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E00406: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, recounts the founding and endowment of a basilica of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), and *John the Baptist (S00020) in Ostia, close to Rome, by the emperor Constantine (312-337).

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posted on 2015-04-22, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 34.26-27

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

Second edition

Eodem tempore fecit Constantinus basilicam in civitate Hostia, iuxta portum urbis Romae, beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli et Iohannis Baptistae, ubi et dona obtulit haec:
patenam argenteam, pens. lib. XXX;
calices argenteos X, pens. sing. lib. II;
amas argenteas II, pens. sing. lib. X;
fara cantara argentea XXX, pens. sing. lib. quinas;
scyphos argenteos II, pens. sing. lib. VIII;
patenam argenteam chrismalem singularem, pens. lib. X;
pelvem ex argento ad baptismum, pens. lib. XX...

There follows a list of the endowments of the basilica of Sts Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist.

Idem dona quae obtulit Gallicanus basilicae suprascriptae sanctorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli, et Iohannis Baptistae; obtulit hoc:
coronam argenteam cum delfinos, pens. lib. XX;
calicem argenteum anaglyfum, pens. lib. XV;
amam argenteam, pens. lib. XVIII

There continues the list of the endowments of the basilica of Sts Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist.

'28. Then the emperor Constantine built in the city of Ostia, close to the port of the city of Rome, the basilica of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul and of John the Baptist, where he presented the following gifts:
a silver paten weighing 30 lb;
10 silver chalices each weighing 2 lb;
2 silver amae each weighing 10 lb;
30 silver chandeliers each weighing 5 lb;
2 silver scyphi each weighing 8 lb;
a single silver chrism-paten weighing 10 lb;
a silver basin for baptism, weighing 20 lb;

There follows a list of the endowments of the basilica of Sts Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist.

29. Also what Gallicanus presented to the above basilica of the holy
apostles Peter and Paul and of John the Baptist; he presented the following:
a silver crown with dolphins, weighing 20 lb;
a silver chalice decorated in relief, weighing 15 lb;
a silver ama weighing 18 lb.'

There continues the list of the endowments of the basilica of Sts Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist.

Text: Duchesne 1886, 183-184. Translation: Davis 2010, 23, lightly modified. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Paulus Iohannes Baptista

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 - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels Oil lamps/candles Precious material objects Water basins


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.


The identity of 'Gallicanus' who endowed the basilica in Ostia together with the emperor is not clear. If he was a real person, he can perhaps be identified with Ovinius Gallicanus, consul in 317 and prefect of Rome in 316-317, or, less plausibly, with Flavius Gallicanus, consul in 320, see Champlin 1982.


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). Further reading: Champlin, E., "Saint Gallicanus (Consul 317)", Phoenix 36 (1982), 71–76.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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