University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02507: The Martyrdom of *Pudentiana and *Praxedis (martyrs of Rome, S00591 and S00142) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome during Late Antiquity, perhaps during the Laurentian schism (498-506). It narrates the foundation of the titulus Pastoris by Pudens in Rome; Pudentiana’s death and burial in the cemetery of Priscilla on the via Salaria; the consecration of the baths of Novatus as a church in the name of Pudentiana, where a titulus is established and a baptistery built; the martyrdom of *Simetrius and 22 others (martyrs of Rome, S01439) and their burial in the cemetery of Priscilla, on the via Salaria; Praxedis’ death and burial near her father and sister.

online resource
posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Pudentiana and Praxedis (BHL 6988 and 6989)

The text is structured as if it were a compilation of 2nd century documents, comprising Pastor’s letter to Timotheus (§§ 1-6); Timotheus’ response (§ 7), and a narrative text written by the same Pastor (§ 8). The two letters are written as if by contemporaries of the events described.


BHL 6988:

§ 1: Pastor the priest, to the priest Timotheus. After the death of his wife Savinilla, and his parents Punicus and Priscilla, Pudens, our brother and friend, renounced his worldly possessions and was instructed in all the divine commandments. He was left two daughters, Praxedis (Praxedes) and Pudentiana (Potentiana; variant: Pudentiana), whom he instructed about chastity and the divine law. He was influenced by blessed Pius, who also taught you [Timotheus], and at his wife’s death he wanted his house to be consecrated as a church and thus established a titulus in our name [Pastor's] in the city of Rome in the place called vicus Patricii. I tell you this about Pudens now that he has died, leaving his two well-instructed daughters.

§ 2: The two blessed virgins sold all their property and gave the money to the poor. They kept virginity and performed vigils, fasts and prayers. In the same place where their father dedicated a titulus to my name, we agreed to build a baptistery on Easter day for the family servants (familia communis) that were pagan. We consulted the bishop of the Apostolic seat Pius, who agreed to our wish and even built the font himself. When the baptistery was ready, the girls summoned their servants, both from the city and from their other properties. They gave freedom to all those who were found Christian, while they brought the pagans to believe. At Easter, 96 individuals were baptised. When this was done, an assembly (conventus) started to convene in the titulus and chant day and night; many pagans came to the faith and were baptised.

§ 3: This was reported to the emperor Antoninus, who ordered Christians to be confined to their homes and have no contact with the rest of the people. This order was followed by all Christians, and we, and Pudentiana and Praxedis, spent several days and nights in vigils, fasts and prayers, with the people of God. We were frequently visited by the bishop Pius who celebrated the Eucharist for us.

§ 4: After 16 years [or: ‘at sixteen’; variant: ‘two years and ten months later’], however, the virgin Pudentiana died. We, together with her sister, embalmed her body with perfumes, and hid it in the same titulus. After 28 days, we took her body and buried it near that of her father Pudens, in the cemetery of Priscilla on the via Salaria, on the 14th day of the Calends of June [= 19 May].

BHL 6989:

§ 5: Praxedis continued to live in the same titulus, but seemed inconsolable at the loss of her sister. Christian nobles and the bishop Pius tried to console her. She was also visited by your own [i.e. Timotheus'] brother, and our brother in the Lord, Novatus, who consoled her and took care of the Christian poor. One year and 28 days after this, Novatus fell ill. Hearing of his illness, we, Pius, Praxedis and all Christians, were filled with sadness.

§ 6: Praxedis asked Pius to visit Novatus, as through their prayers and presence, the Lord might cure him. All agreed and at night we visited him. Seeing us all, Novatus was joyful and thanked God. We stayed in his house for eight days and nights. He left to us and the blessed virgin all his possessions, then, on the 13th day, he died. We have written this to you, so that you may let us know what to do with your brother’s possessions. The letter is sent through Eusebius, a subdeacon of the Roman church.

Here ends Pastor’s letter, followed by Timotheus’ response:

§ 7: Timotheus priest, to the priest Pastor and to the most holy sister Praxedis. We ask you to recommend us to the memory of the blessed Apostles and to Pius and all the saints. I am most happy to hear the news from you. What pleased my brother also pleases me; you and the holy virgin should keep ownership of all that he has left and use it as you see fit. We are most rejoiced by this letter and have given it to read to the bishop Pius, who thanked God after reading it.

Here follows a narrative text by Pastor:

§ 8: Receiving this reply, Praxedis asked Pius to consecrate as a church the baths of Novatus that were no longer in use; the building was large and spacious. Pius agreed and dedicated the church to the name of the blessed virgin Pudentiana [here the text seems to be erroneous: variants have instead ‘of Praxedis’; indeed it is Praxedis’ church that is located on the vicus Lateranus; the Acta Sanctorum edition solves the issue with the following in brackets: ‘in the uicus Patricius. Another is dedicated in the name of the virgin Praxedis’] in the city of Rome on the vicus Lateranus, where he established a Roman titulus and consecrated a baptistery on the 4th day of the Ides of May [= 12 May; variant: ‘3rd day’ = 13 May].

Two years later, there was a great persecution of the Christians, and many were crowned as martyrs. Praxedis secreted many Christians in the aforementioned titulus and cared for them, but it was reported to Antoninus that they were congregating in the titulus Praxedis. Many were arrested, among them was the priest Simetrius, along with 22 others. Antoninus ordered them to be killed by the sword without trial. Praxedis collected their bodies at night and buried them in the cemetery of Priscilla on the 7th day of the Calends of June [= 26 May; variant: ‘July’ = 25 June].

