Saint Ambrose

Born 339 AD
Trier, Germany
Died April 4, 397
Milan, Italy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodoxy
Anglican Communion
Lutheran Church
Major shrine Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan
Feast December 7
Attributes Beehive, a child, whip, bones
Patronage bee keepers; bees; candle makers; domestic animals; French Commissariat; learning; Milan, Italy; students; wax refiners


St. Ambrose

Aurelius Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose (c. between 337 and 340 – 4 April 397), was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He is counted as one of the four original doctors of the Church.

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was the son of another Ambrose, a Roman citizen, and was born when his father was Prefect of Gaul.  A swarm of bees settled upon his face when he was in his cradle, which was considered an omen of his future eloquence.  He received a liberal education at Rome.  He was afterwards, under the Prefect Probus, made governor of Liguria and Aemília, and so came with authority to Milan.  Auxentius, an Arian, who had been intruded into the Bishoprick of Milan, happening to die, the most violent disputes arose about the choice of a successor.  Ambrose came to the church in his official capacity, and urged upon the contending factions, in a long and powerful speech, the necessity of keeping the public peace ; whereupon a child suddenly cried out, Ambrose, Bishop, and the whole assembly took it up, and unanimously called for his election.

Altarpiece of St Ambrose
Ambrose refused, and would not yield to their prayers, whereupon they carried their petition to the Emperor Valentinian.  It was very pleasing to this Prince that those he had appointed as judges should be chosen Bishops, as also the Prefect Probus, who had, as it were prophetically, said to him when he appointed him, Go and govern them more like a Bishop than a Judge.  When the will of the Emperor was added to the desire of the people, Ambrose yielded, and received Baptism (for hitherto he was only a Catechumen), Confirmation and Communion, and then the several Orders on successive days, till on the eighth day, which was the 7th of December, the weight of the Episcopate was laid upon his shoulders.  Being made Bishop, he shewed himself a stout upholder of the Catholic faith, and the discipline of the Church, and turned to the truth great numbers of Arians and other heretics, and, among them, he begat in Christ Jesus that burning and shining light of the Church, Augustine.


Madonna and Child with Saints Triptych with St Ambrose
Ambrose refused, and would not yield to their prayers, whereupon they carried their petition to the Emperor Valentinian.  It was very pleasing to this Prince that those he had appointed as judges should be chosen Bishops, as also the Prefect Probus, who had, as it were prophetically, said to him when he appointed him, Go and govern them more like a Bishop than a Judge.  When the will of the Emperor was added to the desire of the people, Ambrose yielded, and received Baptism (for hitherto he was only a Catechumen), Confirmation and Communion, and then the several Orders on successive days, till on the eighth day, which was the 7th of December, the weight of the Episcopate was laid upon his shoulders.  Being made Bishop, he shewed himself a stout upholder of the Catholic faith, and the discipline of the Church, and turned to the truth great numbers of Arians and other heretics, and, among them, he begat in Christ Jesus that burning and shining light of the Church, Augustine.

from the left: St. Augustine, Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Jerome (looking awesome), and St. Ambrose (looking down at Ruffinus, comptroller of Theodosius
After the murder of the Emperor Gratian, Ambrose was sent as an ambassador to Maximus, by whom he had been slain, and, as he refused to repent, the Bishop renounced his communion.  After the massacre which the Emperor Theodosius had commanded at Thessalonica, he efused to permit that Prince to enter a church.  The Emperor pleaded that he was no worse than David, who had been guilty of adultery and murder, to which Ambrose answered him, As thou hast followed him in his sin, follow him also in his repentance.  Then Theodosius humbly did public penance laid upon him by the Bishop.  At length the Saint was worn out with his continual labour and care for the Church (for the which also he composed many excellent books), and foretold that the day of his death was at hand, though he had not then fallen into his last sickness.  As he lay dying, Honoratus, Bishop of Vercelli, heard a voice from God three times crying to him that the hour of Ambrose's departure was come, whereupon he went to him quickly, and gave him the sacred Body of our Lord.  When he had received it, the Saint, still praying, with his hands stretched out in the form of a cross, gave his spirit to God, upon the 4th day of April, in the year of Christ 397.

Bernini's gilt bronze throne is supported by statues of four Fathers of the Church:
Saints Augustine and Ambrose, of the Latin Church, and
Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom, of the Greek Church.
Reflection: Whence came to Saint Ambrose his grandeur of mind, his clearness of insight, his intrepidity in maintaining the faith and discipline of the Church? Whence, if not from his contempt of the world and his fear of God alone?

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