Saint Fabiola (-399 AD)

Saint Fabiola
Jean-Jacques Henner painted his portrait of Fabiola (in a classical Roman profile) in 1885; this idealized rendition of the saint was lost in 1912. The image was copied by artists around the globe over the last century

Saint Fabiola (-399 AD) from Rome, Italy.
Fabiola was a Christian noble woman and Roman matron of rank belonged to the patrician Roman family of the gens Fabia. Under the influence of St. Jerome, Fabiola converted to Christianity and devoted her life to the practice of Christian asceticism and charitable work. Fabiola is distinguished by the foundation of the first public hospital in western Europe. In addition to the hospital being founded she later founded with aide of St. Pammachius, a hospice for pilgrims at Porto, Italy the first of its kind. She supported monasteries throughout Italy and Mediterranean islands.

Fabiola had been in an undesirable marriage and obtained a divorce through Roman law which was contrary to the ordinances of the Church. Under church law, only following death of one spouse may one be free to marry again. She entered upon a second union before the death of her first husband.

St. Jerome's stay at Rome (382-84 AD) did not give occasion for them to meet, Fabiola was not one of the ascetic circle which St. Jerome frequented. It was later that, upon the death of her second consort, she chose to devote herself to a life of Christian virtues; renunciation of carnal ways and enter into a life of labor for others. On the day before Easter, following the death of her second consort she appeared before the gates of the Lateran basilica, dressed in penitential garb, and did public penance for her sin, which made a great impression upon the Christian population of Rome. The pope received her formally again into full communion with the Church.

Fabiola renounced all the world had to offer her, and devoted her immense wealth to the needs of the poor and the sick. She erected a fine hospital at Rome, and waited on the inmates herself, never shunning the afflicted. She gave large sums of her wealth to the churches and religious communities in Rome and abroad in Italy. All her interests were centered on the labor for others; the needs of the Church, and care for the poor and afflicted.

After her conversion to Christianity, she worked closely with St. Jerome, dedicating her wealth and life to the church. Familiar with Hebrew, Greek and Latin, she studied the Scriptures under Jerome, whom she followed to Bethlehem (395 AD). She lived in the hospice of a convent directed by Saint Paula and applied herself under the direction of St. Jerome, to the study of Scriptures and to ascetic exercises. An incursion of the Huns into the eastern provinces of the empire and the quarrel which broke out between Jerome and John II, Bishop of Jerusalem respecting the teachings of Origen made residence in Bethlehem unpleasant. When the Huns threatened to invade Palestine, Fabiola returned to Rome (396). She remained in contact with St. Jerome through letters and at Fabiola's request, Jerome wrote a treatise on the priesthood of Aaron, on the priestly dress, and on the 42 stopping places of the Israelites in the desert.

At Rome, Fabiola united with the former senator Saint Pammachius in carrying out a great charitable undertaking; together they erected at Portus a large hospice for pilgrims coming to Rome. Fabiola also continued her usual personal labors in aid of the poor and sick until her death on 27 December of 399 or 400. St. Jerome wrote a eulogistic memoir of Fabiola in a letter to her relative Oceanus.

Her feast day is celebrated on December 27.


  • Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia, ©1984
  • Saint Fabiola Jean-Jacques Henner Portrait On Wood
  • Francis Alys Exhibits 300 Portraits of "Fabiola" at the Haus zum Kirschgarten
  • 1 comment:

    1. I possess a large very old print??? in a old ornate frame of saint fabiola. please check my blog and maybe you might enlighten me more. Thank you L J.