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E01425: The short Life of Sabinianus, bishop of Rome 604-606, in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome, early in the 7th c., mentions his provision of lights in St.Peter's (the Apostle, S00036), his funerary procession which left the city by the gate of *John (probably the Baptist, S00020), and his burial at St Peter's; all in Rome.

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posted on 2016-05-31, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 67

Sabinianus, natione Tuscus, de civitate Blera, ex patre Bono, sedit ann. I mens. V dies VIIII.

'Sabinianus, born in Tuscia, from the city of Blera, son of Bonus, held the see 1 year 5 months 9 days.'


Hic in ecclesia beati Petri apostoli luminaria addidit. Quo defuncto funus eius eiectus est per portam sancti Iohannis, ductus est foris muros civitatis ad pontem Molvium. Qui sepultus est in ecclesia beati Petri apostoli.

'He added lights in the church of the blessed Peter the apostle. On his death his funeral procession was taken out by St John’s Gate and conducted outside the city walls to the Milvian Bridge; he was buried in the church of the blessed Peter the apostle. '

Text: Duchesne 1886, 315. Translation: Davis 2010, 60, lightly modified.

The passage in brackets, <>, is an interpolation, recorded in only some manuscripts of the Liber Pontificalis; it is uncertain when it was added to the text.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Iohannes

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 - Places Named after Saint

  • Gates, bridges and roads

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles


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.


According to the Liber Pontificalis, Sabinianus ordered the sale, instead of the free distribution of grain during a famine. Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards 4.29 tells a story about a warning sent to Sabinanus by his more generous predecessor, Gregory I, and presents Sabinianus' death as a punishment for his meanness. None of these texts suggest Sabinianus' sanctity, and the fact that his funerary procession had to leave the walls by the gate of St John, close to Lateran, and did not pass through the city, strongly suggests that he was not popular in Rome. The naming of the gate by the Lateran as that of 'St John' is important, because it confirms other evidence that, by the seventh century, the Constantinian Lateran basilica, though dedicated to the Saviour, was popularly thought of as a church of John (see also E07001 and E07891), which of course it has remained ever since, as San Giovanni in Laterano.


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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