Saint Jerome
Prominent Istrians

Friends and Patrons

Paula of Bethlehem (c. 347 - 404)

Also known as Paulina; Pauline the Widow 

St. Paula was born 5 May c. 347 in Rome to a patrician Christian family that was related to the Scipios and to the Gracchi. Married at the age of 15 to Toxotius, she bore him five children - a son, Toxotius, and four daughters, Eustochium, Blaesilla (or Blesilla), Paulina, and Rufina.

She gave hospitality to Saint Epiphanius of Salamis and Saint Paulinus of Antioch, when they visited Rome. Some say that it was through these saints that Paula met Saint Jerome. She became a friend of Jerome, who was then secretary to Damasus I. After the deaths of her husband (379) and of her daughter Blesilla (c. 383 or 384), Paula was stricken with grief, but Jerome, who received the news in Jerusalem, rebuked her. He wrote that she had the right to mourn the loss of her husband and daughter; nevertheless, she ought to realize that they had entered a realm of greater happiness than this world can offer. To assuage her sorrow, Jerome promised to glorify Blaesilla by writing about her. At the suggestion of her friend, St. Marcella, Paula adopted an ascetical way of living, together with similar groups of Roman noblewomen who resided on the Aventine and Coelian Hills of Rome. In addition to limiting her food, drink, and sleep, she gave up her social life and devoted her fortune and the rest of her life to spiritual development and care for the poor. 

Paula's life was such a powerful witness that she inspired her own daughters, Saints Blaesilla and Eustochium to sainthood. Paula's second daughter Paulina married a school-friend of Jerome, but her children were stillborn and she died young - her husband became a monk. These three daughers were also canonized. (Melania's houses rivalled those Jerome and Paula founded, but she wouldn't submit to his direction.)

In 385, she and Eustochium went on a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Holy Land. They settled permanently in Bethlehem, where they lived under Jerome's guidance, after 386. The two women built churches, and established a double monastery and convent with a hospice (guest house for pilgrims), and served as its first abbess. Paula knew Greek, and her knowledge, intelligence, and discretion aided her friendship with Jerome, whom she assisted in his work. When Paula died penniless and serene on January 24, 404 of natural causes, she was buried under the Church of the Nativity at Nazareth. Her granddaughter Paula, who had been placed in her care, succeeded her as directress of the convent.

Testimony about the life of Saint Paula is preserved in the epistles of Jerome and in his eulogy to her (Epistle 108).

In art, Saint Paula is a Jeronomite abbess with a book. Otherwise, she may be shown (1) as a pilgrim, often with Saint Jerome and her daughter Saint Eustochium; (2) prostrate before the cave at Bethlehem; (3) embarking in a ship, while a child calls from the shore; (4) weeping over her children; (5) with the instruments of the Passion; (6) holding a scroll with Saint Jerome's epistle Cogite me Paula (Roeder); (7) with a book and a black veil fringed with gold; or with a sponge in her hand (White). 

St. Paula was canonized prior to the institution of the modern investigations performed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, such beati being canonized by local bishops, primates, or patriachs, often as a result of popular devotion. Saint Paula is the patron saint of widows (Delaney, White).

Memorial day: 26 January 

Eustochium (c.369 - c. 419)

Born in Rome as the third daughter of Saint Paula and Roman senator Toxotius, Eustochium (c. 368/90-c. 419) and sister of Saints Blaesilla and Pauline. She had a third sister, Rufina, and a brother, Toxotius, who was named after their father. Eustochium made a personal vow of perpetual virginity and was her mother's companion after the death of her father. She spoke Latin and Greek and could read Hebrew, and became a spiritual student of St. Jerome in 382, then travelled with Paula and Jerome to the Holy Land where she helped with the Vulgate Bible translation, working as Jerome's housekeeper, reading and writing for him when his eyesight began to fail. When Paula died in 404, . Educated in Hebrew and Greek, she helped him with his Biblical translations and scholarship. He wrote a treatise on virginity which he sent as a letter to her in 385. Also called Julia Eustochium or Eustochium Julia, she accompanied Paula to Bethlehem and when Paula died in 404, took over the monastery, consisting of three women's communities, that Paula had founded. In 417, a band of ruffians, possibly a Pelagian mob, burned and pillaged her monastery. Jerome, Eustochium, and her niece Paula the Younger took refuge in a defense tower. Although they escaped harm, the incident broke Eustochium's health. She died at Bethlehem c. 419 of natural causes.

St. Eustochium was canonized prior to the institution of the modern investigations performed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, such beati being canonized by local bishops, primates, or patriachs, often as a result of popular devotion.

Memorial day: 28 September

Additional Information:

  • Ecole Glossary, by Karen Rae Keck - (no longer accessible)
  • For All The Saints, by Katherine Rabenstein -
  • Kirken i Norge [Norwegian]  -
  • Catholic Encyclopedia -
  • Letter to Eustochium

Blaesilla (c. 363 - c. 383 or 384)

Memorial: 22 January

Blaesilla is the daughter of patrician parents, Saint Paula and Roman senator Toxotius, and is the sister of Saints Eustochium and Pauline. She had a third sister, Rufina, and a brother, Toxotius, who was named after their father. A student of Hebrew, she was a friend and spiritual student of Saint Jerome.  Married in her teens to Furius, son of Titiana, she was widowed after only seven months. She died in Rome of a fever in c. 383 (or 384).

