Baring-Gould’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Felix, Priest, Confessor at Nola

detail of an ink drawing by Peter Vischer (1751-1823) of Saint Felix hiding from soldiers and being protected by a spiderArticle

(3rd century)

[On this day are commemorated two priests, Confessors, of Nola, of the same name, Felix. This has led to almost inextricable confusion among Martyrologists. There is another, a martyr, of this name. The hfe of Saint Felix is given by Saint Gregory of Tours, De Glor. Martyr, lib. i. c. 104, and by the Venerable Bede. The miracles wrought by him have also been recorded by Saint Paulinus of Nola.]

Saint Felix was a native of Nola, in Campania, vrhere his father, Hermias, who was by birth a Syrian, and had served in the army, had purchased an estate and settled. He had two sons, Felix and Hermias, to whom, at his death, he left his property. The younger, loving the things of Caesar rather than the things of God, says Bede, served in the army, but Felix, more happy — as his name implies — enrolled himself as a soldier of Jesus Christ. Having passed the grades of lector and exorcist, he was finally ordained priest by Maximus, Bishop of Nola.

Persecution having broken out, the aged Bishop, mindful of the injunction, “When they persecute you in one city flee to another” (Matthew 10:23), escaped to the hills, and left his flock to the charge of Felix, whom he designated as his successor. The persecutors, not finding the Bishop, seized on Felix, and cast him, heavily ironed, into a dungeon strewn with broken crockery, into which no ray of light entered. In the meantime, Maximus was perishing with cold and hunger in the mountains, hardships which his great age made him unable to endure.

One night an angel appeared to Felix, and bade him go forth out of prison and succour the aged Bishop. Then his chains fell off his neck, and hands, and feet, and the doors opened to him of their own accord, and guided by the angel, he was brought to the hiding place of Maximus, whom he found prostrate and speechless, and apparently dying. He moistened the old man’s lips with wine, and forced some food into his mouth, and chafed his frozen limbs. By slow degrees the Bishop was restored, and then laying him upon his shoulders, Felix carried him home before daybreak, where a pious old woman took care of him.

Felix, with the blessing of his pastor, repaired secretly to his own lodgings, and there kept himself concealed, praying for the Church without ceasing, till peace was restored to it by the death of the Emperor Decius in 251. Persecution breaking forth again, the sergeants were sent in quest of Felix. Meeting him in the street, and not recognizing him, they stopped him and asked if he had met Felix on the way. ” No,” he answered; ” I have not met him.” They went on, but something arousing their suspicion, they had not gone far before they turned and hastened back. Felix had, in the meantime, crept through a small hole in some old broken walls. The officers came to the place, but seeing a spider’s web covering the hole, they did not search the place, thinking that Felix could not have passed that way. But this was the Lord’s doing. He had sent the Httle spider to drop his hnes and lace them together, with the utmost rapidity, over the place through which His servant had escaped. Felix, finding among the ruins, between two houses, an old well half dug, hid himself in it for six months; and received during that time wherewithal to subsist from a devout Christian woman.

Peace having been restored to the Church, the Saint quitted his retreat, and was received in the city as an angel from heaven. Soon after, Saint Maximus dying, Felix was unanimously elected Bishop; but he persuaded the people to make choice of Quintus, because he was the senior priest, having been ordained seven days before him.

His property having been confiscated in the persecution, Saint Felix rented a little spot of barren land, not exceeding three acres, which he tilled with his own hands, and was able by his industry to support himself, and give something in alms to the poor. He died at a good old age, on Jan. 14th, on which day the Martyrology, under the name of Saint Jerome, and all others of later date mention him.

Patron of Nola, in conjunction with other Saints.

Relics, in the Cathedral at Nola.

In art, he is represented (1), with an angel striking off his chains; (2), with a bunch of grapes, wherewith he fed Saint Maximus; (3), bearing Saint Maximus on his shoulders, or in his arms; (4), with a spider.

MLA Citation

  • Sabine Baring-Gould. “Saint Felix, Priest, Confessor at Nola”. Lives of the Saints, 1897. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 May 2017. Web. 24 January 2019. <>