au folio 40 Y0 , en tte <lu line IV De doctrina christiana
(PORCHER), op. cit., p. 37 et fig. 40), o l'on yoit un homme pattes <le coq transpercer
un dragon avec son pe. l\Iais ici nul rapport direct ayec le texte : il s'agit <l'un H
histori.
35. ANDRI> MICHEL, !Histoire de l'art., t. III, I, p. 12r.
36. PAULIN PARIS, Les manuscrits jranais de la Bibliothque du roi, t. II, Paris,
1838, p. 256 et SU\",

SC.VES A.\TCIEN.VES AUGCSTISIESSES -

Il

47

La scne se passe clans une bibliothque aux rayons garnis de livres,


et le peintre a voulu complter cette image en voquant la vie passe
cl' Augustin. A 1' arrire-plan, une baie laisse voir une chambre o Monique
et son fils, de part et d'autre d'un lit, dialoguent au moyen de phylactres:
" Filio (sic !) meum Augustinum ploro )), clit i\Ionique ; Augustin rpond :
'' Mulier, quicl ploras ? >>. Les deux banderoles, qui sortent par la fentre
et empitent sur la scne principale, allient le souci dcoratif l'esprit
narratif. Le but de l'artiste est de montrer qu'Augustin, autrefois manichen, est devenu par sa conversion le plus redoutable adversaire de la
secte, selon ce qui avait t prdit J\:Ionique3 7 .
Cette collection d'images du vrne au xve sicle - toutes issues de
manuscrits, l'exception de la fresque de Saint-Jacques des Gurets
nous apprend que l'on souhaita trs tt illustrer les uvres cl' Augustin,
surtout les uvres d'intrt pastoral.
Ces miniaturistes n'taient pas dnus d'invention. Toutes les scnes
que nous avons analyses montrent un accord intime entre le texte et la
peinture qui fut place en tte. Plusieurs de ces images (scnes de prdication, hrtique foul aux pieds) peuvent paratre banales ; en ralit,
le codex d'ginon et la fresque de Saint-Jacques sont l'origine d'une
longue tradition iconographique. Quant la scne de dialogue Cassiciacum - surtout telle qu'elle est dessine sur le manuscrit d' Admont
elle tmoigne d'un got historique et potique exceptionnel. La confrontation du bon et du mauvais pasteur, sur le manuscrit de Cambrai, et la
figuration du mensonge, supposent un sens religieux averti. Ces reprsentations, inexpliques jusqu'ici, s'clairent ds lors que l'on mne de
pair l'enqute touchant l'image et le texte.
Jeanne et Pierre CouRCELLE

l'HOVE>iANCE DES ILTXSTl\.\TIO::-\S

Planche I : Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, Berlin


Planches II. V, I. XII. 1
et 2 : Bibliothque Nationale, Paris - Planche III : Osterreichische National
Bibliothek, Vienne - Planche IV, r : San Lorenzo de El Escorial - Planche
IV, 2 : Photo Grollo, Valencia - Planches V, 2. VII : Bibliothque Royale,
Bruxelles - flanche VIII : lVIuse des Monuments Franais, Paris - Planche
IX : Dessin E. Courcelle - Planches X. XI : Photo M. Delcroix, Cambrai.

37. Cf. At:GUS'I'IX, Con( III, rr-12, 19-21 d. I,abriolle, p. 60-63, pisode remploy par J ACQt:ES DE VORAGIXE, !ta Augustiui.

Pl. I. - A UGUSTJ N P RF.CHE .


Minintur0, Berlin, Stnatsb ibliothek , Mecrm. 50 Phil!. 1676, fo l. 18 ,- 0 ,

VIIIe

s.

Pl. II. - AUGUSTIN DIALOGUE A CASSICIACUM.


)finiaturc, Admont, Stiftsbibliothek, 21 (125), fol. 1 Y 0 , xn s.

..

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1
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---Pl. III. -

AUU:US'l'JN ll.!ALOU UE A l'ASSJl'[Al'UM.

Miniature, Vienne, Nationalbibliothck l OOU, fol. 1 r 0 ,

XII"~ .

l'i. IV. 1. A UGUS1'J N PUJ':;CHE.


Miniature, Madrid, San Lorenzo de el Escorinl
P. I, l!l, fol. l 1 0 , XI\ c s .. indite.

2. AUGUSTIN 1'RC'HE.
1\'liniat.ure, Yal en<:ia, l Jni,ersit 181 , fol. 1, xnc s., in dit e.

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:.

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Pl. V. - 1. AUGUSTIN CRIT.


~Tinia.ture , Tours, Bibl. 1nunic ipale 2Hl,
fol. 132 vo, xnc s.

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~c!A.dtf~1.UU

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0
Miniature, Bruxelles, Bibl. Royale 0137, fol. 8 r , xn s.

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Pl. VI. - AUG U STJN J~~CRIT.


Min iature, Vienne, Nationalbibliothek l-!88, fol. 1 yo, xn s. med .

'

IT).
Pl. V II. -

Miniature,

Bl'uxell e~,

AUGUSTIN CHI'I'.
Bibl. Roynl e II 2;)26, fol. 1 Y", ,c1s l 20 0,

Pl. VIIJ. -

AUGUST'1N LU'l"l'E CONT'RE LBS R8Rl~TIQUES.


Fresqu e , Saint-Ja cques des Gui-ets , XII " ,;,

l'i. IX. -

, \UGUS'l'lN LU1"1' E COi\"T l LES H 1:: Lt.T l~ UES.

D'aprs P. CLEllIEN, DiP- rnmneisehc ~f on um enta lmal erl'i


in den l=theinlanden, Ds~c lcl orf, lU.1 ll , fig . 2lH.

~~dilli9.

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.... tt. .. .,,,..:


a 1'\11'
"'"i:t' r".
J

rr.n.~

f.fatqu&~ r
Mu.td. . .
~'1'.
~ddi. '1uwuur6\l

~E

Pl. X. -

LES JJEU X l'ASTEUHS llfX'H11'S VAH c\ UUUS'l' LN .


l\'fi_niatul'C, Ca111b1ai, Bibl. nn11tipale 55 ,
fo l. ,37 v 0 , xu es. in,

Pl. XI. - LE :MENSONGE DltCRIT PAlt AUGUSTIN.


l\finiat.urc, Cambrai, Bibl. municipale 559,
fol. 73 v 0 , XII S. in.

Pl. XII. -

1. AUGUSTIN LUTTE

CONTRE LES HRTIQUES.


Miniature, Paris, B.N., franais 24 1,

fol. 222 v 0 , xrve s., indite.

2. AUGUSTIN LUTTE
CONTRE LES Hl~RTIQUES.
:Minia.t u1e , l-'nris , B .N . franais 2 -l5,
fol. 65 v 0 , xy e s ., indite.

Psaume 13, 3
et l'interpolation de iRom. 3, 13-18
dans l' uvre de saint Augustin
Le seul texte augustinien renfermant la pricope Rom. 3, IO 18 se
trouve dans le Contra Cresconium I, 25 (30). Nous le transcrivons ici,
d'une manire qui permette de saisir au premier coup d'il la construction du passage paulinien.

Rom. 3, rob : Sicut scriptum est quia non est iustus quisquam
( = Ps. 13, le)
Rom. 3, II : Nonestintellegens,nonestinquirens Deum(= Ps. 13, 2b)
Rom. 3, 12 : Omnes declinaverunt, simul inidiles facti
sunt;
(= Ps. 13, 3a)
non est qui faciat bonum, non est usque ad
unum.
Ps. 13, 3b)
Rom. 3, 13 : Sepulchrnm patens est guttur eorum
(= Ps.
5, na)
linguis suis dolose agebant
(= Ps. 5, nb)
Venenum aspidum sub labiis
(= Ps. 139, 4b)
:
eorum
quorum
os
maledictione
et
amaritudiRoni. 3, 14
ne plenum est
Ps. 9b, 7a)
Rom. 3, 15 : Ve~oces pedcs eorum ad effundendum san- l
gmmm;
1(
) =Is. 59, 7-8)
Rom. 3, 16 : Contritio et infelicitas in viis eornm
[
Rom. 3, r7 : et viam pacis non cognoverunt
Rom. 3, 18 : Non est timor Dei ante oculos eornm
Ps. 35, 2)
Si 1' on excepte la citation d' Isae 59, 7-8, on remarque que le centon
renferm en Rom. 3, II-r8 est constitu d'une srie de versets psalmiques
dont les premiers sont emprunts au Psaume 13 [(1, 2a, 3, 3b). Cette
circonstance a favoris l'erreur en vertu de laquelle, partir du moment
o le centon tout entier a t incorpor dans le texte du Psaume 13, luimme, l'appellation de Ps. 13, 3 a couvert toute la pricope commenant
<< Omnes declinaverunt .. >> et se terminant ... oculos eorum >> c'est-dire le fragment de l'ptre aux Romains 3, 12 18.

50

Un tel centon paulinien et son insertion clans le Psaume r3 posent divers


problmes : Paul a-t-il compos lui-mme ce florilge ou l'aurait-il trouv
dj constitu ? A quelle poque les chrtiens ont-ils enrichi leur Psautier
d'un tel texte ? Le fait a-t-il t gnral et toutes les recensions psalmiques
l'attestent-elles ? Autant de questions sur lesquelles se sont penchs les
biblistes1 . Il est peu prs impossible de savoir quelles ont t les conditions de travail de saint Paul lui-mme. L'interpolation de Rom. 3, r3 r8
n'est pas du tout gnrale clans tous les manuscrits du Psautier. Elle fait
dfaut d'une part clans 1' Alexandrinus d'autre part clans tous les manuscrits
grecs dpendant de la recension lucianique (due Lucien cl' Antioche)
et clans le texte officiel del' glise grecque. Par contre, insrs au Psaume r3
de la version des Septante une date inconnue, les versets Rom. 3, r3 r8
ont pass clans la Vulgate latine et sont devenus essentiellement l'apanage
du texte occidental. Seule fait exception la recension hironymienne
iuxta hebraeos ; mais clans son Liber Psalmorii1n iuxta Septuaginta interpretes, Jrme conserve la leon longue du Psaume r3, 3.
Aujourd'hui, malgr les obscurits qui planent encore sur l'origine de
l'interpolation, plus aucun risque d'quivoque ne subsiste au sujet de la
teneur du Psaume r3. iVIais il n'en a pas t de mme aux premiers sicles.
Certains textes nous rvlent d'une part la surprise, d'autre part le labeur
de certains des Pres dcouvrant peu peu, soit l'agencement de la
pricope de l' ptre aux Romains 3, ro r8, soit la relation entre cette
pricope et le Psaume r3.
Centrant notre recherche sur l' uvre de saint Augustin nous chercherons
comment il a compris le texte paulinien, quelle a t son exgse du Psaume
r3, 3 et si des influences extrieures ont guid sa rflexion. Afin de pouvoir rpondre cette dernire requte nous passerons en revue les commentaires latins de Rom. 3, II r8 2 .
I -

LEs INTERPRTATIONS LATil\ES DE

Rom. 3, rr-r8

Les commentaires de Rom. 3, rr-r8 par les Pres latins jusqu'au dbut
du ve sicle sont peu nombreux. Si nous ngligeons les citations de versets
r. Septuaginta, ed. A. RAIILFS. X, Psalinis cum Odis. Gi.ittingen, Vandenhoeck
Ruprecht, r93r, Prolegomena p. 30-3r.
Dom Robert 'WEBER, Le Psautier Romain, Collectanea biblica latina, yoJ X, Rome
1953, p. 23 (l'interpolation est dans tous les manuscritJ> latins recenss, elle est sous
oble ds Ga).
P. HUBY - St. LYONKET, Saint Paul, ptre aux Romains (Verbu111 saltttis),
p. 144-145.
I. CALES, Le Livre des Psaiimcs I, p. 184, 6c ed. 1936.
VETUS LATINA INSTITUT, Beuron (recension des manuscrits latins de Ps. r 3, 3).
E. PODECHARD, Le Psautie1, lrc partie, notes critiques, 1949.
H. de SAINTE MARIE, Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos, Collectanea biblica latina, Yol.
XI, p. 21, Rome 1954
2. Cette recherche nous a t facilite par les fichiers de la Velus latina Institut,
grce la bienYeillance de dom Boniface Fischer, qui nous exprimons notre reconnaissance.

PSAUME 13,3 ET ROMAI1VS 3,13-18

51

isols pour nous en tenir aux commentaires continus, nous n'avons


retenir que six textes, ceux de Cyprien, de 1' Ambrosiaster, de Rufin, de
Plage, de Jrome et d'Augustin. Un de ces six textes, celui de Rufin,
est une traduction d'Origne. Ce fait nous conduit remonter Origne.
Or, nous avons la bonne fortune, grce aux travaux de Jean Scherer,
de disposer maintenant d'une excellente dition du Commentaire d'Ori-

gne sur Rom. III, 5, - V, 7 d'aprs les extraits dit Papyrus n 88 748 du
1lfuse du Caire et les fragments de la Philocalie et du Vaticanus gr. 762 3 .
L'dition du texte est accompagne d'une traduction dont nous extrayons
le passage relatif la pricope Rom. 3, 9 18 :
" Ensuit~, conformment son habitude de fonder son enseignement
sur les Ecritures, (Paul) veut grouper des citations pour montrer
comment tous, Juifs et Grecs, se trouvent sous l'empire du pch.
Cela commence : > Comme il est crit qu'il n'y a pas de juste,
pas un seul <. Et mon avis, pour expliquer ce passage, comme
tous ceux o les serviteurs de Jsus-Christ, ministres du Nouveau
Testament font des citations de la loi ou des prophtes, on doit observer attentivement l'endroit o figurent ces citations et si elles sont
faites littralement ou (dans une forme modifie). (Donc, la phrase >
Il n'y a pas de juste, pas un seul ;) il n'y a pas d'homme intelligent ;
U n'y en a pas qui recherche Dieu <::,nous ne la trouvons nulle part en
ces termes. Mais nous croyons que la citation est emprunte aux
Psaumes 13 et 52, et que !'Aptre en a modifi le texte. Il est dit, en
effet, dans le Psaume 13 : > Le Seigneitr s'est pench hors du ciel vers
les fils des hommes, pour voir s'il y avait im homme intelligent ou cherchant Dieit < ; et, dans le Psaume 52 : >Dieu s'est pench hors du Ciel
vers les fils des hommes, pou1' voir s'il y avait un homme intelligent ou
cherchant Dieu < Et Paul semble avoir jug que "pour voir s'il y
avait un homme intelligent ou cherchant Dieu " tait quivalent, pour
le sens, "il n'y a pas d'homme intelligent ; il n'y en a pas qui recherche
Dieu'" - Quant > Il n'y a pas de juste, pas un seul<, c'est tir,
mon avis, de > Il n'y en a pas qui fasse le bien, non il n'y en a pas
1m seitl <. Ainsi, au point de vue du sens, !'Aptre se trouve avoir
cit deux fois ce texte : une fois, sous une forme modifie, une fois
littralement et en omettant le second "il n'y a pas "... Ensuite, il cite :
> Le venin des serpents est sous leurs lvres< ; comme (la prcdente ?)
je crois me rappeler ( ?) que cette citation vient d'un Psaume ... La
suivante : > Dont la bouche est pleine d.e maldiction et d'amertume <
parat tre du Psaume 9 ainsi conu : > Lui dont la bouche est pleine
de maldiction, d'amertume, de fourbe < Aussitt aprs nous avons :
>Les pieds sont vifs poitr rpandre le sang < : Vous trouverez cela
dans ISAE ou dans certaines ditions des PROVERBES, > Rapides
poztr rpandre le sang <, qui a t ajout, avec astriques, dans l'dition des Septante.
>La dsolation et le malheur sont sitr leurs routes<,
jusqu' maintenant, j'ignore o je l'ai lu ; mais j'imagine que c'est
crit dans un des prophtes; car j'ai l'impression que c'est dans un des
prophtes qu'il est crit : > Ils ne connurent pas la route de la paix <.
C'est dans les PSAU:VIES que se trouve : > Il n'y a pas de crainte de Dieu
devant leurs yeux <. - S'il a multipli les citations, c'est, semblc-t-il,

3. J K~X SCHERER, Le Commentaire d'Origne ... Le Caire, Imprimerie de l'Institut


franais d'archologie orientale, 1957.

A.-M. LA BONNARDIRE

52

afin d'enseigner comment l'criture sait que juifs et Grecs, tous, ont
t accuss d'tre sous l'empire du pch 4.

