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E02007: A fragmentary Latin letter attributed to pope Gelasius I (492-496), to a bishop Victor, mentions a church dedicated to *Agatha (virgin and martyr of Catania, S00794) 'in Caclano fundo'. Written in Rome.

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posted on 2016-11-16, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Pope Gelasius I, Letters, Fragment 12 ('Dudum de sanctae', JK 681/JH 1324)

Gelasius Victori episcopo
Dudum de sanctae Agathae basilica, quae in Caclano fundo olim noscitur constituta, processionem sub nostra consultatione suspenderas, asserens possessionis dominum omnia, quae illi conferebantur, accipere et suis usibus applicare, nec illic posse ministrorum dei aliquos ad processionem venire, cum nulla illic alimenta susciperent.

Sed nuper vir spectabilis Petrus noster nobis rationabiliter intimavit, hoc quod in culpam venerat, se taliter ordinasse, ut universa, quae in ecclesia supradicta diversorum fuerint oblatione collata, ad episcopum aut ad eum, cui basilicam deputaverint, universa pertineant, ita ut ex hoc compendio sarta tecta ecclesiae procurentur.

Et ideo, frater, saluberrimae dispositionis professione suscepta processionem supradictae ecclesiae te convenit ordinare'.

'Gelasius to the bishop Victor,
Recently you suspended, following our advice, liturgical celebration (processio) at the basilica of saint Agatha, which is known to have been long established in the fundus Caclanus, stating that the master (of the estate) received and assigned to his own use all the possessions that were collected for it, and that no ministers of God could come for the liturgy, as they received no sustenance there.

But recently our Peter, of spectabilis rank, rightly told us that this (business), which had slipped into error, he had set right, so that all those things that were given as the gifts of different people to the above mentioned church would belong to the bishop or to the one to whom the basilica was allocated, so that from that profit the roof of the church might be repaired.

And so, brother, having received news of this highly satisfactory ordering of affairs, you should re-establish the liturgical celebrations of the above mentioned church.'

Text: von Glanvell 1905, 318. Translation: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agatha, virgin and martyr of Catania : S00794

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • 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

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings


This fragment of a letter attributed to pope Gelasius I (492-496) sent to an unidentified bishop Victor (numbered 12 in Thiel 1868, 495-496) is preserved through the Collection of Canons (Collectio canonum) compiled in Rome, on the basis of the papal registers of letters, by the cardinal presbyter Deusdedit in 1087, where it is found in book III, chapter 113 (95).


This fragment provides evidence for the dedication of a church to Agatha (S00794), a virgin martyred under Decius, according to the narrative of her martyrdom (see E01916). The authenticity of Gelasius' fragmentary letter, which would place this dedication in the late 5th century, remains uncertain. Another mention of the fundum caclanum where the church was situated is found in an inscription, first recorded by Mallius in the 12th century and now found in the atrium of St Peter's basilica in Rome. The inscription records the donation of olive groves for the lighting of lamps at St Peter's shrine and is commonly attributed to pope Gregory II (Pope 717-731). Among the donations, the inscription (briefly presented in Gray 1948, 49-50) refers to an olive grove in fundo caclano in the Massa Steiana. The fundum caclanum remains difficult to identify but was presumably close to Rome, thus suggesting that Agatha's cult may have already spread to Rome or its vicinity in the 5th century. An alternative interpretation of this letter has been suggested in the Prosopographie Chrétienne du Bas-Empire, II (Rome, 1999), 2274-2275 ('Victor 6'), according to which the bishop Victor mentioned has perhaps to be identified with the bishop of Naples under Gelasius and the fundus Caclanus would correspond to a place situated near Naples.


Editions: Glanvell, von, W., Die Kanonessamlung des Kardinals Deusdedit (Paderborn, 1905; reprinted Aalen, 1967), 318. Martinucci, P., Deusdedit presbyteri cardinali tituli Apostolorum in Eudoxia collectio canonum e codice Vaticano edita (Venice, 1869), 286. Thiel, A., Epistolae romanorum pontificum genuinae et quae ad eos scriptae sunt. A s. Hilaro usque ad Pelagium II, Tome 1 (Braunsberg, 1868), 495-496. Studies: Gray, N., “The Palaeography of Latin Inscriptions of the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Centuries in Italy,” Papers of the British School at Rome 16 (1948), 38-162, at 49-50. Kéry, L., Canonical Collections of the Early Middle Ages (ca. 400-1140): A Bibliographical Guide to the Manuscripts and Literature (Washington DC, 1999), 228-233.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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