Melania the Younger
Alternate Name:
Melania Junior
Birth Date:
Death Date:
Dec. 31, 439
Lazio (Latium)
Thagaste (North Africa); Jerusalem (Israel / Palestinian Territories); Constantinople (Turkey)
Location of Work:
Rome, Thagaste, Jerusalem, Constaninople
Valerius Publicola. Publicola was the son of Melania the Elder. While Gerontius’ life of Melania is quite critical of Melania’s father, other sources regarding Publicola are positive, depicting Publicola as a generous supporter of churches and monasteri
Albina (d. 431). Albina was dauther of Ceionius Rufius Albinus, who served as prefect of Rome from 389-391. It is unknown whether Albinus’ father was a Christian. Albina’s grandmother Caecina Lolliana was a priestess of Isis, and her uncle, Publilius C
Valerius Pinianus (d. 431/2), also called Pinian. According to The Life of Melania the Younger, Melania begged her husband to adopt the ascetic life, but he refused until they produced two children who would inherit their fortune. When their two children died in infancy, Melan

Both of Melania’s children died in childbirth around the years 398-403.

Other Family:

NULL was Melania the Younger’s grandmother. Melania the Elder lived in Rome then Jerusalem. Palladius reports that she returned to Rome so that evil teaching, heresy, and bad living would not completely ruin her granddaughter (Palladius: the Lausiac history, ch. 54). Gerontius omits any mention of Melania the Elder, probably because of her association with Origen and his circle (Piety, Propaganda, and Politics in the Life of Melania the Younger, p. 174-174).

Melania also had an uncle, Volusian, who was associated with the court of Valentinian III. When Volusian became sick, Melania traveled to Constantinople to care for him. Volusian was a pagan. Augustine had attempted to convert Volusian, but it was only with Melania’s influence that he converted on his deathbed (The confessions and letters of St. Augustine, Ep. 135-137, The Life of Melania the Younger, ch. 53-56).


According to Palladius, while Melania was still in Italy, she and Albina moved to Sicily and then to Campania. They lived with 15 eunuchs and 60 virgins, who were both slaves and free women (Palladius: the Lausiac history, ch., 61). Melania later established a community of virgins on the Mount of Olives.

Ecclesiastical Relationships:

Melania was a famous holy woman and patron during her life, and for these reasons she came into contact with a number of important religious figures of her day, such as Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, Paulinus of Nola, and Palladius.

Melania had ties to a number of contentious figures in the church. Her grandmother Melania the Elder was implicated in the Origenist controversy. In 418, Melania the Younger, Pinian, and Albina met with Pelagius, whose alleged teaching on the possibility of sinlessness was highly controversial. (The Grace of Christ and Original Sin, ch. I.1-2). Melania and Pinian’s friend Paulinus of Nola was also associated with Pelagius and his circle. Finally, the Latin vita reports that on Melania’s estate in Thagaste there were two bishops in residence- one for “those of our faith” and one for “heretics.” This is likely a reference to the Donatist controversy which raged in North Africa during the first decade of the fifth century (Santa Melania giuniore, senatrice romana : documenti contemporanei e note p. 14; Piety, Propaganda, and Politics in the Life of Melania the Younger, p. 174-5).

Gerontius (d. 474-491?) was author of The Life of Melania the Younger. Cyril of Scythopolis reports that 45 years after Melania’s death Gerontius took over direction of Melania’s monasteries. Gerontius was a non-Chalcedonian. (Vie de Saint Euthyme le Grand (377-473) : les moines et l’église en Palestine au Ve siècle, ch. 27 & 45,). According to The lives of Peter the Iberian, Theodosius of Jerusalem, and the Monk Romanus, Gerontius came into conflict with Juvenal, bishop of Jerusalem (p. 32, 52). For a full description of our evidence for Gerontius, see The Life of Melania the Younger, p. 13-24.

Gerontius emphasizes Melania’s ascetic renunciation of her wealth and strives to present his heroine as a model of Christian “orthodoxy”. (What was “orthodox” at this time was highly contested, and Gerontius’ non-Chalcedonian stance made him heretical to supporters of the Council of Chalcedon.) Gerontius notably excludes references to Melania’s associations with the Origenists, the Pelagians, and the Donatists. He never even mentions Melania the Elder’s name, much less her influence on her granddaughter (Piety, Propaganda, and Politics in the Life of Melania the Younger, p. 174-178).

Secular Affiliations:

Because of her wealth and status, Melania was connected with the courts in the Eastern and Western Roman Empire, including Theodosius II, Eudocia, Serena (the wife of Stilicho), and Proclus of Constantinople. Clark argues in regards to Gerontius’ work, “Female aristocrats who undertake the ascetic life are here show to be even more influential in their renunciation than they would have been had they remained devoted wives and mothers of the next generation of prefects and consuls. Melania thus provides a near-perfect example of propaganda for the ascetic cause for aristocratic women” (Piety, Propaganda, and Politics in the Life of Melania the Younger, p. 173).

Feast Day:
Dec. 31
Patron of:
Melania and Pinian built and supported monasteries in North Africa and Jerusalem.
Charitable Works:
Melania and Pinian donated money to monasteries and churches across the Mediterranean. Gerontius tells us, “When they acquired several islands, they gave them to holy men. Likewise, they purchased monasteries of monks and virgins and gave them as a gi
Other Economic Activities:

Melania and Pinian owned an estate on the Coelian Hill in Rome (see Artifacts below), an estate in the suburbs of Rome, a villa on the coast of Italy, an estate in Sicily, and property in Spain, Africa, Mauretania, Britian, Numidia, Aquitania, and Gaul. The Vita reports that the estate in Thagaste was larger than the town itself and employed numerous artisans, indicating that the family’s wealth came from both agriculture and manufacture. Both the Vita and Palladius report that Melania and Pinian freed many of their slaves in Rome, and Palladius counts them to be 8000 (Palladius: the Lausiac history, ch. 61; The Life of Melania the Younger, p. 171).

The couple was not at the age of legal majority when they began their renunciations, and consequently they required a special dispensation for them to be allowed to give up their property. They petitioned Serena in 407/8, who extracted a decree from her son-in-law Honorius which asked public officials in the provinces to sell her property and send the proceeds to Melania (The Life of Melania the Younger, ch. 12, The Life of Melania the Younger, p. 171).

Literary Works:

The Life of Melania the Younger, by Gerontius (see above, Ecclesiastical Relationships), written between 452-3. Elizabeth A. Clark proposes that Theodosius, who held the episcopal chair of Jerusalem between 452-3 was the recipient of the Gerontius’ text (Piety, Propaganda, and Politics in the Life of Melania the Younger, p. 169).


Melania and Pinian owned a mansion on the Coelian Hill in Rome which was burned during Alaric’s sack of Rome. The ruins have been identified from inscriptions and lamps found on site. Excavations unearthed porticos, statues, mosaic pavements, and fountains (La casa dei Valerii sul Celio et il monastero di S. Erasmo; Le casa celimontana dei Valerii e il monastero di S. Erasmo; Monumenti figurati paleocristiani conservati a Firenze nelle raccolte pubbliche e negli edifici di culto; Storia e topografia del Celio nell’antichità).

Dina Boero