Rufin a cc traduit >> le commentaire d'Origne. Jean Scherer 5 tudie


longuement cette uvre de Rufin et analyse son attitude en face du
passage d'Origne que nous venons de transcrire : cc En Rom. 3, ro-r8,
l' Aptre pour prouver l'universelle mchancet de l'homme, cite longuement l'Ancien Testament... Ce sont ces citations qu' Origne cherche
identifier. Mais le problme ne se posait pas Rufin dans les mmes termes,
et mme ne se posait plus du tout, car de son temps et dans les ditions
qu'il utilisait, toutes ces citations avaient t incorpores au Psaume 13.
C'est lui qui nous en avertit : Illud etiam necessario ducimus admonendum

quod in nonnullis exemplaribits latinorum ea quae sitbsequumtur testimonia


in tertio decimo Psalmo consequenter ex integro posita inveniuntur, in
Graecis autem paene omnibus non ampliits in decimo tertio Psalmo quam
usque ad illum versiculum ubi scriptum est : cc non est qui faciat bonum,
non est usque ad unum ))6 . Mais cela ne l'empche pas de traduire le texte
d'Origne et d'avouer, par exemple; son embarras, au sujet de Rom. 3, r6 :
non quidem ad integrum recordor ... suspicor tamen ... 7
Transcrivons la traduction de Rufin :
Sed et quod dixit Apostolus cc Sicut scriptum est : Quia non est iustus
quisquam : non est intelligens, non est requirens Deum )), non eisdem
sermonibus invenitur in Psalmo, sed alii permutantur, alii assumuntur,
alii relinquuntur. Quod ab studiosis quibusque si observetur diligentius,
puto dari in hoc apostolicam auctoritatem, ut cum Scripturae testimoniis utendum fuerit, sensum magis ex ea, quam verba capiamus.
Hoc enim et in Evangeliis factum frequenter invenies. In tertio decimo igitur Psahno ita scriptum est : cc Dominus de clo respexit superfilios hominum, ut videret si est intelligens, aut requirens Deum "
Sed in quinquagesimo secundo Psahno ita dicit : cc Deus de coelo respexit super filios hominum, ut videret si est intelligens, aut requirens
Deum )). Et videtur idem servari sensus etiam in eo quod Apostolus
posuit: cc Non est intelligens, non est requirens Deum>>. Et quod dixit:
cc Non est iustus quisquam >> puto quod ex eo sumpserit quod scriptum
est: cc Non est qui faciat bonitatem, non est usque ad unum '" in quo
etiam si sermo converti videtur, sensus tamen unus idemque servatur.
Quod vero in consequentibus dicitur : cc Sepulcrum patens est guttur
eorum, linguis suis dolose agebant '" in quinto Psalmo reperies. Post
hoc:<< Venenum aspidmn sub labiis eorum '" quod et ipsum ex quodam
Psalmo assumptum, immutatis, ut supra diximus, sermonibus, puto.
Quod autem sequitur : << Quorum os maledictione, et amaritudine
plenum est)) ex nono Psalmo videtur acceptum. Tum deinde: cc Veloces
pedes eorum ad effundendum sanguinem )) vel in Isaia invenies vel in
Proverbiis. Sed et cc Contritio et infelicitas in viis eorum, et viam pacis
non cognoverunt '" non quidem ad integrmn recordor ubi scriptmn sit :
suspicor tamen in uno Prophetarum inveniri posse. In Psalmis autem

4. Ibid. 3e partie, p. 131-135.


5. Ibid. rre partie, p. 85-121.
6. P. G. t. 14, 929.

7. JEA:N' SCHERER, o.c.

rre

partie, p. 94-95.

PSAUME 13,3 ET ROMAINS 3,13-18

53

scriptum est : " Non est timor Dei ante oculos eorum '' Haec autem
omnia testimonia videtur congregare voluisse ob hoc, ut ostenderet,
quia quod causatur " Iudaeos et Graecos omnes sub peccato esse '"
non tam suam, quam sanctae Scripturae sententiam pronuntiat .
La traduction de Rufin suit assez fidlement le texte d'Origne, jusque
dans ses hsitations et ses doutes pour identifier les divers lments du
centon Rom. 3, IO r8. Or cet effort de recherche ne semble pas, du moins
en Occident, avoir eu d'cho. Ni le texte d'Origne, ni celui de Rufin
apparemment ne furent connus de saint Jrme, si l'on en juge par la
manire assez jolie dont lui-mme prit conscience de la difficult pose
par Rom. 3, IO r8. Dans le prologue du livre seizime de son commentaire
d'Isae, Jrme flicite Eustochium de lui avoir signal l'anomalie que nous
tudions ici et il lui expose l'effort qu'il dut soutenir pour analyser Rom. 3,
IO I8:
Qua felicitate tu, filia Eustochium, me compotem esse fecisti; nam cum
anterioris libri praefatiumculam legeres, in qua asserui Apostolos et
Evangelistas ea tantum de Septuaginta interpretibus, vel suis, vel
eorum verbis ponere testimonia, quae cum Hebraico consonarent ;
si qua autem ab aliis addita sunt, omnino negligere ; illico mihi non
parvam quaestiunculam detulisti, quod scilicet octo versus qui leguntur
in Ecclesiis, et in Hebraico non habentur, tertii decimi Psalmi, Apostolus usurparit, scribens ad Romanos : Sepulcrwm ... ante oculos eorum
(Rom, 3, r3-r8). - Quod cum audissem, quasi a fortissimo pugile
percussus essem, coepi tacitus aestuare, et stuporem mentis vultus
pallore signare. Hebraeus, inquam, ex Hebraeis, secundum legem
Pharisaeus, eruditusque ad pedes Gamalielis, aut ignoravit haec, aut
eornm qui lectnri erant, abusus est ignorantia. Quorum alterum ineruditi, alterum callidi est ad malitiam, nec eius qui dixerit : " Et si
imperitus sermone; non tamen scientia n (II Cor. rr, 6), et iterum "in
simplicitate et sinceritate annuntiavi vobis verbum n (II Co1'. r, 12).
Tandem in memet reversus, unius diei spatium postulavi, ut responsio
mea nequaquam argum:entnm hnmani esset ingenii, sed fructus assiduae lectionis. Itaque omnem Scripturam mente perlustrans, animadverti, sicut omnis pene ad Romanos epistola de veteri structa est
Instrumento, sic et hoc testimonium de Psalmis et Isaia esse contextum. Nam duo primi versus : Sepulcrum ... agebant qninti psalmi sunt
(Rom. 3, 13 a). Illud autem quod sequitur : Vencnum ... eorum, centesimi tricesimi noni Psalmi est (Rom. 3, r3b). Rnrsumque quod dicitur :
Quorum ... plenum est de nono Psalmo snmptnm est (Rom. 3, 14).
Tres autem versiculi qui sequuntur : Veloces prdes ... cognoverunt,
in Isaia propheta reperi, quos in decimo sexto explanationis eius libro,
quem nunc dictare cupio, expositurus sum (Rom. 3, r5-r6-r7). Ultimus autem versus, id est octavus : Non ... eorum, in tricesimi qninti
Psalmi principio est. - Nec in hoc cuiquam videatur esse diversum,
si quod in suis lods numero dicitur singulari, ab Apostolo pluraliter
dicatur, qui scribebat ad plurimos, et in unum sensum multa cogebat
exempla. Arbitror solutam quaestionem tuam ... '

8. P. G. t. q, 929-930.
9. P.L. t. 24, c. 547-548,

A.-,W. LA BONNARD/RE

54

Parvenu au cur du livre se1z1eme de son commentaire sur Isae,


aux versets 59, 7-8, saint Jrme rappelle l'explication qu'il a donne
dans le prologue du livre :
Et supra: Veloces ... sanguinem, Apostolus posuit ad Romanos (Rom. 3
r5-r6-17), quod multi ignorantes, de tertio decimo Psalmo sumptum
putant, qui versus in editione Vulgata additi sunt, et in Hebraico 11011
habentur. De quo plenius in exordio huius voluminis diximus 10
Saint Jrme souligne clairement ici ce qui distingue le texte hbreu
et le texte latin du verset 3 du Psamne 13. Le texte latin est alourdi d'une
interpolation qui vient de l'insertion d'un fragment de l' ptre aux
Romains.
Contemporain de Jrme, l' Ambrosiaster a comment verset par verset
les ptres pauliniennes. Les gloses qui accompagnent la pricope Rom. 3,
IO 18 ne laissent transparatre aucune proccupation relative l'origine
des divers fragments dont elle est compose. Aucun rapprochement avec
le Psaume 13 n'est signal11 .
La mme constatation s'impose en ce qui concerne le commentaire
donn par Plage de la pricope Rom. 3, ro r8. Plage ne parat pas avoir
conscience que Paul a runi un centon de versets vtro-testamentaires12 .
Quels documents l'Afrique enfin va-t-elle nous fournir ?
Saint Cyprien, dans le De zelo et livore, cite exactement le passage :
Venenum ... oculos eorum (correspondant Rom. 3, r3b 18) et l'attribue
nommment saint Paul : Illas (les furieux) beatus apostolus Paulus
designat et denotat dicens ... Cyprien ne fait donc aucune confusion entre
le Psaume 13 et l' ptre aux Romains, plus exactement, ce passage unique
et trop court ne peut nous rvler si Cyprien connat l'interpolation du
Psaume 13. Nous verrons plus loin quel rle ce texte a probablement jou
au cours de la polmique donatiste13 .
Auparavant il nous reste tudier l'exgse augustinienne de la pricope Rom. 3, I I 18. Le bilan est vite fait : nous ne disposons que de deux
textes. Le premier en date appartient au Contra Fa1,i,st1tm XX, I I
Augustin remarque que !'Aptre a cit le Psaume 5, I I :
an ut de vobis etiam concinat, quod de Propheta ponit Apostolus .
" sepulcrum patens est guttur eorum '" ore aperto expectatis quis
inferat Christum tamquam optimae sepulturae faucibus vestris ?
postremo dicite nobis, quot christos esse dicatis".
P.L. t. 24, c 579.
II. P.L. t. I7, c. 76-77.
IZ. Edition Robinson, Sauter p. 29-3I.
r3. CSEL, t. 3I, p. 424.
14. Contra Faustum XX, II ; CSEL, t. 25.r, p,
peler Propheta le psalmiste.
IO.

~,)O,

;\ugustin a coutume d'ap-

PSAUME 13,3 ET ROMAUlS 3,13-18

55

\T ers 398 environ, saint Augustin sait donc que Psaume 5, II" est cit
en Rom. 3, r3a.
Le second texte augustinien, beaucoup plus important, appartient
au livre Ier du Contra Cresconimn15 , Augustin s'adresse Cresconius :
Concedis enim memoratwm A postolum testimonium posuisse de Psalmis
adversus eos, qtti gloriabantur in lege et vivebant contra legem ; suit le texte
intgralement cit de Rom. 3, IO Ig. Au moment o Augustin crit ces
lignes, aprs 405, il sait et il exprime ce que Cresconius sait aussi, savoir
que la pricope Rom. 3, IO I3 est tisse de Yersets psalmiques choisis
par Paul. Mais en ce passage, il n'est aucunement question ni d'une
confrontation prcise avec le Psaume I3 ni d'une rminiscence de la
sentence du Concile de Baga que nous allons tudier. Ici, Augustin fait
tat d'un passage de la lettre de Cresconius, sans plus. Il ne re,-iendra
jamais sur cette pricope del' ptre aux Romains, en tant que telle. On peut
toutefois supposer que dans ses nombreuses citations ultrieures de la
sentence du Concile de Baga, il saura tacitement qu'il a affaire un passage de l' ptre aux Romains.
De cette analyse des six commentaires latins de la pricope Rom. 3, II
r8, nous tirerons la conclusion que les auteurs ont travaill chacun selon
son gnie et qu'ils se sont peu influencs mutuellement. Rufin videmment a connu Origne ; sans aucun doute Augustin a connu Cyprien ;
mais Jrme a fait cavalier seul. Augustin n'a profit ni du travail d'Origne, transmis par Rufin ni du commentaire d'Isae de Jrme. Si le
texte du Contra Cresconium I, 25 (30) manifeste sa science du contenu
de la pricope Rom. 3, II I8, rien ne nous permet de dceler d'o il
tient cette science et si son attention personnelle ne lui a pas suffi pour
raliser le travail d'analyse auquel tout seul Jrme avait bien su se
livrer. D'ailleurs une circonstance purement africaine - l'affaire de la
sentence du Concile de Baga
devait fournir Augustin une occasion
de relire et de rpter satit le fragment de Rom. 3, I3kI8.

II -

LA CITATION

Rom. 3, r3b-r8 ou Ps. I3, 3c

DE LA SENTENCE DU CONCILE DE BAGA.

En Afrique, la polmique donatiste donna lieu une large utilisation


<lu centon scripturaire Rom. 3, r3 b r8 ou Ps. I3, 3" On sait que le 24
avril 394, un concile de trois cent dix vques primianistes, runi Baga,
condamna lVIaximianus et ses douze conscrateurs. La sentence qui fut
alors proclame tait l'uvre de l'vque donatiste de Csare de lVIaurtanie, Emeritus : Augustin, dans la clbre entrevue qu'il eut avec lui en
4r8 Csare le lui rappela : Sententia tenetur, et qitantum a,udivimus ab

15, Co11/rr1 Cr,:sconium I, 25

(:~o)

; CSEL, t. 52, p. 349-350,

A.-M. LA BONNARDIRE

ipso fratre nostro, quem Deus jaciat pacatum fratrem nostrum, ab isto Emert'.to
est dicta sententia ubi illi damnati sunt16 .
D'un style grandiloquent dont s'est souvent moqu saint Augustin,
la sentence du Concile de Baga tait tisse de rminiscences scripturaires
qui attestent l'rudition de son auteur. Comme les donatistes aimaient le
faire, Emeritus s'est inspir de saint Cyprien en lui empruntant le thme
de Dathaon, Cor et Abiron (Num. XVI), longuement voqu dans les
Lettres 67, 69 et 73 de l'vque de Carthage. Et sans doute aussi est-ce au
De zelo et livore qu'Emeritus emprunta la citation scripturaire dont il
fait le cur mme de l'anathme port contre J\Iaximianus et ses partisans. Grce aux nombreuses citations d'Augustin, le texte de la sentence
a pu tre reconstitu presque dans son intgralit. Empruntons aux
Gesta cum Emerito le fragment qui nous intresse ici :
Nec solum hune sceleris sui mors iusta condemnat ; trahit etiam ad
consortium criminis plurimos catena sacrilegii, de quibus scriptum est:
" Venenum aspidum sub labiis eorum quorum os maledictione et
amaritudine plenum est. Veloces pedes eorum ad effundendum sanguinem. Contritio et infelicitas in viis eorum, et viam pacis non cognoverunt. Non est timor Dei ante oculos eorum " Nollemus quidem tamquam proprii corporis secare iuncturam. Sed quoniam tabescentis
vulneris putredo pestifera plus habet in abscisione solaminis quam in
remissione medicaminis, inventa est causa salubrior, ne per cuncta
membra pestilens irreperet virus, ut compendioso dolore natum decidat vulnus".
On reconnat immdiatement dans la citation '' V enenum... eorum >>
le centon Rom. 3, l3b-18 = Ps. 13, 3c
Ps. 139, 4b
Ps. 9b, 7a
Is.
59, 7-8
Ps. 35, 2. C'est exactement la citation faite par saint Cyprien
dans De zelo et livore 8. Mais alors que ce dernier, comme nous l'avons vu,
entend citer l'aptre Paul, Emeritus use d'un quivoque scriptimi est,
de sorte qu'il nous est impossible de savoir s'il songe l' ptre aux Romains
ou au Psaume 13.
Quoiqu'il en soit, cette citation de la sentence du Concile de Baga va
reparatre trs frquemment dans l'uvre de saint Augustin. Nous n'indiquerons pas ici toutes les allusions augustiniennes tous les fragments
de la sentence18 , mais nous dressons le tableau des passages dans lesquels
Augustin cite textuellement ou par allusion le fragment de la sentence,
transcrit plus haut. Pour faire mieux ressortir le contenu de chacun des
passages augustiniens nous avons numr en quatre colonnes; en leur
donnant leur nom vtro-testamentaire, les lments du centon Rom. 3,
l3b-r8. Ainsi se dtachent au premier coup d'il les citations compltes

r6. Gesta cuni Emerito IO; CSEL, t. 53, p. 192.


r7. Gesta cum Emerito I I ; ibid., p. r94.
r8. Cf. P. MONCEAUX, Histoire littraire ... t. IV, p. 362-364;-CSEL, t. 53,p. 276278;
A. M. La BO;\TNARDIRE, Emeritus, ygue donatiste de Csare de :i\faurtanie, en D.H. G.E., vol. XV, col. 392-393.