Then Praxedis, suffering great bodily afflictions, prayed to the Lord for some respite, that she might be carried away from this world. She was heard: 54 days after the martyrdoms of the aforementioned saints, on the 12th day of the Calends of August [= 20 July], she died. I, the priest Pastor, collected her body and buried it near her father Pudens, on the via Salaria, in the cemetery of Priscilla. There prayers flourish [up to this day].

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Mai.., IV, 299-300 (see for variants: Mombritius 1910, II, 353-354 and 390-391). Summary: M. Humphries, The Roman Martyrs Project, Manchester University, adapted and expanded by M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Pudentiana, martyr of Rome : S00591 Praxedes, martyr of Rome : S00142 Simetrius, priest, and 22 others, martyrs of Rome : S01439

Saint Name in Source

Potentiana Praxedes Simetrius

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

  • Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Observed scarcity/absence of miracles

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Monarchs and their family Aristocrats Relatives of the saint Pagans The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


The Martyrdom of Pudentiana and Praxedis is a peculiar text, in comparison to other Roman late antique martyrdom accounts: first, it is written as a letter exchange between Pastor and Timotheus, with an additional narration by Pastor; second, it is not exactly an account of martyrdom, since the two virgins are said to die peacefully, although during a time of persecutions, when other Christians are martyred (the priest Simetrius and 22 other martyrs are mentioned). The Martyrdom was clearly written to provide a history of the origins of the neighbouring tituli of Pudens (or ecclesia Pudentiana), here also named titulus Pastoris), and of Praxedis. Taking the names of the founders Pudens and Praxedis, the author narrates the story of a family, the father Pudens and his daughters Pudentiana and Praxedis giving away their properties and acquiring more (Novatus’ possessions), thus enabling them to build churches and baptisteries, with the help and supervision of Pope Pius I (died c. 145). The identification by the hagiographer of Pudens with the homonym named in the second letter of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, who here becomes Pastor’s correspondent, may explain the peculiar letter form adopted for this Martyrdom. The early Christian narrative The Pastor [Shepherd] of Hermas provides another possible source of inspiration for the connection made between the fictive character Pastor, the sisters Pudentiana and Praxedis, and Pope Pius, believed to have been the brother of Hermas. There are a number of closely related versions of the Martyrdom, BHL 6988-6991, 6920-6920k. As summarised by Lanéry, BHL 6988 and BHL 6989 were initially a single text, the earliest form of the Martyrdom, that was later often divided, the part narrating Praxedis’ life being much more widely diffused (on minor variants and medieval rewritings see Lanéry 2010, 172-173). There are more than 130 manuscripts of the Martyrdom and its minor variants, see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( and an additional list in Lanéry 2010, 172-173 n. 372. The earliest are from the 9th century: Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, 14, f. 13v-14r (9th-10th c.); Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, 412, f. 163v-165r (9th c.); Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, Aug. XXXII, f. 3v-4r (9th c.); Paris, BNF, lat. 5299, f. 71r-73r (9th c.); St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, 577, p. 266-268 (9th c.); Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, HB XIV.13, f. 189v-191r (9th c.); Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. lat. 516, f. 103v-104r (9th c.); Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 846, f. 94v-95r (9th-10th c.); Vienna, ÖNB, lat. 357, f. 141r-142v (9th-10th c.).


The Martyrdom situates Pudentiana and Praxedis’ burial in the cemetery of Priscilla on the via Salaria (see other sources for this: S00591 and S00142; a brief discussion of the cult sites in Lapidge 2018, 308-310), and connects them to the martyr Simetrius and 22 other anonymous martyrs. It provides feast days for each of these saints, as well as the dates of establishment of the titulus Praxedis (12/13 May). The Martyrdom was written during Late Antiquity, at an uncertain date (the earliest manuscripts are from the 9th century and it is used by Ado in his martyrology: Quentin, H., Les martyrologes historiques du Moyen Âge. Etude sur la formation du martyrologe romain (Paris, 1908), 566-567). Repertories of Latin sources suggest a dating in the 5th or 6th centuries (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2224; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 84). Llewellyn has argued that the Martyrdom should be placed during the Laurentian schism (498-506), as shown in particular by the focus on tituli that were largely behind Laurence during the schism, the emphasis on the building of baptisteries and administration of baptisms, the prominent role of priests, the date chosen for Pudentiana’s burial (22 April), matching the date of Easter adopted by Laurence’s followers during the schism in 501, the positive presentation of Novatus, perhaps to be identified with the schismatic of the 3rd century, and Pastor’s fair handling of Novatus’ possessions. Lanéry adds that the Martyrdom would have later inspired that of Marius, Martha and companions (E02093), and of Pimenius (E02503), the characters Pastor and Timotheus also featuring in a number of other Roman and Italian martyrdom accounts (see Lanéry 2010, 176 n. 382).


Edition (BHL 6988-6989): Acta Sanctorum, Mai., IV, 299-300. Translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 311-315. Further reading: 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 170-177 (with further bibliography). Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 307-311. Llewellyn, P., “The Roman Church During the Laurentian Schism: Priests and Senators,” Church History 45 (1976), 417-427.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager