Vigilantius (fl. c. 400) the Christian presbyter, celebrated as the author of a work, no longer extant, against a number of orthodox catholic practices, which inspired one of the most violent of Jerome's polemical treatises.
Life and legacy
Vigilantius was born about 370 at Calagurris in Aquitania, where his father kept an inn on the great Roman road from Gallia Aquitania to Spain. While still a youth his talent became known to Sulpicius Severus, who had estates in that neighborhood, and in 395 Sulpicius, who probably baptized him, sent him with letters to Paulinus of Nola, where he met with a friendly reception.
On his return to Severus in Gaul he was ordained; and, having soon afterwards inherited means through the death of his father, he set out for Palestine, where he was received with great respect by St Jerome at Bethlehem. The stay of Vigilantius lasted for some time; but, as was almost inevitable, he was dragged into the dispute then raging about Origen of Alexandria, in which he accused Jerome of being an Origenist.
On his return to the West he was the bearer of a letter from Jerome to Paulinus, and at various places where he stopped on the way he appears to have expressed himself about Jerome in a manner that when reported gave great offence to that father, and provoked him to write a reply (Ep. 61). Vigilantius now settled for some time in Gaul, and is said by one authority (Gennadius) to have afterwards held a charge in the diocese of Barcelona. About 403, some years after his return from the East, Vigilantius wrote his celebrated work against some church practices, in which he argued against the veneration of relics, as also against the vigils in the basilicas of the martyrs, then so common, the sending of alms to Jerusalem, the rejection of earthly goods and the attribution of special virtue to the unmarried state, especially in the case of the clergy.
He was especially indignant in the veneration of saints and their relics. All that is known of his work is through Jerome's treatise Contra Vigilantium, or, as that controversialist would seem to prefer saying, Contra Dormitantium. Soon, the great influence of Jerome in the Western Church caused its leaders to support all his positions, and Vigilantius gradually came to be ranked in popular opinion among heretics, though his influence remained potent for a time in both France and Spain, as is proved by the polemical tract of Faustus of Rhegium (d. c. 490).
- The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church by F. L. Cross (Editor), E. A. Livingstone (Editor) Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition p.1697 (March 13, 1997)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Vigilantius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 60.
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