PSAUME 13,3 ET ROMAINS 3,13-18

57

de celles qui ne le sont pas . .:.VIais il va sans dire qu'en tous ces textes, le
souci d'Augustin n'est pas du tout d'analyser les lment scripturaires de la citation de la sentence du concile de Baga.
Rom. 3,r3 11-r8 = Ps. r3, 3c
1

Sentence
Concile de Baga
Contra epist. Pann.
III, 7
mant Contra litt. Pet.
(1
I, 19 (2r)
404
(1
I, 20 (22)
(1
I, 24 (26)
(1
I, 27 (29)
(1 II, 14 (32)
(1 II, 52 (rzo)
aprs Contra Cresconium
(1 III, 19 (22)
405
III, 22 (25)
(1 III, 23 (26)
(1
IV, 4 (5)
(1
IV, 13 (15)
((
IV, 18 (21)
(1
IV, 23 (30)
((
IV, 31 (38)
(1
IV, 52 (62)
Y.
408 En. in Ps. 54, 26
409-410 Epistula 108, r4-15
De gestis cum Eme4r8
rito l l
24 avnl
394

Ps. 139, 4''\-' Ps. 9", 7 1

h, '39 4"

1+

l' 9',

+ Is. 59, 7-81 + Ps.

11 ,_ 1'. 59, 7-81


Is. 59, 7a

35,

Ps. 35, 2

+
+
+

Ps. 35,

Ps. 35, 2

Ps. 35, 2

Ps. 139, 4b

Ps. 9b, 71

+ Is. 59,

Ps. 139, 4b
Ps. 139, 4b
Ps. l 39, 4"
Ps. 139, 4"
Ps. 139. 4b
Ps. I 39, 4b
Ps. 139, 4"
Ps.

39, 4b

Ps. 139. 4"

all.

ail.
all.

Ps. 9 1', 7al


Is. 59, 7

71 ++
1

Ps. 9b,
Ps. 9'', 7a

+
+
+

Ps. gb, 7a
Ps. g", 7"

Ps. 9", 7a
Ps. 9", 7"

+
/+

7-8 i

Ps. 9", 7"


Ps. 91', 7n

Is. 59, 7-8


Is. 59, 7-8
all.
Is. 59, 7-8

+
+ Is. 59,

7-8

+ Is. 59,

7-81
Is. 59, 7-8 '
Is. 59, 7-8
Is. 59, 7

+
+ Is. 59,

7-8

Ps. 35,

Nous remarquons que l'tude du fragment << Nec solum ... vulnus
(qu'il soit cit entirement ou partiellement) appartient une priode
assez resserre dans le temps et se lit seulement dans six des uvres de
saint Augustin : tel un slogan; ce fragment revient frquemment dans le
Contra litteras Petiliani (en 400-401) et dans le Contra Cresconium (aprs
405). La mme proccupation affleure au cours des annes 408-4ro dans
l' Epistula ro8 et dans l' Enarratio in Psalmun 54. Beaucoup plus tard, en
4r8 les Gesta cum Emcrito nous offrent une rtrospective de l'argumentation. Le propos d'Augustin, en tous ces passages, n'est aucunement d'ordre
exgtique, mais bien d'ordre polmique. Son art d'utiliser au mieux
contre le donatisme tous les arguments que pouvait lui fournir 1'<< affaire 11
maximianiste se rvle ici particulirement adroit. Il tire du passage de
la sentence du Concile de Baga qui fulmine la condamnation de Maximianus et de ses conscrateurs deux arguments.
r) Maximianus et ses douze conscrateurs qui ont mrit d'tre fustigs
l'aide des terribles versets emprunts Rom. 3, r3 b-r8, ont pourtant,
bien qu'ils n'aient pas respect le dlai prvu par le concile de Baga,
bnfici d'une rintgration dans leurs fonctions antrieures sans aucune

A.-M. LA BONNARD/RE

exigence de la moindre purification ; bien plus, ont t reconnus tacitement valides tous les baptmes qu'ils avaient confrs pendant leur
schisme. Augustin en formulant ce raisonnement met particulirement en
relief les cas de l\faximianus lui-mme, de Flicianus de l\fosti et de Pretextatus d' Assuras19 .
2) Un second argument, plus rare, est tir de la prsence clans la citation de Rom. 3, l3b-18 du fragment originaire d'Isae 59, 7: Veloces pedes
eorum ad ejfundendmn sanguinem. C'tait une habitude chez les donatistes
de lancer ce verset comme une injure contre les catholiques20 . Or, rtorque saint Augustin, vous-mmes, primianistes, avez utilis ce verset
contre les maximianistes, clans votre sentence du concile de Baga21 .
Cependant les maximianistes n'avaient tu personne. Ceux qui les condamnaient reconnaissaient qu'il y a une manire spirituelle de verser le sang :
ils tuaient les mes en les sduisant. Les primianistes n'ont donc pas donn
un sens concret, matriel Is. 59, 7 en le dirigeant contre Maximianus 22 .
Et puisque finalement, malgr un si grave conflit, primianistes et maximianistes se sont reconcilis, il ne faut pas dsesprer d'une rconciliation
avec les catholiques eux-mmes 23 . A ce dernier souhait, on reconnatra
la proccupation permanente qui pousse saint Augustin chercher une
solution pacifique au schisme donatiste.

Pour la clart de l'expos, nous venons d'appeler de son nom - Is.


59, 7 - le fragment V eloces pedes eorimi ad effundendum sanguinem.
Quand saint Augustin lisait lui-mme cette phrase au cur de la citation
de la sentence du concile de Baga, quel passage de l'criture sainte
songeait-il ? I,'avait-il rencontr avant de le transcrire en Contra litt.
Pet. I, 19 (21) ? Une question analogue peut se poser au sujet des versets
psalmiques qui, amalgams, constituent le tissu de Rom. 3, 13 b-18 ou de
la sentence du concile de Baga: Ps. 139, 4b, Ps. 9b, 7", Ps. 35, 2. De tels
versets ont-ils sparment une vie indpendante dans l'uvre d'Augustin?
Et d'abord, avant d'abandonner le centon, comment se prsente la version
longue du Psawne 13, 3, constitue comme nous l'avons dit de Ps. 13, 3
plus l'interpolation de Rom. 3, 13-18 ? I,a rponse cette dernire question facilitera la solution des problmes qui la prcdent.

r9. Contra litt. Pet. I, r9 (2r); 20 (22) ; 24 (z6) ; 27 (29). Contra Cresconium III,
23 (26); IV, 3 (4) ; 4 (6); r3 (r5); r8 (zr); 23 (30); 31 (38); 52 (62). Gesta cu111

Emerito r I.
20. Parinenianus (Contra cpistulam Parmeniani II, 3, 6); Petilianus (Contra
Cresconiits (Contra Cresconium IV, 52, 62) ; - ''vos = Malitt. Pet. II, r5, 34);
rrobius (Epistula ro8, 5, r5) ; - les donatistes (Enariatio in Psalmum 54, 26).
2I. Contra Crcsconium IV, 52 (62), Epistula ro8, 5, r 5 ;
Enanatio in Psalmum
54, 26.

Contra ep. Parm. II, 3, (7) ; - Contra litt. Pet. II, r5 (35);
Contra Cresconi11111
Enarratfo in Psalnmin 54, 26.
23. Contra Cresconium IV, 52 (62) ; - Epistula ro8, 5 (q-15).
22.

IV, 52 (62) ; -

PSAUME 13,3 ET ROMAINS 3,13-18

III

LA

VERSIOK LO'.'lGUE DE

59

Psamne 13, 3

Dans les deux premires parties de ce travail, nous avons considr


le centon de Rom. 3, 11-18 soit dans son contexte immdiat, 1' ptre aux
Romains, soit partir de la sentence du concile de Baga. Il nous faut
maintenant examiner ce que saint Augustin
pour nous en tenir lui a transmis dans son uvre, sur la version longue du verset troisime du
Psaitme 13, en tant que tel.

Enarratio in Psalmum
13,4

Commenons par transcrire la glose de


Psa1<tme 13, 3 qui se trouve dans 1' Enarratio in Psalmum 13 :

01nnes declinai'erunt, simul inutiles facti swnt id est, Iudad tales facti
sunt, quales et gentes, de quibus supra dictum est.
Non est qiti faciat bonum, non est usque ad unum, similiter ut supra
intellegendum est.
Sepulcruin patens est guttur eoruni : aut voracitas significatur inhiantis
gulae, aut in allegoria, qui occidunt et quasi devorant interfectos eos,
quibus suorum morum perversitatem persuadent. Cui simile est c
contrario quod Petro dictum est: l'dacta et mand11ca (Act ro, r3), ut in
suam fidem et bonos mores gentes converteret.
Unguis suis dolose agebant . .Cornes est voracibus adulatio et on111ibus
malis.
l'encnum aspidum sub labiis eorum. venenum dolum dicit, aspidum
antem, quia nolunt audire praecepta legis, sicut aspicles nolunt auclire
verba incantantis, quocl in alio Psalmo eviclentius dicitur (ail. au Ps.
5,

5).

Quorum os maled'ctione et amaritudine plenum est. Hoc est 11enemim


aspidum.
Veloces pedes eormn ad effundendum sangitinem, consuetucline 111ale-

faciencli.
Contritio et infelicitas in viis eorum. Omnes enim malormn hominum
viae plenae sunt laboribus et miseria. Ideo Dominus clamat : Venite
ad me, omnes qui laborai'is et oncrati estis, et ego reficiani vos. Tollite
_jugitm memn, et discite a me, qitoniam initis sum et l11tmilis corde.
htgum enim mernn lcne est, et sarcina mea levis est (Mat. r I, 28-30).
F:t viam pacis non cognoverunt, hanc utique quam Dominus, ut dixi,

commemorat, in iugo leni et sarcina levi.


.Von est tiinor Dei ante oculos eontm. Isti 110n dicunt : Non est Deus ;
se cl tamen non timen t Deum 2 ' .
La lecture de ce document suggre plusieurs remarques :
1) Augustin admet sans aucune arrire-pense que la teneur du verset
Ps. 13, 3 s'tend de Omnes declinaverunt ocios eorum. Cette leon longue
ne lui cause aucune difficult, pas plus que ne l'tonnera, au cours de son
exgse du Psaume 52 (doublet du Psaume 13), la leon courte du verset
24. Enarratio in Psalm11111 r 3,

60

A.-M. LA BONNARDIRE

Ps. 52, 4 parallle au Ps. r3, 3 Omnes declinaverunt, simul inutiles facti
sunt ; non est qui jaciat bonum, non est usque ad unum 25 . Qu'il y ait une
interpolation de Rom. 3, r3-r8 dans le Psaume r3, que cette interpolation
soit absente du Psaume 52, voil deux faits que les Enarrationes r3 et 52
de saint Augustin passent totalement sous silence. Nous ayons remarqu
dj que Rufin affirmait que de son temps la leon longue de Psaume r3,3
tait admise en Occident sans problme. L'attitude d'Augustin confirme
cette affirmation.
2) Saint Augustin commente - d'ailleurs trs brivement - les fragments qui s'tendent de Venenum aspidum oculos eorum - soit la citation de la sentence du concile de Baga - sans faire la moindre allusion ni
cette sentence, ni au cas des maximianistes, ni aucun aspect de la
polmique antidonatiste. On peut en dduire, sinon que 1' Enarratio in
Psalmum r3 est antrieure au concile de Baga (24 avril 394), du moins
la prise de connaissance par Augustin du dossier de ce concile (vers
400 environ).
3) Bien que saint Augustin ne nomme pas l' ptre aux Roniains, il
applique le dbut de Ps. r3, 3 aux juifs et aux gentils; dj un peu plus
haut dans l'Enarratio r3, propos de Ps. r3, 2 il avait appliqu aux juifs
le terme de filii hominum et les avait opposs aux nations idoltres.
Augustin semble donc bien connatre la relation qui existe entre le Psaume
r3 et la problmatique paulinienne de Rom. 3 ; cependant l'allusion est
trop discrte pour tre considre comme une sre rminiscence, d'autant
plus que, nous l'avons vu, les citations de ce fragment de 1' ptre aux
Romains sont rares dans son uvre.
4) Le fragment Veloces ... cognoverunt (= Is. 59, 7-8) reoit une
interprtation christique. Augustin s'intresse au terme via qui revient
deux fois et qui lui suggre de citer le texte de Matthieu II, 28-30 : Venite
ad me ... I ugum enim meurn leve est, et sarcina mea levis est.
Contra litteras Petiliani
II, 15 (34-35)

Le second livre du Contra lifteras


Petiliani est constitu d'une srie
d'objections que Petilianus formule
contre les catholiques et que saint Augustin transcrit et rfute aussitt
l'une aprs l'autre. Bon nombre de ces objections sont empruntes aux
livres saints. C'est ainsi que nous connaissons l'arsenal scripturaire du
donatisme ; il renfermait quelques Psaumes particulirement virulents,
au nombre desquels figurait le Psaume r3. Petilianus en cite un fragment
(Ps. r3, 3 selon la leon longue, de Sepulchrum patens oculos eoru.m, et
Ps. r3, 4: Nonne cognoscent omnes, qui operantiir iniquitatem, qui devorant
plebem meam sicut cibum panis ?). Petilianus introduit sa citation au moyen
de la formule : De vobis quoque David (in) persecutores haec dicit ... Il n'y a

25. Enarratio in Psalinu1n 52, 5-6.

PSAUME 13,3 ET ROMAINS 3,13-18

6r

aucun doute : Petilianus ici, cite le Psaume 13 selon la version occidentale


alors classique.
Augustin rpond Petilianus en reprenant chaque fragment psalmique
qu'il revt d'une glose explicative ; lui-mme aussi est assur de commenter le Psau,me 13, et le souci d'claircir le problme d'une interpolation
ventuelle ne l'effleure pas. Mais la glose du fragment: V eloces ... sang1iinem
Is. 59, 7) va nous retenir:
Veloces pedes autem ad effundendum sanguinem etiam Maximianistas
habere dixistis; testis est plenarii vestri concilii sententia totiens gestis
proconsularibus et municipalibus allegata. Illi autem neminem, quantum audimus, corporaliter occiderunt. Intellexistis ergo etiam spiritali
caede animarum sanguinem fundi gladio schismatis, quod in Maximiano damnastis. Videte ergo si non sunt pedes vestri veloces ad
effundendum sanguinem, cum praeciditis homines ab unitate orbis
terrarum, si hoc in Maximianistis recte dixistis, quia praeciderunt
aliquos a parte Donati'".
Nous savons maintenant, non seulement que saint Augustin attribue
au Psaume 13 le fragment : Veloces, mais aussi qu'il identifie une citation du Psaume 13 la citation de la sentence du concile de Baga. Si Emeritus, lui, l'a emprunte saint Cyprien - lequel l'attribue l'Aptre
Augustin au contraire la reoit comme citation du Psaume 13.
Reste un troisime texte, susceptible
d'tre considr comme un tmoin
d'une citation, de la version longue
de Ps. 13, 3, bien qu'il soit tronqu et qu'il soit transmis par Augustin
comme une citation de Cresconius ; mais il est prcieux, parce qu'il
s'agit encore du fragment Veloces ... )) :
Contra Cresconium
IV, 52 (62)

... de Psalmis testimonium subiecisti et dixisti : Nonne de his qui talia


faciunt dictum est Veloces pedes corwm. ad ejjundendum sanguinem.,
et viam pacis non cognoverunt ? Haec ipsa et alia multa longeque graviora illo Bagaiensi concilio episcopi vestri in Felicianum Praetextatumquc
dixerunt " ...
Le texte d' Isae est encore assimil un Psaume. Peut-tre faut-il rapprocher ce texte d'un autre passage du Contra Cresconium que nous avons
analys dans notre premire partie et dans lequel Augustin remarque que
Cresconius a vu dans Rom. 3, 10-18 un centon que Paul a tir de Psalmis 28
Jusqu' maintenant, nous avons considr le centon comme un tout;
pour achever de comprendre l'attitude de saint Augustin vis--vis de ce
problme d'exgse, il nous faut dsarticuler la pricope et suivre au cours
del' uvre d'Augustin le destin de chacun des lments.
26. Contra litteras Petiliani II, I5 (35).
27. Cont1'a Cresconium IV, 52 (62) ; CSEL, 52, p. 559.
28. Contra Cresconium l, 25 (30) ; ibid., p. 349.

A.-M. LA BO.V-YARDIRE

I\' -

LEs 'Lr'.:11ENTS DU CEN'l'ON

Roin. 3, r3-18

ET LEUR V.\LEUR INDIVIDUELLE

Puisque, loin d'imiter l'exemple d'un Origne ou d'un Jrme, Augustin


n'a nulle part analys la pricope Rom. 3, ro-r8, et que nous en sommes
rduits runir les lments d'information disperss dans son uvre,
aprs avoir pass en revue les textes qui considrent la pricope comme un
tout, reprenons un par un les lments scripturaires qui la composent.
Chaque monographie va reprendre les rsultats dj acquis et s'enrichira des apports nouveaux, que 1' analyse individuelle de chaque verset
va nous fournir. Cette mthode plus synthtique nous permettra des
conclusions prcises. Rappelons que : Rom. 3, rob 18 = Ps. r3, rc, zb,
3b + Ps. 5, II+ Ps. r39, 4JJ + Ps. 9b, 7a + Is. 59, 7-8 + Ps. 35, 2.
En ce qui concerne le Psaume r3, l'interpolation commence la citation du Ps. 5, II pour se terminer celle de Ps. 35, 2, ce qui constitue ce
qu'il faut appeler Ps. 13, 3c. Pour tre complte, notre enqute devrait
commencer par l'tude de Ps. r3, r 0 , 2 b, 3a b (texte authentique du Ps. 13)
cit par Rom. 3, ro 1'-IZ ; mais ce serait sortir de notre sujet qui est l'interpolation au cur du Psaume 13 d'un texte tranger : Rom. 3, r3 18.
Ce serait mme doublement sortir du sujet, parce que les perspectives
ouvertes par le Psaitine r3, r 3 b ont fourni Augustin l'occasion d'un
enseignement, qui n'a plus aucun rapport avec ce que nous avons expos
au sujet de Ps. 13, 3. Nous renvoyons donc la notice sur le Psaume 13,
qui paratra dans la Biblia A ugitstiniana. Ici, nous dressons le bilan des
emplois de: Ps. 5, II
Ps. r39, 4b - Ps. 9b, 7 a - I s. 59, 7-8 - Ps. 35, 2.

