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Saint Jerome – The patron saint of translators

Saint Jerome is known as the patron saint of translators, and every year on the 30th of September we celebrate him on the International Translation Day. Let us have a look at who Saint Jerome was, and why he is so important for the translators.

Jerome was born in Stridon around 342-347 AD, a village in the previous Roman province of Dalmatia. The exact location of the village is unknown, but it was possibly located either in modern Croatia or Slovenia. He later moved to Rome to pursue philosophical studies. He was known as a sceptic of Christianity, but after a serious illness (373-374 AD) he describes having a vision, that led him to lay aside his secular studies and devote himself to God. He was later ordained in 378 or 379 AD by Bishop Paulinus. After a few years in Constantinople, he returned to Rome, now as Pope Damasus 1 secretary and later taking a prominent place in the papal council. When the Pope later died in 384 AD, Jerome was forced to leave Rome.

At the start of the translation, Jerome knew little Hebrew, and after leaving Rome, he moved to Jerusalem to strengthen his grip on the Jewish scripture commentary. He acquired knowledge of Hebrew by studying together with a Jew who converted to Christianity. He was funded by a wealthy Roman aristocrat and stayed in a monastery in Bethlehem until the translation was complete in 405 AD. By 390 he started translating the original Hebrew Bible from the original Hebrew text. Against the traditional view at the time, he maintained that the Hebrew, not the Septuagint, was the inspired text of the Old Testament. Over a period of fifteen years he made a translation from the Hebrew into Latin that eventually superseded the preceding Latin translations and became known as the Vulgate.

Jerome died in Bethlehem on the 30th of September 420 AD. His remains were buried in Bethlehem but are said to be transferred to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

He was later recognized by the Catholic Church as the patron saint of translators, librarians and encyclopaedists and we still celebrate him every year on the 30th of September.

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