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E01350: The second edition of the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome between the 530s and 546, in its account of *Symmachus (bishop and confessor of Rome, ob. 514, S00793), lists his building works at, and donations to, the churches of various saints in Rome and its region.

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posted on 2016-05-04, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Liber Pontificalis 53

First edition (reconstituted by Duchesne)

The passage on Symmachus' foundations and offerings can be found only in the second edition.

Second edition


Hic fecit basilicam sanctae martyris Agathae, via Aurelia, in fundum Lardarium: a fundamento cum fontem extruxit, ubi posuit arcos argenteos II. Eodem tempore fecit basilicam sancti Pancratii, ubi et fecit arcum argenteum, pens. lib. XV; fecit autem in eodem loco balneum.

'He built the basilica of saint Agatha the martyr on the via Aurelia at the Lardarius estate; he constructed it from the ground up, with a font, where he placed 2 silver arches. At the same time he built the basilica of saint Pancratius; he provided a silver arch weighing 15 lb and there he also built a bath.'

Item aput beatum Paulum apostolum: in basilicam renovavit absidam, quae in ruina inminebat, et post confessionem picturam ornavit et cameram fecit et matroneum; et super confessionem imaginem argenteam cum Salvatorem et XII apostolos posuit, qui pens. lib. CXX; et ante fores basilicae grados fecit in atrium et cantarum; et post absidam aquam introduxit, ubi et balneum a fundamento fecit.

'Also, at the blessed Paul the apostle: in the basilica he renewed the apse which was threatening to collapse; he provided a picture as decoration behind the confessio, and built an apse-vault and a matroneum. Over the confessio he placed a silver image of the Saviour and the 12 apostles, weighing 120 lb. He built steps in front of the basilica’s doors into the atrium, and a fountain. Behind the apse he had water laid on, and he also built a bath there from the ground up.'


Intra civitatem Romanam basilicam sanctorum Silvestri et Martini a fundamento construxit iuxta Traianas, ubi et super altare tyburium argenteum fecit, qui pens. lib. CXX; arcos argenteos XII, qui pens. sing. lib. X; confessionem argenteam, qui pens. lib. XV. Ad beatum Iohannem et Paulum fecit grados post absidam. Item ad archangelum Michahel basilicam ampliavit et grados fecit et introduxit aquam. Item ad sancta Maria oratorium sanctorum Cosmae et Damiani a fundamento construxit.

'Inside Rome he constructed the basilica of saints Silvester and Martin from the ground up, close to the [baths of] Trajan, where he also built a silver canopy over the altar, weighing 120 lb; 12 silver arches each weighing 10 lb;
a silver confessio weighing 15 lb. At saints Iohannes and Paulus he built steps behind the apse. At saint Michael the Archangel he enlarged the basilica, built steps, and laid on water. Also, at saint Mary’s he constructed the oratory of saints Cosmas and Damianus from the ground up.'


Item via Tribuna, miliario XXVII ab urbe Roma, rogatus ab Albino et Glaphyra pp inlustris de proprio facientes a fundamento, basilicam beato Petro in fundum Pacinianum dedicavit. Item ad beatum Petrum et ad beatum Paulum et ad sanctum Laurentium pauperibus habitacula construxit. Item ad beatum Petrum XX cantara argentea fecit, pens. sing. lib. XV; arcos argenteos XXII, pens. sing. lib. XX. Hic reparavit basilicam sanctae Felicitatis, qui in ruinam inminebat. Hic absidam beatae Agnae quae in ruinam inminebat et omnem basilicam renovavit.

'Also, on the via Tribuna at the 27th mile from Rome, at the request of the illustrious praetorian prefect Albinus and of Glaphyra who did the building from the ground up at their own expense, he dedicated a basilica to saint Peter, on the Pacinianus estate. Also, at St Peter’s, St Paul’s, and St Laurence’s he constructed accommodation for the poor.
Also at St Peter’s he provided: 20 silver chandeliers each weighing 15 lb; 22 silver arches each weighing 20 lb. He repaired the basilica of saint Felicitas, which was threatening to collapse. He renewed the apse of St Agnes’ which was threatening to collapse, and the whole basilica.'


Hic constituit, ut omne die dominicum vel natalicia martyrum Gloria in excelsis hymnus diceretur. Hic fecit cymiterium Iordanorum in melius propter corpus sancti Alexandri.

'He decreed that on every Lord’s day and on the feasts of martyrs (natalicia martyrum) the hymn ‘Glory be to God on high’ should be sung. For the sake of the body of saint Alexander, he improved the cemetery of the Jordani.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 262-263. Translation: Davis 2010, 44-45, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agatha, virgin and martyr of Catania : S00794 Pancratius, martyr of Rome, ob. 303/312 : S00307 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Martin, bishop of Tours (Gaul), ob. 397 : S00050 Silvester, bishop of Rome, d. 336 : S00397 Iohannes and Paulus, brothers a

Saint Name in Source

Agatha Pancratius Paulus Martinus Silvester Iohannes, Paulus Michahel Cosmas, Damianus Maria Laurentius Felicitas Agna Alexander

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

Ecclesiastics - bishops The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves) Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects Water basins Oil lamps/candles


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.


The church of St Agatha on the via Aurelia does not exist anymore. The basilica of St Pancratius on the Janiculum is still extant, San Pancrazio. St Paul's is San Paolo fuori le mura. The church of Sts Martin and Silvester, was most probably the rebuilt Titulus Equitii, founded by pope Silvester (Liber Pontificalis, ch. 34), and known today as San Martino ai Monti. The basilica of St Michael the Archangel cannot be identified with any certainty. The church of St Mary is today's Santa Maria Maggiore. The church of Sts Iohannes and Paulus is the the basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo on the Caelian Hill. The basilica of St Peter on the 'via Tribuna' cannot be identified; there was no Roman road of this name; the author possibly meant the via Tiberina. Albinus can be probably identified with the consul of AD 498. St Felicitas' oratory was founded by Boniface I (see E01285). St Agnes' church is the Constantinian church of Sant' Agnese fuori le mura, now in ruins.


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: Krautheimer, R., Corpus Basilicarum Christianarum Romae: The early Christian Basilicas of Rome (IV–IX Centuries), Vatican City 1937–1977 Brandenburg, H., Ancient churches of Rome from the fourth to the seventh century : the dawn of Christian architecture in the West, Turnhout 2005.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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