*
Psaun1e 5, II: Sepulcrum patens est guttur eorum; linguis suis dolose agebant
r) Ps. 5, I I est cit dans l'Enarratio in Psalinum 5, r2 et r8, sans aucun
rapprochement ni avec le Psaume 13 ni avec l' ptre aux Romains.
2) Ps. 5, II fait partie intgrante de Ps. 13, 3 dans l'Enarratio in Ps.
r3, 429 ; dans le Contra litteras Petiliani II, r5 (34-35).
3) Ps. 5, II est cit travers Rom. 3, 13 a dans le Contra Faustum XX,
IIao et dans le Contra Cresconium I, 25 (30).
4) Ps. 5, II ne fait pas partie de la sentence du concile de Baga.
29. Il faut remarquer la similitude frappante d'exgse de sepu!crum. patens et de
linguis suis dans l' Enarratio 5, 12 et dans l' Enarratio I3, 4 (le fait de dvorer quelqu'un en le convertissant sa propre manire de Yine; utjlisation des mots voracitas
et adulatio. Cependant, dans l'Enarratio I3, 4, Augustin ne semble pas reconnatre
clans ces fragments de ce qu'il croit tre Ps. I3, 3, un verset qu'il a dj comment
comme verset Ir du Psaume 5.
30. En Contrci Faustum XX, II, Augustin remarque que !'Aptre a cit Psairnie 5,
rr
.. .an ut de vobis etiam conci111tt, quod de Prophcta ponit A postolus : sepulcruni
patens est guttur eorum ... Vers 398, Augustin sait donc que Psaume 5, r r est cit en
Rom. 3, 13 '

PSAU:WE 13,3 ET ROJ;JAJXS 3,13-18

*
Psaume 139, 4 Il : Venenuin aspidum sub labiis eorum
1) Ps. 139, 4b est cit dans l'Enarratio in Psalmum 139, 6 o il est
comment pour lui-mme, sans aucune rfrence ni au Psaume 13, ni
Rom. 3, 13, ni la sentence du concile de Baga.
2) Ps. 139, 4b fait partie intgrante de Psaume 13, 3 dans l'Enarratio
in Psalmmn 13, 4; dans le Contra litteras Petiliani II, 15 (34-35).
3) Ps. 139, 4b est cit travers Rom. 3, 13 dans le Contra Cresconium I,
25 (30).
4) Ps. 139, 4b est un fragment de la sentence du Concile de Baga :
ce titre il est cit onze fois ..

* **
Psaume 9 b, 7 a : Quorum os maledictione et amaritudine plenum est
1) Ps. 9b, 7" est cit dans l'Enal'J'atio in Psalmum 9 1i, 25 o il est comment pour lui-mme, sans aucune rfrence ni au Psaume 13, ni Rom.
3, J4, ni la sentence du concile de Baga. Il revt d'ailleurs une leon
spciale : Cuiits maledictione os cius plenitm est et amaritudine et dola.
2) Ps. 91J, 7" fait partie intgrante de Psaunie 13, 3 clans l'Enarratio
in Psalmum 13, 4; clans le Contra litteras Petiliani II, 15 (34-35).
3) Ps. 9 1', 7 est cit travers Rom. 3, 14 dans le Contra Cresconium I,
25 (30).
4) Ps. 9 Il, 7 a est un fragment de la sentence du concile de Baga : ce
titre, il est cit onze fois.

*
1s. 59, 7-8 : Veloces pedes eormn ad ejjimdendum sangi1inem ; contritio

et infelicitas in viis eorum et viam pacis non cognovernnt.


1) Js. 59, 7a (Veloces ... sangitinem) est cit seul en De doctrina christiana
II, 12 ( 18), vers 396 : tude des deux leons du verset : veloces et acuti ;
Augustin ne nomme pas Isae, il est impossible de savoir quel verset prcis
il vise.
2) Js. 59, 7-8 fait partie intgrante de Psaume 13, 3c dans l'Enal'J'atio
in Psalinum 13, 4 ; dans le Contra litteras Petiliani II, 15 (34 et 35) ; clans
le Contra Cresconium IV, 52 (62) 31 .
3r. Optat de Jl.lilw II, 26, CSEL, t. 26, p. 65 cite Is. 59, 8 connue faisant partie
du Psaume 13 : Yere de ,-obis dictum est in Psulmum XIII Contritio et injelicitas
in viis eormn et viilm pacis non cognoverunt ... Dj en II, 18, Optut applique aux donatistes le Yerset : Veloces pedes eorum ad e//undendum sanguinem, prcd de dictitm
est ; Optut ne prcise pus le \erset. - l\fais l'diteur du CSEL, t. 26, p. 52 indique
l's. I 3, 3, sans prcision.

A .-M. LA BONN A RD! RE

3) Is. 59, 7-8 appartient normalement la pricope Is. 59, 1-8 dans le
Contra epistulam Parmeniani II, 3 (6) et 3 (7) et III, 6 (29) ; dans le De
baptismo I, 19 (29) et II, 5 (6) : dans ce dernier cas, il s'agit seulement de
Is. 59, Sa.
4) Is. 59, 7-8 est cit travers Rom. 3, rr-18 dans le Contra Cresconium I,
25 (30).
5) Is. 59, 7-8 est un fragment de la sentence du concile de Baga ;
ce titre, ce verset est cit seize fois.
A partir de l'Epistula 108, vers 409, Is. 59, 7-8 disparat de l'uvre
d'Augustin pour ne reparatre qu'une seule et dernire fois dans les Gesta
cum Emerito. C'est un texte scripturaire de la polmique antidonatiste
entre 400 et 409.

* **
Psaume 35, 3 b : Non est timor Dei ante ocuJos eorum.
1) Ps. 35, 2b est cit dans l'Enarratio in Psalmu11i 35, 1-2 o il est
comment pour lui-mme, indpendamment de toute allusion soit au
Psaume 13, soit Rom. 3, 18, soit la sentence du concile de Baga.
2) Ps. 35, 2b fait partie intgrante de Psaitme 13, 3c dans l'Enarratio
in Psalmum 13, 4; dans le Contra litteras Petiliani II, 15 (34-35) 32
3) Ps. 35, 2b est cit travers Rom. 3, 18 dans le Contra Cresconium I,
25 (30).
4) Ps. 35, 2 b est un fragment de la sentence du concile de Baga : ce
titre, il est cit cinq fois.
On aura remarqu, dans les quatre notices sur les versets psalmiques
Ps. 5, II, Ps. 139, 4b, Ps. 9b, 7a, Ps. 35, 2 la totale indpendance des
quatre Enarrationes in Psalmos 5, 139, 9 b et 35 vis vis de la polmique
antidonatiste. Ce sont aussi les seuls cas o les quatre versets psalmiques
sont cits isolment.
Les conclusions tirer de cette tude sur le Psaume 13 et la pricope
Rom. 3, n-18 travers l'uvre de saint Augustin sont envisager dans
deux perspectives dont l'une est d'ordre exgtique et l'autre cl' ordre
polmique.
Au plan exgtique, saint Augustin ne s'est pas pos le problme de
l'interpolation du Psaume 13. A cet gard, il est manifeste qu'il n'a pas
connu les travaux d'Origne et de Jrme. Il est clair cependant qu'il
connat et distingue les unes des autres les pricopes cl' Isae 59, l 8,
32. Optat de iVIilve, II, 26, CSEL, t. 26, p. 65 cite Ps. 35, zb comme appartenant
au Psaume r3 : Contrivistis sexus, vexastis aetates ; vere de vobis dictum est in
Psalmo XIII: contritio ... non cognoverunt ( = Is. 59, 8), non est timor Dei ante oculos
eorum ( = Ps, 35, zb).

PSAUl\,fE 13,3 ET ROMAINS 3,13-18

de Rom, 3, IO 18, de Psaume 13, 3 version longue, Il connat l'appartenance plusieurs lieux scripturaires de phrases telles que le verset d' Isae
59, 7 : Veloces pedes eorum ad effundendum sanguinem, Augustin n'est
pas sans savoir aussi que la pricope de Rom, 3, IO r8 reprsente un centon. Mais au plan exgtique, il n'a jamais ralis la synthse de toutes
ces donnes. D'ailleurs le nombre de textes consacrs ces lieux scripturaires sont rares. Particulirement la leon longue de Ps. r3, 3 ne reoit
une glose thologique que dans la seule Enarratio r3 qui reprsente un
expos absolument original et unique.
Au plan de la polmique, la frquente citation de la sentence du Concile
de Baga et les arguments qui en sont tirs par Augustin sont considrer
comme un des aspects du conflit qui mit aux prises Emeritus de Csare
et Augustin d'Hippone. Au sein de la lutte gnrale entre catholiques et
donatistes, on peut discerner des affrontements d'homme homme :
en tant que connaisseurs de la Bible, Emeri tus et Augustin s'opposaient
et osons le dire s'estimaient. Si nous avons peru dans un raisonnement
d'Augustin, le souhait d'une rconciliation entre donatistes et catholiques
analogue celle qui tait intervenue entre primianistes et maximianistes,
n'y avait-il pas l une perche tendue par Augustin Emeritus lui-mme,
auteur de la sentence du concile de Baga ? Entre les deux lutteurs on croit
deviner une sorte d'amiti dsespre, celle qui unit quelquefois de vieux
adversaires sincres mais incapables de s'entendre. Le dernier acte se joua
Caesare, le 20 septembre 418 : Emeritus brava toute crainte pour
oser entrer dans 1' glise et entendre Augustin ; Augustin dploya toute
son loquence, non pour craser, mais pour conqurir enfin ce '' frre ii
muet. Relues dans cette perspective, certaines phrases des Gesta cum
Emerito prennent tout leur sens d'mouvante sollicitude :
I I .... Frater Emerite, amplexus es fratrem tuum Felicianum tui oris
fulmine condemnatum ; agnosce fratrem tuum Deuterium tibi etiam
genere sociatnm ... r2. si ramns fractns quaesivit parvum a se fractum,
qua diligentia debet arbor ipsa quaerere ramum ex se fractum ...
l\Inlta diximns etiam fatigati, et tamen frater noster, propter quem
ista dicimus vobis et cui pariter dicimus et pro quo tanta agimus,
adhuc pertinax sistit.., Audiat Apostolum dicentem " virtus in infirmitate perficitur , Oremus pro illo, Unde scimus quid velit Deus ?
Multae cogitationes, sicut scriptum est, in corde viri ; consiliuin autcm
Domini manet in aeternum",

A.-M,

LA BONNARDIRE.

33, Gesta cum Enzerito r r et rz ; CSEL, t, 53, p, 194, 195-196,


l',-que catholique de Csare de Maurtanie en 418.

Deuterius C:tait

Augustine and the Academics


In the many accounts of the conversion of Augustine to Christianity
as set forth in the Confessions most commentators have noted with
considerable detail the varions stages in the intellectual, moral, and
religious development of Augustine which led to his ultimate embrace
of Christianity. The pattern exemplified by these stages begins with
the reading of the Hortensius, the conversion to :M:anicheism, the rejection of l\fanicheism, the adherence to the philosophy of the Academics 1 ,
the acceptance of some form of Neo-Platonism, and culminates in the
conversion to Christianity in the famous garden scene in the year 386.
Other writers, notably Harnack2 and Thimme 3 , have questioned the
sincerity of the Confessions and the conversion to Christianity, maintaining that Augustine was primarily a philosopher in the period at
Cassiciacum while awaiting his baptism and that his real conversion to
Christianity did not come until later. A more significant and influential
variant on this account of Augustine's spiritual development is the thesis
put forth with considerable skill by Alfaric who maintained :
vVhen he (Augustine) was baptized, he attached such little importance
to this rite that in his writings of that time, where he speaks often
of himself and of all that interests him, he never makes the faintest
allusion to it. Morally as well as intellectually he was converted to
:N'eo-Platonism rather than the Gospel... If he had died after he had
written the Soliloqities, we would not have regarded him as anything
but a convinced Neo-Platonist, with a tincture, more or less, of Christianity. " 4
Although Alfaric's thesis is better documented and more ably argued
than similar views which preceded his, the refutation and rejection of
Alfaric's thesis has been suffcient attested by such scholars as Boyer,

r. By the Academics (or Academicians) ;yi!l be meant the members of the New
Academy and more particularly Areesilas and Carneades.
2. See his Augustins Confessionen (znd ed. Giessen 1895) 17.
3, w. TrnM11E, A itgustins geistige Entwichlimg in den ersten ] altren nach seiner
Bekchrung (386-391) (Berlin 1908) II.
+ ..\..s stated by John J. O':\iEARA, The "\'oung .cl11gusline, London, Longmans,
195..f, p. 132.

68

JOHN A. MOURANT

Gilson, .Marrou, Pellegrino, O'Meara, et. al. We shall accept their verdict
as sound and limit our study to the thesis that in Augustine's conversion
the persistence of his Manicheism is greater than has been allowed and
that there was no real or substantial acceptance by him of the Academ:ic
philosophy. His Neo-Platonism is significant but may be regarded more
as an instrument for the understanding of faith than as an object of his
conversion. This last point, howeyer, will not be considered within
the limitations set in the present study.
Our procedure will be to examine and evaluate the relevant passages
from the Confessions and the philosophical dialogues of Cassiciacum,
more notably of course, the Contra Academicos.
Augustine's first explicitly noted contact with the Academics apparently occurred during his twenty ninth year. In all probability he read about
them earlier in Cicero, for at the age of rg he had read and was greatly
impressed with the Hortensius of Cicero.
However that may be, the
Academics are mentioned for the first time in the Confessions Book V. ro.
rg where Augustine describes the disillusionment he experienced with
the Manicheans following his fruitless conversation with Faustus 5 . Augustine remarks :
Etenim suborta est etiam mihi cogitatio, prudentiores illos ceteris
fuisse philosophos, quos Acadernicos appellant, quod de omnibus
dubitandum esse censuerant nec aliquid ueri ab homine conprehendi
posse decreuerant. ita enim et mihi liquido sensisse uidebantur, ut
uulgo habentur, etiam illorum intentionem nondum intellegenti.'
Can one say more of this statement than that Augustine's limited
knowledge of the Academics may have influenced his decision to reject
the l\fanicheans ? Considering the final remark in his statement that
" etiam illorum intentionem nondum intellegenti ", it would be difficult
to infer much more than that he had become interested in the Academics,
but certainly not that he had embraced their cause. The indecisiveness
of Augustine relative to the Academics is evident again at the close of
Book V. 14 25 of the Confessions when he declares :
itaque Academicormn more, sicut existimantur, dubitans de omnibus
atque inter omnia fluctuans manichaeos quidem relinquendos esse
decreui, non arbitrans eo ipso tempore dubitationis meae in illa secta
mihi permanendum esse, cui iam nonnullos philosophos praeponebam :
quibus tamen philosophis, qnod sine salutari nomine Christi essent,
curationem languoris animae meae conmittere omnino recusabam 1
5. The statement in the Confessions " nmlta philosophorum legeram memoriaeque
mandata retinebam" (V. 3. 3) refers to the mathematici according to R.P. A. Solignac,
S. J. See his note in the uvres de saint Augustin. Les Confessions. Vol. 13.,
Coll. Bibliothque _l ugustinienne. Paris, Descle De Brouwer, 1962, p. 82 (This
collection will be abbreviatecl hereafter as B.A.)
6. B.A., 13, p. 498.
7. Ibid., pp. 5u-512.

AUGUSTINE AND THE ACADEMICS

69

This passage deserves some comment. First, the phrase " that time
of my doubt " may be taken to mean his increasing doubts of the Manicheans and all that they believed, rather than a position of philosophical
doubt like that of the Academics 8 . Second, it may be observed that
Augustine says quite explicitly that he ' refused altogether to commit
the cure of (his) sickly soul to those philosophers who were without the
health-giving name of Christ 9 ". Taking this statement in conjunction
with the concluding sentence of this chapter in which he declares his
resolution to be a catechumen in the Catholic Church would seem to
indicate at least a nominal tie with Christianity rather than any conversion or adherence to the cause of the Academics10 .
We would contend that at this stage in his development Augustine
is still fundamentally a religious rather than a philosophical thinker.
True, he had been strongly influenced several years earlier by the reading
of Cicero's Hortensius but the extent of this influence is difficult to determine. We believe that the more reasonable conjecture is that this
early philosophical interest was soon replaced by the strength of his
Manichean conversion and was not effectively revived again until his
reading of the " libri Platonicorum ". Finally, the strength of this
rejection of the Aca<lemics should be noted in the phrase " conmittere
omnino recusabam " 11 .
In the Confessions VI. r. r Augustine notes that his mother found
him in despair of discovering the truth and that he informed his mother
that although he was no longer a Manichean he was not yet a Catholic
Christian12 . There is no indication here that he had embraced any
particular philosophical position. That he had despaired of finding
the truth does not imply that he had accepted the Academic philosophy.
The mood of a sceptic is usually not one of despair. Furthermore,
Augustine's comment that although his conversion had not yet been
accomplished, it had already corne about to such an extent that he was
freed from error even though he had not yet attained the truth13 , would
hardly have been made if he had embraced the cause of the Academics.
For the Academics in his eyes were equally in error. The reference to
truth in his comment is a reference to Christian truth. The whole statement represents a definite stage in the progress of Angustine's conyersion to Christianity. The mood of despair is struck again in the closing
sentence of the Confessions VI. 2.2 but the reference in the statement
" qui dubitabam de illis omnibus et inueniri posse uiam uitae minime

8. Ibid.,p.5r2.
9. Ibid.

ro. Statui ergo tamdiu esse catechumenus in C8tl10lica ecclesia mihi a parentilms
conmendata, onec aliquid ccrti ch1ceret, quo cursum dirigerem (Ibid.).
1 I. Ibid.
.
I2. Ibid., p. 516.
r3. Ibid,

70

JOHl'-7 A. MOURAXT

putabam '' 14 again is not an expression of philosophical or intellectual


doubt but refers rather clearly to the religious practises of Monica and
to the difficulty Augustine experienced in accepting Christianity as a
way of life even though some of his intellectual doubts concerning it had
been removed. Finally, if Augustine was in " doubt about all things ",
this would entail a doubt of the Academic position as well.
Later in the Confessions VI. rr. r8 Augustine refers again to this period
in his life in a resume of his intellectual development. He cites the
Academics quite explicitly : " 0 magni uiri Academici ! nihil ad agendam
uitam certi conprehendi potest " 15 . The irony of the attack is followed
by his conviction that we must not despair but rather seek [the truth]
more persistently16 . The statement and the context in which it is expressed reflects Augustine's difficulty in accepting Christianity as a vvay
of life, rather than the acceptance of a principle of doubt.
The evidence to the close of Book VI of the Confessions shows no real
acceptance by Augustine of the Academic philosophy. Instead there
is a greater indication that some of his intellectual and religions doubts
of Christianity had been removed and that he had gradually corne to
accept certain Christian truths. What deserves emphasis at this point
is that the intellectual, moral, and religions development of Augustine
cannot be reduced to any simple logical order or pattern. To maintain
that at the age of twenty nine he abandoned Manicheism, that for the
next three years he was a follower of the Academics, and that this stage
in turn was succeeded by the acceptance of Neo-Platonism and his conversion to Christianity in his thirty second year is far too simple an explanation of a complex mincl and personality.
For one thing such an explanation does not give adequate recognition
to the persistence of Augustine's l\Ianichean belief and the very strong
hold that this sect exercised upon him. Although Augustine does state
that he rejected the Manicheans in his twenty ninth year, it is necessary
to remember that this was not a sudden break nor a complete disassociation. The ties with lVIanicheism were undoubtedly being weakened
before the initial break. What Augustine gave up in Manicheism when
he first broke away from it was a conviction of its truth and .the adequacy
of its doctrine as a way of life. What he clicl not yield so readily were
his associations with the lVIanicheans and his continuecl acceptance of
some of their doctrines, e. g. the material nature of Gocl and the human
soul.
Furthermore, it is important to recognize the complexity of a religions
conversion. The factors involvecl generally lie deep beneath the surface.
Psychologically the conversion process is one that extends over some

14 Ibid., p. 520.
I 5. Ibid., p. 556.
r6.
imrno quaeramus diligentius et non desperemns.

(J,oc. cil.)

AUGUSTINE AND THE ACADEMICS

period of time. Although the final act of the conversion process may
appear climactically, it is only the end result of a protracted process of
religious development. Also it is necessary to emphasize that in the
religious conversion the whole being of the individual is caught up in a
manner that is not found as a rule in the changes that may develop in
our philosophical or other convictions. In the case of Augustine, we
'vould argue, the transition psychologically and religiously was effected
primarily from Manicheism to Christianity. Philosophy played only
a secondary and subordinate role in his conversion. Initially with the
Academics what philosophy supplied was a means of escaping from Manicheism. Neo-Platonism contributed the more positive fonction offering
precisely that intellectual explanation that would make Christianity
more intelligible. The real conversion embodying the whole person of
Augustine was from one religious sect to another. The key to that
conversion was the grace of God, not the Academy Old or New.
Hence, it is necessary to consider in more detail the actual causes at
work leading Augustine away from Manicheism as well as toward Christianity. The arguments of the Academics certainly may have played an
important role, but there were other factors present. Testard notes the
importance of the role of Cicero and observes that a knowledge of Cicero
wonld have given Augustine a picture of the physical world as aesthetic,
orderly, rational and religions, such as Cicero presented in the De N atura
Deorimi 17 . This is quite possible but in the absence of any evidence that
Augustine had ever read this work it must remain uncertain. Also,
the notion of the rational and orderly nature of the universe was to be
found in other philosophers, notably the Stoics with whom Augustine
was acquainted.

***
To obtain a more adequate pictnre of Augustine's conversion from
l\Ianicheism and also of the influence of the Academics upon him, it is
necessary to consider more fully at this stage of our inqniry the basic
attractions that Manicheism had for Augustine, the motivations that
led him to an acceptance of Manicheism18 . The conversion to lVIanicheism
like the conversion to Christianity was gradual rather than sudden. Augustine seems to haye been attractecl first to the methocl, then to the
philosophy, and finally to the religion and mythology of the l\1anicheans 19 .
For our purposes we may indicate the following basic motivations that
lecl Augustine to accept their doctrine.
17. TES'L\RD M. Saint Augushn et Cicron, (Paris: :f;tudes Augustiniennes, 1958.)
rS. \\'e may speak of a conYersion to Manicheism even though it in no way
resembled in fenor, intensih', and influence that conversion to Christianitv. It
should also be noted that Augustine never became one of the elect of the :\fani~heans
hut as an anditor was always more or Jess upon the periphery of this sect.
19. An extensive account of Augustine's :Manicheism is to be found in ALFARIC,
P. L' Lz>olution intellectuelle de saint Augustin (Paris : 1918). For a summary
nccount see the article by Dr, ,'wton lEGJS, The :'1ind oj St. Augustine, in :Wedievnl
Studies, 6 (I9H), pp.r-2,

JOHN A. MOURANT

72

First there was the eclecticism in the doctrines of the Manicheans.


They professed to accept only what was best from the various religious
sects and philosophies. Also, for one who was still professedly a Catholic,
there was a certain attraction in their daim that they followed Christ
and accepted the teachings of the New Testament even though they
contended that the teachings of Christ were falsified by his disciples. The
rejection of the Old Testament by the Manicheans as the work of the
devil probably satisfied some of the misgivings Augustine had of the
Old Testament.
Furthermore, the claim of the 1VIanicheans that they had a knowledge
of all the sciences and could answer any and all questions regarding man
and the universe must have made a strong appeal to the youthful inquirer
recently caught up with the enthusiasm of the Hortensius and the desire
to learn the truth. For Augustine, the materialism and dualism
of the Manicheans must have seemed far more comprehensible than some
of the mysteries and abstractions of Christian truth. And undoubtedly
their proselytizing fervor and the austerity of their ethics were equally
impressive. Above all other considerations was the strength of their
rationalistic appeal, the claim that in their teachings they relied upon
reason and scientific demonstration rather than upon faith and authority.
In the De utilitate credendi Augustine specifically informs us that the
1\!Ianicheans appeal to reason rather than authority and that they
claimed that Christianity was a superstition and based its appeal solely
on faith and not on reason 20 . Yet Augustine did not wholly embrace
their doctrine and remained in the rank of the auditors for no other reason
than " quod ipsos quoque animadvertebam plus in refellendis aliis disertos et copiosos esse, quam in suis probandis firmos et certos manere ))21 .
Holte observes that Augustine's acceptance of 1VIanicheism was a
reaction to the early view he held of Christianity as a superstition and
not the form of Christian gnosticism which he had been seeking22 . Courcelle notes that the fundamental motive for Augustine's acceptance of
l\Ianicheism was its rationalistic attraction which he did not find as a
youth. More particularly he observes :
Il a longuement cout les Manichens se gausser des erreurs des
ignorants, et s'est convaincu par l de leur supriorit, non seulement
sur le problme des gnalogies de Jsus, mais sur quantit d'autres
qu'ils lui proposaient."
At this point we would like to conjecture that any real sceptical period
in Augustine's intellectual development would have occurred during
20. B. A., 8, p. 210.
lbid.,p.210.
22. HOLTE Ragnar, Batitude ri Sagesse, (Paris : :fhudes Augustiniennes, r962),
p. I88.
23. COURCELLE Pierre, Recherches sur les Confessions de saint Augustin, (Paris :
De Boccard, r950), p. 65.
2I.

AUGUSTINE AND THE ACADEMJCS

73

the early years at Carthage. This was the period when he may have
looked upon Christianity as a superstition and at least its influence upon
him appears to have declined. The later alleged scepticism of Augustine
might be regarded more as the strategy of the rhetorician turning the
tables of doubt upon the Manicheans and using their own tactics to refute
them. Just as earlier Augustine had been persuaded of Manicheism by
their rhetorical ability to refute the beliefs of others and more notably
Christian beliefs.
Next, we should like to point out that in the very period in which
Augustine was supposed to have been caught up in the doubts of the
Academics certain doubts which he felt about Christianity were removed.
Sorne of these doubts were removed as he heard Ambrose preach, " et
magis magisque mihi confirmabatur omnes uersutarum calumniarum
nodos, quos illi deceptores [Manicheans] nostri aduersus diuinos libros
innectebant, posse dissolui " 24 . He confesses his embarrassment at
having misunderstood the meaning of the statement " for men to be made
by Thee to Thy Image" and to have thought of it in materialistic terms25 .
It may be argued that the failure of philosophy to have taken a strong
hold upon him is revealed in the easy and unquestioned acceptance of
the Manichean accusations against Christianity, of their false interpretations of Christian doctrines. Consequent upon the preaching of Ambrose
there is initiated a gradual intellectual conversion to Christianity :
itaque confundebar et conuertebar et gaudebam, deus meus,
quod ecclesia unica, corpus unici tui, in qua mihi nomen Christi
infanti est inditum, non saperet infantiles nugas neque hoc haberet in doctrina sua sana, quod te creatorem omnium in spatium loci
quamuis summum et amplum, tamen undique terminatum membrorum humanornm figura contruderet. 2 6
It was through Ambrose that he learned to interpret correctly the
Old Testament and to follow the rule that " littera occidit, spiritus autem
uiuificat " 27 He no longer found anything offensive in Christian doctrine
when it was interpreted in a spiritual sense even though he did not comprehend its meaning.

Boyer's Comment on Confessions VI, 4. 5-6, that:


Les arguments des acadmiciens, enfls par l'loquence de Cicron,
l'enveloppent et le paralysent, la faon des narcotiques qui, sans
supprimer toute activit, rendent incapables de dcision. A quelle
certitude est-il parvenu sinon celle de l'illusion de ses anciennes certi-

24. B. A., p. 52-1.


25. Ibid.
26. Ibid., p. 526.
27. Ibid., p. 528.

74

]OHS A. JfOURANT

tudes ? Adhrer it une nouvelle doctrine ne serait-ce pas de nouveau


tre dupe ? Aussi se retient-il, comme au bord d'un prcipice, pour ne
pas donner son adhsion aux enseignements de saint Ambroise"

is inaccurate or at best an exaggeration. In the context of this chapter


of the Confessions as well as in the previous chapter the reference to the
image of God and his own deception is clearly to the l\tianicheans. He
cloubts the l\Ianicheans because he wanted to believe in Christ, not because
he believed in the Acaclemics. And he is still a l\fanichean and not an
Academic.
Furthermore, the appeal of rationalism reasserts itself ; the old lVIanichean daim to teach certitude seems to have left its mark, for Augustine
declares that he wantecl to be as certain of the truths of Scripture as he
was that " seven and three are ten " 29 . The conviction that there is
certitude is hardly the position of an Academic. The suspension of
judgment that he refers to in this same context does not imply an adherence to the cause of the Academics but a reluctance to be twice deceived.
The suspension of assent is emotional as well as intellectual - " tenebam
cor meum ab omni assentione timens praecipitium ". - Augustine clesires
certitude but is still unable to comprehend spiritual things except in
material form.
The assertion that the health of his soul could not be cured except
by believing 30 is not a reference to the need for a cure from the cloubts
of the Acaclemics. Rather it points to the necessity of faith if he was
to be cured of the few remaining convictions of his Manichean beliefs,
viz. the representation of spiritual things, God and the soul, as corporeal
in nature. The certitude of faith had to succeecl the certitude of reason
rather than the sceptical doubt ; for, as we shall endeavor to maintain
later, Augustine was simply incapable of holding for any protracted
period of time the kind of scepticism taught by the Academics. Even
while waiting for the cure of faith Augustine is still a rationalist of sorts.
What he requires is a different type of rationalism than that which
had led him to the Manicheans. For that rationalism had turned out
to be largely negative ; it was as much a protest against the Christian
faith as a defense of Manichean principles. The real need of Augustine
at this point was the gift of faith which could then lead him to an understanding of Christian truths.
Also, it would appear that what the Manicheans had required of Augustine
to rely upon reason rather than faith - had led him to just those
difficulties that undermined his faith in Manicheism, i. e. the belief in
the fabulons and the absurd, for how could such beliefs meet the test

28. BOYER Charles, S. J., Chrishanis111t rt X<1o-Platonisme dans la formation de


saint A 11g1:sti11, (Rornne, Officium Libri Cntho!ici, rc153), p. 50.
20. B. ~-1., p. 528.
30. Tbid.

AUGUSTINE A:VD THE ACADE1\IIICS

75

of reason already laid clown ? Augustine seems to be approaching here


his own famous account of the relationship between faith and reason,
the " credo ut intelligam ". But the Manicheans have given priority
to reason yet they contradict their own position by asking their followers
to believe the absurd. This seems to be the conclusion of Augustine
in the following passage from the Coikfessions :
Ex hoc tamen quoque ia111 praepone11s doctrinam catholicam
modestius ibi minimeque fallaciter sentiebam iuberi, ut crederetur
quocl no11 clemonstrabatur sine esset quicl, secl cui forte no11 esset,
siue nec quid esset quam illic temeraria pollicitatione scientiae credulitatem inricleri et postea tam multa fabulosissima et absurclissima,
quia demonstrari non poterant, credenda imperari "
For Augustine, of course, faith is prior and leads to understanding ;
reason gives understanding to faith. Augustine discerned that the
l\Ianicheans were unable to grasp the true nature of faith. And perhaps
he had also discerned at this time that the Academics distrusted both
reason and faith. The rejection of both reason and faith - the acceptance
of a suspension of all judgement. - Augustine may have felt would
only lead to another deception 32 .
Now although the way of reason as taught by the l\fanicheans was
found wanting, reason was not to be abandoned. Augustine is no misologist. He continues to accept the certainty of mathematical truths.
Furthermore, as he infonns us, no matter how much he had read of a
contradictory nature in the writings of the philosophers, he could not
disbelieve in the existence of God 33 . And although his belief in God's
existence and His providence was unshaken, yet he did not know His
nature nor how to attain Him34.
Angustine's difficulty at this juncture is twofold : First, he lacks the
necessity of a faith in Christian principles which on the grounds of reason
he is prepared to accept. Second, he lacks an adequate intellectual
understanding of those beliefs about God which he had never abandoned
- the existence of God and the Divine Providence. Reason will help
him to understand the first, faith will enlighten him on the second. Concerning the nature of God - still a great stumbling block - an explanation \Vill come largely through faith, although his reading of the Platonists
will contribute to the intellectual preparation for his faith.

