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E02488: The Latin Martyrdom of *Clemens (bishop of Rome, martyr of the Crimea, S00111) is written presumably in Rome, between the late 4th and the early 6th c. It narrates Clemens’ healing and conversion of a certain Sisinnius with his household and several other aristocrats in Rome, Clemens’ exile to the Black Sea, the many conversions triggered there, his death by being thrown into the sea, the miraculous receding of the sea to reveal his body placed in a sarcophagus in a temple, and how this miracle is repeated every year on the saint's feast day.

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Martyrdom of Clemens (BHL 1848)


[The Pasionario Hispánico starts with this addition: Clemens was martyred in Cersona under Trajan on the 9th day before the Calends of December (= 23 November)]

§ 1. Clemens is the third bishop of Rome, he is loved by pagans because he instructs them to abandon the gods with sound arguments, based on their own books, and because he emphasises that they will be forgiven by God if they abandon the worship of idols. He is loved by Jews too, because he recognises their patriarchs as friends of God and their law as most holy. He is most loved by Christians because he keeps a list of names of the poor (inopes) of each region (regio) and makes sure that those who have been baptised do not have to resort to begging. In his preaching he exhorts Christians, both ordinary (mediocres) and wealthy (divites), to make sure the baptised poor do not need to receive money from Jews or Gentiles and thus avoid being polluted.

§ 2. Clemens pleases God and men with reason, and displeases those without reason, although he does not fear them. Thus Clemens does not fear threats from Sisinnius, a friend of the emperor Nerva [later interpolations add that Clemens did not fear Aurelian either and had consecrated the virgin Domitilla, neice of Domitian and wife of Aurelian]. Following Clemens’ teaching, Theodora, Sisinnius’ wife is converted and attends church. Sisinnius goes to church to enquire about this and hear and see what happens there. Clemens says a prayer, the people reply ‘Amen’, and instantly Sisinnius becomes blind and deaf; he asks his servants to take him outside. The servants however fail to find the doors from which they entered, and they finally come by Theodora, who is praying. When she learns that he is blind and deaf and cannot find his way out, she prays to God and tells the servants to bring him home, while she will stay until the mysteries have been celebrated. Servants lead him home. Theodora prays to God asking for mercy for her husband. After the mass, Theodora tells what happened to Clemens, who, weeping, asks those present to pray to the Lord for Sisinnius’ healing.

§ 3. After the prayer, Clemens goes with Theodora to meet Sisinnius and finds him still blind and deaf. Praying to Jesus Christ, and invoking the apostle Peter, Clemens asks that Sisinnius be healed. All reply ‘Amen’ and Sisinnius is healed. Sisinnius sees Clemens near his wife and becomes mad; he thinks that Clemens has tricked him, using magic to get to his wife, and orders him to be seized. The servants however, tie knots around columns, and pull at them, thinking (as does Sisinnius) that they are seizing Clemens. Clemens remarks that because Sisinnius has a heart hard as stone and worships stones, he is now dragging stones. Clemens leaves, asking Theodora to keep praying until the Lord manifests Himself. An old man appears to the weeping and praying Theodora in the evening, telling her that Sisinnius will be healed thanks to her, as stated by his brother Paul (quoting 1 Corinthians 7:14), then he disappears. It is clear that the man was the apostle Peter.

§ 4. Then Sisinnius summons his wife, acknowledges that he has been healed by Clemens and asks her to summon him, so that he, Sisinnius, may be instructed in the truth. He has realised that his servants were seizing columns and not Clemens. Theodora goes and tells everything to Clemens, who comes to Sisinnius and is received with great honour. After being instructed, Sisinnius believes in God and thanks Him for his conversion. Sisinnius believes with all his household, and gives his name [to prepare for baptism]; he is baptised at Easter. In total 423 people, men, women and children of both sexes, are baptised. Many aristocrats and friends of the emperor Nerva are converted thanks to Sisinnius. The count (comes) Publius Tarquinius, seeing how many people convert to Christianity, summons the patrons of the regions (patrones regionum), and gives them money to trigger an uprising against the Christians. An uprising of the Roman people (populus romanus) against Clemens starts under Mamertinus’ prefecture. People dispute amongst themselves, some arguing that Clemens did only good and healed many, others arguing that he has used magic to extinguish worship of the gods and rejected Jupiter, Hercules, Venus, Minerva, Diana, Mercury, Saturn and Mars. They suggest that he should either sacrifice or die.

§ 5. To put an end to the uprising, the prefect of the city Mamertinus summons Clemens and meets him in secret. He tries to convince him to abandon Christianity, thinking that the crowd cannot bear the fact that he, though of noble birth, has fallen into such a superstition. Clemens explains to him that he is not responsible for the uprising; Mamertinus sends a report (relatio) to the emperor Trajan.

§ 6. Trajan sends a rescript (rescripsit) stating that Clemens should either sacrifice to the gods or be exiled to a desert place on the other side of the Black Sea in the city of Cersona. Mamertinus tries to convince Clemens to avoid exile and sacrifice to the gods, but Clemens persuades Mamertinus to yield and to order him to be sent into exile, on a boat, full of other religious men (religiosi viri), who choose to follow him. When he arrives in the place of exile, Clemens finds that there are more than two thousand exiled Christians forced to work in stone quarries, who, on seeing bishop Clemens weep and groan. Clemens tells them that the Lord has sent him to share their suffering (passio). As he comforts them, he learns that they can only get water six miles away.

