The Burning Of Paternus


A fire struck the city of Paderborn in 1058. According to the Chronicon of Marianus Scotus, which was in turn cited by the Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, the Paderborn fire had long been predicted by a certain clairvoyant monk named Paternus (or Padernus), who had lived in a local monastery for a great many years. His behavior was a mix between a prophet and a fire marshal, as Paternus was always warning his fellow monks that a fire would break out in their flammable city, and that their own monastery would be one of the structures to burn. The monk’s prophecy was fulfilled around April 10, 1058, when a fire did indeed break out in Paderborn and began spreading toward the monastery in which Paternus lived. Yet, upon hearing that his prophecy had come to fruition, Paternus began to act strangely, and the awestruck monks of the monastery became increasingly concerned about their fellow clergyman’s behavior.

Paternus evidently felt connected to the fire he had long been predicting. While his brethren frantically gathered their belongings and whisked the monastery’s holy objects to safety, Paternus stubbornly refused to step foot off of the mat on the floor in his religious cell. He apparently decided that this prophesied fire was the perfect time to test his maker’s protection or to go down with the natural disaster that he had predicted. According to Florence of Worcester, “such was his desire of martyrdom that nothing could induce him to leave the place, and he was burnt to death in his cell, passing through the flames to the cool refreshment of paradise” (Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, AD 1058).

Fire in Paderborn caused death and destruction, but much was salvageable after the flames died down. The aforementioned Marianus Scotus visited the city not long after the fire, and he sought out the site where Paternus died. It is unclear whether the structure of the monastery was still standing, or if objects from the burnt ruins had been pulled out of the rubble. Whatever the case, Marianus Scotus was able to see items from the cell where Paternus burned to death. The visitor apparently decided to be quite hands-on with these charred objects. According to Florence of Worcester, Marianus had boasted that “he prayed on the very mat on which he was burnt” (Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, AD 1058).

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribute: (The Great Fire of London, with Ludgate and Old St. Paul’s, painted anonymously c. 1670, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).


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