Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Possidius, Bishop and Confessor

Article

He was a native of the proconsular Africa, and had his education under the great Saint Austin. In 397 he was chosen bishop of Calama in Numidia, which diocese he found distracted by the factions both of heathens and Donatists. In 404 a party of the latter dragged him out of his house, beat him, and threatened his life. All the revenge he took of them was to obtain their pardon from the emperor. Four years after this, the idolaters in a riotous festival on the 1st of June, had the insolence to dance round the church, throw stones into it, and set it on fire, wounding several of the clergy, and killing one upon the spot. Nectarius, a principal person among the heathens, who had no share in this tumult, wrote to Saint Austin to beg him to intercede with the emperor for the pardon of the rioters, observing to him that it is the duty of the Christian pastors to employ themselves in works of mercy and peace. By the interposition of Possidius their punishment was only an order which the emperor sent for the breaking down their idols, with a prohibition of their abominable festivals and sacrifices. When the relics of Saint Stephen were brought into Africa about the year 410, our holy bishop was careful to enrich Calama with a portion of them, by which several miracles were there wrought, as Saint Austin informs us. Saint Possidius was doubtless one of those bishops who established among the clergy of their cathedrals a monastic regularity in imitation of Saint Austin, and according to the rule by him instituted, as our saint mentions in the life of that great doctor; and Saint Austin speaks of the poor religious men of Calama. The Vandals passed over from Spain into Africa with an army of fourscore thousand veteran soldiers, long accustomed to blood and plunder; and made themselves in a short time masters of Mauritania, Numidia, and the proconsular province, except the strong fortresses of Carthage, Cirta, and Hippo. They pillaged the whole country and the towns which lay in their way; and among others Calama, which seems to have never since lifted up its head. Saint Possidius took refuge in Hippo with his dear master, Saint Austin, who soon after died in his arms in 430, during the siege of that city, which some time after fell into the hands of the barbarians. These were severe trials to our saint, who from that time lived in perpetual banishment from his flock. He wrote the life of Saint Austin, with a catalogue of his works. The Italians say, that from Africa he came into Italy, and died at Mirandola. That city and Rhegio in Apulia honoured him as patron. The regular canons keep his festival on the 17th of May, and regard him as one of the most illustrious fathers of their Order. See the life and works of Saint Austin and Papebroke, who show that it is a mistake to confound Saint Possidius with Possidonius, another African bishop sometimes mentioned with him in the same councils.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Possidius, Bishop and Confessor”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 12 May 2013. Web. 18 April 2014. <>