31. Ibid., p. 530.


32. It is interesting to obsern that in the later Augustinian attack npon scepticism he emphasizes the fact that in being cleceived he at least knows that he exists
as one who is c1ecei\ec1. \Vhether, "e might ac1c1, such a deception occurs at the
lrnnds of the Manicheans or the Academics.
33. Ibid., pp. 530-531.
34. Ibid., p. 532. -- I find it difficult to accept the statement of R. Jolivet
that : " _\ugusti11, Cassiciacnm, aYait renonc an scepticisme acadmicien, qn

JOHN A. MOURANT

However, e\en before the reading of the Platonists, the intellectual


preparation of Augustine for faith has shown marked progress. He
comments upon his realization of the need and the importance of faith in
the natural order, in history, in every day life, and of the divine guidance
he was receiving in the direction of his faith 35 . Thus his aclvance toward
Christianity was restrained not so much by intellectual considerations,
these were graclually being overcome, as by a lack of faith. In turn this
lack of faith was made more difficult for him by the materialism of every
day life.
" Inhiabam honoribus, lucris, coniugio, et tu inridebas " 36 .
The extent of his materialism finds further expression in the influence
upon him at this time of the Epicurean philosophy. In conversations
and arguments with his friends he notes the attraction of Epicureanism
except for its position on immortality. Despite all the persuasiveness
at this time of Epicureanism the belief in immortality remained a firm
conviction with Augustine3 7 .

* **
Continuing with the analysis of the Confessions, we find no explicit
references to the Academics in Book VII. The early chapters of this
book are concerned with certain doubts and difficulties which he hacl
become aware of in lVIanicheism. He observes that the materialism of
the Manicheans kept him from an adequate conception of the self and
of God 38 Despite his efforts to avoid a materialistic outlook, he continued
to think of God and the self in terms of corporeal entities. He concluded
that whatever could not be defined spatially was nothing 39

l'a\ait retenu pendant quelque temps. Les Confessions en tmoignent nettement


(VI, v, 8, VII, xnr) et avec beaucoup de prcision, VIII, ,., r r : 'Je ne pouvais mme
allguer (pour retarder la conversion des murs) l'excuse qui nagure me permettait
de supposer que, si je ne mprisais pas encore le monde pour m'attacher vous,
c'est que la connaissance de la vrit tait en moi incertaine; non, la vrit tait dj
pour moi, elle aussi, objet de certitude. ' " B. A. 4, pp. 2rr-212. The first two
references citecl hy Fr. Jolivet Jack any precision that would justify his contention.
Of the last reference (VIII, Y, rr) the statement cited appears within the context
of a passage on the conflict of the two wills, a doctrine of the Manicheans that Augustine
was to modify. Furthermore, the statement that his " perception of truth was
nncertain (incerta mihi esset perceptio ueritatis) coulcl refer to a cloubt as to whether
the i\Ianichean teaching or Christian truth was to he preferrecl. At any rate there
is no specific reference to the Acaclemics.
35. B. A., 13, p. 530.
36. Ibid., p. 534.
37. Tbid., pp. 570, 572.
38 .... et te incorruptibilem et inuiolabilem et inconmutabilem totis medullis
crecleham, quia nesciens, uncle et quomodo, plane tamen uidebam et certus eram
id, quo corrumpi potest, cleterius esse quam id quod non potest, ... "
Ibid., p. 576.
39. Ibid., p. 579.

AUGUSTINE AND THE ACADEMICS

77

Augustine is also certain at this time 40 that the Manichean solution to


the problem of evil is inadequate. He recognizes that corruption and
change cannot be allowed to fall back on that which is immutable and
incorruptible 41 . He rejects with contempt the l\!Ianichean explanation
of the origin of moral evil, but confesses that he is unable to understand
how our own free will is the cause of evil 42 . He continues his inquiry
into the source of evil and weighs different possibilities for explaining
the origin of evil 43 . The solution to the problem eludes him and he is
concerned over his failure to discover the truth. Yet he remain, as he
says, within the Church although there was much that he did not understand44.
In the meantime he frees himself from the superstitions of astrology 45 .
The problem of evil continues to baffle him 46 . However, such difficulties
did not disturb his belief in God's existence, His immutability, His
providence, nor in the salvation that can be achieved in the life to corne
through Christ. Y et with all these convictions firmly held he still
sought anxiously for a solution to the problem of evil 47 . The real conversion of Augustine to Christianity must wait upon the solution to the
problem of evil and particularly as it affected his own moral life. For
his conversion to be complete it must be both moral and intellectual.
Furthermore, the intellectual conversion at this stage is still incomplete,
many difficulties and doubts remain. His further progress away from
l\ilanicheism to Christianity awaits the influence and the contributions
of the Neo-Platonists. They will supply Augustine with an immaterialist
philosophy, a spiritual conception of God and the soul, and especially
with an ontological solution to the problem of evil48 . The moral conversion and the total embrace of Christianity awaits the grace of God. But
this is another chapter in the conversion of Augustine.
To the point of his conversion in Book VIII of the Confessions there
seems to be then insufficient evidence to substantiate the notion that
Augustine was ever an Academic. Instead the evidence points to the
greater persistence of the l\ilanichean influence upon the mind of Augustine.
The doubts that Augustine experienced in this period of his life are not
the doubts of a philosopher but those of a religions man. His doubts
are directed to those lVIanichean principles that stand as an obstacle to
40. It is now the year 385 and Augustine is thirty years old.
4 r. Ibid., p. 584.
42. Ibid,, pp. 584, 586.
43. Ibid,, pp. 590, 592.
44 . ., .stabiliter tamen haerebat in corde meo in catholica ecclesia fi des Christi
tui, domini et saluatoris nostri, in multis quidem adhuc informis et praeter doctrinae
normam fluitans, secl tamen non eam relnquebat animus, immo in dies magis
magisque inbibebat. (Ibid,, p. 594).
45. Ibid., p. 600.
46. Ibid., p. 602.
47. Ibid,, p. 604.
48. Ibid,, pp. 6r 8-626, 634-636,

]OH~Y

A. MOURANT

the acceptance of Christianity. The intellectual, moral, and religions


clevelopment of Augustine is essentially from Manicheism to Christianity,
rather than from Manicheism to the Acaclemics, thence to Neo-Platonism,
and finally to Christianity. The Academics provicled Augustine with
the necessary means to challenge the J\Ianichean position, but despite
their attraction they did not lead him to adopt a position of philosophical
doubt. The reading of the Platonists, it might be said, did not convert
him to Platonism but rather provided reasons for the intellectual acceptance of Christianity.
W e would also argue at this point that there are existential depths
to a religions conversion that escape any easy surface analysis. In Augustine's case it would be inaccurate to contend that the work of grace was
something of a sudden and instantaneous nature. The conversion in the
garden was the climax and the consummation of a process of conversion
that had begun much earlier. This seems evident enough from Augustine's own account. It is reflected particularly in the very strong conviction that Augustine possessed in the reality and the efficacy of the divine
proyidence. Such a conviction stands out in such instances as the
impression the writings of Cicero made upon him, the strength of his
mother's faith, the death of a close friencl, the journey from Carthage to
Rome, the visit to l\Iilan to hear Ambrose, and the readings of the " books
of the Platonists ". All of these instances and more manifested for
Augustine the foreshadowings of the divine providence and the work
of the divine grace that was to lead eventually to the ecstatic embrace
of the divine truth.
The graclualness of the slow return to Christianity can be correlated
to the gradual decline in the effectiveness of the l\Ianichean influence. It
is also a testimony to the strength of Augustine's Manichean convictions
and the long hold that this doctrine exercised upon hirn 49 . It is Manicheism and the problems it raises that are the dominant concern of Augustine up to the conversion in the garden and not the philosophical
issues raised by the Academics.
The persistence of the lVIanichean influence continued right clown
to the point of his conversion. At the very onset of the famous garden
scene, Augustine comments vividly upon his inward tensions, the
apparent disintegration of the self as he deliberated upon the choice of
God. Contrary to the Manicheans who held to the doctrine of two wills,
the one goocl and the other evil, Augustine cleclares :

49. It may be suggested that the strength of l\lanicheism is also evient in the
severity of Augustine's recriminations against this sect in comparison with his
consideration of the philosophers. The treatment of the Acaemics, as we shall
note later, is some\vhat ambhalent. The treatment of the Neo-Platonists is
generally favorable.

AG'GUSTLVE A.VD THE ACADE:l:lfCS

79

ego curn deliberabam, ut iam seruirem domino cleo mco, sicut


cliu disposuerarn, ego eram, qui uolebam, ego, qui nolebam ; ego
eram. Nec plene uolebam nec plene nolebam, ideo mccmn contendebam et clissipabar a me ipso, et ipsa dissipatio me inuito quiclem fiebat,
nec tamen ostenclebat naturam mentis alienae, sed poenam meae.
Et ideo 11011 iam ego operabar illam, secl quod habitabat in me peccatum
de supplicio liberioris peccati, quia eram filins Adam. 0

The entire chapter shows that the :Manichean heresy was viviclly
before him. The final act of grace not only couverts him to Christianity
but liberates him from one of the more pernicious moral doctrines of the
JVIanicheans that had long stood in his way.
After his conversion and during the beginning of his stay at Cassiciacum, Augustine writes very movingly of his reading of the Psalms of
David 51 . He expresses strongly his indignation with the Manicheans
as well as his pity for them. The whole account in this chapter shows
clearly that he was preoccupied with the JVIanicheans and not the Academics. The references to the JVIanicheans are quite explicit 52 . This is
true also in the statement : " o si uiderent internum aeternum, quod ego
quia gustaueraum 53 ... The" they" in this case does not refer to both
the Academics and the Manicheans as Sciacca maintains 54 . The context
is the commentary on Psalm 4 and the reference in the preceding paragraph
has been to the Manicheans. Also the reference to the eternal light is
from Eph. 5. 8. and this would seem to rule out any implication of a
connection with the Academics or the Plotinian notion of light.
Furthermore, in a letter to Secundinus Augustine notes that he left
the Manicheans through fear :
Ego enim fateor, timore Manichaeos cleserui, sed timore illorum
verborum quae per apostolum Paulum prolata sunt : Spiritus, inquit,
manifeste dicit, qitia in novissimis temporib-us rccedent quidam a fide,
attendentes spiritibus seductoribus et doctrinis daemoniorum in hypocrisi
mendaciloquontm, cauteriatam habentes conscientiain suani, prohibrntes
mtbere, abstinentes a cibis quos Deus creavit ad percip:ndum cum
gratiaruin actione fidelibus, etiis qui cognoz'eru.nt nritatem. Omnis enn
creatztra Dei bona est, et nihil abiiciendwn quod cwn gratiarmn actione
percipitur. [I Tim., IV, 1-4]. 55

50. B. A., L1, p. 54.


5 r. Conjcssions IX. + 8-r 2. :Jiuch of this chapter is a con1111e11tary ou Psalm 4.
52 . ... quam uehementi et acri dolore inclignabar manichaeis et miserabar eos
rursus, quocl illa sacramenta, illa medicamenta nescirent et insani essent aducrsus
antidotum, quo sani esse potuissent ! (B. A. q, p. 84) .
. , . et merito irasci, quia non alia natura gentis tenebrarum de me peccabat, sicut
dicunt qui sibi non irascuntur et thesaurizant sibi iram in die irae et reuelationis
insti iudicii tui ! [Roin. 2. 51 (Ibid., p, 88).
53. Ibid., p. 90.
54. ScrACCA M.F., Saint c~ ugustin et le nioplatonis111e, (Louyain, 1956) p. 24.
55 J3. -~., 17, p. 5-fO.

80

JOHN A. MOURANT

Iviay we not assume that with the renewed interest of Augustine in


Scripture the words of St. Paul seemed to be directed against just
those Manichean doctrines that were giving him particular difficulty at
the time of his conversion ? The exhortations of the first three verses
were to be quickly consummated, but the last could apparently take
place only with some intellectual explanation such as he was to find in
Neo-Platonism of the metaphysics and good and evil. Since this letter
was in all probability written around 397 and at the approximate time
of the composition of the Confessions, its correlation with the thought
of that work and the events of the conversion would be fairly well established.
Finally, the intensity and the vehemence of his opposition to the
Manicheans may again be noted. He states :
legebam et ardebam nec inueniebam, quid facerem surdis mortuis,
ex quibus fueram, pestis, latrator amarus et caecus aduersus litteras
de melle caeli melleas et de lumine tuo luminosas, et super inimicis
seripturae huius tabescebam. ' 6
These are the words of a religions man, of one who has recently found
the true faith and shaken off the false. They are not the words of a
philosopher concerned principally to refute other philosophers. The
l\fanicheans are the true enemy ; they are very much with Augustine
right down to the point of his conversion and they remain with him
down to the completion of the treatises directed against them. Compared
to their influence that of the Academics is minimal.

* **
Such we find to be the evidence of the Confessions. Is it possible,
however, to maintain this interpretation without serious modification in
the light of the evidence of the dialogues of Cassiciacum ? Even though
we reject the thesis of Alfaric that these dialogues demonstrated that
Augustine was first converted to philosophy and then to Christianity,
is there not sufficient evidence to show unequivocally that Augustine
was converted to the Academics prior to his conversion to Christianity
in 386 ? We think not. The dialogues of Cassiciacum may be expected
to cause more difficulty because their composition antedates that of the
Confessions. They are doser to the events of the critical years than are
the Confessions which were written some ten years later and in retrospect.
On the other hand, it can be argued that for this very reason the Confessions may be said to present a greater objectivity and to represent a more
mature judgment on the part of the author. However that may be, the
evaluation of the evidence of the dialogues will be limited principally

56. B. A., q, p. 92.

AUGUSTINE AND THE ACADEMICS

81

to a consideration of the De beata itita, the De Ordine, and the Contra


Academicos. In addition we shall look briefly to the evidence from the
Letter ta Herrnogenianus and the Retractationes.
One other preliminary consideration needs to be noted. In some
respects our interpretation of the dialogues has been influenced by
Boyer with whom we are in general agreement 57 That is, we are in
complete accord with Boyer's point that Augustine was not a sceptic
during his sojourn at Cassiciacum and that his conversion to
Christianity in 386 was both real and sincere. However, Boyer like
others contends that Augustine prior to his conversion to Christianity
did adhere for a brief period to the position of the Academics. This we
reject. As we have already noted we grant that Augustine was influenced
by the Academics and that it was their sceptical outlook that intensified
his own developing distrust of the l\'.fanicheans in the period immediately
preceding his conversion. In other words, we hope to show that the
evidence of the dialogues is in conformity with that of the Confessions.
Turning first to the Dr: beata uita we find the evidence here somewhat
inconclusive and presenting certain difficulties of interpretation. In
the first chapter, which is largely autobiographical, Augnstine first
resorts to a metaphor to explain his intellectual development and his
progress toward philosophy and the attainment of the happy life. He
observes that there are three classes of seafarers who would journey to
the port of philosophy 58 . Interpreting the metaphor; it may be argued
that the reference to the first class of individuals to be embraced by
philosophy is to the Academics. If so, the Academics Augustine has
in mind are probably some contemporary imitators of the Academics
who lacked the persistence and the ability to be true philosophers. Such
men lack the profundity and the secret wisdom of philosophers like
Carneades 59 . The second class probably refers to such materialists
as the Stoics and Epicureans 60 . The third class evidently refers to those
who like Augustine have found the true philosophy in Christianity. Of
the members of this class there are those who with but little delay attain
the goal of the happy life and those whose progress toward such a goal is
delayed for varions reasons 61 . This interpretation is verified for the
most part in the explanation given in I. 4. Noting that his love for
philosophy came with his reading of the Hortensius of Cicero, Augustine

57. Op. Cit., cf. especially pp. 135 ff.


58. B. A., 4, pp. 222, 224.
59. Cf. The Letter ta Hennogenianus, Writings of Saint Augustinr', (Ne\\ York:
l'athers of the Church, 1951), Volume 9, pp. 3-4.
60. Perhaps oJso to the i\Ianicheans. The language of the entire paragraph
Jacks any explicit allusions or references.
6r. The allusions to the " fog ", the " sinking stars ", and " alluring charm ",
the " unfavorable tcmpest ", may refer to Manicheism, the love of the classical
writings, the worldly life and loves, ant1 Augnstine's illness which compellet1 him
to rest temporarily from a more acthe lifo.

JOHX A. 1110G1?,1ST

observes tha t this was followed by his acceptance of l\Ianicheism 62.


