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E02491: The Martyrdom of *Eusebius, Pontianus, Vincentius and Peregrinus, and Companion Martyrs (martyrs of Rome, 01472) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, at an uncertain date, in the 9th c. at the latest. It narrates the conversion and martyrdom of the senator Iulius and the executioner Antonius, and their burial in the cemetery of Calepodius, the tortures endured by the main protagonists, other conversions triggered and miraculous healing effected by them, their martyrdom, and their burial between the via Aurelia and the via Triumphalis.

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Eusebius, Pontianus, Vincentius and Peregrinus (BHL 2742)


§ 1: The emperor Commodus, on his birthday, convenes all the people for a contest where they are to acclaim the gods Hercules and Jupiter. Commodus appears clothed in a lion’s skin before a golden statue of Jupiter, and is acclaimed 75 times by the people as Hercules, protector of the state.

§ 2: At that time there are Christians in the vicus Lannarius, among them Eusebius, Vincentius, Peregrinus and Pontianus, religious men (religiosi viri), who have given away their possessions to the poor and serve the Lord. Hearing what Commodus did, they preach to the people, encouraging them to abandon the pagan gods, believe in God and Jesus Christ, repent and be baptised.

§ 3: A senator (senator) named Iulius, hearing the Christians preach, invites them to his home, believes, gives away his possessions to the poor, calls a priest named Rufinus and asks to be baptised with all his household. He starts to preach the name of the Lord and gives his income (reditus) to the poor. Commodus hears of this and orders him to be arrested. He questions him about his reasons for abandoning the gods Jupiter and Hercules, but Iulius rejects the gods.

§ 4: Iulius is entrusted to a certain Vitellius, exmagister peditum, who receives the order to seize his possessions, force him to sacrifice, and kill him if he refuses. Vitellius sends Iulius to prison and after three days, orders him to be brought before him. As Iulius refuses to sacrifice but professes his faith in Jesus Christ, he is beaten to death. His body is thrown before the amphitheatre and collected at night by Eusebius, Pontianus, Peregrinus and Vincentius and buried in the cemetery of Calepodius on the 14th day before the Calends of September [= 19 August].

§ 5: Eusebius, Pontianus, Peregrinus and Vincentius are arrested and brought before Vitellius, who accuses them of having seized Iulius’ wealth and asks them to give it back and offer sacrifice to avoid death. Eusebius and Vincentius reject the gods.

§§ 6-7: They are tortured on a rack, then asked to sacrifice to the gods, however they persevere. Vitellius thinks that they use magic. As their sides are burnt, one of the torturers sees a young man wiping their sides, proclaims that it is an angel and believes in Christ. Vitellius replies that it is magic. The executioner, named Antonius, believes, flees to the priest Rufinus and is baptised.

§ 8: The saints are taken down from the rack and interrogated; as Eusebius tells Vitellius that he will suffer forever in hell, he orders Eusebius’ tongue to be cut out; Antonius protests, and Vitellius starts vomiting blood. Eusebius glorifies the Lord without a tongue but with a loud voice. A Christian named Faustus collects Eusebius’ tongue, puts it in his tunic and flees. Vitelius orders Antonius to be beheaded. He is brought to the via Aurelia next to the forum of Trajan, and beheaded on the 11th day before the Calends of September [= 22 August].

§ 9: Eusebius, Vincentius Peregrinus and Pontianus are sent to prison. They thank God night and day with hymns; many Christians come to them and are comforted. After three days, Iulius appear to them, asking them to save the guardian of the prison. The infirm and the blind are brought to them and healed through their prayers. A blind pagan priest of the Capitol named Lupulus comes asking for baptism. They ask him to believe to be enlightened. He states his belief.

§ 10: They summon the priest Rufinus who comes and interrogates Lupulus about his belief. As he proclaims his faith in Jesus Christ, he is initiated (catechizare) and baptised, with a threefold interrogation about his belief in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Lupulus shouts that he believes in Jesus Christ and asks to be enlightened, the guardian of the prison comes and sees that Lupulus is enlightened. He comes to the saints’ feet and asks for baptism. He, whose name is Simplicius, is baptised by Rufinus, and reveals where Antonius’ body is buried. After six days, the intact body of Antonius is found by Rufinus, and buried in the cemetery of Calepodius in a crypt on the eighth day.

