In 430, the life of the most celebrated African theologian, Augustine of Hippo, came to its end at Hippo Regius, besieged by the Vandals. Notwithstanding the bishop’s monumental oeuvre, numbering more than a hundred works containing about seven million words or fifteen thousand printed pages, everything else seemed to go to ruin; as P. Brown puts it, in just a year, ‘there was nothing left of Augustine now but his library’.1 Many of those who belonged to his congregation died, others flew, and the remainder was expecting life under Vandal rule. The golden age of Africa had ended, and no one knew what would come next. However, it was not yet the end for the Catholic Church there.

Moreover, still, no matter how it became weakened by a century of struggle with the ‘party of Donatus’, no matter how her situation changed under Vandal rule, the Catholic Church lived on. It was no longer a privileged religious group. Instead, it became persecuted and many Catholic Romans lost their property, ended up in exile, saw their families enslaved or killed, or expected a violent death themselves. To many of them, it looked like the glorious days of persecution would be back, not from pagan Rome anymore, but from the hands of barbarians claiming to be Christian.

Even if the golden age, admired until now for its monumental philosophical, theological, and ascetic efforts, was now gone, the Church faced new challenges, having an opportunity, despite the changed circumstances, to prove as wise and heroic as previous generations that could have enjoyed more peaceful and abundant conditions for life and spiritual growth. The Church Fathers of the first four centuries managed to translate the faith of the first Christian believers coming from a Judaism rooted in the cultural and religious context of peripheral first-century Palestine to the cultural, philosophical, and religious language of the Hellenic culture shared by the whole Mediterranean. This did not bring decay to the original New Testament faith, but it instead allowed the planting of the Christian faith in new ground, in order that the Gospel could be accepted and lived there. Similarly, after Constantine’s turn, the Church adapted so that she could live in a changed political situation and she could reach those who were coming and help them transform their lives and not to accept the faith only for careerist or opportunist reasons. After Augustine’s death, a similar step awaited his disciples and the entire church in Africa as a whole: the ground had changed, but the Christian message was supposed to bring fruits and find its beauty even in the troubled times of change.

There are not as many witnesses for this period as for the timespan of Augustine’s life. What is more, Augustine influenced his disciples and many other bishops to the extent that many other African authors remain hidden to us under the codename ‘Pseudo-Augustine’. That does not mean that African texts ‘after Augustine’ are not interesting and that their theology does not contribute with anything new. In fact, these ‘Pseudo-Augustines’ testify that a little more than Augustine’s library was left, the circle of his friends, disciples, and those who profited from him when they ‘were able to hear him speaking in church and see him there present, especially if they were familiar with his manner of life among the fellow human beings’.2

Among them was also Quodvultdeus, a friend of Augustine and the bishop of Carthage in the decade after Augustine’s death. Although he does not belong among the most radiant stars of the Patristic sky, his pre-baptismal catecheses offer an intriguing testimony to the life of the Church in Africa at the beginning of the Vandal rule. They also witness to his endeavour to prepare those who wished to be baptised, to prepare thoroughly for their Christian life after the baptism. To these discourses, the following pages are dedicated.

The ministry of a bishop in the metropolis of Africa observed especially through the prism of Quodvultdeus’s pre-baptismal catecheses is the primary aim of this book. The identification of the works of this bishop is an achievement of the research that continued throughout the twentieth century; today’s consensus agrees that the author of the studied text is Quodvultdeus of Carthage.3 The complexity of the linguistic analysis of this quest for authenticity of the texts which R. Brown collected in his edition of the Corpus Christianorum series attracted the scholars’ attention to the philological and literary aspect of these writings.4 Quodvultdeus’s discourses have been used many times as a witness to the historical situation in Vandal Africa.5

