(d. 399)

Quick Reference

(d. 399)

was a member of the patrician family of Fabia. She married a young man of appropriate rank, but divorced him for his vicious life. She then married again against the Church canons, causing scandal as a consequence. After the death of her second partner she did public penance and devoted her great wealth to the poor, founding the first hospital of its kind with the help of St Pammachius; this cared for patients brought in from the streets and alleyways of Rome. In 395 she visited Jerome in Bethlehem, who was then involved in controversy with the local bishop. Fabiola now wished to join the community of nuns, but she was too active and needed company. Jerome said that if she had been at the stable of Bethlehem, she would have wanted it not to be cut off from the crowded inn. An invasion of Huns now followed. When it was over, Jerome and his nuns returned to Bethlehem, but Fabiola to Rome. There she founded a hostel for pilgrims, which soon became known, according to Jerome, from Parthia to Britain. Always restless, Fabiola was planning further journeys when death overtook her. Her funeral was followed by most of the city with chants of Alleluia. Jerome dedicated to her a treatise on Aaron's priesthood and another on the ‘stations’ of the Israelites in the wilderness. This wandering of the chosen people seemed a type of Fabiola's life and death. Feast: 27 December.

The main source is letter 77 of Jerome (with letters 64 and 78), ed. J. Hilberg (C.S.E.L., 54–6); see also F. Cavallera, S. Jerome: sa vie et son œuvre (1922); Bibl. SS., v. 431.Nicholas, Cardinal Wiseman, wrote a novel Fabiola (1854).

Subjects: Christianity.

Reference entries