Hilary of Poitiers

Hilary of Poitiers (French Saint- Hilaire, * 315 in Poitiers, Poitiers † 367 ) was a bishop and doctor of the Church during the Arian controversy and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Trinitarians in the Western Church.

Church History circumstances of the time

Hilary lived and worked in the time of the Arian controversy. When he was about five years old, it came to a dispute between Arius and Alexander of Alexandria, when he was ten years old, the first council of Nicaea was held. Hilary worked during the reign of Constantius II and Julian, was a few years younger than Athanasius and some years older than Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus, whose work began only after his death.


Hilary grew up in a wealthy pagan family, studied as was customary, philosophy and rhetoric, only to be Roman official. 345 he was baptized with his wife and daughter and five years later elected him the small Christian community of Pictavium (Poitiers) to their bishop. He was the first Bishop of Poitiers, who is known by name. In this capacity, he baptized 351 Martin of Tours.

Soon he had to take a position in the Arian dispute. In a letter to Emperor Constantius II, he exhorted them to take of his policy of coercion distance, he had shown in the Councils of Arles and Milan. In the Council of Beziers Hilary was one of the few who refused to condemn Athanasius, after which he was banished by the Emperor Constantius to Phrygia 356, as it was already gone Nicene other bishops of the West, Constantius had objected to a council.

In Phrygia had to study Hilary opportunity, the Church Fathers and the teachings of the East from the vicinity. He also wrote there two Latin treatises on the Trinity ( De Trinitate Synodis and De ) to make the bishops of the West understood what was at stake in this dispute. Supported by the Emperor Arian bishops from Phrygia considered the teaching and writing activities of Hilary under her eyes to be a nuisance.

The "semi- Arians " who saw how he fearlessly criticized Arianism, thought that he could help them in their cause, and invited him to the Council of Seleucia 359 a. Hilary criticized there but their vision sharp, whereupon he was released before the end of the Council.

When he then in response to the Council of Constantinople Opel of 360 another letter to Constantius wrote in which he offered to defend his faith publicly in front of him and a council, he came to the conclusion that this " sowers of discord and troublemaker of the East " in Gaul probably less evil would do as in the East, and his exile ended. However, no one told Hilary on the fastest way to return home, so he went in peace by Illyria and Italy, preaching on the way everywhere against Arianism.

On his return, he was received as a hero of the Nicene faith. A council in Paris 361 excommunicated under his direction Saturninus of Arles, who had directed the councils of Arles, Beziers on behalf of the Emperor.

Hilary played a major role in the mediation of Eastern theology in the Latin world, and vice versa. Much like Ambrose of Milan, he mastered both Greek as well as Latin. He is one of those Latin Church Fathers, which are highly appreciated in the Orthodox Church to this day.

In addition to theology he had met a little further to the east: Christian hymns. In the West, only psalms and Bible texts had been set to music before. Hilary was probably the first who wrote Latin hymns.


  • Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Probably the oldest work and the only one in which there is no indication that it was written by a bishop; thus presumably written before Hilary ' episcopal ordination.
  • De Synodis (On the Councils )
  • De Trinitate (On the Trinity)
  • Tractatus super Psalmos ( Treatise on the Psalms )


  • Evangelical: January 13 in the Protestant calendar name
  • Catholic: January 13 ( Not optional memorial in the general Roman calendar ). In Poitiers: transfer of the remains on 26 June

The 13th of January is the day of the funeral of Hilary.

In 1851 he was of Pius IX. declared a Doctor of the Church.

Hilary is the patron saint of Poitiers, La Rochelle and Luçon; the feeble children and against snake bite.

He is a patron of numerous churches.