The Life of St. Paul the Apostle
St. Paul the apostle, after his conversion, suffered many persecutions, the which the blessed Hilary rehearseth shortly, saying: Paul the Apostle was beaten with rods at Philippi, he was put in prison, and by the feet fast set in stocks, he was stoned in Lystra. In Iconia and Thessalonica he was pursued of wicked people. In Ephesus he was delivered to wild beasts. In Damascus he was let by a lepe down of the wall. In Jerusalem he was arrested, beaten, bound, and awaited to be slain. In Cæsarea he was inclosed and defamed. Sailing toward Italy he was in peril of death, and from thence he came to Rome and was judged under Nero, and there finished his life. This saith St. Hilary: Paul took upon him to be apostle among the Gentiles. In Lystra was a contract which he lost and redressed. A young man that fell out of a window and died, he raised to life, and did many other miracles. At the Isle of Melita a serpent bit his hand, and hurted him not, and he threw it into the fire. It is said that all they that came of the progeny and lineage of that man that then harbored Paul may in no wise be hurt of no venemous beasts, wherefore when their children be born they put serpents in their cradles for to prove if they be verily their children or no. In some place it is said that Paul is less than Peter, otherwhile more, and sometimes equal and like, for in dignity he is less, in preaching greater, and in holiness they be equal. Haymo saith that Paul, from the cock-crow until the hour of five, he labored with his hands, and after entended to preaching, and that endured almost to night, the residue of the time was for to eat, sleep, and for prayer, which was necessary. He came to Rome when Nero was not fully confirmed in the empire, and Nero hearing that there was disputing and questions made between Paul and the Jews, he, recking not much thereof, suffered Paul to go where he would, and preach freely. Jeronimus saith in his book, De viris illustribus, that the thirty-sixth year after the Passion of our Lord, the second year of Nero, St. Paul was sent to Rome bound, and two years he was in free keeping and disputed against the Jews, and after, he was let go by Nero, and preached the gospel in the west parts. And the fourteenth year of Nero, the same year and day that Peter was crucified, his head was smitten off. Hæc Jeronimus. The wisdom and religion of him was published over all, and was reputed marvellous. He gat to him many friends in the emperor's house and converted them to the faith of Christ, and some of his writings were recited and read tofore the emperor, and of all men marvellously commended, and the senate understood of him by things of authority.
It happed on a day that Paul preached about evensong time in a loft, a young man named Patroclus, butler of Nero, and with him well-beloved, went for to see the multitude of people, and the better for to hear Paul he went up into a window, and there sleeping, fell down and died, which when Nero heard he was much sorry and heavy therefor, and anon ordered another in his office. Paul knowing hereof by the Holy Ghost, said to them standing by him that they should go and bring to him Patroclus, which was dead, and that the emperor loved so much. Whom when he was brought, he raised to life and sent him with his fellows to the emperor, whom the emperor knew for dead, and, while he made lamentation for him, it was told to the emperor that Patroclus was come to the gate. And when he heard that Patroclus was alive he much marvelled, and commanded that he should come in. To whom Nero said: Patroclus, livest thou? And he said: Yea, emperor, I live; and Nero said: Who hath made thee to live again? And he said: The Lord Jesu Christ, king of all worlds. Then Nero being wroth said: Then shall he reign ever and resolve all the royaumes of the world? To whom Patroclus said: Yea, certainly, emperor; then Nero gave to him a buffet, saying: Therefore thou servest him, and he said: Yea, verily, I serve him that hath raised me from death to life. Then five of the ministers of Nero, that assisted him, said to him: O emperor, why smitest thou this young man, truly and wisely answering to thee? Trust verily we serve that same King Almighty. And when Nero heard that he put them in prison, for strongly to torment them, whom he much had loved. Then he made to inquire and to take all Christian men, and without examination made them to be tormented with overgreat torments. Then was Paul among others bound and brought tofore Nero, to whom Nero said: O thou man, servant of the great King, bound tofore me, why withdrawest thou my knights and drawest them to thee? To whom Paul said: Not only from thy corner I have gathered knights, but also I gather from the universal world to my Lord, to whom our king giveth such gifts that never shall fail, and granteth that they shall be excluded from all indigence and need; and if thou wilt be to him subject, thou shalt be safe, for he is of so great power that he shall come and judge all the world, and destroy the figure thereof by fire. And when Nero heard that he should destroy the figure of the world by fire, he commanded that all the Christian men should be burned by fire, and Paul to be beheaded, as he that is guilty against his majesty. And so great a multitude of Christian people were slain then, that the people of Rome brake up his palace and cried and moved sedition against him, saying: Cæsar, amend thy manners and attemper thy commandments, for these be our people that thou destroyest, and defend the empire of Rome. The emperor then dreading the noise of the people, changed his decree and edict that no man should touch ne hurt no Christian man till the emperor had otherwise ordained, wherefore Paul was brought again tofore Nero, whom as soon as Nero saw, he cried and said: Take away this wicked man and behead him, and suffer him no longer to live upon the earth. To whom Paul said: Nero, I shall suffer a little while, but I shall live eternally with my Lord Jesu Christ. Nero said: Smite off his head, that he may understand me stronger than his king, that when he is overcome we may see whether he may live after. To whom Paul said: To the end that thou know me to live everlastingly, when my head shall be smitten off, I shall appear to thee living, and then thou mayst know that Christ is God of life and of death. And when he had said this he was led to the place of his martyrdom, and as he was led, the three knights that led him said to him: Tell to us, Paul, who is he your king that ye love so much that for his love ye had liefer die than live, and what reward shall ye have therefor? Then Paul preached to them of the kingdom of heaven and of the pain of hell, in such wise that he converted them to the faith, and they prayed him to go freely whither he would. God forbid, brethren, said he, that I should flee, I am not fugitive, but the lawful knight of Christ. I know well that from this transitory life I shall go to everlasting life. As soon as I shall be beheaded, true men shall take away my body; mark ye well the place, and come thither to-morrow, and ye shall find by my sepulchre two men, Luke and Titus, praying. To whom when ye shall tell for what cause I have sent you to them, they shall baptize you and make you heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
And whiles they thus spake together, Nero sent two knights to look if he were slain and beheaded or no, and when thus St. Paul would have converted them, they said: When thou art dead and risest again, then we shall believe, now come forth and receive that thou hast deserved. And as he was led to the place of his passion in the gate of Hostence, a noble woman named Plautilla, a disciple of Paul, who after another name was called Lemobia, for haply she had two names, met there with Paul, which weeping, commended her to his prayers. To whom Paul said: Farewell, Plautilla, daughter of everlasting health, lend to me thy veil or keverchief with which thou coverest thy head, that I may bind mine eyes therewith, and afterward I shall restore it to thee again. And when she had delivered it to him, the butchers scorned her, saying: Why hast thou delivered to this enchanter so precious a cloth for to lose it? Then, when he came to the place of his passion, he turned him toward the east, holding his hands up to heaven right long, with tears praying in his own language and thanking our Lord; and after that bade his brethren farewell, and bound his eyes himself with the keverchief of Plautilla, and kneeling down on both knees, stretched forth his neck, and so was beheaded. And as soon as the head was from the body, it said: Jesus Christus! which had been to him so sweet in his life. It is said that he named Jesus or Christus, or both, fifty times. From his wound sprang out milk into the clothes of the knight, and afterward flowed out blood. In the air was a great shining light, and from the body came a much sweet odor.
Dionysius, in an epistle to Timothy, saith of the death of Paul thus: In that hour full of heaviness, my well-beloved brother, the butcher, saying: Paul, make ready thy neck; then blessed Paul looked up into heaven marking his forehead and his breast with the sign of the cross, and then said anon: My Lord Jesus Christ, into thy hands I commend my spirit, etc. And then without heaviness and compulsion he stretched forth his neck and received the crown of martyrdom, the butcher so smiting off his head. The blessed martyr Paul took the keverchief, and unbound his eyes, and gathered up his own blood, and put it therein and delivered to the woman, Then the butcher returned, and Plautilla met him and demanded him, saying: Where hast thou left my master? The knight answered: He lieth without the town with one of his fellows, and his visage is covered with thy keverchief, and she answered and said: I have now seen Peter and Paul enter into the city clad with right noble vestments, and also they had right fair crowns upon their heads, more clear and more shining than the sun, and hath brought again my keverchief all bloody which he hath delivered me. For which thing and work many believed in our Lord and were baptized. And this is that St. Dionysius saith. And when Nero heard say this thing he doubted him, and began to speak of all these things with his philosophers and with his friends; and as they spake together of this matter, Paul came in, and the gates shut, and stood tofore Cæsar and said: Cæsar, here is tofore thee Paul the knight of the king perdurable, and not vanquished. Now believe then certainly that I am not dead but alive, but thou, caitiff, thou shalt die of an evil death, because thou hast slain the servants of God. And when he had said thus he vanished away. And Nero, what for dread and what for anger, he was nigh out of his wit, and wist not what to do. Then by the counsel of his friends he unbound Patroclus and Barnabas and let them go where they would.
And the other knights, Longinus, master of the knights, and Accestus, came on the morn to the sepulchre of Paul, and there they found two men praying, that were Luke and Titus, and between them was Paul. And when Luke and Titus saw them they were abashed and began to flee, and anon Paul vanished away, and the knights cried after them and said: We come not to grieve you, but know ye for truth that we come for to be baptized of you, like as Paul hath said whom we saw now praying with you. When they heard that they returned and baptized them with great joy. The head of St. Paul was cast in a valley, and for the multitude of other heads of men that were slain and thrown there, it could not be known which it was.