Ursacius, Bishop of Singidunum, and Valent, Bishop of Mursa

Ursacius, Bishop of Singidunum, and Valent, Bishop of Mursa

Zlatomria Gerdzhikova


Institute for Balkan Studies & Center of Thracology  DOI
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences 25 June 2020
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Abstract: Urasacius, bishop of Singidunum, and Valens, bishop of Mursa, are the two most famous Arian bishops of the Balkans from the middle of the 4th century. This article will present their activities as leaders of the Arian party and their influence on the Arian-Nicene debate from the middle of the 4th century.

Keywords: Ursacius of Singidunum, Valens of Mursa, Arianism, Balkans

Ursacius, bishop of Singidum, and Valens, bishop of Mursa, were the two most influential Arian bishops in the Balkans, whose actions had a direct impact on the religious policy of the emperors from the middle of the fourth century onwards. From the beginning of their accession to the Ariano-Nicene conflict, the two bishops were inseparable. Most of the testimonies speak of them together, with very few mentions of them separately.

The main sources for the history of Ursacius and Valens are Ilarius Pictavius ​​(Hilarius) - Liber adversus Valentem et Ursacium, Athanasius of Alexandria - Apologia contra Arianos, Historia Arianorum ad monahos, De Synois, Epistula ad Afros, Epistula Festales, Socrates Historia Scholasticus - Historia Ecclesiastica, Sulpicius Severus - Chrinicle.

Ursacius was born probably around 300, and was ordained bishop of Singidunum by the Arians in around 335. Between 325 and 335 he was a presbyter of an Orthodox bishop, but because of his Arian deviations he was removed from the clergy. The first big event where we meet him is the council in Tyre. For Velent, we can make no such assumptions.

In 335, the two bishops from the Balkans first appeared on the political scene of the Arian conflict, at a council convened by Emperor Constantine I in the city of Tyre. The council was not planned in advance, as the bishops were to gather in Tyre on their way to Jerusalem to take part in the consecration of the newly built temple. The emperor's plan was that after some reconciliation between the two sides, the consecration of the temple would end in the unity of the Church.

About 310 bishops gathered in Tyre, including Ursacius and Valens, who were to hear the accusations against Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, of violence against other bishops in Egypt. Ursacius and Valens are not mentioned in the debate againts Athanasius, but are included in a group of six bishops (Theognis, Maris, Theodore, and Macedonius) who were to go to Mareotis, Egypt, and investigate the charges against Athanasius.

How important their inclusion in the investigative group is for their evaluation as bishops and to what extent it influences their establishment as one of the main leaders of the Arian community in the Balkans is a matter of personal interpretation. In all likelihood, the fact that the two bishops were disciples of Arius himself from the time of his first exile in Illyricum in 325, as Athanasius bishop of Alexandria (ad Episc. Aegypt. 7), testified himself is of great significance. Athanasius does not fail to note that they are still young "physically and spiritually", which can be interpreted as evidence of the atypical for their age role assigned to them.

According to the testimony of Socrates Scholasticus (Socr. HE I.27), Ursacius and Valens participated in the preparation of the accusations against Athanasius at the council of Tyre together with Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis, bishop of Nicaea, Maris, bishop of Chalcedon, that include theft, sacrilege and murder.

While the commission of six bishops conducts its investigation in Egypt, the other members of the Council of Tyre went to Jerusalem to participate in the consecration of the new cathedral. A small council was held on the spot, at which the present bishops received Arius in church communion. After the consecration of the temple in Jerusalem, the bishops returned to Tyre to complete the work. The council decided to excommunicate Athanasius. The latter challenged the bishop of Alexandria, who immediately went to Constantinople to meet with the emperor and personally presented his position.

A delegation of six bishops went to Constantinople to present to Constantine I the decisions of the Council of Tyre for approval. The envoy included Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, Theognis, bishop of Nicaea, Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolis, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, Ursacius, and Valens (Athan. Ap. Cont. Arian. 87.1). When the bishops arrived in the new capital of the empire, they found that after his meeting with Athanasius, Constantine had already taken decision, which effectively repealed the decision of the council of Tyre.

