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E01380: The short Life of Pelagius I, bishop of Rome 556-561, in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome, probably during the 6th c., mentions a procession with hymns, led by Pelagius, from the church of *Pancratius (martyr of Rome, S00307) to the basilica of St *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), as well as the beginning of the construction of the basilica of the Apostles *Philip (S00109) and *James (the son of Alphaeus, S01801), and Pelagius' burial at St. Peter's; all in and around Rome.

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posted on 2016-05-17, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Liber Pontificalis 62

Eodem tempore Narsis et Pelagius papa consilio inito, data laetania ad sanctum Pancratium cum ymnis et canticis spiritalibus venerunt ad sanctum Petrum apostolum.

'Then Narses and pope Pelagius adopted a plan: when the litany had been given out from saint Pancratius they processed with hymns and spiritual chants to St Peter’s.'


Eodem tempore initiata est basilica apostolorum Philippi et Iacobi; qui dum initiaretur fabricari, mortuus est et sepultus est in basilica beati Petri apostoli.

'Then was begun the basilica of the apostles Philip and James; when the building of it was starting, he [Pelagius] died and was buried at the basilica of the blessed Peter the apostle.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 303. Translation: Davis 2010, 58, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Pancratius, martyr of Rome, ob. 303/312 : S00307 Philip the Apostle, ob. 1st c. : S00109 Peter the Apostle : S00036 James, the Apostle, son of Alphaeus : S01801

Saint Name in Source

Pancratius Philippus Petrus Iacobus

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Officials


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 basilica of Pancratius was first built by pope Symmachus (see E01350). The basilica of the Apostles Philip and James ('the Lesser', the son of Alphaeus) is today's church of Santi Apostoli, at the foot of the Quirinal hill. It was completed by Pelagius' successor, John III (E01383). Both popes were commemorated by an inscription, lost during the reconstruction of the church in the late 15th century.


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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