In the face of rising spiritual and political threats, Maximus of Turin charged his congregation to remain steadfast in trusting the Lord. Today, Stephen Nichols describes the legacy of this fifth-century bishop.
Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. On this episode, we are talking about Maximus of Turin. Turin is a city in the north of Italy, not quite as far up as Milan, and a little more to the west, about 60 kilometers away from the border of France. Turin is of course, famous for the Shroud of Turin in the cathedral there, but this episode is about Maximus. Maximus was born around 380 or so. He was discipled by Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and he was the first bishop of the city of Torin. Now, to be a bishop, you need a cathedral. Turin had a complex of three churches, which were all built around what was at one time a Roman theater. The largest church was St. John the Baptist. The church that is on the site today was begun in construction at the end of the 15th century, and it took a whole 200 years to complete.
The dome itself took nearly 30 years. Well, let’s go back to the end of the fourth century and the birth of Maximus. Just after he was born, you might remember what event occurred in 381. It was the Council of Constantinople, which reaffirmed and truly established what had been confessed before in 325 at the Council of Nicaea. That is the deity of Christ, that Christ is very man of, very man, and of very God, a very God. He’s truly man. He is truly God, and he is the God-man for us and for our salvation. This all-important, essential confession of faith was established just as Maximus was born. And Maximus died sometime around the year 465. And you remember what happened in 451. That’s right, it’s Chalcedon. And now we have the Chalcedonian formula that Jesus is truly God and truly man, two natures in one person without confusion, change division, or separation.
So, with Maximus’s birth and with his death are these great councils of the early church, and Maximus, as he was Bishop, preached many sermons and wrote treatises against the Nestorians, the Eutychians. They were some of the heretics that were answered at Chalcedon. He also wrote sermons against the Manicheans and against the Pelagians. He was certainly for and he preached the substance of the confessions of Nicaea and Chalcedon. But he also, in his sermons and writings, helped his congregation understand the errors of the heretics. And so, he showed how they were wrong, and he showed why it mattered that they were wrong. Well, not only does his life span these important confessions from the early church, he also lived and was bishop during the time of Attila that most feared conqueror, the one who armies posed a real and present danger. It was during Attila’s time that Maximus also preached on putting our faith in God.
He chastised his congregation for despairing at the news of Attila on the march and the news of his conquering. He counseled and pastored and he led the city of Turin through difficult times, and through that time of the siege and the threat of Attila the Hun, the literary legacy of Maximus, the confessor is vast. He preached somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 sermons. There's some dispute over the treatises that he wrote. At one point he was considered the author of six treatises. Scholars today wonder if some of those were written by others. Whatever the case may be, Maximus of Turin left behind quite a legacy of preaching, of ministering to that city there at Turin and also of writing. Well, that is the story of Maximus of Turin, a fifth-century Bishop. And I'm Steve Nichols and thanks for joining us for 5 Minutes in Church History.