Fragments of Letters and Homilies of Saint Avitus (Alcimus Ecdidius Avitus), Bishop of Vienne


Presented here is a fragment of a manuscript on papyrus, created in France in the sixth century. The manuscript was discovered in 1865 by Émile Dambreville, an employee in the Department of Manuscripts of the National Library of France, in another manuscript (Latin 11859) containing a treatise on birds. The text, in Latin, is a fragment of the homilies and letters of Saint Avitus (circa 450‒circa 518). Born into a prominent Gallo-Roman family, Avitus served as bishop of Vienne, in Gaul, from 490 to about 518. His literary fame rests on a poem of 2,552 hexameters, in five books, dealing with the scriptural narrative of Original Sin, Expulsion from Paradise, the Flood, and the Crossing of the Red Sea. The homilies of Avitus survive only in fragmentary form, as seen in this manuscript. Papyrus, an early form of paper produced from the papyrus plant in Egypt, was used in ancient Egypt and throughout the Mediterranean. In Europe it was gradually replaced by parchment made from animal skins and new forms of paper introduced from China, but it continued to be used for some purposes up to the 11th century.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

S. Avitus, Viennensis ep., Homiliae et Epistolae, fragmenta

Type of Item

Physical Description

15 folios, papyrus ; approximately 30 x 28 centimeter text on sheets of 39 x 43.5 centimeters


  1. Thomas Shahan, “St. Avitus,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907).

Last updated: August 15, 2017