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E00617: Letter from Pope Hormisdas in Rome, accompanying contact relics (sanctuaria) of the Apostles *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00008), sent to Justinian (the future emperor; nephew of the emperor Justin I), in response to his request for relics for his church in Constantinople dedicated to Peter and Paul. Written in Latin in 519; preserved in the Collectio Avellana.

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posted on 2015-06-30, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Collectio Avellana 190 (Hormisdas to Justinian, 'Ita magnificentiae vestrae', JK 829/JH 1601)

Extract from letter of Pope Hormisdas to Justinian, dated 2 September 519. In reply to Collectio Avellana 187 (E00616).

(4.) beatissimorum uero apostolorum Petri et Pauli sanctuaria, sicut religiosissimo quaesistis affectu, per harum portitorem sub omni ueneratione transmisimus, optantes, orationibus eorum mentis uestrae oblatio et desideria gratiae sint diuinitatis accepta.

'(4.) As for the sanctuaria [lit. 'holy things'] of the most blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, as you have requested with most pious feelings, we have dispatched them with all due reverence via the bearer of this letter, wishing that through their prayers the supplication and desire of your soul may be accepted by the grace of the Divinity.'

Text: Günther 1898, 648. Translation: Efthymios Rizos and David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Paulus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Rome Constantinople

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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - unspecified Contact relic - cloth Making contact relics


The Collectio Avellana is a collection of 244 letters and other documents written by or sent to various popes between 367 and 553, mostly correspondence between the papacy and the imperial authorities in Italy or in Constantinople. The date of its compilation is uncertain, but has most frequently been placed soon after 553. The letter discussed here comes from part of the collection containing correspondence between Rome and Constantinople under Pope Hormisdas (514–523). Between 484 and 519, the papacy was in a state of schism with the church of Constantinople and the eastern emperors Zeno (474–475, 476–491) and Anastasius (491–518). In 518, Justin I became emperor, and informed Hormisdas of his wish to end the schism. In the spring of 519, Hormisdas sent five legates to Constantinople to negotiate the end of the schism. Although the schism was formally terminated in March 519, the legates remained in Constantinople until July 520. Numerous items of correspondence from this period are preserved in the Collectio Avellana, both between Hormisdas and the legates, and with various figures in Constantinople.


This extract is from a letter of Pope Hormisdas to Justinian, dated 2 September 519 (Collectio Avellana 190). It is the reply to Collectio Avellana 187 (E00616). In this extract from the letter (most of which deals with other issues), Hormisdas tells Justinian that the relics which he requested have been dispatched to him together with the pope's letter. The relics were sanctuaria: pieces of cloth which had been hallowed by contact with a saint (see McCulloh 1976, 158-165). The memorandum about Justinian's request which had been sent to Hormisdas in June 519 by his legates in Constantinople (Collectio Avellana 218: E00615), implies that the sanctuaria would have been in contact with the tombs or shrines of Peter and Paul. In 519 Justinian (emperor 527-565) was prominent mainly through his relationship with the emperor Justin, who was his uncle. He was Justin's adopted son and held the rank of comes, but at this point appears not to have held any formal office (Croke 2007, 20-26). The relics had been requested by Justinian in order to endow a church which he had founded, dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. This was located within the complex of buildings that comprised the Palace of Hormisdas (no connection with Pope Hormisdas), Justinian's residence in Constantinople. The church is described by Procopius in the Buildings 1.4.1-3 (E04332). An epigram from its dedicatory inscription is preserved as Greek Anthology 1.8 (E00551). Subsequently, Justinian built the still standing church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Küçük Ayasofya Camii) next to that of Saints Peter and Paul; the two churches shared an atrium (Croke 2006, 25-28).


Edition: Günther, O., Collectio Avellana. 2 vols (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 35/1-2; Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1895, 1898). Further reading: Croke, B., “Justinian, Theodora, and the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 60 (2006), 25-63. Croke, B., “Justinian under Justin: Reconfiguring a Reign,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 100 (2007), 13-56. McCulloh, J.M., "The Cult of Relics in the Letters and 'Dialogues' of Gregory the Great: A Lexicographical Study," Traditio 32 (1976), 145-184.

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