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E00401: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, recounts the founding and endowment of the basilica of St *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) outside Rome, by the emperor Constantine (312-337).

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posted on 2015-04-22, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 34.16-18

For the following passage it is impossible to reconstruct the text of the first edition.

Second edition

16. Easdem tempore Augustus Constantinus fecit basilicam beato Petro Apostolo in templo Apollinis, cuius loculum cum corpus sancti Petri ita recondit: ipsum loculum undique ex aere cypro conclusit, quod est inmobile: ad caput, pedes V; ad pedes, pedes V; ad latus dextrum, pedes V; ad latus sinistrum, pedes V; subter, pedes V; supra, pedes V. Sic inclusit corpus beati Petri apostoli et recondit. Et exornavit supra columnis purphyreticis et alias columna vitineas quas de Graecias perduxit. Fecit autem cameram basilicae ex trimma auri fulgentem et super corpus beati Petri, supra aera quod conclusit, fecit crucem ex auro purissimo, pens. lib. CL, in mensurae locus, ubi scriptum est hoc: CONSTANTINUS AUGUSTUS ET HELENA AUGUSTA HANC DOMUM REGALEM SIMILI FULGORE CORUSCANS AULA CIRCUMDAT, scriptum ex litteris nigellis in cruce ipsa.
18. Fecit autem candelabra aurocalca in pedibus X, numero IIII, argento conclusa cum sigillis argenteis actus Apostolorum, pens. sing. lib. CCC;
calices aureos III cum gemmis prasinis et yacintis, singuli qui habent gemmas XLV, pens. sing. lib. XII;
metretas argenteas II, pens. lib. CC;
calices argenteos XX, pens. sing. lib. X;
amas aureas II, pens. sing. lib. X;
amas argenteas V, pens. sing. lib. XX;
patenam auream cum turrem, ex auro purissimo cum columbam, ornatam gemmis prasinis et yachintis qui sunt numero margaritis CCXV, pens. lib. XXX;
patenas argenteas V, pens. sing. lib. XV;
coronam auream anate corpus, qui est farus cantharus, cum delfinos L, qui pens. lib. XXXV;
fara argentea in gremio basilicae XXXII cum delfinos, pens. sing. lib. X;
ad dexteram basilicae, fara argentea XXX, pens. sing. lib. VIII;
ipsum altarem ex argento auroclusum cum gemmis prasinis et yaquintis et albis ornatum ex undique, numero gemmarum CCCC, pens. lib. CCCL;
tymiameterium ex auro purissimo cum gemmis ex undique ornatum numero LX, pens. lib. XV.
Item in reditum, donum quod obtulit Constantinus Augustus beato Petro apostolo...

16. Then the emperor Constantine built a basilica to saint Peter the Apostle, at the temple of Apollo, where he buried the tomb with saint Peter’s body in this way: the actual tomb he sealed on all sides with copper to make it immovable, 5 ft each at the head, the feet, the right and left sides, the bottom and the top; thus he enclosed saint Peter’s body and buried it. Above he decorated it with porphyry columns and other vine-scroll columns which he brought from Greece. 17. He also built the basilica’s apse-vault shining with gold-foil; and over saint Peter’s body, above the bronze in which he had sealed it, he provided a cross of finest gold weighing 150 lb, made to measure; on the cross itself is written in nielloed letters
18. He also provided 4 brass candelabra, 10 ft in size, finished in silver with silver medallions of the acts of the apostles, each weighing 300 lb;
3 gold chalices, with 45 prase and jacinth jewels, each
weighing 12 lb;
2 silver metretae weighing 200 lb;
20 silver chalices each weighing 10 lb;
2 gold amae each weighing 10 lb;
5 silver amae each weighing 20 lb;
a gold paten with a tower of finest gold and a dove, adorned with prase and jacinth jewels and with pearls, 215 in number, weighing 30 lb;
5 silver patens each weighing 15 lb;
a gold crown in front of the body, which is a chandelier, with 50 dolphins, weighing 35 lb;
32 silver lights in the centre of the basilica, with dolphins, each weighing 10 lb;
on the right of the basilica, 30 silver lights each weighing 8 lb;
the altar itself, of silver chased with gold, weighing 350 lb, decorated on all sides with prase and jacinth jewels and pearls, the jewels 210 in number;
a censer of finest gold, decorated on all sides with jewels, 60 in number, weighing 15 lb.

There follows a list of the extensive endowments of St Peter's Basilica, consisting of houses, baths, bakeries, taverns, estates etc., all of them in the diocese of the East or in Egypt.

Text: Duchesne 1886, 176-178. Translation: Davis 2010, 18-19, lightly modified. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source


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 - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Commissioning/producing an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels Precious material objects Other Oil lamps/candles Inscription


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, can be reconstituted 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.


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; 3rd ed.; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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