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E01294: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, in its account of *Xystus/Sixtus III (bishop of Rome, ob. 440, S00764), tells of the burial of a certain Bassus close to the body of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) at the Vatican, and of that of Xystus himself on the via Tiburtina outside Rome, close to the body of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) [AD 440].

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posted on 2016-04-20, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 46

First edition (as reconstructed by Duchesne)

Xystus, natione Romanus, ex patre Xysto, sedit ann. VIII d. XVIIII...

'Xystus [III], born in Rome, son of Xystus, held the see 8 years 19 days...'

There follows the list of Xystus' foundations and offerings (see $E01295).

Qui etiam sepultus est via Tiburtina in crypta, ad sanctum Laurentium.

'He was buried on the Via Tiburtina in the crypt close to St Laurence.'

Second edition

Xystus, natione Romanus, ex patre Xysto, sedit ann. VIII d. XVIIII...

'Xystus [III], born in Rome, son of Xystus, held the see 8 years 19 days...'

There follows the story of a certain Bassus who falsely accused Xystus, was excommunicated by a synod and deprived of property by the emperor.

Qui notu divinitatis intra menses III defunctus moritur Bassus. Cuius corpus Xystus episcopus cum linteaminibus et aromatibus manibus suis tractans recondens sepellivit ad beatum Petrum apostolum in cubiculum parentum eius...

'Within 3 months, by the will of the Deity, Bassus died. Bishop Xystus saw to the wrapping of his body with linens and spices with his own hands and buried it at St Peter’s in his parents’ tomb-chamber...'

There follows the list of Xystus' foundations and offerings (see $E01295)

Qui etiam sepultus est via Tiburtina, in crypta, iuxta corpus beati Laurenti.

'He was buried on the via Tiburtina in a crypt close to the body of the blessed Laurence.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 89/91 and 232/235. Translation: Davis 2010, 34 and 36, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Xystus III, bishop of Rome, ob. 440 : S00601 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

Saint Name in Source

Xystus Petrus Laurentius

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

Burial site of a saint - cemetery/catacomb

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


The Liber Pontificalis consists of a series of very 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.


It is interesting to remark that though Xystus III is certainly a good pope according to the Liber Pontificalis, for an unknown reason the date of his burial is not named in this text. The story of the conflict between Xystus III and Bassus is most probably fictitious.


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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