The portion of the research dedicated to the theological topics is a minority in respect to the other areas. D. Van Slyke brought the first theological monograph dedicated to Quodvultdeus’s eschatology in his Liber promissionum.6 The motifs of the Holy Innocents in the context of African homiletic tradition have been studied.7 The theological aspects of the sermons attributed to Quodvultdeus have not yet attracted sufficient interest. To the baptismal and Christological context of Quodvultdeus’s sermons, a paper of R.J. De Simone has been dedicated, although the author mostly only very briefly notices the baptismal and Christological topics present in the bishop’s discourses.8 A. Isola studied the typology of the Passover Lamb present in these discourses.9 This Italian author also studies the Mariological aspect of African sermons.10 The introduction to three ‘creedal homilies’ by T.M. Finn touches both ritual and anti-heretical aspects of three of Quodvultdeus’s sermons.11 B. Degórski dedicated his research to some aspects of incarnation in the sermons on the creed.12 Although the historians of liturgy did not leave the pre-baptismal rites of the scrutiny and renunciation of the devil present in Quodvultdeus’s sermons unobserved,13 a wider theological understanding of Quodvultdeus’s ministry, as viewed through his pre-baptismal sermons, has not yet been studied.

His quest was to prepare well his catechumens for baptism and to introduce them to the deeper meaning of what the Christians gathered in the Church believe and celebrate. In doing so, he did not limit himself to celebrating the rite with them, but his preparation was much more thorough. To deliver such a pre-baptismal, mystagogical catechesis, he had theological grounds to do that. That is why Quodvultdeus’s catechesis present in the pre-baptismal sermons is the primary objective of this book. What did he do in these catecheses? How did he approach his audience, what was his method? Why did he proceed in his baptismal curriculum as he did? What were his theological positions on which he built his teaching?

The corpus of these discourses has been established given their occasion and topic. Nine of the sermons—Contra Iudaeos, Paganos, et Arrianos (CIPA), De symbolo IIII (S1–3), De cantico novo (CN), De ultima quarta feria (UQF), De cataclysmo (C), and De accedentibus ad gratiam (A1–2)—will be particularly considered. The critical edition of R. Braun (CCL 60) has been used for the research.14

As I have mentioned, the perspective of this book is primarily a theological one. Given the multidisciplinary approach to today’s Patristic studies, the research conscientiously builds upon studies especially in late ancient history, archaeology, philosophy, history of art, history of religion, philology, and other disciplines. Theology cannot deny its historical character, as it primarily is a ‘history of salvation’: God’s revelation and dealings with man happen in history, in concrete temporal-spatial coordinates. That is why a historical overview and setting of Quodvultdeus’s works are considered essential for the comprehension and theological interpretation of Quodvultdeus’s works. At the same time, the reader and interpreter of Quodvultdeus’s homilies—as well as of any other religious or theological texts—in principle cannot be ‘neutral’ or above his own intellectual and religious stance when he approaches the literary and historical documents that are at stake. Theologically, I find myself a part of the tradition to which belonged also Augustine, Quodvultdeus, and many other Church Fathers, as well as much later theologians and saints of the Middle Ages and modern times and which is called ‘Catholic’. This tradition has defined—or better, has struggled to find—its orthodoxy, and being convinced of the objective character of truth, cannot imagine more than one orthodoxy, although it can express itself in multifarious ways. The choice of this theological tradition can be easily justified by the fact that Quodvultdeus considered himself part of the same tradition too.

The book is divided into three parts. The first of these parts might not be as interesting for those who are familiar with the historical and religious situation of North Africa, particularly in the 430s, with Quodvultdeus’s life and writings attributed to him, and with Augustine’s care for the catechumens: they are encouraged to skip this. Nonetheless, three steps are necessary to set the background for the exposition in this book to understand the preaching addressed primarily to the populace of Carthage in the 430s. Chapter One deals with the arrival of the Vandals to North Africa and with the religious situation of this part of the world, especially just before and during Quodvultdeus’s episcopacy in Carthage. Such a context is considered crucial for the right reading and interpretation of his pre-baptismal catecheses, especially for Quodvultdeus’s anti-heretical language that can be read today as severe and harsh. Chapter Two presents Quodvultdeus’s life and work. The life story of this deacon and later bishop of Carthage would also be helpful in order to understand his discourses, and it is also important to ask during which years Quodvultdeus’s episcopacy took place: a question that seems to be crucial for dating his sermons. The other subsection studies the authenticity of works attributed to him, together with the history of the scholarship related to this problem. This would permit working with the pre-catechetical discourses and other works as with an oeuvre of a single author, identified with the bishop Quodvultdeus. Chapter Three touches already the theological and liturgical issue of the catechumenate as the period of preparation for baptism in the life and work of Augustine, friend and master of Quodvultdeus. As Augustine’s theology was a natural background for Quodvultdeus’s thinking and practice, the baptismal preparation in the works of the bishop of Hippo seems like a perfect background, given the number of witnesses, for further inquiry for the same institution in Quodvultdeus’s Carthage.

