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E01643: The short Life of *Vitalianus, bishop of Rome (ob. 672, 00682) in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome soon after his death, describes the visit to Rome in 663 of the emperor Constans II: he visited the churches of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), and *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), making gifts at each, and processing with his army on a Sunday to St Peter's; also mentioned are Constans' removal to Constantinople of the bronze tiles of the church of St Mary 'ad Martyres' (the Pantheon), and Vitalianus' burial at St Peter's on 27 January.

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posted on 2016-06-20, 00:00 authored by robert
Liber Pontificalis 78

Vitalianus, natione Signensis, provincia Campania, de patre Anastasio, sedit ann. XIIII mens. VI.

'Vitalianus, born in Signia, province of Campania, son of Anastasius, held the see 14 years 6 months.'


Huius temporibus venit Constantinus Augustus de regia urbe per litoraria in Athenas et exinde Taranto, inde Benevento et Neapolim per indictionem VI. Postmodum venit Romae, id est V die mensis iulii, feria IIII, indictione suprascripta. Et occurrit ei obviam Apostolicus cum clero suo miliario VI ab urbe Roma et suscepit eum. Et ipsa die ambulavit imperator ad sanctum Petrum ad orationem et donum ibi obtulit; die sabbato ad sanctam Mariam, itemque donum obtulit. Dominicorum die processit ad sanctum Petrum cum exercitu suo, omnes cum cereis et offeruit super altare ipsius palleum auro textilem; et celebratae sunt missae. Iterum sabbatorum die venit imperator ad Lateranis et lavit et ibidem pransit in basilica Vigilii. Item dominicorum die fuit statio ad sanctum Petrum; et post celebratas missas valefecerunt sibi invicem imperator et pontifex. XII dies in civitate Romana perseverans, omnia quae erant in aere ad ornatum civitatis deposuit; sed et ecclesiae sancte Marie ad martyres quae de tigulis aereis erant discooperuit et in regia urbe cum alia diversa quas deposuerat direxit.

'In his time the emperor Constantine [= Constans II] came from the imperial city along the coast to Athens, thence to Tarentum, and then to Beneventum and Naples in the 6th indiction. Afterwards he came to Rome, on the 5th day of July, a Wednesday, in the same indiction. The Apostolicus [= Pope Vitalianus] went to meet him with his clergy at the 6th mile from Rome and welcomed him. On the same day the emperor travelled to St Peter’s for prayer and there he presented a gift; on Saturday to St Mary’s and again he presented a gift. On Sunday he proceeded to St Peter’s with his army, all with wax tapers, and on its altar he presented a gold-wrought pallium; and mass was celebrated. Again on Saturday the emperor came to the Lateran, and bathed and dined there in the basilica of Vigilius. Again on Sunday there was a statio at St Peter’s, and after mass was celebrated the emperor and pontiff bade farewell to each other. He stayed in Rome twelve days; he dismantled all the city’s bronze decorations; he removed the bronze tiles from the roof of the church of St Mary ad Martyres, and sent them to the imperial city with various other things he had dismantled.'


He was buried in at the blessed Peter the apostle on 27 January.

'Qui etiam sepultus est ad beatum Petrum apostolum sub die VI kal. Febr.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 343-344. Translation: Davis 2010, 69-70, 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

Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Vitalianus, bishop of Rome, ob. 672 : S00862

Saint Name in Source

Paulus Petrus Maria Vitalianus

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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Monarchs and their family Soldiers

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles 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 church of Mary visited by Constans was certainly Santa Maria Maggiore; that of St Mary ad Martyres is the former Pantheon. The statio at St Peter's refers to the stational liturgy which was celebrated by the bishop of Rome during the Lent, every day in a different church.


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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