Saint Hilary of Poitiers



“He by Whom man was made had nothing to gain by becoming Man; it was our gain that God was incarnate and dwelt among us, making all flesh His home by taking upon Him the flesh of One. We were raised because He was lowered; shame to Him was glory to us. He, being God, made flesh His residence, and we in return are lifted anew from the flesh to God.”

-Saint Hilary of Poitiers





Born in Poitiers (then Pictavium, Gaul, today Poitiers France), Saint Hilary came in to the world around 310 AD as the sons of two pagans that were well off in their community and well respected for their pagan beliefs. After receiving a formal education that included both pagan beliefs and Greek, Saint Hilary "chanced upon" (his words) the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. These scriptures immediately began to grip him and when he reached Exodus 3:14 (I AM WHO I AM), Saint Hilary wrote:


"I was frankly amazed at such a clear definition of God, which expressed the incomprehensible knowledge of the divine nature in words most suited to human intelligence."

Now fully captivated by the scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit, he abandoned his Neo-Platonism beliefs and fully embraced Christianity. He would soon marry and have a daughter (Saint Abra) - the whole family was baptized and welcomed into the Church. He became an integral and respected part of the Christian Church in Poitiers and in 350 AD was elected by the Church to be the Bishop of Poitiers. He immediately turned his eyes towards the Arianism heresy that was diving the church.


One of his very first acts as Bishop was to secure the excommunication of Saturninus, the Bishop of Arles (and Arian) and his two supporters Ursacius of Singidunum and Valens of Mursa. He followed up this excommunication by writing to Empeor Constantinus II a letter against the persecutions the Arians had sought (the Ad Constantium Augustum liber primus). Unfortunately, at the synod of Biterrae, the Emperor banished Saint Hilary and Rhodanus of Toulouse to Phrygia (the western portion of Turkey).


Saint Hilary continued not only administrating his diocese but continued to fight against the Arian heresy. He wrote the De synodis or De fide Orientalium, an epistle sent to the Arian Bishops of Gaul, Germania and Britian. In it, he argued that the professions of faith of the Oriental bishops at the Councils of Ancyra, Antioch, and Sirmium caused differences between doctrines and beliefs was in the words, not the ideas and doctrines. He followed this up with the De trinitate libri XII in 360 AD, articulating and expressing in Latin the Councils' theological views that were originally dictated in Greek.


Saint Hilary would also attend the Council at Seleucia in 359 AD. He attempted several times in 360 to get a personal audience with Emperor Constantitus and to address the council of Constantinople, both of which were declined each time. Saint Hilary wrote In Constantium as a rebuke to the council and attacked the Emperor as the Antichrist. Eventually his frequent and repeated attempts to secure public debates would prove to be inconvenient and so he was sent back to Poitiers around 361 AD.


Arriving home in 361 AD, he spent the next three years combating Arianism with the local clergy. Shortly after his arrival however, he met with Saint Martin (who would later be the Bishop of Tours) and encouraged him to found a monastery at Liguge. In 365 he published the Contra Arianos vel Auxentium Mediolanensem liber which described his unsuccessful efforts to impeach the Bishop of Milan (who Saint Hilary had viewed as heterodox). He also wrote the Contra Constantium Augustum liber that described Emperor Constantitus as having been the Antichrist and a rebel against God.


Saint Hilary passed away in 367 AD. He had viewed his lifetime battle against the Arian heresy not as a matter of discussing doctrine but a battle for the eternal life of those who would hear the Arians and stop believing in the Son of God.


Saint Augustine described Saint Hilary as "The illustrious doctor of the churches". Pope Pius IX declared him as a Universae Ecclesiae Doctor in 1851. His feast day is the 13th of January (14th prior to the 1969 revision).


Spring terms of English and Irish Law Courts are called the Hilary Term as their start dates fall on Saint Hilary's feast day.




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