Eusebius of Nicomedia and the other envoys, including Ursacius and Valens, immediately made a new charge against Athanasius – the threat of suspending the supply of grain from Egypt to Constantinople. Constantine convened a new council, this time in the capital (Socr. HE I.27).

Until the beginning of the forties of the 4th century we have no information about what happened to Ursacius, in all probability he returned to Illyricum. We know that Valens was in Aquileia, where he organized a popular outrage against the local bishop.

In 342, both bishops were again in Constantinople, where they assisted in the ordination of Macedonia as bishop of the city.

In 343 another council was held in Serdica to resolve the Arian-Nicene dispute. Ursaius and Valens attended, as far as can be defined as participation in the fair, their physical residence in Serdica. After the withdrawal of the Eastern bishops, supporters of the Arian doctrine, at Philippopolis, including the two Western bishops Ursacius and Valens, the latter were excommunicated from the bishops gathered in Serdica. Despite the scarce information about Ursacius and Velens, we cannot fail to notice the gradual increase in their authority and influence among the Arian community.

In 346, when Athanasius triumphantly returned to Alexandria. In 348, a council of Western bishops was held in Mediolanum, reaffirming the dogma of Nicaea and seeking to excommunicate all Western bishops who had previously been convicted of associating with Arians and slandering Athanasius, including Ursacius and Valens. Seeing the threat, the two bishops sent a libela to the council, in which they anathematized Arius and all his followers. Then, in order to secure their return to communion, they came in person to the bishop of Rome and signed a letter in front of him, in which they acknowledged as a lie everything they had said earlier about Athanasius. The letter to Julius included a request for protection in the event that Athanasius and the Eastern bishops decided to deal with them. Julius accepted the denial of Ursacius and Valens, and the council accepted them back into communion.

In addition to the letter to Julius Ursacius and Valens wrote a letter to Athanasius of Alexandria apologizing for their deliberate actions against him. The letter was delivered to Athanasius, as he quoted it in his apology against the Arians (apol. Cont. Arian. 58.1).

Over the next five years, the situation for Ursacius and Valens changed again. In 351 Constantius faced a decisive battle against the usurper Magnentius at Mursa, whose city Bishop was Valens. The bishop immediately seizes the opportunity given to him. Sulpicius Severus tells us the following. During the battle of Mursa, September 351, Constantius did not find the strength to join the battle in person, but settled in the martyrdom, located next to the city gates. The bishop of the city, Valens, arranged through his scouts to be the first to learn the outcome of the battle. His goal was to be the first to bring him the good news of victory, or in if the battle was lost to give him time to escape. Thus Valens had the opportunity to be the first to inform the imperial retinue of Maxentius' retreating army, and when Constantius wanted to see the bearer of the good news, the bishop said that an angel himself had brought him the news. Thus Constantius declared that the victory had been achieved by Valens, not by his brave army.

According to the testimony of Sulpicius Severus (Chron. II.38), the Arians won the emperor's side, but moreover, "honor all the bishops of both Pannonia and many of the eastern bishops, as well as all of Asia, have joined their false faith." “. Sulpicius Severus brought Ursacius of Singidunum first as a leader of the Arian party, followed by Valens of Murcia, Theodoret of Heraclea, and only then Stephen of Antioch, Acacius of Caesarea, Menophant of Ephesus, George of Laodicea, and Narcissus of Nero. These were the bishops without whose consent the emperor did not take any action related to church affairs.

After his victory over Magnentius, Constantius held a small council in Arles, which was attended by the bishops of the city of Saturninus, already included in the retinue of the emperor Ursacius, Valens, and several other Eastern bishops. Representatives of the Nicaeans were Pauline, bishop of Trier, and the legates of the bishop of Rome, Liberius.

In 355, a meeting was held again in Mediolanum, at which Ursacius and Valens once again charged the Athanasius. They were forced to withdraw their accusations after being presented with the letter they had signed to Pope Julius. After this development, Constantius took the council into his own hands and succeeded in condemning the leaders of the Nicaean party. Unfortunately, however, the emperor did not receive a satisfactory number of signatures under the decisions of the council and sent officials to collect more signatures, having the right to excommunicate any bishop who refused. Ursacius and Valens participated in the collection of signatures and managed to achieve the number sought by the emperor.

