Severianus, St., the apostle of Noricum. The records of his early life are scanty, but indicate that he was born of Christian parents in Italy early in the 5th century. He chose a hermit's life in early youth, and settled in the East in pursuance of that purpose, but soon returned to the West in order to devote himself to the active propagation of Christianity among the heathen, establishing himself first in Pannonia, but afterwards iu Noricum. . The latter was an imperial province lying between the river Danube and the Alps, and was intersected with Roman roads on which were located not only flourishing native towns, but numerous Roman colonies, municipalities, and camps, which contained a Roman population (comp. Strabo, 4, 206, and 7, 304, 313; Tacitus, Ann. 2, 63; id. Hist. 1, 11, 70; Pliny, 21, 7, 20; Ptolemy, 2, 1, 12; 8, 6, 2, 7; 1, 8, 2; Zosimus, 4, 35). The population had also adopted the Roman language, culture, and customs, and carried on an active trade with the Italian cities, particularly Rome and Aquileia. Christianity had, consequently, been long introduced when Severinus settled in Noricum; but it had failed to subdue the prevailing paganism, so that in the middle of the 4th century St. Valentine was repeatedly expelled from the country because of his attempts to preach the Gospel. A complete recognition was not accorded to Christianity until after Theodosius the Great had issued a general edict prohibiting all idolatry throughout the empire (in 392 [Cod. Theod. de Paganis, 1, 7, 9, 11 sq.]); and an additional difficulty was encountered in the convulsions which grew out of the migration of Eastern nations then in progress.
Severinus fixed his residence in the neighborhood of Faviana, a town on the Danube near where the modern Pochlarn stands, and engaged in the practice of a rigid asceticism. He also founded a monastery and gathered a large number of pupils, whom he trained, by precept and example, to imitate the virtues of the early Christians and to avoid the corrupt manners of the world. He never partook of food before sundown except on feast- days, walked constantly with bare feet, and always slept on a cilicium spread on the bare floor of his chamber. But, not content with fulfilling his vow in the most faithful manner, he also frequently traversed the country to preach the Gospel, to comfort the Christian communities, who were incessantly ravaged by the predatory assaults of barbarous hordes, and to admonish them to avert the threatening dangers by prayers and good works, and to faithfully pay tithes for the support of the poor. He was also indefatigable in laboring to secure the liberation of imprisoned Christians, in healing the sick, and in entertaining and aiding helpless fugitives. Being endowed with the ability to form a correct estimate of existing conditions, he was frequently able to point out the places which were exposed to attacks from the enemy, and he never failed to give timely warning of danger and to suggest proper. measures of defense. His reputation accordingly increased more and more, so that he was barely able to attend to all the requests addressed to him for instruction, counsel, comfort, and aid. Even the famous Odoacer, leader of the Rugians and Herulians, did not disdain to seek him and ask for his counsel and blessing when about to engage in his expedition to Italy in A.D. 476.
The zeal displayed by Severinus for the outward welfare of the people and for the success of Christianity led several congregations to make him their bishop; but he declined the office on the ground that he preferred his solitude. The later years of his life were disturbed by the incursions of the Alemanni and the Rugians. One of the latest acts of his life was an attempt to persuade the Rugian king Fava, of Feletheus, and his cruel queen, Gisa, to refrain from hostilities against the Noricans. He died Jan. 8, 482, and was eventually buried in Italy, first at Monte Feltre, and afterwards on a small island near Naples, where a costly tomb had been erected for him by a noblewoman. Christianity had been firmly established in Noricum during his life; the bishopric of Lohr, subsequently transferred to Passau, had already been founded (Vita S. c. 30), and three others (Teurnia, or Tiburnia, Celleia, now Cilley, and Aemona, now Laybach, whose bishops are recorded among the members of a synod held at Grado in 579) were established in the course of the. next century.
Literature. — Eugipputs, Vita S. Severini, in M. Welseri Opp. Hist. et Phil. (Norimb. 1672), p. 631 sq., and in Pez, Scriptt. Rer. Austr. 1, 62 sq.; the Bollandists' Aeta SS. ad Jan. 8. See also Mannert, Geogr. d. Griechen u. Roier, 3, 528 sq.; Forbiger, Handb. d. alt. Geogr. 3, 455 sq.; Muchar, Das rom. Noricum, etc. (Gratz, 1825, 2 pts. 8vo); Mascou, Gesch. d. Teutscheun, etc., II, 2, 2, and 13, 36); Stritter, Memorioe Populorum olim ad Danub., etc. (St. Petersburg, 1771-74, 2 vols. 4to); Mosheim, De Rebus Christ. etc., p. 211 sq.; Fleury, Hist. Eccles. 6, 839 sq.; Schrockh, Christliche Kirchengeschichte, 16, 261 sq.; Rettberg, Kirchengesch. Deutschlands (Gott. 1846), 1, 8, 21, 84.