I am trying to read the poems of Pope John Paul II. They are sprinkled with references to the Vulgate. But two Latin lines,

Casta placent superis; pura cum veste venite,
et manibus Puris sumite fontis aquam

...lack any sort of actual reference. Apparently the former Pope read and meditated on these lines "for eight years every day."

I cannot find the proper citation anywhere.

2 Answers 2


It is from Albius Tibullus (died 19 BC), Book II, 1.

It would be a little surprising to find the superi in the Vulgate. It means “the heavenly gods” (as opposed to the gods of the underworld).

John Paul II read these lines on a daily basis because they were inscribed above the entrance of the school he attended as a youth, the Gymnasium of Wadowice. This was a “humanist gymnasium,” which was founded on the ideas of renaissance humanism and taught the ancient languages.


The two lines are an elegiac couplet. This poetic form was common in classical Latin, but not used in the Bible at all. As very little Christian literature has been written in this metre, it is likely that the reference is to Roman poetry.

And as Sebastian's answer indicates, this is exactly the case. The point of this answer was just to point out that this was to be expected based on form alone.

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