Paulina (wife of Pammachius)

Paulina (died c. 397) was a late Roman aristocrat and philanthropist, who was the wife of Pammachius and the daughter of St Paula. Letters of condolence were written at her death by Paulinus of Nola and St Jerome.

Paulina, wife of Pammachius.png
Diedc. 397
Parent(s)Paula of Rome


Little is known about Paulina's early life. Her parents were St Paula and Toxotius, both were from Roman noble families.[1] They had five children: Toxotius, Blesilla, Paulina, Eustochium, and Rufina.[1]

In 385, the same year her mother left for the East, Paulina married Pammachius,[2] who was a Roman senator;[3] he was also her mother's cousin.[4] The couple lived in a domus on the site of what is now Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio in Rome.[5] A Christian shrine was built within their home, however the date of construction can only be narrowed to 385–410, so it is unclear the extent to which Paulina may have been involved in its construction.[5] In addition to the shrine, the house also featured murals of the Martyrdom of the St Crispo and it is likely that these were commissioned by Paulina.[5][6] She is depicted in part of the mural with her arms outstretched in welcome, with a figure, who is possibly her sister Rufina stood nearby.[5]


Paulina died during the birth of her son in 397.[3][7] After her death Pammachius inherited her property.[8] He soon after dedicated himself to a charitable works.[9] At her funeral feast, her husband invited a "large crowd of the poor and hungry" to share the banquet.[10] Pammachius and his friend Fabiola established a xenodochium in Paulina's honor, which provided hospitality to travellers on the river Tiber.[11]

Letters of condolence after Paulina's death were written to Pammachius, by Paulinus of Nola[10] and St Jerome.[12] Bearing in mind that Paulina died in childbirth, Jerome's letter stresses that bearing children was a precursor to her adoption of a life of chastity and sanctity.[13] He also wrote, in Epistle 66, discussing the alms which Pammachius dispensed, that: "Other husbands sprinkle violets, roses, lilies, and shining blossoms and alleviate the pain in their hearts by these good offices. Our Pammachius waters the sacred ashes and her venerable bones with balsams of alms."[14]


The historian Paola Moretti interprets Paulina as a device used to portray some women as praiseworthy.[15] Gunhild Vidén discusses Paulina's removal of her clothing after her conversion, as a depiction of her change from pleasure-seeking to a life of virtue.[7]


  1. ^ a b Online, Catholic. "St. Paula - Saints & Angels". Catholic Online. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  2. ^ Wace, Henry. "Paulina, Daughter of Paula". A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography]] 1911
  3. ^ a b "St. Pammachius". Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  4. ^ SMITH, RICHARD UPSHER (2009). "Saint Monica and Lady Philosophy". Carmina Philosophiae. 18: 93–125. ISSN 1075-4407. JSTOR 44078602.
  5. ^ a b c d Munk, A. (1 May 2009). "Domestic Piety in Fourth Century Rome: A Relic Shrine beneath the Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo". Hortus Artium Medievalium. 15 (1): 7–19. doi:10.1484/J.HAM.3.39. ISSN 1330-7274.
  6. ^ "Unbekanntes Rom: Auf den Spuren der frühen Christen - Vatican News". (in German). 1 November 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  7. ^ a b Vidén, Gunhild (1 January 1998). "St. Jerome on female chastity: Subjugating the elements of desire". Symbolae Osloenses. 73 (1): 139–157. doi:10.1080/00397679808590944. ISSN 0039-7679.
  8. ^ Ryan, William Granger (2012). The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-15407-7. JSTOR j.ctt7stkm.
  9. ^ "St. Pammachius | EWTN". EWTN Global Catholic Television Network. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  10. ^ a b Commemorating the dead : texts and artifacts in context : studies of Roman, Jewish, and Christian burials. Brink, Laurie, 1961-, Green, Deborah A. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. 2008. p. 133. ISBN 978-3-11-021157-3. OCLC 567903856.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ Watson, Sethina (24 July 2020). On Hospitals: Welfare, Law, and Christianity in Western Europe, 400-1320. Oxford University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-19-258676-6.
  12. ^ Tinti, Francesca, ed. (2014). England and Rome in the Early Middle Ages: Pilgrimage, Art, and Politics. Studies in the Early Middle Ages. Vol. 40. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers. p. 80. doi:10.1484/m.sem-eb.6.09070802050003050401060903. ISBN 978-2-503-54169-3.
  13. ^ Clark, Elizabeth A. (1 January 1997). "Sane Insanity: Women and Asceticism in Late Ancient Christianity". Medieval Encounters. 3 (3): 211–230. doi:10.1163/157006797X00152. ISSN 1570-0674.
  14. ^ Shanzer, Danuta (2008). "Bible, Exegesis, Literature, and Society". The Journal of Medieval Latin. 18: 130–157. doi:10.1484/J.JML.3.8. ISSN 0778-9750. JSTOR 45020098.
  15. ^ Moretti, Paola Francesca (18 December 2014). "Jerome's Epistolary Portraits of Holy Women: Some Remarks about Their Alleged Multilingualism". Journal of Late Antiquity. 7 (2): 280–297. doi:10.1353/jla.2014.0032. ISSN 1942-1273. S2CID 161744923.