Abandoning l\fanicheism he reports : '' At ubi discussos eos evasi, maxime
traiecto isto mari, diu gubernacula mea repugnantia omnibus ventis in
mediis fluctibus Academici tenuerunt "63.
This statement contrasts sharply with what we conjecturecl was a
possible reference to the Academics or their followers in r.2. The present
statement seems quite explicit and an obvions interpretation of it would
be that Augustine was a follower of the Academics for a period of some
three years 64 . However, this woulcl contraclict the rather decisive
passage from the Confessions V. r4. 24. in which Augustine merely says
that " in the manner of the Acaclemics, as they are interpretecl,I was in
cloubt about all things, " and he aclcls, as we have previously observed,
that he " refused altogether to commit the cure of (his) sickly soul to those
philosophers who were without the health-giving name of Christ " 65 . To
our earlier observations on this passage we would aclcl that the phrase
" in the manner of " is highly ambiguous and can hardly be saicl to show
any explicit adherence to the Acaclemic cause.
The assertion of Augustine that" for a long time the Acaclemics steerecl
his course 66 " could mean simply that like the Acaclemics he cloubted
but for his part he clid not accept cloubt as a principle of philosophy or
as a way of life. It was only " after their manner " or in " imitation "
of thern that he lookecl upon some of the problems and perplexities that
confrontecl him. That the Acaclemics guidecl him " for a long periocl
of tirne " may be regardecl as a necessary construction of language if
the metaphor of the sea and the long journey to Rome is to be maintainecl.
Again, the length of time rnay represent merely a psychological state of

62. Concerning .i.ugustine's intellectual development during the periocl of his


membership in the i\fanichean sect, it is Yery likely that his interests in Cicero and
the I,atin culture continuecl and that he cle\oted much of his time to the perfection
of his knowledge and skill of rhetoric. lt would alsoseem qui te likely that he must
lw,c spent a good part of his time in the furtl1er stucly and practisc of i>Ianicheism.
He undoubteclly perfectecl his kncnYledge of the basic principles and practises of
i>Ianicheism only graclually falling a\Yay from that scct \dth his clisco\ery of a
kincl of Christian gnosticism aicled and supplementecl by his acquaintance \dth
the Neo-I'latonists. \Vith his moral and religions com-ersion to Christianity the
break \vith ?.Ianicheism finally becomes complete. \\'e should be cautious in any
minimizing of Augustine's :.IIanicheism because of au excessi,-e concern to cl well
npon his comersion to Christianity. This can easily lead to a distortion of the truc
picture of Augustine's religions cleyclopment.
63. B. A., 4, p. 228.
64. This is the interpretation gfren by Schopp who cleclares that " Augustine
hacl been a follO\Yer of fois philosophical group from his twenty-eighth year up to
his co11yersi011. " Saint Augustine, The Happy Life, translated by I,ud\vig Schopp,
(New York, The Jathers of the Church, 1948), p. 47.
65. itaque Acaclemicorum more, sicut existimantur, dnbitans de omnibus ...
qnibus tamen philosophis, qnocl sine salutari nomine Christi essent, cnrationem
languoris animae meae conmittere omnino recusabam. (B ...\., 13, pp. 510, 512).

06. B. ci.. 4, p.

28.

A UGUSTl.YE AND THE ACADEM.ICS

mind which in retrospect seemed to have existed for a long period of


time. Also, the oft repeated phrase " in the manner of the Academics "
can just as easily refer to the manner in which Augustine doubts of the
::.\Ianicheans and their materialism, just as the Academics had cloubted
of the Stoics and the Epicureans and their materialism. Nowhere does
Augustine specifically assert that he accepted the position of the Academics. Furthermore, Trygetius, speaking we may assume for Augustine 67 ,
declares of the Acaclemics :
Quare gaudeo imndiu cum illis me ininticitias suscepisse. Nam
ne,.;cio qna impellente natura, vel, ut verius dicam, Deo, etiam ncsciens
quomoclo refellendi essent, tamen ei~ nimis aclversahar 08 .

This statement evidently contradicts the one previously cited 69 . For


Trygetius states quite explicitly that he has been opposed to the Academics for some time, even though he did not know how they were to be
refuted. Assuming that he represents the attitude of Augustine, it is
difficult to see much more than an ambivalence in the attitude of Augustine towards the Academics. Certainly, it cannot be said unequivocally
that Augustine ever became an Academic. Testard observes that
Augustine had a confidence in the human understanding that Cicero did
not know.
Saint Augustin connut toujours une grande confiance dans l'intelligence humaine. Cette confiance subit diverses reprises l'preuve
du cloute, la tentation du scepticisme, mais elle en triompha toujours. 7 0

Two points need to be made with respect to the record of the dialogue
itself. First the references to the Academics are concerned principally
with Augustine's contention that since the Academics cannot find truth
or wisdom, the happy life is not possible for them 71 This contention is
a reflection of Augustine's judgment of the Academics rather than an
historical statement of their position. For the Academics held that the
proper end of the philosopher is that of quietude or tranquillity (ataraxy),
a state of mental rest that follows the suspension of judgment and the
acceptance of the probable 72 . This also seems to be Augustine's inter67. In tllis dialogue as well as in the Contra Academicos, Trygetius criticizes
the ActHlernics and assists Augustine in the arguments used against them. The
De /Jeala iita was completed shortly after Augustine's thirty second birthday.
lt \\'as written during the composition of the Contra ,l cade micas and is the first of
his \\orks to be completed and transmittcd to posterity. The De pulchro et apto
is lost.
68. 1 bid., p. 248.
69. Ibid., p. 228.
70. Tl';STARD l\L, Saint .J. ugustin et Cicron, p. 34r.
7 r. B.A. 4, pp. 246, 248.
72. Good statements of the position held by the Academics are to be founcl in
Sextus Empiricus, Out!ines oj Pyrrhonism, The Loeb Classical Library, Translated
by R. G. Bury, (London and Cambridge: r955, Heinemann and Han-arcl l'niYersity
Press), pp. 9, r 9, 2 r.

JOHN A. l\/fOURANT

pretation of their position if we interpret the statement in the prologue


concerning the first class of those seafarers embraced by philosophy as
applying to the Academics. The passage may be interpreted as meaning
that those who go but a little way in philosophy and are content to suspend
judgment and follow the easy path of the probable will achieve tranquillity73. Thus Augustine's conclusions that the Academics are miserable
is more a reflection of his o\vn state of mind in the period just prior to his
conversion. And since the whole testimony of the Confessions is to the
effect that he was unhappy because he was unable to attain truth and
wisdom, it would appear most unlikely that he had ever embraced the
Academic cause.
Second, the dialogue is strictly a religions disputation as Augustine
himself notes 74 . Its religions character is revealed in its dedication to
Theodorus 75 and in its purpose, namely, to formulate the principles of
the happy life in terms of Christianity. Thus there can be no question
of Augustine's Christianity during this period.
Finally, the prologue of the dialogue is autobiographical but presents
us only with a very abbreviated account of Augustine's intellectual
development. It correlates closely with the Confessions but is much
less significant for its account of the Academics than the Confessions 76 .
Actually, there is only one explicit reference to the Academics in the
prologue. The dialogue as a whole shows Augustine's opposition to the
Academics butnot that he ever accepted their position. In his limited
knowledge of philosophy he saw them as an obstacle to Christianity, a
sect that must be rejected because it offered nothing to Christian truth.
Considering next the De ordine, Augustine informs us that the two
books of this dialogue were written during the composition of the Contra
Acadcmicos7 7 . Thus the De ordine touches significantly upon the problem of the relation of Augustine to the Academics. The purpose of the
dialogue is the considera:tion of the problem of evil and the divine providence78. Augustine's analysis of this problem shows that he had movecl
beyoncl Manicheism and Scepticism to a Christian solution. Like the
De beata vita the dialogue is essentially religions. The philosophy
expressecl is a Christian philosophy 79 . As Fr. Russell puts it :

73. Il. A. 4, p. 222f.


74. Ibid., p. 23r.
75. Manlius Theoclorus, a contemporary of Augustine and an outstanding couvert
t o Christi ani t y.
76. For a comparative enlluation of the Confessions and the Dialogues see BOYER,
Christianisme et No-Platonisme .. ., pp. 20-26.
77. Retractationes, B. A. 12, p. 285.
78. Ibid.
79. The references of Augustine to philosophy in this dialogue as in many of his
writings are not always precise ancl free from ambiguity. Sometimes he appears
to mean by the tenn "philosophy ", the traclitional or Platonic sense. ]lut at other
times the term can be eqnatecl to Christian \Ysclom ancl truth.

A UGUSTI>lE AND THE ACADEMICS

For, notvdthstanding the presence of elements that suggest a Platonie or neo-Platonic origin, thoughts distinctly and exclusively Christian
are not only clearly discernible, but predominate throughout the
entire dialogue 80 .

The references to the Academics in this dialogue are few and may be
dealt with briefly. In chapter four during the opening of the discussion
on the problem of order, Licentius remarks that poetry cannot divert
him from philosophy as much as a doubt of discovering the truth 81 .
Trygetius then observes that now Licentius is not an Academic, although
he had formerly been accustomed to defend them zealously 82 .
This passage could be interpreted to imply a reflection of a position
held by Augustine some years earlier. For Licentius is much too young
at the time of this remark to be regarded as ever having defended the
sceptics so zealously. It is more likely, however, that the statement
reflects the position of Romanianus, the father of Licentius. Romanianus,
the close friend of Augustine, had been converted to l\fanicheism by
Augustine. Following Augustine's rejection of Manicheism, Romanianus
hesitated to follow his friend's example and embrace Christianity. Instead he adopted the position of the Academics. Our conjecture would
be that it was Romanianus who zealously defended the Academics in his
conversations with Augustine and that he probably found their doctrines
useful in resisting the efforts of Augustine to convert him to Christianity.
The stubborness of Romanianus and the fact that he did not become a
Christian until much later testifies to the strength of Augustine's earlier
convictions for the truth of Manicheism and his ability to communicate
such convictions to his friends. The persistence of Romanianus in resisting conversion to Christianity and in using the Academic philosophy
to this purpose may also be said to be reflected in the fact that the Contra
Academicos is addressed to Romanianus. The refutation of the Academics
is drected primarily to him and the desire of Augustine to convert him
to Christianity.
A similar purpose is not evident in any role that could be assigned to
Licentius. Licentius was apparently never converted to Christianity
despite the appeals of Augustine and Romanianus 83 . This would rule
out any consideration that he was meant to represent Augustine, although
his enthusiasm, his love of poetry, his concern with the problem of order
and evil, are representative of similar interests on the part of Augustine.
In both this dialogue and in the Contra Academicos Licentius and Tryge-

80. Fathers of the Church, Writings of St. A ug11sli11e, Volume r, trnnslated ]Jy
Robert P. Russell, O. S. A., (New York: HJ48), p. 231.
Sr. B.A. 4, p. 318.
82. Tum Trygetius gaudentibus verbis : Habemus, inquit, iam, quod plus est,
Licentium non Academicum ; eos enim ille studiosissime defendere solebat. (Ibid.)
83. Cf. Letter 32 \\Titten in 396 by Paulinus and Thernsia and addressed to
Romnnianus. W1itings of St. Augustine, Fathers of the Chunh, trnnslnted hv
Sister \Vilfri! Prsons, (New York; r951), Volume 9, p. rrq,

86

JOHlv' A. MOU RA:YT

tius are treated as students with the neecl of students for discipline and
philosophy. Their representation of the position or character of Augustine
himself must always be carefully restricted.
Onr analysis of the Contra Academicos will be concerned with what light
the dialogue throws upon the relations of Augustine to the Academics
rather than with any cletailecl study of Augustine's statements and refutations of their arguments. 'vVe hope to show that the evidence of the
dialogue supports the conclusions we have already argued for concerning
Augustine's relation to the Academics.
The Contra Academicos was written while Augustine was already a
Christian. The dialogue itself reveals this sufficiently. In addition
there is the fact that the De ordie, a strongly religious dialogue \.Vas
composed at the same time. Finally, the De beata vita was written before
the Contra Academicos and it is equally a religious dialogue. All this
leaves little to be said for Alfaric's thesis that Augustine was not a Christian at the time. The purpose, then, of Augustine in the Contra Academicos is not the refutation of the Academics as a condition for his own
acceptance of Christianity, but rather the refutation of the Academic
doctrine as an obstacle to the acceptance of Christianity by others, and
notably by Romanianus his friend.
Although the thesis of Alfaric is no longer acceptecl, it has left its mark
upon the interpretation of Augustine's intellectual development. As
we have seen this interpretation takes the form of assigning certain fixed
stages to Augustine's intellectual development. A recent example of
this type of interpretation is found in Fr. Kavanagh's introduction to his
translation of the Contra Academicos. Fr. Kavanagh writes :
After an interval of thirty-five years, Augustine tells in retrospect
that his chief need at that time was the removal of all cloubt of the
possibility of fincling truth : ' Therefore at the beginning of my conyersion I wrote three books so that those things which blocked my
way at the threshold, might not prove an obstacle to me '. ' The three
books against the Academics' were, then, Augustine's farewell letter to
the philosophy which he had followecl last, a philosophy that had the
aim to justify doubt as to one's ultimate attitude. '' ''

We have already argued that Augustine did not wholly accept the
Academic position for any period of time and that there is no real
evidence to show explicitly that he was actually converted to their position. It may be significant to observe that in this quotecl statement
from Augustine he refers to the " beginning of my conversion " and not
" before " his conversionR.5. The use of " before " would have indicated
84. Faihers oi the Clmrcli, Fritin/;s oj Si. A 11gusli11r, Volnmc 1, translat<:l by
Denis J. Kayanagh, O. 8. A. (Xe" \'ork : 1948), p. 89.
85. The original statc:ment reacls : l'nde tria confoci \'Olnmina in initio con\ersionis meae, ne impedimenta nobis essent, qnae tamqnam in ostio contrndicebant.
Et utique fuerat remoyenda inyeniendae clesperntio yeritatis, quae illorum Yidetur
argumentationibus robornri. (B. A. 9, p. r .fo),

AUG['STLVE A.VD THE ACADEJl!ICS

a periocl prior to his acceptance of Christianity in which he had followecl


the Acaclemic philosophy. But for Augustine cloubting was real and
not methodic. Instead of being limited to a brief and precise stage in
his intellectual development it embodiecl a long and restless quest for
the truth. Any ' periocl ' of cloubt for Augustine woulcl have to be tracecl
back to his initial doubts of l\Ianicheism, probably to some time prior
to his meeting with Faustus
Furthermore, when Augustine states that " at the beginning of my
conversion " he means quite specifically the periocl immediately prior
to his baptism. However, his conversion may also be unclerstood as a
continuing and viable religions experience extencling over a much longer
periocl of time. For Augustine regarcled his progress toward Christianity
as proviclential and marked by God's continuing grace. It may be conjectured that the precise point of the beginning of his conversion arose
with his first doubts of l\Ianicheism. And that such doubts were increased
and intensified by those events that he regarded as providential. These
doubts were a natural part of his religions clevelopment. They shoulcl
not be interpreted as representing a position of philosophical doubt.
Finally, at the time of the writing of the dialogue Augustine is unclergoing a period of preparation for his baptism. As a catechumen it vvas
necessary that he be instructed in the faith. His instruction seems to
have been largely self instruction and to have consisted in the reading
of Scripture and also no doubt of the Neo-Platonic philosophy. This
reading is reflected in both the philosophical interests evoked at Cassiciacum as well as in the strong religions tone and interests that all the
dialogues of Cassiciacum seem to exhibit. That he read both philosophy
and Scripture must be considered as the context in which to interpret
his attitude toward the Academics and the problem of truth. Such a
context does much to explain his sometimes ambivalent attitude and
the difficulty of interpreting his position.
Turning next to a fe-w specific points in the first book of the dialogue,
it is important to note that the dialogue is dedicatecl to Romanianus
who is exhorted to the study of philosophy. The dedication to Romanianus would inclicate that Augustine's interest in refnting the Academics
is motivated in goocl part by a clesire to bring about the conversion of
his friencl Romanianus. The meaning of " philosophy " in the exhortation is somewhat ambiguous. Augustine states :
Ouam sentcntiam ubcrrimarum doctrinarum oraculis cditam, remota1iquc longissimc ab intellectu profanorum. se demonstraturam
yeris amatoribus suis, ad quam te invito, philosophia pollicetur."