Part Two commences by dealing specifically with Quodvultdeus’s pre-baptismal catecheses and builds upon the previous presentation of Part One. In this part, a thorough examination of the catechumenate institutions in Quodvultdeus’s Carthage, as present in his pre-baptismal catecheses, will be made. The single stages of the preparation will be presented, but with special care not to interpolate the missing gaps from Augustine’s material and not to harmonise the procedures with the limited material we have from other authors who deal with baptismal preparation in Late Antiquity. The aim of Chapter Four is to investigate the initial period of the entrance into the catechumenate and the first stage of the catechumenate which would culminate with giving one’s name for baptism several weeks before Easter, when the sacrament was supposed to be administered, including the witness brought by the sermon De cantico novo. Chapter Five pays attention to those pre-baptismal rites where Quodvultdeus’s discourses offer more material than any other Patristic document: the scrutiny, including exorcisms and renunciation of the devil, his pomps, and angels, and the handing over of the baptismal creed (traditio symboli). These rites held particular importance for the bishop of Carthage, as there are six sermons at our disposal delivered on that occasion (CIPA, S1–3, and A1–2). Chapter Six is devoted to the time of preparation immediately before baptism, as witnessed by two sermons De ultima quarta feria and De cataclysmo, which include very powerful typologies that led the audience to understand the meaning of the baptism they were to receive.

The third and final part of the book turns the attention towards what Quodvultdeus’s tried to achieve in his ministry as a bishop. Chapter Seven concentrates upon the means he used to build and educate the community of his church. It presents his ecclesiology that can be seen as a fundament of his theology presented to the candidates for baptism and also two methods he used to enlighten his flock on the meaning of God’s action in the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist: the typological exegesis of the Bible and the mystagogical method that taught them how to perceive the invisible realities present beyond the visible signs in the reality they were going to enter. Chapter Eight, lastly, tries to portray how Quodvultdeus set limits to his community, trying to keep them safe from anything that could endanger their prospect of salvation and eternal life. Is the anti-heretical language present in his homilies just a sign of intolerance and desire for power, or could it be read as a kind of spiritual warfare the candidates would enter with their baptism? Was the Church more a political and social entity that competed with any other political or religious power, or did he envision the Church primarily as a spiritual body? In other words, is it possible to understand better the passages of Quodvultdeus’s catecheses using the immediate liturgical and catechetical context of these discourses? I consider this final chapter as offering new directions on how to read and understand Quodvultdeus’s sermons.


Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 437.


Possidius, v. Aug. 31. 9 (LCPM 45: 312; tr. O’Connell 130): qui eum et loquentem in ecclesiam praesentem audire et videre potuerunt, et eius praesertim inter homines conversationem non ignoraverunt.


See Chapter Two below.


See especially Germain Morin, ‘Notes d’ ancien littérature ecclésiastique’, RB 13 (1896), 337–347; Id., ‘Pour une future édition des opuscules de saint Quoduultdeus, éveque de Carthage au Ve siècle’, RB 31 (1914–1919), 156–162; Id., Sancti Aureli Augustini tractatus sive sermones inediti ex Codice Guelferbytano 4096 (Kempten: Kösel, 1917); Prosper Schepens, ‘Un traité à restituer à saint Quodvultdeus évêque de Carthage au Ve siècle’, RechSR 10 (1919), 230–243; Desiderius Franses, Die Werke des hl. Quodvultdeus, Bischofs von Karthago gestorben um 453 (München: Verlag der J.J. Lentnerschen Buchhandlung, 1920); Id., ‘Een nieuwe kerkvader’, De Katholiek 162 (1922), 93–104; Prosper Schepens, ‘Les œuvres de saint Quodvultdeus’, RechSR 13 (1923), 76–78; Alfred Kappelmacher, ‘Echte und unechte Predigten Augustins’, WS 49 (1931), 89–102; A.D. Nock, ‘Two Notes’, VigChr 3 (1949), 48–56; Manlio Simonetti, ‘Studi sulla letteratura cristiana d’Africa in età vandalica’, Rendiconti Istituto Lombardo—Classe di Lettere 83 (1950), 407–424; Cyrille Lambot Critique interne et sermons de saint Augustin (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1957), 122 f.; Jorgen Raasted, ‘A Fragment of an Unidentified Latin Sermon, Textually Related to Ps.-Augustinus Sermo 106’, in SP 3 (1961): 108–115; Richard G. Kalkman, ‘Two Sermons: De Tempore Barbarico Attributed to St. Quodvultdeus, Bishop of Carthage: A Study of Text and Attribution with Translation and Commentary’, PhD Thesis (Catholic University of America, 1964); René Braun, ‘Introduction’, in Quodvultdeus, Livre des promesses et des prédictions de Dieu (SC 101; Paris: Cerf, 1964), 13–130; Pierre Courcelle, Histoire littéraire des grandes invasions germaniques (3rd edn.; Paris: Études augustiniennes, 1964); Id., ‘Quodvultdeus redivivus’, Révue des Études Anciennes 67/1–2 (1965), 165–170; Pierre-Maurice Bogaert, ‘Sermon sur le Cantique de la Vigne attribuable à Quodvultdeus’, RB 75 (1965), 109–135; Michele Pellegrino, ‘Intorno a Quodvultdeus, De promissionibus ac praedictionibus Dei’, RSLR 2 (1966), 240–245; Yvette Duval, ‘Un nouveau lecteur probable de l’ Histoire ecclésiastique de Rufin d’ Aquilée: l’ auteur du «Liber promissionum et praedictorum Dei»’, Latomus 26 (1967), 762–777; René Braun, ‘Introduction’, in CCL 60 (1976): i–cvi; Manlio Simonetti, ‘Note sul testo di alcuni passi di opere attribuite a Quodvultdeus’, RFIC 106 (1978), 291–299; Id., ‘Qualche riflessione su Quodvultdeus di Cartagine’, RSLR 14 (1978), 201–207; Id., La produzione letteraria latina fra Romani e barbari (sec. VVIII) (Roma: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1986), 35–39; Philippe Bruggisser, ‘Le char du préfet. Echos païens et chrétiens d’ une polémique dans l’ Histoire Auguste et chez Quodvultdeus’, in Historiae Augustae Colloquium Parisinum, ed. G. Bonamente and N. Duval (Macerata: Università degli studi di Macerata, 1991), 93–100; Manlio Simonetti, ‘Di alcuni caratteri specifici della letteratura africana nei secoli V e VI’, in Cristianesimo e specificità regionali nel Mediterraneo latino (secc. IVVI). XXII Incontro di Studiosi dell’antichità cristiana, Roma, 6–8 maggio 1993 (Roma: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1994), 127–136; Vingt-six sermons au peuple d’ Afrique, ed. François Dolbeau (Paris: Institut d’ Études Augustiniennes, 1996); Wolfgang Strobl, ‘Notitiolae quodvultdeanae’, VigChr 52/2 (1998), 193–203; Antonio V. Nazzaro, ‘Quoduultdeus: un vescovo dell’Africa vandalica a Napoli’, in Società multiculturali nei secoli VIX: scontri, convivenza, integrazione nel Mediterraneo occidentale; atti delle VII Giornate di Studio sull’Età Romanobarbarica, Benevento, 31 maggio–2 giugno 1999 (Napoli: Arte Tipografica, 2001), 33–52; Id., ‘La produzione omiletica del vescovo di Cartagine Quoduultdeus’, in Le forme e i luoghi della predicazione. Atti del Seminario internazionale di studi (Macerata 21–23 novembre 2006), ed. G. Frenguelli and C. Micaelli (Macerata: eum, 2009), 27–67; Id., ‘Contro giudei, pagani ed eretici: reazione religiosa e politica all’invasione dei Vandali ariani di Quoduultdeus vescovo di Cartagine (V sec.)’, Auctores Nostri 14 (2014), 513–552; Felicien Mbonigaba, La Traditio Symboli nell’Africa cristiana all’epoca dell’invasione dei Vandali (Roma: LAS, 2015); Robin Whelan, ‘Surrogate Fathers: Imaginary Dialogue and Patristic Culture in Late Antiquity’, EME 25/1 (2017), 19–37.


