Fulgentius of Ruspe

Not to be confused with Saint Fulgentius of Cartagena and probably not to be confused with Fabius Planciades Fulgentius, the 5th-century African author of the Mythologies.
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe
Abbot and Bishop
Born c. 465
Thelepte, Western Roman Empire
Died 1 January 527(527-01-01) or 533
Ruspe, Kingdom of the Vandals
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 1 January and 3 January (Augustinian Order)[1]

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (462 or 467 – 1 January 527 or 533) was bishop of the city of Ruspe, North Africa during the 5th and 6th century. He was also canonized as a Christian saint.


Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius[2] was born in the year 462 at Telepte (modern-day Medinet-el-Kedima), Tunisia, North Africa. He was born into a senatorial family.[1] His grandfather, Gordianus, was a senator of Carthage and was despoiled of his possessions by the invader Genseric, however he banished to Italy. His two sons returned after his death, even though their house in Carthage had been taken over by Arian priests, they recovered some property in Byzacene.[3]

His father, Claudius, died while Fulgentius was still quite young. His mother, Mariana, taught him to speak Greek and Latin. Fulgentius became particularly good at the former, even speaking it like a native. His biographer says that at an early age Fulgentius committed all Homer to memory.[3] He quickly gained wide respect for his conduct of the family affairs. This reputation helped him to acquire a post as a procurator or tax collector of Byzacena. He quickly grew tired of the material life, and together with his studies of religion, particularly a sermon of Augustine of Hippo on Psalm 36, which dealt with the transitory nature of physical life, determined him to become a monk.

Around the year 499 he set out to join the hermits of the Thebaid in Egypt, but changed his mind was once he learned from Eulalius, bishop of Syracuse, of the influence of monophysitism on Egyptian monasticism.[4]

He applied to Faustus, a bishop who had been forced from his diocese by the Vandal king Huneric and later set up a monastery at Byzacena. Faustus had serious concerns about Fulgentius's physical weakness, which might have made him a poor candidate fit the rigorous life of the monastery, and tried to dissuade the twenty-two-year-old Fulgentius from his request. As Fulgentius persisted, though, Faustus relented and admitted him on a trial basis.[5]

When learning of this, Mariana, who evidently had never been told of Fulgentius's wish, was very upset. She rushed to the gates of the monastery, demanding to know how a church which was supposed to protect widows could rob this widow of her only son. Her protestations were ineffective, however, and Fulgentius was ultimately confirmed in his vocation.[5]

Renewed attacks on the area forced Fulgentius to leave for another nearby monastery. The abbot there, Felix, gave Fulgentius the duty of managing the temporal affairs of the monastery, while he himself managed the spiritual affairs. The two of them worked quite well together, and, in 499, during another Arian persecution in the area, fled for Sicca Veneria. There they preached the catholic Chalcedonian teaching regarding the two natures of Jesus. Upon learning of this, a local Arian priest had them arrested and tortured.

In 500, he visited Rome, where he prayed at the tombs of the apostles. His visit coincided with a formal address to the people by king Theodoric, which confirmed him in his low esteem for the vanity of this world. He then returned to Byzacena, where he built a monastery, electing to live in an isolated cell. Fulgentius's reputation quickly spread, and he was frequently offered the post of bishop of one of the dioceses which had been vacated through the actions of the Arian king Thrasamund. He chose not to accept these offers, knowing Thrasamund had specifically ordered that only Arians be permitted to fill those sees.[5]

Bishop of Ruspe

In 502 Fulgentius was persuaded to take the post of bishop of Ruspe in Tunisia.[4] He made a strong impression on the people of his new diocese with his obvious virtues, but was soon banished to Sardinia with some sixty other bishops who did not hold the Arian position. Pope Symmachus knew of their plight and sent them annual provisions of food and money.

While in Sardinia, Fulgentius turned a house in Cagliari into a monastery, and determined to write a number of works to help instruct the Christians of Africa. In 515, he returned to Africa, having been summoned there by Thrasamund for a public debate with his Arian replacement. His book An Answer to Ten Objections is supposed to have been collected from the answers he had made to their objections to the catholic Nicene position. Thrasamund was impressed by Fulgentius' knowledge and learning. Not wanting these persuasive statements to fall into the hands of his Arian subjects, possibly creating social discord, he ordered that all Fulgentius' future statements be delivered only orally. Fulgentius responded with a rebuttal of the Arian position, now known as the Three Books to King Thrasamund. Thrasamund's respect for Fulgentius grew, leading him to allow Fulgentius to stay in Carthage, but then renewed complaints from the local Arian clergy caused him to banish Fulgentius back to Sardinia in 520. He founded several communities not only in Africa, but also in Sardinia.[1]

In 523, following the death of Thrasamund and the accession of his catholic son Hilderic, Fulgentius was allowed to return to Ruspe and try to convert the populace to the catholic position. He worked to reform many of the abuses which had infiltrated his old diocese in his absence. The power and effectiveness of his preaching was so profound that his archbishop, Boniface of Carthage, wept openly every time he heard Fulgentius preach, and publicly thanked God for giving such a great preacher to his church.[5]

Tensions with a certain Quodvultdeus over precedence appear to have been overcome by Fulgentius' modest concession.

Later, Fulgentius retired to a monastery on the island of Circinia (Kerkenna), but was recalled to Ruspe, and served there until his death on 1 January 527[4] or 533.[3]


The Life of Fulgentius, generally attributed to Ferrandus of Carthage, but more recently to Redemptus a monk of Telepte (A.Isola) is valuable also as a record of migrations of social élites to Italy, Sicily and Sardinia due to vicissitudes of the Vandal rulers in North Africa, of navigation in the Western Mediterranean, estate management and the development of an episcopal monastic familia.


As a theologian, Fulgentius's work shows knowledge of Greek and a strong agreement with Augustine of Hippo. He wrote frequently against Arianism and Pelagianism. Some letters and eight sermons survive by Fulgentius. During the Middle Ages, he was conflated with Fabius Planciades Fulgentius and considered the author of the famous Mythologies, but this identification is now questioned.



Fulgentius writes in his Letter to Peter on the Faith: "Hold most firmly and never doubt that the same Holy Spirit, who is the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeds from the Father and the Son. For the Son says, 'When the Spirit of Truth comes, who has proceeded from the Father,' where he taught that the Spirit is his, because he is the Truth."[6]


His saint's day is January 1, the day of his death. His relics were transferred to Bourges in France around 714. They were later destroyed during the French Revolution.[5]


  1. 1 2 3 "Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe". West Coast Augustinians, Province of St. Augustine. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  2. Jones, Terry. "Fulgentius of Ruspe". Patron Saints Index. Archived from the original on February 24, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  3. 1 2 3 Chapman, John. "St. Fulgentius." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 3 Mar. 2015
  4. 1 2 3 "Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop", Order of Saint Augustine
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Burns, Paul. Butler's Lives of the Saints:New Full Edition. Collegeville, MN:The Liturgical Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8146-2377-8.
  6. St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, Letter to Peter on the Faith II. 54.

Further reading

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