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E01372: The short Life of Vigilius, bishop of Rome 537-555, in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome, probably during the 6th c., mentions several churches and other places dedicated to saints, namely the basilica of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), the church of *Caecilia (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00146), the city-gate of *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), and the grave of *Marcellus (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00529), all in or around Rome, as well as a church of *Euphemia (martyr of Chalcedon, S00017) in Constantinople.

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posted on 2016-05-16, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 61

The empress Theodora tries to force pope Vigilius to restore Anthimus to the bishopric of Constantinople:

Quo audito Augusta misit Anthemum scribonem cum iussiones suas cum virtutem maiorem ad Romam dicens: Excepto in basilica sancti Petri parce. Nam si in Lateranis aut in palatio aut in qualibet ecclesia inveneris Vigilium, mox inposito in navem perduc eum usque ad nos. Nam per viventem in saecula excoriari te facio. Qui Anthemus scribon veniens Romae invenit eum in ecclesia sanctae Ciciliae X kal. decemb., erat enim die natalis eius; et munera eum erogantem ad populum tentus et deposuerunt eum ad Tiberim; miserunt eum in navem.

'Hearing this the empress sent the scribo Anthemus to Rome with her mandates and with greater authority, saying: ‘Leave him be if he is in St Peter’s basilica—otherwise if you find Vigilius in the Lateran, or in the palace, or in any church, put him on a ship immediately and bring him to us—or by Him that Lives for ever I will have you flayed’. Anthemus came to Rome and found him on 22 November in the church of saint Caecilia—it was her feast day. He was arrested as he distributed the gifts to the people, and they took him down to the Tiber and put him on a ship.'

Vigilius is brought to Constantinople and is accused of the murder of Silverius, his predecessor.

Tunc fugiens in basilicam sanctae Eufemiae, tenens columnam altaris.

'Then he fled into saint Euphemia’s basilica and clutched a column of the altar.'


Tunc Gothi fecerunt sibi regem Badua, qui Totila nuncupabatur. Descendens Romae et obsedit eam; et facta est famis in civitate Romana, ut etiam natos suos vellent comedere. Quadam die intravit Romam a porta sancti Pauli, indictione XIII.

'Then the Goths made Badua, called Totila, their king. He came down on Rome and besieged it. Such a famine occurred in Rome that they even wanted to eat their own children. One day in the 13th indiction [549/550] he entered Rome by St Paul’s Gate.'

During the campaign of Narses, Vigilius is sent back to Italy.

Venerunt Sicilia in civitate Syracusis. Adflictus, calculi dolorem habens, mortuus est. Cuius corpus ductus Romae, sepultus est ad sanctum Marcellum via Salaria.

'They came to the city of Syracuse in Sicily. In agony from his affliction with gallstones, Vigilius died. His body was taken to Rome and buried at saint Marcellus on the via Salaria.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 296-299. Translation: Davis 2010, 55-57. Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Caecilia, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00146 Euphemia, martyr in Chalcedon, ob. 303 : S00017 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Marcellus, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00529

Saint Name in Source

Cicilia Eufemia Petrus Paulus Marcellus

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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Gates, bridges and roads

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Distribution of alms

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


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.


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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