Brief Notes on the Life of Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

Since much of the early Church history is about a series of figures, I am enjoying creating little biographies on some of these influential people, like Saint Ambrose.

AmbroseOfMilan.jpgAurelius Ambrosius, or simply “Ambrose” was an influential Roman leader and Christian elder. He is often considered one of the four Western/Latin Christian “Church Doctors” (Latin “doctor” referring to ‘teacher’) -along with St. Gregory, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome. He was the Roman governor of the Milan region, and today Ambrose is considered the patron saint of Milan.

The mosaic (left) was found in Milan. It may actually be a “portrait” of Ambrose while he was living.

Ambrose was a well-learned man in his day. He was an intellectual, like Origen before him. He is perhaps best known as the teacher (and perhaps baptizer) of St. Augustine. Ambrose lived from approximately 340-397. He was something of an extreme ascetic -he read for hours in silence every day, advocated the giving up of all riches to the poor, and he urged young woman to pursue a strict life of chastity and virginity.

Aside from his prolific writings, a collection of his hymns comes down to us, as well. His hymns possess a kind of Eastern influence. In his public life, Ambrose plays the role of unifier between Hellenism and Roman practices, with a new classically-versioned Christian alternative. He sought to replace the Roman heroes with the Old Testament stories and heroes.

To Augustine, Ambrose was a model bishop. Many of his sermons, hymns, and pamphlets survive today. Pelagius once referred to Ambrose as the “flower of Latin eloquence.”

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