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Valentinian II

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(FLAVIUS VALENTINIANUS)

Reigned 375-392; born in Gaul, about 371, murdered at Vienne, Dauphiny, Gaul, 15 May, 392. Son of Valentinian I and his second wife Justina. He was never much more than a merely nominal ruler, for while Gratian ruled in the East, most of the West was under the control of Magnus Maximus. Italy was all that was left to him, and even there the real ruler was his mother Justina, with whom he resided at Milan. In 387 Maximus, who had usurped the northern provinces in 383, invaded Italy and Justina and Valentinian fled to Thessalonica to seek the aid of Theodosius, Emperor of the East. Maximus was defeated, but Justina soon died, and Valentinian fell under the evil influence of Arbogast, who had him assassinated later. Valentinian was weak, but just, and loved peace. Justina was opposed to the orthodox party; she endeavoured to set up an Arian bishop at Milan and to procure a church for his followers, but was thwarted by St. Ambrose, who protested that the churches belonged to the bishop not to the emperor. And when the Roman senate attempted in 384 and 391 to restore the altar of victory and the pagan rites, it was St. Ambrose again who triumphed. On 23 January, 386, Valentinian published an edict protecting the Arian supporters of the Council of Ariminum, but this was overruled by Theodosius. On the other hand he supported Pope Damasus against his enemy Ursinus. With Gratian he reaffirmed the exemption of the clergy from the jurisdiction of the civil tribunals in religious matters. In 386 he issued an edict for the erection of the Basilica of St. Paul and directed Sallust, the prefect of Rome, to co-operate with Pope Siricus in this matter. The basilica was consecrated in 390. After Justina's death Valentinian abandoned Arianism, became a catechumen, and invited St. Ambrose to come to Gaul to administer baptism to him, but was not spared to receive it. His body was brought to Milan, where the saint delivered his funeral oration, "De obitu Valentiniani consolatio", in which he dwells on the efficacy of baptism of desire (P.L., XVI).


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