Saints and Their Symbols – Saint Ambrose

detail of a painting of Saint Ambrose of Milan; date and artist unknown; Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Rome, Italy; swiped with permission from the flickr account of Father Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

A.D. 397, April 4. One of the Four Latin Fathers of the Church, Bishop and patron saint of Milan. Saint Ambrose was born at Treves in Gaul, and it is related of him that when he was an infant a swarm of bees fastened on his mouth without doing him any harm, which signified his future eloquence. He studied in Rome, and afterwards was appointed Prefect of Liguria. Just at that time the Bishop of Milan died, and a great dispute arose between the Catholics and the Arians as to who should succeed him. Ambrose by his eloquence at length pacified them. Then was heard a child’s voice, crying “Ambrose shall be Bishop;” but he objected, saying he had not even been baptized; but his reluctance was overcome by the persistence of the people, and he was baptized, and consecrated Bishop eight days after. He devoted himself to the duties of his office, which he performed with no respect of persons, withstanding even the Emperor when he had done wrong. For on one occasion Theodosius, enraged by a sedition in Thessalonica, ordered a general massacre there, and soon afterwards presented himself to worship in the cathedral; but Saint Ambrose sternly refused him admittance, and in spite of commands and entreaties remained firm till the Emperor had performed public penance for his sin. The preaching of Saint Ambrose had a wonderful power over his hearers; and on one occasion a heretic who went intending to scoff, saw an angel prompting him, and was at once converted to the truth by this sight. Many visions are also recorded of this saint. At the consecration of the cathedral of Milan the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius were miraculously revealed to him; and at another time, while celebrating mass he fell into a trance and beheld the burial of Saint Martin of Tours, then taking place in France. The Bishop of Yercelli, who was attending him on his deathbed, fell, asleep, but an angel awoke him in time to administer the last Sacraments, and then all present beheld Saint Ambrose carried up to heaven by angels. Emblems – Beehive at his feet. Books. Bishop’s robes. Two human bones. Scourge. Beehive. Scourge, with three knotted thongs. Bishop’s robes.

MLA Citation

  • E A Greene. “Saint Ambrose”. Saints and Their Symbols, 1909. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 April 2017. Web. 5 March 2021. <>