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E01367: The short Life of *Silverius (bishop of Rome, ob. 537, S00812) in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome, probably during the 6th c., mentions the destruction of the tombs of martyrs in the suburbs of Rome during the Gothic siege of 536. It also presents Silverius' death in exile at the island of Pontiae (today's Ponza) as that of a 'confessor', dates his burial there to 20 June 537 and attributes healing power to his tomb.

online resource
posted on 2016-05-15, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 60

According to the Liber Pontificalis, Silverius became bishop of Rome as the nominee of the Ostrogothic king Theodahad who forced the clergy to accept his choice against their will. The account of his pontificate also deals with the death of Theodahad, the reconquest of Italy by Belisarius, and the siege of Rome by the Goths, during which 'even churches and bodies of the holy martyrs were destroyed by the Goths' (et ecclesias et corpora martyrum sanctorum exterminatae sunt a Gothis). It ends with the deposition of Silverius who was exiled with the consent of Belisarius to the island of Pontiae, where 'he grew weak, died, and became a confessor. He was buried in the same place on 20 June; and the sick come there in great numbers and are cured' (Qui deficiens mortuus est et confessor factus est. Qui et sepultus in eodem loco XII kal. Iul., ibique occurrunt multitudo male habentes et salvantur).

Text: Duchesne 1886, 290-293. Translation: Davis 2010, 52-55. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060 Silverius, bishop of Rome, ob. 537 : S00812

Saint Name in Source


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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Foreigners (including Barbarians)

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.


The life of Silverius is made up of two parts. The author of the first part, which still belongs to the second edition (c. 546), presents the beginnings of Silverius episcopate and does not sympathise with him. The author of the second part, which belongs to the later continuation of the Liber Pontificalis, considers him a confessor, who had suffered for his faith, and attributes healing powers to his grave.


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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