For example, Jean-Louis Maier, L’ épiscopat de l’ Afrique romaine, vandale et byzantine (Rome: Institut Suisse do Rome, 1973); Walter A. Goffart, Barbarians and Romans, AD418–584: The Techniques of Accommodation (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980); Manlio Simonetti, ‘L’intellettuale cristiano di fronte alle invasioni barbariche in Occidente’, in Il comportamento dell’intellettuale nella società antica (Genova: Università di Genova, 1980), 93–117; Antonino Isola, ‘Temi di impegno civile nell’omiletica africana di età vandalica’, VetChr 22 (1985), 273–289; Robert B. Eno ‘Christian Reaction to the Barbarian Invasions and the Sermons of Quodvultdeus’, in Preaching in the Patristic Age. Studies in Honour of Walter J. Burghardt, SJ, ed. D.G. Hunter (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1989), 139–161; Antonino Isola, I cristiani dell’Africa vandalica nei sermones del tempo (429–534) (Milano: Jaca Book, 1990); Hervé Inglebert, ‘Un exemple historiographique au Ve siècle: la conception de l’ histoire chez Quodvultdeus de Carthage et ses relations avec la «Cité de Dieu»’, REA 37/2 (1991), 307–320; P.S. Barnwell, Emperor, Prefects, and Kings. The Roman West, 395–565 (Chapel Hill—London: University of North Carolina Press—Duckworth, 1992); Raúl Gónzalez Salinero, ‘Invasión y retroceso de la Iglesia en el norte de África: Quodvultdeus de Cartago frente a vándalos y arrianos’, in Arqueólogos, historiadores y filólogos: homenaje a Fernando Gascó (n. p.: Kolaios, 1995), ii. 479–492; Id., ‘The Anti-Judaism of Quodvultdeus in the Vandal and Catholic Context of the 5th Century in North Africa’, REJ 155/3–4 (1996), 447–459; François Decret, Le christianisme en Afrique du Nord ancienne (Paris: Seuil, 1996); Antonino Isola, ‘Note sulle eresie nell’Africa del periodo vandalico’, VetChr 34 (1997), 231–249; María Elvira Gil Egea, África en tiempos de los vándalos: continuidad y mutaciones de las estructuras sociopolíticas romanas (Alcalá de Henares: Universidad de Alcalá, 1998); Raúl Gónzalez Salinero, El antijudaísmo cristiano occidental, siglos IV y V. Colección Estructuras y procesos (Madrid: Editorial Trotta, 2000); Id., ‘La invasión vándala en los Sermones de Quodvultdeus de Cartago’, Florenta Iliberritana 12 (2001), 221–237; Id., Poder y conflicto religioso en el norte de África: Quodvultdeus de Cartago y los vándalos (Madrid: Signifer Libros, 2002); Alessandra Rodolfi, ‘A Difficult Co-Existence in Vandal Africa: King Geiseric and the Catholics,’ in SP 39 (2006), 117–123; Antonino Isola, ‘Note sulle eresie nell’Africa del periodo vandalico’, in Lente pertexere telam: saggi di letteratura cristiana tardoantica (Spoleto: Fondazione CISAM, 2011), 67–87; Elena Zocca, ‘Mutazioni della tipologia martiriale in età vandalica: un diverso punto di osservazione sulla ‘persecutio’ anticattolica’, in Hagiologica. Studi per Réginald Grégoire, ed. A. Bartolomei Romagnoli, U. Paoli, and P. Piatti (Fabriano: Monastero San Silvestro Abate, 2012), 597–631; Robin Whelan, ‘Arianism in Africa’, in Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed, ed. G.M. Berndt and R. Steinacher (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 239–255; Bruno Pottier, ‘Les donatistes, l’ arianisme et le royaume vandale’, in Littérature, politique et religion en Afrique vandale, ed. É. Wolff (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), 109–126; Robin Whelan, Being Christian in Vandal Africa: The Politics of Orthodoxy in the Post-Imperial West (Oakland, Cal.: University of California Press, 2018).


