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E01664: The short Life of *Agatho (bishop of Rome, ob. 681, 00872) in the Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome soon after his death, mentions his offerings at the churches of the Apostles, presumably the basilcas of *Peter (S00036) and of *Paul (S00008), and at the church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) 'at the Crib', and his burial at St Peter's on 10 January.

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posted on 2016-06-27, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Liber Pontificalis 81

Agatho, natione Sicula, sedit ann. II mens. VI dies IIII. Tantum benignus et mansuetus fuit, ut etiam omnibus hilaris et iocundus conprobaretur.

'Agatho, born in Sicily, held the see 2 years 6 months 4 days. So kind and gentle was he that everyone attested him to be cheerful and pleasant.'


Clerum videlicet diversis ordinibus super quod conpetebat honoribus ampliavit.

'He lavishly honoured the clergy of various ranks with preferments.'


Hic demisit omni clero rogam unam et ad luminaria Apostolorum et sancte Mariae ad Praesepe sol. IICLX.

'He left one stipend (rogam unam) to all the clergy, and to provide for the lights of the Apostles and of saint Mary at the Crib, 2160 solidi.'


Qui etiam sepultus est ad beatum Petrum apostolum, IIII id. Ianuar.

'He was buried at the blessed Peter the apostle on the 4th day before the Ides of January [10 January].'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 350 and 355. Translation: Davis 2010, 72-76, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Agatho, bishop of Rome, ob. 682 : S00872

Saint Name in Source

Genetrix Dei Petrus Apostolus Agatho

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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

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

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.


The basilica 'at the Crib' can be safely identified with Santa Maria Maggiore. It was know as in praesepe because of the relics of the crib which were deposited in it. The Liber Pontificalis uses this name for the first time in its Life of Theodore (bishop of Rome, ob. 649, E01629).


Edition: Duchesne, L. M., Le Liber pontificalis, ed. Louis M. Duchesne, vol. 1 (Paris: Ernest Thorin, 1886, with substantive introduction and commentary). Translation: Davis, R., The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis), 2nd edition (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000). Further reading: Kinney, D., “The Praesepia in Santa Maria in Trastevere and Santa Maria Maggiore,” in Marmoribus vestita. Miscellanea in onore di Federico Guidobaldi (Vatican City: Pontificio istituto di archeologia cristiana, 2011), pp. 777–95.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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