§11: Vitellius tells what has happened to the emperor Commodus, who orders the saints to be killed. Vitellius orders a tribunal to be prepared in Tellure and summons Eusebius, Vincentius, Peregrinus, and Pontianus. He requires them to sacrifice before a tripod (tripoda) but they spit at it. They are sentenced to die by being beaten with leaden scourges (plumbatae) before the amphitheatre. They are brought to the place called petra scelerata where they are killed. Rufinus collects the bodies of the martyrs and buries them not far from the city at the sixth milestone from Rome, in a sand quarry between the via Aurelia and the via Triumphalis on the 8th day before the Calends of September [=25 August]. They are brought there by a certain matrona in her two-wheeled vehicle (birotum). Their prayers flourish there up to this day.

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Aug., V, 115-116. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Eusebius, Pontianus, Vincentius, Peregrinus, martyrs of Rome : S01472

Saint Name in Source

Eusebius, Pontianus, Vincentius, Peregrinus

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 - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Distribution of alms

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle after death Miracles causing conversion Healing diseases and disabilities Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Miracles experienced by the saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Torturers/Executioners Officials Crowds Angels

Cult Activities - Relics

Aristocrats Bodily relic - other body parts Theft/appropriation of relics Privately owned relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Eusebius, Pontianus, Vincentius and Peregrinus 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 Eusebius, Pontianus, Vincentius and Peregrinus There are a number of versions of the Martyrdom (BHL 2742-2746) but the earliest, and our focus here, seems to be BHL 2742, first attested in two related manuscripts from the late 9th century: Seville, Bibl. Colombina 101, f. 85r-87v and Brussels, KBR, 1791-1794 (481), f. 71r-72v, see Tomás Marín 1959 and De Gaiffier 1970. More generally see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( which lists 15 manuscripts of BHL 2742 (including the Brussels manuscript but omitting the one from Seville).


The Martyrdom, presumably written in Rome, provides evidence about the burial places of each of the martyrs, Iulius and Antonius in the cemetery of Calepodius and the main protagonists Eusebius, Pontianus, Vincentius and Peregrinus between the via Aurelia and the via Triumphalis. It also includes a noteworthy reference to the appropriation of the relic of Eusebius’ tongue by a certain Faustus. As already highlighted by Lanéry, there is no evidence about these saints and their cult outside the Martyrdom before the 9th century. Repertories of Latin sources date the Martyrdom with uncertainty to the 6th century (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2185; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 64). The earliest manuscripts being from the 9th century and Ado making use of the Martyrdom in his martyrology (Quentin, H., Les martyrologes historiques du Moyen Âge. Etude sur la formation du martyrologe romain (Paris, 1908), 517-518), the text can be assumed to have been composed by that time at the latest. Lanéry underlines the lack of early evidence and, following De Gaiffier’s study, the transmission of the Martyrdom together with a text narrating the translation of relics of Eusebius and Pontianus from Rome to Gaul around 865 on request of Girardus of Vienne (BHL 2747). She thus suggests (followed by Vocino) that the Martyrdom may have been composed in that context. It remains uncertain, however, whether the Martyrdom and the translation where composed at around the same time, also because, according to Quentin, Ado only added information about the translation of the relics in his second edition of the martyrology. Lapidge, emphasising the hagiographer’s familiarity with late antique Rome, rather suggests a composition in the first half of the 7th century, although acknowledging the complexity of dating this Martyrdom.


Edition (BHL 2742): Acta Sanctorum, Aug., V, 115-116. Translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 519-525. Further reading: De Gaiffier, B., “Un dossier hagiographique réuni pour Girart de Vienne?”, Analecta Bollandiana 88 (1970), 285-288. 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 295-296. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 517-519. Tomás Marín, D., “Un nuevo códice carolino (Biblioteca Colombina Ms. 101),” Hispania Sacra 12 (1959), 165-189. Vocino, G., “L’Agiografia dell’Italia centrale (750-950),” in: Goullet, M. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. VII (Turnhout, 2017), 95-268, at 174-175.

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