Chromatius

Chromatius was born at Aquileia from a Christian family around the years 335-340, since he had already become a priest about 369-370. After the death of Valerianus, on 26 November 388, he was appointed as his successor by Ambrose, with whom he had been in active correspondence since the council of Aquileia in 381. During his twenty years’ bishopric, Chromatius devoted himself to his people: his pastoral activity was, like Ambrose’s and Augustine’s, dedicated to celebrating holy mysteries, administering sacraments, preaching, giving aid to the poor and the oppressed. As a bishop, with a vivid interest he looked after the destiny of his friends and students who nourished ever-increasing respect and veneration for him. He died in 407 or at the beginning of 408, on the eve of the second descent of Alaric to Italy, who triumphantly marched forth to Rome after besieging Aquileia in November 401. Until relatively recent discoveries only seventeen chapters were known to be authored by Chromatius on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which had already been published as early as in the sixteenth century. Further his name had been associated to a chapter on the eight beatitudes. Chromatius’ work has been significantly getting richer between 1959 and 1965 and the subsequent years, so a new augmented edition of his homiletic and exegetic works has been collected in the volume IX A of the Corpus Christianorum, published in 1974. Despite these happy findings, nonetheless Lemarié deems that these are only about a half of his literary production. As to his oratorical activity more in connection with the constant education of his flock than with a merely literary engagement, an echo thereof has been kept by his listeners. In his preaching Chromatius had expounded the literal and spiritual meaning of many passages of the first Gospel. Only after the publication of Jerome’s commentary to St. Matthew (398), he thought about undertaking a similar work, but with a prevailingly pastoral tone, where he developed some subjects he had already dealt with in his preaching. Therefore when he died, beside the writings of the most celebrated Christian authors of the West (Cyprian, Tertullian, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome) and Rufinus’ translations of the Eastern Fathers, the Episcopal library of Aquileia also possessed at least two volumes of Chromatius’ works: a ‘corpus’ of Sermons and a Commentary to Matthew. During the swirling events that upset Aquileia as early as the fifth century the destiny of all these manuscripts is easily predictable.

For further information see the entry Cromazio (San), vescovo di Aquileia written by Giuseppe Cuscito, in Nuovo Liruti, Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 1, Il Medioevo, edited by C. Scalon, Udine, Forum, 2006, 230-240.

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