After the decisions of the Council of Mediolanum, Hilary of Pictavea, headed the anti-Arian group of Western bishops. He convened a council in his hometown in 355, that decided to excommunicate Ursacius, Valens, and Saturninus, bishop of Arles. In response to the council at Poitiers, Saturninus organized a council in 356, which in turn condemned Hilary and Rodan, bishop of Toulouse. Hilary's revolt was unsuccessful, and although the Western bishops did not dare to expel him from his chair, Constantius exiled him to the East. At the same time, the emperor banished Athanasius of Alexandria.

Ursacius and Valens used the last exile of Athanasius to try to impose Arianism in the western parts of the empire. In 357 in Sirmium, in the presence of the emperor Ursacius, Valens and Herminius, bishop of Sirmium, proposed the so-called Second Sirmium symbol. This symbol was prepared by the Fourth Council of Sirmium in the same year. Under this formula we find the signatures of Ossius of ​​Cordoba and Pope Liberius.

Constantius decided that it was time to reach a unity of the Church and under the influence of Ursacius and Valens summoned parallel councils in Arimini and Seleucia. In the presence of the emperor, these councils adopted the Fourth Sirmium Formula. With this formula and the imperial edict, Ursacius, Valens, and Germanius went to Ariminite in 359. The emperor's edict ordered that only the faith be discussed and that no decisions be made about the Eastern bishops. The Council of Arimini started in July 359. Ursacius and Valens persuaded the followers of the Nicene Creed to accept the Sirmium symbol, much to the displeasure of the Western bishops. It was first decided that Bishop Gratian should be condemned as homoioi, and a few days later Ursacius and Valens were excommunicated as heretics, and the council split into several factions.

After the death of Constantius Germanius, bishop of Sirimum, the capital of Illyricum, renounced his support for Arianism. Ursacius and Valens immediately demanded a written explanation for his new policy. In view of what was happening, Ursacius, Valens, Gaius, bishop of Sabarisa, and Pave, convened a council at Singidunum in 366 and again demanded an explanation from Germanius.

In 369 a council was held in Rome, at which Auxentius, bishop of Mediolanum, was convicted. At this same council, Ursacius, Valens, and Gaius were once again condemned, and the Arian symbol of faith was rejected.

After 371 we no longer find information about Ursacius. In all probability he was succeeded as bishop by Secundianus, who would be convicted together with Palladium in Aquileia.

The last evidence of Valens is from 369, a council in Rome, at which he was excommunicated. He probably died before 375.

Ursacius and Valens are two of the most influential bishops in the Balkans. Not only did they lead the Arian party in the West, but they also managed to become personal advisers to Emperor Constantius II, and from this position they tried to impose a symbol of faith that was a compromise between Arians and Nicaeans. After the success of the followers of the Nicene Creed, they were denounced as heretics and presented as destroyers of Christendom. Despite this negative image imposed by the established Orthodox party, we cannot deny that their position and influence had a significant impact on the course of the conflict between the Arians and the Nicaeans. Nor can we ignore the obvious knowledge and skills they possessed so that they could be the basis of the symbol of faith from Sirmium.


Athanasius of Alexandria, Epistula ad Episcopos Aegypti et Libyae, K. Metzler (ed.) Athanasius: Werke I.1 (Berlin, 1996–2000), 39–64.

Translated in A. Robertson (ed.) (1892) St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 4, (Oxford), 222–235.

Philostorgius, Historia Ecclesiastica, J. Bidez (ed.) (1981) Philostorgius: Kirchengeschichte, GCS, 3rd edn, rev. by F. Winkelmann.

P. R. Amidon (tr.) Philostorgius: Church History (Atlanta, Georgia, 2007)

Sokrates Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica, Günther Christian Hansen (ed.), GCS N.F. 1 (Berlin, 1995).

Sozomenos, Historia ecclesiastica, Joseph Bidez and Günther Christian Hansen (eds), GCS 50 (Berlin, 1960);

Ernst Walford (tr.), The ecclesiastical history of Sozomen, comprising a history of the church form A.D. 324 to A.D. 440 (London, 1855).

Secondary Sources

Henry Wace, William Pierce (eds.) (1911) A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies. (Little, Brown and Company, Boston).

Zeiller J. (1918), Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l'Empire romain (Paris).


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