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E02508: The Martyrdom of the *Four Crowned Martyrs (martyrs of Pannonia/Rome, S00685) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, at an uncertain date, perhaps in the 6th or 7th c., by the 9th c. at the latest. It narrates the carving work in porphyry quarries in Pannonia of Claudius, Castorius, Simpronianus, Nicostratus and Simplicius, their trial, tortures endured, death, and burial; the martyrdom in Rome of four cornicularii, and their burial by Sebastianus and bishop Miltiades on the via Labicana in a sand quarry with other saints; the names of these four martyrs who died on the same day as the Pannonian sculptors being unknown, Miltiades decision that they be venerated as Claudius, Nicostratus, Simpronianus and Castorius.

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of the Four Crowned Martyrs (BHL 1837)


§ 1: Diocletian goes to quarries in Pannonia and assembles workers, among which the most skilled sculptors Claudius, Castorius, Simpronianus and Nicostratus, who are secretly Christian. One day Diocletian orders a statue of the god Sol with a chariot to be sculpted from a single stone. The work done does not please Diocletian and workers and supervisors (philosophi) argue about it.

§§ 2-3: 620 workers and 5 supervisors assemble and their is great tension among them. Simpronianus suggests that he can complete the work with Claudius, Simplicius, Nicostratus and Castorius. Carving in the name of Christ, he completes the statue of Sol as requested by the emperor. Diocletian rejoices and orders a temple to be built in Pannonia in a place called ad montem pinguem, places the statue there, offers sacrifices and gives gifts to the workers. He then asks Claudius, Simpronianus, Nicostratus, Castorius and Simplicianus to carve porphyry columns and capitals.

§§ 4-5: They go at the mons igneus and carve a 40-foot porphyry stone. Claudius works in the name of Christ and makes good progress, but Simplicius, who is pagan, is unsuccessful. Claudius fixes Simplicius’ iron carving tool (ferramentum) with a prayer to Jesus Christ. Simplicius wonders how this has been achieved, Claudius and Simpronianus tell him about God the creator of all things, Jesus Christ his son, and the Holy Spirit. They emphasise that gods are nothing but carved statues. Diocletian orders ornate porphyry bowls (concae) to be carved, this is finely done by Simpronianus, Claudius, Castorius and Nicostratus in the name of Christ.

§§ 6-7: Simplicius however is again unsuccessful in carving and asks Simpronianus to tell him about God creator of all things, thanks to whom they work so well, and to reveal the prayers that they say to their god. He makes clear to Claudius that he speaks as a friend, since they have worked together for 15 years. Simpronianus tells him that if he believes, he will master carving and earn eternal life. Simplicius states his wish to know God. Claudius tells him to believe in Jesus Christ and be baptised. They seek and find a bishop named Qurillus, from Antioch, who has spent three years in prison because he is Christian. At night they come to him and find him chained with many other confessors. They ask him to baptise Simplicius; Quirillus rejoices and asks Simplicius to believe with all his heart. Claudius, Simpronianus, Nicostratus and Castorius tell Quillus what happened with the carving tools. Quirillus thanks God and tells Simplicius that what happened should bring him to believe. He requires him to believe in Christ creator of all things and reject the statues of the gods. Simplicius professes his faith in God and is baptised in prison. Then they are dismissed and go back to work.

§§ 8-9: They carve ornate porphyry bowls in the name of Christ, making a sign of the cross. One of the supervisors sees this and states that they perform magic with a sign referring to torture (the crucifixion); Claudius replies that this sign representing torture brings eternal life to those who believe. The supervisor is puzzled; Claudius and Simpronianus further explain to him that they are Christians and do all in Christ’s name, who was resurrected from the dead (quoting the Gospel and Paul). As they preach, many sculptors believe.

