1 No doubt the John called Climacus, Scholasticus, and Sinaita, commemorated as a saint on 30 March. Having entered the monastery of Mount Sinai at the age of 16, he is said to have retired thence to live the life of an anchoret, to have been elected abbot at the age of 75, to have again after a time retired into solitude, and to have died early in the 7th century. While abbot, he wrote a work called Scala (kli\mac) Paradisi, whence his name of Climacus. The monastery on Mount Sinai was a place to which pilgrimages were made. Cf. IV. 46.
3 The meaning of the word rachana, racana, or racahina, is uncertain. It occurs again in Xl. 78, where Barbara and Antonina, two young ladies at Constantinople, are thanked for a present of two racanae, which they had alleged to be of their own workmanship. It is usually supposed to mean some wooller article of dress, worn by monks. Others understand blankets.
6 Other epistles to Serenus of Marseilles are VI. 52, IX. 205, Xl. 58. In IX. 105 he had already been reproved for his inconsiderate zeal in breaking pictures of saints, which is the main subject of the present letter. His reply to the former letter, of which he had affected to suspect the genuineness, seems to have called forth this Ionger and severer admonition.
7 Cyriacus, once abbot of Gregory's own monastery of St. Andrew on the C(lian at Rome, is named in the former epistle to Serenus (IX. 105) as its bearer. As to the cause of his being sent at that time into Gaul, see notes to IX. 106, and IX. 109.
13 For further reference to the subject of this letter, see XIV. 2. It appears there that Epiphanius, mentioned in this letter, had been a son-in-law of Pompeiana. It appears further that this lady afterwards accused both the bishop Januarius and the defensor Vitalis of having unjustly withheld her son-in-law's pious bequest, notwithstanding the admonition contained in this letter.
14 For reasons for supposing this letter to Angustine to have been written earlier than the 4th Indiction (a.d. 600-1), to which it is assigned by the Benedictine Editors, and for a summary of the whole series of letters relating to the English mission, see Prolegom., p. xxv.
15 As to the apparent inference from this letter that King Ethelbert of Kent had not been converted when it was written and as to when it may have been sent to queen Bertha, see Prolegom., p. xxvi., note 2.
16 See I. 34, note 8: It is significant of Gregory's delicate tact, that he does not in this letter, when his friend was suffering, allude to his past renunciation of monastic life as among the sins to be repented of, or urge him to return to it, though that the subject was still on his mind appears from his letter about the same time to the Bishop of Syracuse (XI. 36).
17 i.e. Agilulph, the Lombard king, referred to as Ago also in IV. 11. It was the Lombard occupation of a great part of Italy at that time that was apprehended as likely to impede a journey from Ravenna to Rome.
22 It may have been that Venantius had filled some public office, in connexion with which it was alleged that his estate was liable to seizure by the goverment officials. Gregory evidently believes that there is not such liability; but, in view of the attempt to assert it, he is anxious that no pretext should be afforded the authorities for taking charge of the property of the deceased, such as they might have had if the orphans had been made wards of the Emperor.