Bishop of Brescia from about 387 until about 410; he was the successor of the writer on heresies, St. Philastrius. At the time of that saint's death Gaudentius was making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The people of Brescia bound themselves by an oath that they would accept no other bishop than Gaudentius; and St. Ambrose and other neighbouring prelates, in consequence, obliged him to return, though against his will. The Eastern bishops also threatened to refuse him Communion if he did not obey. We possess the discourse which he made before St. Ambrose and other bishops on the occasion of his consecration, in which he excuses, on the plea of obedience, his youth and his presumption in speaking. He had brought back with him from the East many precious relics of St. John Baptist and of the Apostles, and especially of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, relics of whom he had received at Caesarea in Cappadocia from nieces of St. Basil. These and other relics from Milan and elsewhere he deposited in a basilica which he named Concilium Sanctorum. His sermon on its dedication is extant. From a letter of St. Chrysostom (Ep. clxxxiv) to Gaudentius it may be gathered that the two saints had met at Antioch. When St. Chrysostom had been condemned to exile and had appealed to Pope Innocent and the West in 405, Gaudentius warmly took his part. An embassy to the Eastern Emperor Arcadius from his brother Honorius and from the pope, bearing letters frorn both and from Italian bishops, consisted of Gaudentius and two other bishops. The envoys were seized at Athens and sent to Constantinople, being three days on a ship without food. They were not admitted into the city, but were shut up in a fortress called Athyra, on the coast of Thrace. Their credentials were seized by force, so that the thumb of one of the bishops was broken, and they were offered a large sum of money if they would communicate with Atticus, who had supplanted St. Chrysostom. They were consoled by God, and St. Paul appeared to a deacon amongst them. They were eventually put on board an unseaworthy vessel, and it was said that the captain had orders to wreck them. However, they arrived safe at Lampsacus, where they took ship for Italy, and arrived in twenty days at Otranto. Their own account of their four months' adventures has been preserved to us by Palladius (Dialogus, 4). St. Chrysostom wrote them several grateful letters.
We possess twenty-one genuine tractates by Gaudentius. The first ten are a
series of Easter sermons, written down after delivery at the request of
Benivolus, the chief of the Brescian nobility, who had been prevented by ill
health from hearing them delivered. In the preface Gaudentius takes occasion to
disown all unauthorized copies of his sermons published by shorthand writers.
These pirated editions seem to have been known to Rufinus, who, in the
dedication to St. Gaudentius of his translation of the pseudo-Clementine
Recognitions, praises the intellectual gifts of thne Bishop of Brescia, saying
that even his extempore speaking is worthy of publication and of preservation by
posterity. The style of Gaudentius is simple, and his matter is good. His body
lies at Brescia in the Church of St. John Baptist, on the site of the Concilium
Sanctorum. His figure is frequently seen in the altar-pieces of the great
Brescian painters, Moretto Savoldo, and Romanino. The best edition of his works
is by Galeardi (Padua, 1720, and in P.L., XX).
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