Saints of the Day – Fabiola of Rome, Widow

19th century portrait of Saint Fabiola of Rome by Jean-Jacques Henner; swiped off the Wikipedia web siteArticle

Died c.400. Not even a bad marriage can stop us from becoming saints. In fact, it may be the impetus to reach for Christian perfection. Fabiola was divorced, remarried, explained, praised by Saint Jerome. Fabiola was a Roman patrician of the Fabii family who married a very young man of equal rank but of debauched habits. She divorced him. Then she united herself to another man, causing great scandal in Rome, because this was contrary to the ordinances of the Church. Both men died soon after and Fabiola was re-admitted into communion after she performed public penance. Not only did she complete the required penance, Fabiola completely changed her life. She forsook her luxurious lifestyle and devoted her great wealth to good works. With the help of Saint Paula’s widowed son-in-law Saint Pammachius, Fabiola founded the first hospital of its kind to care for indigent patients brought in from the streets and alleyways of Rome. Here Fabiola personally tended to the needs of the sick.

In 395, she visited her friend Saint Jerome in the Holy Land with the intention of entering the convent at Bethlehem and sharing in Jerome’s biblical work. Whether she returned to Rome because Jerome dissuaded her from staying or because she was temperamentally unsuited for the quiet life, we don’t know. Jerome says that her idea of the solitude of the stable of Bethlehem was that it should not be cut off from the crowded inn. Nevertheless, she travelled with Jerome and his companions when they fled to Jaffa to escape the dissension building among the leading Palestinian Christians and the threatened invasion of the Huns.

Upon his advice, she returned to Rome from Jaffa and founded and enthusiastically superintended a hostel for sick and needy pilgrims near the city at Porto. This is another of Fabiola’s innovations; one which Jerome says soon became known from Parthia to Britain. Apparently not even this undertaking was enough to sap Fabiola’s abundant energies. At the time of her death she was planning a new enterprise that would take her abroad. The veneration in which she is held in Rome was demonstrated by the great multitudes that followed her funeral with chants of Alleluia.

Jerome dedicated to Fabiola a treatise on Aaron’s priesthood and another on the ‘stations’ of the Israelites in the desert. This wandering of the chosen people seemed to him a type of Fabiola’s life and death (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer). For more information on Fabiola, click here.

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 August 2020. Web. 29 November 2020. <>