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E01363: The short Life of *John II (bishop of Rome, ob. 535, S00810) in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome soon after his death, lists offering made by the emperor Justinian to the basilica of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), and records the burial of John at St Peter's, possibly on 27 May 535.

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posted on 2016-05-11, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 58

Iohannis qui et Mercurius, natione Romanus, ex patre Proiecto, de Caeliomonte, sedit ann. II mens. IIII d. VI.
Fuit autem temporibus Athalatici regis et Iustiniani Aug.

'John also known as Mercurius, born in Rome, son of Projectus, from the Caelian Hill, held the see 2 years 4 months 6 days. He was bishop in the time of king Athalaric and the emperor Justinian.'

Ipsis diebus obtulit christianissimus imperator Iustinianus Aug. beato Petro apostolo:
scyphum aureum circumdatum de gemmis prasinis et albis
et alios calices argenteos II;
scyphos argenteos pens. lib. V;
calices argenteos II, pens. sing. lib. V;
pallia olovera aurotexta IIII.

'At that same time, the Christian emperor Justinian Augustus presented to the blessed Peter the apostle:
a gold scyphus surrounded with prases and pearls;
and 2 other silver chalices;
silver scyphi weighing 5 lb;
2 silver chalices each weighing 5 lb;
4 purple-dyed gold-worked pallia.'

Qui etiam sepultus est in basilica beati Petri apostoli .

'He was buried in the basilica of Peter the apostle .'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 285. Translation: Davis 2010, 50-51, lightly modified.

The passage in brackets, <>, is an interpolation, recorded in only some manuscripts of the Liber Pontificalis; it is uncertain when it was added to the text.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 John II, bishop of Rome, ob. 535 : S00810

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Iohannes

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

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels Precious cloths


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.


John II is the first pope who changed his former name. His original name, Mercurius, had obvious pagan connotations. It is possible that the choice of the new name, that of John, was intended to honour, or make a link with, John I (ob. 526, S00308) who died in prison and was considered a martyr.


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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