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E00044: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, in its account of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), tells how he was crucified on the Vatican Hill outside Rome on 29 June and buried close by.

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posted on 2014-09-17, 00:00 authored by admin
Liber Pontificalis 1

First edition (as reconstructed by Duchesne)

Hic martyrio cum Paulo coronatur ... qui et sepultus est via Aurelia, in templo Apollonis, iuxta locum ubi crucifixus est, iuxta palatium Neronianum in Vaticanum, in territurium Triumphale, via Aurelia, III k. iul.

'He [Peter] was crowned with martyrdom along with Paul ... he was buried on the Via Aurelia, in the temple of Apollo, close to the place where he was crucified, and to Nero's palace on the Vatican, in the Triumphal territory, via Aurelia, the third day before the kalends of July [29 June].'

Second edition

Post hanc dispositionem martyrio cum Paulo coronatur, post passionem Domini anno XXXVIII. Qui sepultus est via Aurelia, in templum Apollinis, iuxta locum ubi crucifixus est, iuxta palatium Neronianum, in Vaticanum, iuxta territurium Triumphalem, III kl. iul.

'After making this arrangement he [Peter] was crowned with martyrdom along with Paul in the 38th year after the Lord suffered. He was buried on the via Aurelia at the temple of Apollo, close to the place where he was crucified, and to Nero’s palace on the Vatican, and to the Triumphal territory, the third day before the kalends of July [29 June].'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 51/53 and 118. Translation: Davis 2010, 2, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Paulus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Liber Pontificalis

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


The Liber Pontificalis consists of a series of short lives of popes. The preface attributes it to pope Damasus (366-384), but this attribution is obviously false. According to Louis Duchesne, the first modern editor of the Liber Pontificalis, the original series of lives was written in Rome by an anonymous author, probably a member of the lesser clergy, in the 530s, and contained the lives from *Peter the Apostle to Felix IV (ob. 530). Shortly after, before 546, the text was re-edited by another anonymous author and only this edition survives. The first edition, however, was reconstructed by Duchesne on the basis of its two epitomes (and the second edition). The second edition started to be continued systematically from the time of pope Honorius (625–638). It should be noted that Theodor Mommsen dated both editions of the Liber Pontificalis to the 7th century, but his opinion is widely rejected and the commonly accepted dating is that of Duchesne. For the pre-Constantinian period (before 312), the credibility of the Liber Pontificalis is very low. The chronology is confused, and details concerning the personal lives, decisions, and ordinations of the bishops of Rome at best reflect what people in the 6th century trusted to be true, at worst are a pure invention of the author. The situation changes with the later lives. Already the information of 4th century papal foundations and offerings are generally trustworthy. The early 6th century evidence, based on the author's first hand knowledge is even better, though still imperfect.


As with almost all the information of the Liber Pontificalis concerning the pre-Constantinian period, this short passage reflects no more than a 6th century vision of the past shared by Christians in Rome. The author wants to say that Peter had been buried in the place where his basilica was later built. He correctly localises it on the Vatican hill, close to the 'Triumphal Territory' - called that originally probably because the triumphal processions of Furius Camillus, after his victory over Veii, started there. However, other topographical details are inaccurate, if not imaginary. There was neither a palace of Nero nor a temple of Apollo on the Vatican hill, and it is difficult to say how the author got the idea to name these two buildings. The circus of Nero was on the Vatican, and distorted information about it might have somehow reached the author, but he could also have invented Nero's palace himself, since he knew that Peter was killed in Nero's persecution. The mention of the temple of Apollo (we do not know why specifically him) most probably served the author to enhance the triumph of Peter, whose basilica had been constructed over the site of a defeated pagan cult. For further discussion, see: Duchesne 1886, 119-120; Davis 2010, xvii-xviii. The author places the death and burial of Paul on the same day of the year as Peter's, which meant that on 29 June the martyrdoms of both of Rome's apostolic saints, Peter and Paul, were celebrated together.


Edition: Duchesne, L., Le Liber pontificalis, 2 vols (Paris: E. Thorin, 1886-1892). (With substantial introduction and commentary.) Translation: Davis, R., The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) (Translated Texts for Historians 6; 2nd ed.; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000). Further reading: McKitterick, R., "The representation of Old Saint Peter's basilica in the Liber Pontificalis," in R. McKitterick, J. Osborne, C.M. Richardson, and J. Story (eds.), Old Saint Peter's, Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 95-118.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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