§ 7. Clemens exhorts them to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, recalling how Moses hit the rock to reveal ever-flowing streams (Exodus 17:6). After his prayer, he sees a lamb raising its right foot to indicate the location to be hit. Clemens orders this precise spot to be hit, but as nobody finds it, he takes a light hoe (sarculum), hits the spot and water flows. All rejoice and Clemens chants the responsorial (responsorium) Psalm 45:5. News spread to the whole province and all come to Clemens and are converted. More than 500 people are baptised in a day. Within a year, 75 churches are built, all idols and temples of the province are destroyed. After three years, pagans send a report (relatio) to the emperor Trajan telling him that the number of Christians has greatly increased due to Clemens. The general (dux) Aufidianus [Passionario Hispánico has: ‘Orfadianus’] is sent and kills many Christians. As all rejoice at being martyred, he decides to try to compel Clemens to sacrifice. However, he cannot convince him and orders him to be cast into the sea, an anchor bound to his neck, to avoid him being worshipped as a god by the Christians. When this is done, the crowd of Christians comes to the seashore and all weep. Cornelius and Phoebus, Clemens’ disciples tell the crowd to pray to the Lord so that the martyr’s remains may be revealed [Mombritius has ‘excubias’ but it should most probably read ‘exuviae’, the martyr’s remains]. As they pray, the sea recedes up to around three miles and the people find a marble temple in which Clemens' body is buried in a stone sarcophagus (arca saxea), with the anchor placed near it. It is revealed to the disciples not to remove the body, and that every year, on the day of his martyrdom, the sea will recede for seven days. This happens up to this day, and brings all pagans to believe in Christ to the extent that there are no pagans, Jews or heretics left. There, many favours are bestowed thanks to his prayers. The blind are given sight, demons are chased away, and all infirm people are healed on the day of his feast. The bishop of the city of Rome Clemens was martyred under Trajan in the city of Cersona in the province of Lycia on the ninth day before the Calends of November [= 23 November].

Text: Mombritius 1910 I, 341-344 (chapter numbers from Lapidge 2018, 170-179). Summary: M. Pignot


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Clement, bishop and martyr of Rome, ob. c. 100 : S00111

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Chant and religious singing

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - sarcophagus/coffin

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Miracles experienced by the saint Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle with animals and plants Healing diseases and disabilities Material support (supply of food, water, drink, money) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Exorcism Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Unbaptized Christians Jews Pagans Heretics Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Officials Slaves/ servants Crowds Animals

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - instrument of saint’s martyrdom Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Other activities with relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Clemens is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs. These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints. The Martyrdom of Clemens The Martyrdom is thought to have been originally written in Latin and later adapted into Greek (BHG 349-350). There is one main early Latin version of the Martyrdom, BHL 1848, preserved in more than 200 manuscripts, the earliest being from the 8th century: Munich, BSB, clm. 4554, f. 42v-45v (for lists of manuscripts, see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta, and additions in Lanéry 2010, 90-91 n. 172).


While part of the narrative takes place on the Black Sea where Clemens is exiled (and more precisely, according to Mombritus’ and Fábrega Grau’s editions, in the city of Cersona, in the modern Crimea), it is possible that the Martyrdom was composed in Rome, in the context of the well-attested development of cult of Clemens in the city (see S00111). Lanéry also suggests, on the basis of textual parallels, that the Martyrdom may have been influenced by other Roman martyrdom accounts, in particular that of *Sebastianus (E02519) and *Anastasia (E02482). It has to be noted, however, that the Martyrdom is quite vague in terms of topography and does not provide evidence for cult of Clemens in Rome, rather emphasising cult on the Black Sea, where the body is said to remain following a revelation. On the issue of Clemens’ cult in Crimea and the 9th century translation of his relics, see Neil and Lienhard. The date of composition of the Martyrdom is uncertain, although it must be situated between the development of cult of Clemens in 4th century in Rome, and the 6th century, as noted in repertories of Latin sources (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2177; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 58). Gregory of Tours at the end of the 6th century clearly borrows from it, referring to a martyrdom account (passio) and evoking the anchor, the receding sea and miracles happening there, without however providing information on the precise location of cult (see E00535). Another highly probable borrowing, however, is in Theodosius’ early 6th century itinerary (E07924), which refers to the same details as Gregory, but adds that the cult is located in Cersona and that there the sea recedes every year, allowing mass to be celebrated for a week. On the basis of other parallel evidence, Lanéry has suggested a more precise dating, between 430 and 450: first, our Martyrdom would have borrowed from the Martyrdom of Sebastianus (E02512), which she suggests should be dated to 430; second, a late antique Milanese liturgical preface for Clemens (EXXXX), which Paredi dated to 450, also probably borrowed from it. However such a precise dating of these two parallel late antique sources remains uncertain.


Editions (BHL 1848): Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), I, 341-344. The original edition was published c. 1480. Narbey, C., Supplément aux Acta sanctorum pour des Vies de saints de l’époque mérovingienne, 2 vols. (Paris, 1900), II, 333-336. Fábrega Grau, A., Pasionario Hispánico (siglos VIII-XI), 2 vols. (Madrid-Barcelona, 1953-1955), II, 40-46. English translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 170-179. Further reading: Neil, B., “The Cult of Pope Clement in Ninth-Century Rome,” Ephemerides Liturgicae 117 (2003), 103-113. Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie,” in: Philippart, G. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 88-96 (with further bibliography). Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 165-170. Lienhard, Th., “Et saint Clément reprit chair: Tradition et adaptation d’un thème hagiographique durant le haut Moyen Âge (VIe-IXe siècle),” in: Corradini, R., Diesenberger, M., and Niederkorn-Bruck, M. (eds.), Zwischen Niederschrift und Wiederschrift. Frühmittelalterliche Hagiographie und Historiographie im Spannungsfeld von Kompendienüberlieferung und Editionstechnik (Vienna, 2010), 363-372.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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