St. Caesar of Arles

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Caesar of Arles (470-542), also known as Caesarius of Arles, was the foremost ecclesiastic of his generation in Gaul (modern France) during the Merovingian Dynasty (derived from the Frankish barbarian warlord King Merovech).  Caesarius is considered to be of the last generation of church leaders that worked to promote large-scale ascetics (abstinence from sensual pleasures) into Gaul’s Christian tradition.

Caesarius was born with a very strong and intense feeling for religion which alienated him from the majority of his family and resulted in him leaving home at the age of seventeen to study under Bishop Sylvester.  He joined a monastery in Lerins, but later left to become Bishop of Arles. As bishop, Caesarius lived in a political world whose main theme was competition for Southern Gallic control among the Visigothic, Ostrogothic and Frankish kingdoms which led him to the constant ransoming of victims during these wars. The aftermath of war in 508 between the Burgundians and Franks and Visigothic and Ostrogothic kingdoms was devastating to its citizens. Peasants had no food supply and were in danger of enslavement, exile and death.  Caesar’s concern for the poor and sick was famous throughout and beyond Gaul as he regularly aided the sick and the poor and provided ransom for the peasants of his country who had been taken prisoners.  He also, controversially, ransomed numerous barbarians and enemies of the city.  While many of his countrymen were angered by this, he defended himself by stating that barbarians were human beings and therefore had the potential to enter the City of God.

A notary named Licinianus accused Caesarius of treachery to Alaric II, King of the Visigoths, and Caesarius was exiled to Bordeaux.  Upon the discovery of his innocence, he was allowed to return, where he interceded for the life of Licinianus.  In 512, when Arles was besieged by Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths, Caesarius was again accused of treachery and imprisoned, but King Theodoric dispelled the accusation and Caesarius was released.



  • Vita Caesarii
  • de Gratiâ et Libero Arbitrio
  • Regula virginum (Rule for Virgins)

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