Between his death in 430 and the present time, Augustine’s mortal remains have rested in Hippo, Caligiari (Sardinia), the Church of St Peter in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia, the Pavia Cathedral, and finally once more in the Church of St Peter in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia.
In May 428, which was just two years before the death of Augustine of Hippo, the Vandals under Genseric with an army of some eighty thousand mercenaries sailed from Spain to Africa at the invitation of Count Boniface, the inept ruler of Numidia (a large section of North Africa) in the then-crumbling Roman Empire.
Once admitted to African shores, these ferocious Vandal poured over the land, marauding and perpetrating every atrocity imaginable. Boniface, realizing his mistake in releasing so devastating a force, attempted to retrieve the loss of Africa and draw off these barbarians, first by money and then by force of arms, but was unsuccessful.
After being defeated in battle in May 430, Boniface fled to Hippo, the strongest fortress in Africa, and there he prepared for the siege of the city. Hippo was where the aged and ailing Augustine lived.
It was in the third month of this siege that St Augustine was seized with a fever, the beginning of his last illness, and, on 28th August Augustine died: in the words of Possidius, "he sank into sleep with his fathers, having reached a good old age."
The body of St Augustine was entombed either in his own cathedral, the Basilica of Peace, or in the adjoining chapel of St Stephen, a distinct oratory which Augustine had built to receive the relics of the Protomartyr.
Eventually many of the citizens with capital fled Hippo and withdrew into foreign countries, abandoning Hippo to the barbarians who then entered and burned part of it. The burial place of St Augustine was left intact and unharmed by the barbarians, and here the remains of Augustine remained for nearly seventy years.
In the year 496, Trasamund, successor to Guntamund and nephew of Genseric, mounted the throne. He was Arian, and in his hatred toward the Catholic Church he resolved to destroy it. To accomplish his purpose without recourse to a bloody persecution, he renewed the prohibition of providing successors to dioceses left vacant by the death of their Catholic bishop.
When the African prelates ignored this edict and continued to appoint titulars to the vacant sees, Trasamund seized not only the newly consecrated bishops but also their consecrators, and banished them all to Sardinia. About two hundred bishops were thus sent into exile. Among the banished prelates were the bishops of Numidia and among these, Eugene of Carthage and Fulgentius of Ruspe.
It was these latter two who conceived the idea of removing the relics of Augustine, together with his incomparable written works which had been saved from the fires of Hippo and were already of universal renown and esteem, thus saving them from the immediate danger of destruction.
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The tomb of Augustine. (This web page is written in the Italian language by P. S. Bellandi o.s.a.) Le vicende del Corpo di Sant'Agostino attraverso 15 secoli.Al centro del presbiterio della Basilica di S. Pietro in Cel d'oro in Pavia, sopraelevato sulla cripta, domina l'Arca marmorea di S. Agostino, capolavoro della scultura lombarda del Trecento. Ornata da 95 statue e 50 bassorilievi, l'opera fu commissionata dal pavese Bonifacio Bottigella, Priore degli Agostiniani.
Il sepolcro glorioso. La prima prova della venerazione che circondò il vescovo di Ippona dopo la morte fu la cura che i cristiani ebbero del suo sepolcro... " (This web page is written in the Italian language by A. Trape o.s.a.)
Augnet has photo galleries on Algeria and Italy: Pavia. For a choice of these galleries click here.