November 30, 2021

True Orthodox Diocese of Western Europe

Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC)

What You Didn’t Know About St. Ambrose of Milan’s Older Sister

2 min read

Marcellina was born in TrierGaul around the year 330 into a Roman Christian family. Her father served as Praetorian prefect of Gaul. The sister of Ambrose of Milan, she was older than her two brothers. About the year 354 Ambrosius, their father died, whereupon the family moved to Rome.[1] It appears that after the death of their parents, she took responsibility for the upbringing of her younger brothers, Ambrose and Satyrus.[2]

As the eldest sister in her family, she made it a point to pass her younger brothers the “desire not to express their virtue, but to become truly virtuous.” She devoted herself to the practice of piety and asceticism and received the veil of consecrated virginity from Pope Liberius.[3] This life she led called for continual abstinence, dedication to prayer, strict fasting, etc.[4] The life chosen by Saint Marcellina was one of great sacrifice.

After Ambrose had become Bishop of Milan in 374, he summoned his sister, and found in her a zealous assistant in fostering and extending the ascetic life among the maidens of Milan. Paulinus the Deacon, who wrote a biography of Ambrose at the request of Augustine of Hippo, learned the details of Ambrose’s life from Marcellina.[5]

The Tomb of St. Marcellina, Milan

Marcellina survived her brother by a year, dying in 398. Honored as a saint, she was buried in the crypt under the altar of the Ambrosian Basilica in Milan.[6]

  1. ^ Loughlin, James. “St. Ambrose.” The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 1 Jun. 2020 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ Monks of Ramsgate. “Marcellina”. Book of Saints, 1921. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 November 2014
  3. Jump up to:a b Kirsch, Johann Peter. “St. Marcellina.” The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 28 November 2015
  4. ^ Butler, Alban. “St. Marcellina, Virgin”, The Lives of the Saints, 1866
  5. ^ Paulinus of Milan. The Life of St. Ambrose, A Translation of the Vita Sancti Ambrosii, (Mary Simplicia Kaniecka, trans.) Arx Publishing, LLC, 2020, p.3, n.3
  6. ^ “St. Marcellina, Sister of St. Ambrose”, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
  7. ^ The Institute St. Marcellina, Sisters of St. Marcellina, London

Ambrose dedicated his work on virginity, written in 377, Libri III de virginibus ad Marcellinam to her.[3]

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