St. Eustochium was canonized prior to the institution of the modern investigations performed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, such beati being canonized by local bishops, primates, or patriachs, often as a result of popular devotion. She is the patron saint of brides and widows.

Marcella (325 - 410)

Memorial: 31 January

Wealthy Roman noblewoman. Widowed young after only seven months of marriage. Declined a wedding proposal from the consul Cerealis. Organized a group of religious women at her mansion on the Aventine Hill. They were under the spiritual direction of Saint Jerome, though she was never afraid to stand against him in arguments. Marcella spent most of her time reading, praying, and visiting the shrines of martyrs. Captured by the Goths who looted Rome in 410, she was tortured to give up her treasure, but was released when they realized she had given away everything to the poor. 

Born: 325 at Rome 
Died: August 410 at Rome; tortured to death by Goths seeking hidden wealth 

Canonized: Pre-Congregation

Melania the Elder (c. 341 - c. 410)

Christian religious leader, religious community founder, suspected heretic

Melania is known as "the Elder" to distinguish her from her granddaughter who is known as Melania the Younger.

Melania was born in Spain, a  member of the patrician Antonia family of Rome, Melania (c. 342/343- c. 409/410) was the daughter of a consul and the wife of Valerius Maximus, a prefect. She married at fourteen, moved with her husband to the suburbs of Rome. She was widowed at 22: the same illness that took her husband also took two of her sons in short succession c. 372-373 and left her with one living son, with whom she moved to Rome.

There, she became a Christian and, when her son was ten, placed him with a guardian, distributed some of her wealth, then set off on a pilgrimate to Alexandria where she joined other Christian desert ascetics. She began to associate with monks of the Arian party - those who believed that God the Son, Christ, had been created after God the Father. In Egypt, she met and became the patroness of Rufinus; she also supported a group of churchmen whom Valens had persecuted. When the Arians were banished from Egypt, she left with them.

After some adventures, Melania came to Jerusalem, where she founded a monastery on the Mount of Olives where she head a community of 50 nuns. Rufinus, a scholar she'd met in Alexandria, joined her there. Rufinus was a scholar of the third century theologian Origen, and Melania also studied the writings of Origen, many of which Rufinus translated from Greek to Latin. Origen's writings questioned the doctrine of eternal damnation and doctrines of bodily resurrection. She is said to have brought back into the church a group of pneumatomachoi, those who accepted Nicene Christology but denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Melania enjoyed the friendship of Saints Paula of Bethlehem and Jerome, who were among those who stayed at the monastery until the rift between Rufinus and Jerome. Melania failed to heal the breach between the two men. When Origen's teachings were condemned, Rufinus refused to renounce them, and so Jerome also condemned Rufinus.

While Melania's association with Rufinus tarnished her own religious reputation, she was not herself condemned - but because of her association with heresy, even those Christian writers who knew of her omitted her from their historical accounts or the church's history.

Melania founded more monasteries and promoted theological tolerance and the unity of Christianity.

On a visit to Rome to see her son, she persuaded her granddaugher, also called Melanie (known as Melania the Younger) to also take up a religious calling and to go with her to Palestine. Rufinus, who travelled with them, died en route in Sicily, and the women travelled via Africa, where Melania the Elder delivered a letter from her cousin Paulinus of Nola to Augustine. Around 404, Melania the Elder visited Bishop Augustine of Hippo on her return to Palestine. She died in Jerusalem about 410.

Copyright © 1998, Karen Rae Keck
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Pope Damasus I

The first pope to call Rome the Apostolic See, Pope/St. Damasus was born c. 305 in Rome and was exiled with Pope Liberius in 355. When Damasus returned to Rome, he served under antipope Felix II, who had been elected in place of the exiled Liberius. Damasus was reconsiled with Liberius in 358. At the time that Damasus was elected pope (366), Ursinus was elected pope by another faction. Damasus hired people to storm St. Julian's, where the antipope and his followers were holding court. After a 3-day battle, Damasus appealed to the prefect of the city who ousted Ursinus, some of whose followers took refuge in the Liberian basilica. Damasus' attack on the building left 137 dead. In 371, Damasus was was charged with an unknown offense (probably adultery) and acquitted when the emperor intervened. Opposed to Arianism, Damasus was unable to depose the Arian bishop of Milan and did not attend the Council of Constantinople in 381. St. Jerome was secretary to Damasus, who died in 384.

Karen Rae Keck

Copyright 1997, Karen Rae Keck
 This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,
including the header and this copyright remain intact.

See also:


  • St. Patrick's Church: Saints of January 26 - (Saint Paula)
  • Catholic Online -

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Created: Saturday, May 25, 2002; Last Updated: Wednesday, January 09, 2013
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