Daniel G. Van Slyke, Quodvultdeus of Carthage: The Apocalyptic Theology of a Roman African in Exile (Strathfield: St Pauls Publications, 2003).


Francesco Scorza Barcellona, ‘La celebrazione dei santi Innocenti nell’omiletica latina dei secoli IVVI’, SM 15 (1974), 705–767.


Russel J. De Simone, ‘The Baptismal and Christological Catechesis of Quodvultdeus’, Aug 25 (1985), 265–282.


Antonino Isola, ‘La tipologia dell’Agnello pasquale in [Quodvultdeus]’, in Sangue e antropologia, V. Riti e culto, ed. F. Vattioni (Roma: Pia Unione Preziosissimo Sangue, 1987), ii. 1203–1211.


Antonino Isola, ‘Mariologia comunitaria nell’omiletica africana di età vandalica’, in Lente pertexere telam, 57–65.


Thomas M. Finn, The Creedal Homilies (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004), 1–22.


Bazyli Degórski, ‘Il mistero dell’incarnazione nel commento al «simbolo apostolico» di San Quodvultdeus di Cartagine’, VoxP 35/64 (2015), 119–130.


M.-É. Boismard, ‘ “I Renounce Satan, his Pomps, and his Works” ’, in Baptism in the New Testament: A Symposium (Baltimore: Helicon, 1964), 107–114; Victor Saxer, Les rites de l’ initiation chrétienne du IIe au VIe siècle (Spoleto: CISAM, 1988), 401–416; Thomas M. Finn, From Death to Rebirth. Ritual and Conversion in Antiquity (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1997): Vittorino Grossi, La catechesi battesimale agli inizi del V secolo (Roma: Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, 1993); William Harmless, Augustine and the Catechumenate (1st edn.; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1995); Thomas M. Finn, ‘Quodvultdeus: The Preacher and the Audience. The Homilies on the Creed’, in SP 31 (1997), 42–58; Id., ‘It Happened One Saturday Night: Ritual and Conversion in Augustine’s North Africa’, JAAR 58/4 (1998), 589–616; Henry Ansgar Kelly, The Devil at Baptism: Ritual, Theology, and Drama (Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 106–122; Daniel G. Van Slyke, ‘The Devil and His Pomps in Fifth-Century Carthage: Renouncing Spectacula with Spectacular Imagery’, DOP 59 (2005), 53–72; Dominic E. Serra, ‘New Observations about the Scrutinies of the Elect in Early Roman Practice.’ Worship 80/6 (2006), 511–527; Daniel G. Van Slyke, ‘Breathing Blessing, Bestowing the Spirit: “Insufflatio” as a Distinct Ritual Gesture in Ancient Christian Initiation,’ EphL 121/3 (2007), 301–327; Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church. History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids, Mich.—Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2009); Matthieu Pignot, ‘Questioning Christian Baptism: Insights from Augustine’s Correspondence’, RHE 111/3–4 (2016), 452–482; Id., ‘The catechumenate in late antique Africa: Augustine of Hippo, his contemporaries and early recognition (ca. 360–530 AD)’, PhD thesis (Oxford, 2016), 172–222.


Turnholti: Brepols, 1976.