The famous Christian writer Hieronymus (Saint Jerome) lived in the second half of the fourth and early fifth century. He informs us about the building of a xenodochium, a hospice for strangers, at Portus by Pammachius.
|[397 AD] Audio te xenodochium in portu fecisse Romano et virgam de arbore Abraham in Ausonio plantasse litore. Quasi Aeneas nova castra metaris et super undam Thybridis, ubi ille cogente quondam penuria crustis fatalibus et quadris patulis non pepercit, tu viculum nostrum, id est domum panis, aedificas et diuturnam famem repentina saturitate compensas. Euge, noster, initia transgrederis.||I hear that you have erected a hospice for strangers at Portus and that you have planted a twig from the tree of Abraham upon the Ausonian shore. Like Aeneas you are tracing the outlines of a new encampment; only that, whereas he, when he reached the waters of the Tiber, under pressure of want had to eat the square flat cakes which formed the tables spoken of by the oracle, you are able to build a house of bread to rival this little village of Bethlehem wherein I am staying; and here after their long privations you propose to satisfy travellers with sudden plenty. Well done. You have surpassed my poor beginning.|
|[399 AD] Certabant vir et femina, quis in portu Abrahae tabernaculum figeret, et haec erat inter utrumque contentio, quis humanitate superaret. Vicit uterque et uterque superatus est. Ambo se victos et victores fatentur, dum, quod alter cupiebat, uterque perfecit. Iungunt opes, sociant voluntates, ut, quod aemulatio dissipatura erat, concordia cresceret. Necdum dictum, iam factum: emitur hospitium et ad hospitium turba concurrit. Non est enim labor in Iacob nec dolor in Israhel. Adducunt maria, quos in gremio suo terra suscipiat. Mittit Roma properantes, quos navigaturos litus molle confoveat. Quod Publius semel fecit in insula Melita erga unum apostolum et - ne contradictioni locum tribuam - in una nave, hoc isti et frequenter faciunt et in plures, nec solum inopum necessitas sustentatur, sed prona in omnes munificentia aliquid et habentibus providet. Xenodochium in portu Romano situm totus pariter mundus audivit.||He [Pammachius] and Fabiola contended for the privilege of setting up a tent like that of Abraham at Portus. The contest which arose between them was for the supremacy in shewing kindness. Each conquered and each was overcome. Both admitted themselves to be at once victors and vanquished for what each had desired to effect alone both accomplished together. They united their resources and combined their plans that harmony might forward what rivalry must have brought to nought. No sooner was the scheme broached than it was carried out. A house was purchased to serve as a shelter and a crowd flocked into it. "There was no more travail in Jacob nor distress in Israel." The seas carried voyagers to find a welcome here on landing. Travellers left Rome in haste to take advantage of the mild coast before setting sail. What Publius once did in the island of Malta for one apostle and--not to leave room for gainsaying--for a single ship's crew, Fabiola and Pammachius have done over and over again for large numbers; and not only have they supplied the wants of the destitute, but so universal has been their munificence that they have provided additional means for those who have something already. The whole world knows that a home for strangers has been established at Portus.|