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E01401: The short Life of Pelagius II, bishop of Rome 579-590, in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome, probably in the late 6th/early 7th c., mentions his embellishment of the tomb of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), his construction of the cemetery of *Hermes (martyr of Rome, S00404) on the via Salaria vetus, and his building of the basilica of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) on the via Tiburtina, as well as Pelagius' burial at St Peter's; all in and around Rome.

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posted on 2016-05-25, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 65

Pelagius, natione Romanus, de patre Unigildo, sedit ann. X mens. II dies X...
Eodem tempore investivit corpus beati Petri apostoli tabulis argenteis deauratis. Hic domum suam fecit ptochium pauperum senum. Hic fecit cymiterium beati Hermetis martyris. Hic fecit supra corpus beati Laurenti martyris basilicam a fundamento constructam et tabulis argenteis exornavit sepulchrum eius. Qui mortuus est et sepultus ad beatum Petrum apostolum.

'Pelagius, born in Rome, son of Unigild, held the see 10 years 2 months 10 days...
He covered the body of the blessed Peter the apostle with silver-gilt panels. He made his own house into an almshouse for the aged poor. He built the cemetery of the blessed Hermes the martyr. Over the body of the blessed martyr Laurence he built a basilica from the ground up and decorated his tomb with silver panels. He died and was buried at the blessed Peter the apostle.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 309. Translation: Davis 2010, 59, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Lawrence, martyr of Rome, ob. 258 : S00037 Hermes, martyr in Rome, ob. ? : S00404

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Laurentius Hermes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories) Liturgical texts


  • 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

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Precious material objects


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 cemetery of St Hermes on the via Salaria vetus, north of the city, was one of the most important cemeteries of that road. The basilica to Laurence, which Pelagius built, is at San Lorenzo fuori le mura - his building, in the 13th century, became the presbytery of a greatly enlarged basilica.


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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