Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis

head reliquary of Saint Jacob of Nisibis; date and artist unknown; museum of the cathedral of Hildesheim, Germany; photographed on 7 December 2011 Bischöfliche Pressestelle Hildesheim; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint James delivered Nisibis in a not less wonderful manner than Saint Lupus had delivered Troyes. This Saint was a native of Nisibis, a city situated on the boundaries of the Roman Empire and Persia. Still young in years he left the world and chose a solitary and penitential life in a wild cave, where he spent his days in praying, fasting and other penances. At a riper age, he resolved to preach the Gospel to the heathens in Persia. Hence, leaving his abode, he journeyed to the next city, where he found before the gate a crowd of young girls who were bathing, and so immodestly, that they placed themselves in his way and abused him most disgracefully. The holy man, greatly indignant, not because of the insult done to him, but at the impudence of the young women, cursed them and the water. That this was done by divine inspiration will be seen by the event. The water disappeared suddenly, and dry land covered the place where it had been, while the immodest girls were most hideously changed. Their hair had turned gray and their faces had become full of wrinkles. Looking at each other, they shrieked with fear, and ashamed of themselves, they cried bitterly, and hastened into the city. Having informed the inhabitants of what had happened, the latter came in great crowds to the Saint, begging him to restore the water and to take his curse from the girls, promising to obey him in all things. The Saint had compassion on them, and having prayed, the water gushed out of the ground and occupied its former place. After this he had the young women brought to him. Not all dared to appear, but those who came he reproved most severely for the scandal they had given, and then, making the sign of the Cross over them, he restored them to their natural form. The rest, who had remained away, had to carry to the end of their days their gray hairs and distorted features. This occurrence induced the inhabitants of the city to lend a willing ear to the teachings of Saint James, and to embrace the Christian faith. Many other miracles, wrought by the Saint, not less than his edifying life, gained him so great a reputation that he was chosen and consecrated Bishop of Nisibis, and the Roman martyrology calls him a man of great holiness. At the Council of Nice, he gave excellent proofs of his learning, and opposed the heretic Anus with great vehemence and power. That the world was delivered from this heretic was, in a great measure, due to Saint James; for he and the holy Bishop Alexander had agreed not to cease to implore God, by fasts and prayers, to free the Church from this evil-doer, until they were heard. The event they desired soon took place. When Arius, with some of his followers, was on his way to force himself into the church, he was compelled to go aside. As he was away long, his followers looked for him and found him dead. After this, Saint James returned to his See, which he administered with renewed vigor.

Under the reign of the Emperor Constantine, Sapor, King of Persia, besieged Nisibis. He had an innumerable army, and attacked the city during seventy days. At last, by a stratagem, he demolished a large part of the walls enclosing Nisibis, and hoped on the next day to take the city. The holy bishop spent the whole of that night on his knees, praying to God to protect his people. The following morning, seeing that the enemy was still progressing, the bishop ascended the city walls, and on beholding the large army, he prayed to God to manifest His power for the glory of His holy name. His prayer was answered.’ God sent an immense swarm of gnats, which, creeping into the trunks of the elephants and the nostrils of the horses, tormented their by their bites, so that they sprang about as if mad, wounding and trampling to death many of the soldiers, and causing such disturbance and excitement in the camp, that the soldiers fled; and thus the siege was raised. The citizens of Nisibis recognized that they were indebted to the prayers of the bishop for so miraculous a delivery from the enemy, and they manifested their gratitude by the high esteem in which they held him during the remainder of his holy*life. He, however, exhorted them to give thanks to God alone, and to guard themselves lest their sins might bring other evils on the country. At last, full of merits, he ended his earthly pilgrimage by a happy death.

As long as the holy relics of Saint James remained in Nisibis, the city was free from all inroads of enemies; but after the Apostate Julian had removed them, the city had much to suffer from the Persians, and was at last surrendered to them in the reign of the Emperor Jovian.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 24 March 2018. Web. 14 November 2018. <>