Within the context of this entire section, and in particular in substituting


" Providence " for ,, Fortune ", this passage could be interpreted as an

86. B. _\.., 4, p, r6,

88

JOHN A. MOURANT

exhortation to Christian philosophy. On the other hand, as O'Meara 87


points out, this passage may be interpreted as an invitation to a synthesis
of Christian truth and the philosophy of Neo-Platonism.
A few paragraphs later in a statement reflecting his own intellectual
development, the exhortation to philosophy is quite explicitly to NeoPlatonism88.
The position of Licentius in the comment that follows is somewhat
ambiguous. He is pictured as devoted to phi1osophy 89 . Later in
the dialogue his position is aligned with that of the Academics for whom
he is the spokesman. Augustine's intention may be conjectured as follows.
Since his objective is the conversion of Romanianus what better appeal
could he use than to cite the position of Licentius. That Licentius is
devoted to philosophy will please Romanianus and so will the apparent
ability of his son as a philosopher and as a defender of the Academic
position. However, the failure of Licentius to persuade Augustine
to the Academic position as well as Augustine's own skillful refutation
of scepticism may move Romanianus to abandon the Academics and to
turn at least to Neo-Platonism if not immediately to Christianity.
This conjecture finds some confirmation towarcl the close of Book I.
in which Augustine sums up the clevelopment of the argument between
Trygetius and Licentius. The debate turns upon the problem of happiness and its relation to the pursuit or the possession of truth. Licentius
accepts the typically Greek notion that the pursuit of truth or wisdom
brings happiness. This view is representative of the Academics and
Licentius is defencling them. It is Augustine's desire to win over Licentius
(and his father) to the Christian view of happiness as consisting in the
possession and not just the pursuit of wisdom. Augustine points out
that a record of the clebate will be sent to Romanianus :
Quamobrem iam istam, ut dixi, disputationem terminemus, et
relatam in litteras mittamus, Licenti, potissimum patri tuo, cuius
erga philosophiam iam prorsus animum teneo. Sed adlmc quae admittat, quaero fortunam. Incendi autem in haec studia vehementius
poterit, cmn teipsum iam [intentum] mecum sic vivere, non audiendo
solum, verum etiam legendo ista cognoverit."
0

87. John J. O'MIURA, St. Augustine A gains/ the A cade mies, Ancient Christian
vVriters, Vol. IZ (Westminster, Mrl., 1950), p. 170, n. 3. O'J'IIEARA observes that this
is suhstantiated in III. 43 and Augustine's statemcnt : "Apud Platonicos me interim
quod sacris nostris non repugnet reperturum esse confido. "
88. Cf. B. A., 4, pp. I 8, 20 where he recounts how, after he hacl gh-en up the profession of rhetoric, lie retired to Cassiciacum and devotecl himself to philosophy.
The whole passage is more clearly relevant to Neo-Platonism, particularly in the
reference to this philosophy freeing him from the materialism of the l\Ianichean
superstition. Cf. also the Confessions, 7. zoff.
89. Although the context might indicate Neo-Platonism, the worcl Augustine
uses is " stucliosissimc " \Yhich might hest he renrlered as " a devotion to learning ".
qo. B. A. 4, p. 60.

AUGUSTINE A.VD THE ACADEMICS

89

The implication here would appear to be that the philosophizing skill


of I,icentius may intensify his father's interest in philosophy and that
Augustine's ability to refute the Academic position presented by Licentius
will ultimately win over Romanianus to Christianity. In effect, Augustine would accomplish two objectives : the refutation of the Academics
and the conversion of Romanianus. And lest we underestimat the
latter, it should be observed that the value and the place of friendship
was a factor of much importance in the life of Augustine 91 .
The opening of Book II. of the dialogue is marked by a continuation
of this appeal of Augustine to his friend Romanianus to abandon the
Academics with their " deceitful pretence " and " obstina te persistence ".
In this opening chapter Augustine observes that the Academics seem to be
invincible only because of our own lack of diligence and our aversion to
learning. He counsels that in such a struggle vYe must appeal for divine
aid if we are to attain the " port of wisdom " 92 . The allusion to the
" port of wisdom " may be interpreted as Christian wisdom or philosophy,
for Augustine prays for the liberation of the mind of Romanianus from
the Academics. Since Augustine himself is a Christian at this time, his
prayer for Romanianus would be more logically directed to the hope for
his acceptance of Christianity rather than Neo-Platonism. The attainment of the latter would only continue the quest for wisdom and fail to
yield the desired finality of the possession of wisdom in Christian truth.
In this instance the metaphor of the port might be interpreted as the
final port of call.
Augustine's own position at this time is revealed rather precisely in
chapter two when, after appealing to Romanianus once more to embrace
philosophy and recounting his indebtedness to him 93 , he observes :
" Cuius autem minister fueris, plus adhuc fide concepi, quam ratione
comprehendi " 94 . This statement reflects well the fact that at the time
of the writing of the dialogue Augustine had accepted Christianity upon
faith but still sought a better understanding of his faith. The statement
further testifies to the predilection of Augustine for a providential interpretation of the events leading up to his acceptance of Christianity.
After a brief digression on philocaly Augustine returns again to the
question of philosophy and points out to Romanianus that " " Restant
duo vitia et impedimenta inveniendae veritatis " 95 Fr. Kavanagh
observes of Augustine that :

9r. On the snbject of friendship and its importance and influence in the life of
Augustine, see Sister M.A. :\IcN.IARA, Friends and Frirndship for Saint A ugustinr. (New York: Alba Ronse, r964i.
92. B .\. 4, pp. 60, 62.
93. See also the Confessions 2. 3, 3. TI, and 4.7.
94. B. A. 4, p. 66.
95. Ibid., p. 72. The t\\o <lefects are l\fanicheism and Academicism.

90

JOHX A. AfOURAXT

He fears that Romanianus mav have returnecl to the ::.\fanichean superstition, although he was an aiherent to the Xew ..i..cademy, 'seeking
and doubting ', when he departed from Milan. This disputation was
to disabuse him of Skepticism. Approximately four years later,
..i..ugustine cornposed the treatise, Tite Tme Religion, and cleclicate{l
it to Romanianus. He devotes all of the ninth chapter to a refntation
of ::.\Ianicheism. 0 "

This concurs with our own judgment on the purpose of the dialogue. It
also gives added confirmation to our contention of the strength of the
l\fanichean heresy and the great hold it must have exercised upon Augustine.
The statement of the rage of Romanianus at the Academics 97 , may
just as \Yell be a reflection of Augustine's own attitude towarcl the Academics. As such it could then be argued that Augustine was enraged at
them because he had been deceived into accepting their doctrine. On
the other hancl, it might be argued that he was simply enraged with
their attempted cleception but that he hacl not acceptecl their doctrine.
Of greater significance, however, is the further comment of Augustine
that the rage of Romanianus was the more spontaneous because of his
great love of the truth. Fndoubtedly this also reflects Augustine's
own passion for the truth. This great love of Augustine for the truth
makes it difficult to reconcile his position \Yith any adherence at any
time to the position taken by the Academics.
At the conclusion of this exhortation to Romanianus to embrace philosophy, Augustine cautions him not to accept as certain anything which
cannot be known as truly as mathematical propositions 98 . Similarly
he is cautionecl not to clespair of discovering the truth, and he is aclmonished
that such knowleclge will be even more manifest than that of numbers.
The Scriptural injunction in this context seems to imply that by philosophy and truth Augustine means here Christian truth and philosophy.
The conclusion of this exhortation as well as the dialogue as a whole
seems to reflect then a proselytizing note on the part of Augustine. It
shows a concern not merely to refute scepticism to his own satisfaction
and to make his own position clear but to win over one of his closest
friends.
After a further summary discussion of the arguments of the Academics,
Augustine appears to inclicate that he hacl accepted rather explicitly
the Academic cloctrine 99 . Fr. Kavanagh translates this passage :
:\ncl do you not know that as yct I have nothing \Yhicl1 I can regard
as certain, but that, on account of the arguments and clisputations
of the .-\caclemics, 1 am hindered from searching for it ?... ' 0 0
96. Op. Cil., p. q1, note 2.
97. n ..\. 4, p. 7-1
98. Ibid.
99. Tune crgo ncscis, nihil me certnm adlmc lrnberc quod sentiam, sed ah eo
quncrendo Academicornm argnmentis atque disputationibus impcdiri '(Ibid., p. 08).
100. Op. rit., p. r57.

A UG[/STI,YE A.Y D THE ACA f)EMICS

<)I

Fr. Kavanagh correctly observes that the phrase " as yet " may mean
" up to the present moment in my life, or it may mean up to the present
moment in the debate ". And he argues that the doubt expressed is
methodical rather than real vvhich wonld be in conformity with the
generally accepted opinion that Augustine was a Christian at this time
and not an Academic101.
The closing sentence of this chapter " Nam ignoratio veri, aut mihi,
sil illi fingebant, peculiaris est, aut certe utrisque communis " 102 , raises
a point that is pursued by Augustine more fully in Book III1 3 . The
point is that the Academics were not sincere in their pretendecl scepticism
and that they chose such names as " truth-likeness " (" verisimile ")
and " probable " (" probabile ") to conceal the truth from others104 .
As
".\.ugustine states the issue :
Itaque reponde, quaeso, utrum tibi videantur Academici habuisse
certam de veritate sententiam, et emn temere ignotis vel non purgatis
animis prodere noluisse ; an vero ita senserint, ut eornm disputationes
se hahent. 1 n'
No definite answer is given to this question in Book II., but in Book III.
Augustine presents a more detailed account of this problem, the analysis
of which has an important bearing upon his relations with the Academics.

*
Turning to Book III. of the Contra Academicos our major concern will
be the attitude of Augustine tovvarcl the Academics rather than any
extensive analysis of the arguments he uses in refuting their position.
Augustine's attitude seems to be clearly ambivalent. At times he is
sharply derisive and derogative of the Academics. He observes that
they have achieved only a second rate standing in relation to all other
philosophers, and that their so-called wisdom is little better than ignorance
for they are never able to take a definite position on any issue and are
incapable of learning anythingl0 6 .
Of the arguments used in the refutation of the Academics, one of the
more significant is that basecl on the existence of clialectical truths. In
particular Augustine appeals to the truths of disjunctive propositions
and their certitude107 . Such certitude is similar to that which can be

1or. Ibid.,notc5.
I02. B. A. 4, p. IOO.
103. Jbid., pp. I<)O-T98.
104. Ibid., p. ro4. See nlso C1c1mo, .lrndrm. 2.ro.32.
105. B. A.. 4, p. ITO,
106. Ibid., pp. qo-144. Cf. C1crmo, Arad. r. fr. 20 (:.\Iller).
IO. Ibid., p. 1 . The somce for these arguments is to he founrl in Crc1mo
Dr Academ. 2.94f.

JOHN A. MOURANT

()2

discoyered in mathematical propositions and which Augustine hacl remarked upon earlierios_
The rejection of the Academic position reaches its highest pitch in
chapter fifteen in which Augustine develops the consequences of the
doctrine of the" probable" as it is applied to the field of moral judgments.
The very intensity of Augustine's attack upon the Academics at this
point can only be accounted for on the assumption that he has accepted
Christianity and that his criticism is directed from this position. Even
so his emotions seem to be somewhat mixed:
Tmn vero tam multa mihi et tam capitalia in istos venerunt in
mentem, ut iam non riderem, sed partim stomacharer, partim dolerem
homines doctissimos et acutissimos in tanta scelera sententiartum et
flagitia devolutos. ''
A little later the attack upon the Academics mounts in its intensity.
The doctrines of the Academics are ridiculous yet entail the most serious
consequences :
Jllud est capitale, illud formidolosum, illud optimo cuique metuendum, quod nefas omne, si haec ratio probabilis erit, cum probabile
cuiquam visum fuerit esse faciendum, tantum nulli quasi vero assentiatur, non solum sine sceleris, sed etiam sine erroris vituperatione commitat. Quid ergo ? Haec illi non viderunt ? Imo solertissime
prudentissimeque viderunt ... 110
Consiclering the significance and the centrality of the moral problem
for Augustine, and also his own guilt feelings in this respect, is it not
strange that had he ever embraced their doctrine he would not have
said soin very explicit terms ? Certainly he showed no hesitancy in setting
clown the absurdities and evils of the Manichean doctrine that he had
held forsome nine years. \Vhythen should henot han been consistent and
stated clearly his guilt in accepting the Academic doctrine ? The answer
can only be that he never actually adhered to the Academic cause and
\Vas neYer converted to their position as he vvas to lVIanicheism and to
Christianity.
Furthermore, it would appear very likel:r that his own ambivalent
attitude toward the Academics kept him from embracing their doctrine.
In part this ambivalence stemmed from a certain loyalty he felt to Cicero
coup1ed with his own instinctive distrust of the Academic doctrine.
l\fore significantly Augustine's attitude was no doubt dictated by his
difficulty in assessing the true position and motiYes of the Academics.
Quid igitur placuit tantis viris perpetuis et pertinacibus contentionibus agere, ne in quemquam cadere veri scientia videretur ? Audite
108. Ibid., p. 1 62.
109. ibid., pp. r8o,
1 rn.

Ibid., p. rS<i.

182.

AUGUSTnYE AND THE ACADEMICS

93

iam paulo attentius non quid sciam, sed quid existimem : hoc enim a(l
ultimum reservabam, ut explicarem, si possem, quale mihi vidcatur
esse totmn Academieormn consilium. 111
Augustine's answer is that the Academics were crypto-Platonists.
That they possessed a secret doctrine and did not seriously believe that
which they taught publicly.
This notion of a secret doctrine imputed to Arcesilas does not seem
to be substantially founded.
It was apparently based upon certain
statements by Diodes of Cnidus which were adopted and popularized
by Cicero and then by Sextus Empiricus. It was variously held that
Arcesilas merely assumed the position of a Skeptic to escape the criticisms
of Zeno and the Stoics, to maintain the purity of the Platonic teaching,
or that according to Sextus Empiricus " The Academics' scepticism vvas
merely a means of testing the fitness of their pupils for admittance to
their mysteries " 112 .
\Vhateyer may be the validity of the historical sources and the explanations of this secret doctrine of the Academics, its importance for our
consideration lies in the fact that Augustine, whether he fully accepted
it or not, did take the time and the trouble to set it clown in some detail.
This would seem to reflect either his acceptance of the doctrine or his
ambivalent attitude toward the Academics. Certain points can be
singled out in his account of the development of this doctrine that will
justify our contention.
In his brief history of the Platonic Academy he observes particularly
the relation of Zeno the founder of the Stoic school to the Platonic Academy. He expresses his belief that Zeno was held suspect by the Platonists for the pernicious doctrine he taught :
Quamobrem cum Zeno sua quadam de munclo, et maxime de anima,
propter quam vera philosophia Yigilat, sententia clelectaretur,
dieens eam esse mortalem, nec quidquam esse praeter hune sensibilem
mundum, nihilque in eo agi, nisi corpore (nam et Deum ipsum ignem
putabat) ... 113
His statement that Arcesilas wisely and cleverly concealed the doctrine
of the Academy and developed his own mode of disputation in order to
refute those who had too readily accepted such false doctrines114 , undoubtedly reflects his own fear of the danger of such teachings115 . He also
observes that the teachings of the New Academy originated in the need
to combat the views of Zeno, whereas the earlier Academics had no need
] bid., pp. I 86, 188,
Quoted from KA\'AXAGH, op. Cit., p. 21411.
rr3. Ibid., p. r90. Cf. Conf. 4. 15. 24 for Augustine's acceptance of a similar
Yiew.
I 14. B. A., 4, p. 190.
i 15. J<;,en in the period immediately after his co1n-ersio11 Augustine was wrestling
with philosophical solutions to the problems of the nature of the soul and of God.
III.

112.

}OH~V

A. MOL'RAST

of such teachings. Similarly, we han argued, that Augustine needed


and used the teachings of the Academics to combat the views of the
::.\Ianicheans on the nature of the soul and of God.
Pursing further his historical account Augustine notes that Chrysippus
continuecl the work of Zeno but that the spread of this doctrine met with
the opposition of Cameades who refuted it so masterfully that Augustine
was surprised that it coulcl have any fnrther acceptance. And he adds
that Carneades avoided the clisrepute that had fallen upon Arcesilas
because of his method of disputation.
N amque Carneades primo illam velut calumniandi impuclentiam,
qua viclebat Archesilam non mediocriter infamatum, cleposuit, ne
contra omnia velle clicere quasi ostentationis causa vicleretur, secl
ipsos proprie sihi Stoicos, atque Chrysippum convellenclos evertcndosque proposuit. m

So far the importance of this account of the Academics by Augustine


lies in the fact that it appears to establish at the very least his ambivalent
attitude toward the Academics and thus goes far to justify our thesis
that Augustine was not converted to the Academic cause. For this
account reveals a very fondamental and different motive for Augustine's
willingness to accept the Academic position. He may be said to agree
with the Acaclemics, not because he is a sceptic or has been converted
to the principles of scepticism, but rather because the Academics are not
truly sceptics themselves. Insteacl the Academics use the sceptical
method to attack and refnte a doctrine of materialism which Augustine
himself had come to despise with his break from the 1\Ianicheans. If
this is one acceptable version of the Academic philosophy, or at least
a version in which Augustine believed for a time, then it would account
for his ready acceptance of it as a means of liberating himself from the
l\Ianicheans. On this interpretation it is easy to understand the admiration he seems to express for Cameadesll 7.
The Acaclemics, then, constitute a formidable ally in the refutation of
materialism118 and with it of the l\fanicheans. Actually, the Academics
contributed to Augustine's ultimate conversion to Christianity rather
than standing in the way of his conversion.
In addition a parallel may be suggested regarding the relation of Augustine to the .i.\Ianicheans and the allegecl esotericism of the Acaclemics. It
can be argued that Augustine's ultimate rejection of the lVIanicheans
lay in their refusal or inability to answer his questions, to reveal to him
those truths they claimecl were helcl in secret by the elect. And Augustine
r r6. Ibid., p.

192.

117. Ibid., pp. 192, 19-f.

See also the letter to Hennogenianus (386) for furthcr


refer