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E01383: The short Life of John III, bishop of Rome 561-574, in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome, probably during the 6th c., mentions his completion of the basilica of the Apostles *Philip (S00109) and *James (the son of Alphaeus, S01801); his restoration of the cemeteries of the martyrs and the regular Sunday services he instituted there; and John's burial at the basilica of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036); all in and around Rome.

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posted on 2016-05-18, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Liber Pontificalis 63

Iohannes, natione Romanus, ex patre Anastasio inlustrio, sedit ann. XII mens. XI dies XXVI. Hic amavit et restauravit cymiteria sanctorum martyrum. Hic instituit, ut oblationem et amula vel luminaria in easdem cymiteria per omnes dominicas de Lateranis ministraretur. Hic perfecit ecclesiam apostolorum Philippi et Iacobi et dedicavit eam.

'John, born in Rome, son of the illustrious Anastasius, held the see 12 years 11 months 26 days. He loved and restored the cemeteries of the holy martyrs. It was his institution that every Sunday in these cemeteries the sacrifice, the vessels, and the lighting should be serviced from the Lateran. He completed the church of the apostles Philip
and James and dedicated it.


Tunc sanctissimus papa retenuit se in cymiterio sanctorum Tiburtii et Valeriani et habitavit ibi multum temporis, ut etiam et episcopos ibidem consecraret. Narsis vero ingressus Romam post multum temporis mortuus est. Cuius corpus positus est in locello plumbeo, reductus est cum omnes divitias eius Constantinopolim. Eodem tempore Iohannis papa et ipse mortuus est et sepultus est in basilica beati Petri apostoli.

'The holy pope kept himself back at the cemetery of Tiburtius and Valerianus and stayed there a long time—he even consecrated bishops there. But Narses did enter Rome. A long time later he died; his body was put in a lead coffin
and taken back with all his riches to Constantinople. Then pope John also died and was buried in the basilica of the blessed Peter the apostle.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 305-306. Translation: Davis 2010, 58-59, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus, martyrs in Rome, buried at Via Appia, ob. ??? : S00537 Philip the Apostle, ob. 1st c. : S00109 Peter the Apostle : S00036 James, the Apostle, son of Alphaeus : S01801

Saint Name in Source

Tiburtius, Valerianus 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

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Cemetery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

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.


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 begun by John's predecessor, Pelagius I (E01380). Both popes were commemorated by an inscription, lost during the reconstruction of the church in the late 15th century. The church of the apostles Philip and James stood where now there is the 15th-century church of Santi Apostoli, on the Piazza dei Santi Apostoli in Rome. In the 15th century a dedicatory inscription mentioning both John III and Pelagius could be seen on its lintel. For the beginning of its construction by pope Pelagius, see E01380. The church of Tiburtius and Valerianus (brother-in-law and husband, respectively, of St Caecilia) was on the via Appia, where they were buried.


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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