§§ 10-11: The porphyry bowls are finished and brought to Diocletian who is very pleased and offers gifts to Simpronianus, Claudius, Castorius and Nicostratus. Then he asks them to carve porphyry columns with leaved capitals. Supervisors are offended. The sculptors come to the quarry, pray and make a sign of the cross, and start carving pillars. They work for three months. As they have completed a column, the supervisors tell Claudius, Simpronianus, Nicostratus, Castorius and Simplicius to carve another one; they do so in the name of Christ, without any help from the supervisors, in 26 days. The supervisors are offended and state that it is magic. The sculptors finely complete all carving work without any help from them but only in the name of Christ. The supervisors tell Diocletian that the work has been completed. Diocletian summons the five sculptors and tells them to carve other sculptures and bowls, especially a statue of Asclepius. They do everything as requested except for the statue of Asclepius. Diocletian is pleased but asks them to complete the statue of Asclepius with lions, awks, deer and crowds coming to the water. They complete everything except the statue of Asclepius. After four months the supervisors suggest to Diocletian that he should see the completed work. As it is shown, the statue of Asclepius ordered by Diocletian is missing.

§§ 14-15: The supervisors tell Diocletian that the sculptors he loves are Christians and do everything in the name of Christ. Diocletian replies that this gives renown to Christ, but the supervisors emphasise that the sculptors have disobeyed him as they have refused to carve a statue of the god Asclepius. Diocletian summons Claudius Simpronianus, Castorius, Nicostratus and Simplicius and asks them why they have refused to carve a porphyry statue of Asclepius. Claudius replies that they have always obeyed him but that they refuse to carve the statue of this wretched man (quoting Ps. 113:8). Supervisors emphasise the sculptors' treachery; Diocletian replies that skilled sculptors need to be cherished. He tells the supervisors that if other suitable sculptors are found, the five sculptors will be punished for their impiety.

§§ 16-17: The supervisors ask Claudius, Simpronianus, Nicostratus, Castorius and Simplicius why they refused to obey. Claudius replies that they refuse to blaspheme against their creator. Castorius states that they are Christians. The supervisors ask other sculptors to carve a porphyry statue of Asclepius, which is completed after 31 days. The statue is brought to Diocletian who wonders whether it was carved by the five sculptors. The supervisors tell him that they are Christians, Diocletian replies that they should be sentenced for sacrilege. He asks a tribune called Lampadius to interrogate them and punish them accordingly. Lampadius orders a tribunal to be prepared before the temple of Sol and all supervisors and workers, including Simpronianus, Claudius, Nicostratus, Castorius and Simplicius to be gathered there. As Lampadius declares that he seeks to establish whether the accusation against the five sculptors is legitimate, all other sculptors say that they are impious and sorcerers.

§§ 18-19: Lampadius is reluctant to pronounce a sentence before hearing the case, but the supervisors remark that the five sculptors should adore the god to show that they are not sorcerers. Lampadius summons the five sculptors to worship the god Sol, but they refuse, stating that they worship Jesus Christ. Lampadius orders them to be sent to prison. After nine days he tells Diocletian, who decides that if they refuse to sacrifice to the god Sol they should be killed with tortures. The next day Lampadius again orders a tribunal to be prepared before the temple of Sol and supervisors and sculptors to be present. The accusation is represented by a supervisor called Cirosolitus who says to Lampadius that he should already have all information required. Lampadius asks the five sculptors whether they know of the emperors’ orders, they say that they don’t. Lampadius tells them: they are required to sacrifice to the god Sol and honour the gods. Claudius replies that they only honour God almighty and his son Jesus Christ. Claudius contrasts the god Sol and Christ, born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who brings true light. Lampadius exhorts them not to lose the emperor Diocletian’s favours, but they do not comply. He informs Diocletian, who orders them to be tortured with scorpions (scorpiones) if they still refuse to sacrifice.

§ 20: After five days, Lampadius again sits in his tribunal and summons the sculptors before the temple of Sol. He exhorts them to sacrifice to the gods to avoid torture. Claudius and his companions say that they will not yield, as they only fear eternal suffering. They will never abandon Christianity. Lampadius orders them to be stripped and tortured with scorpions. Lampadius is immediately seized by a demon and dies while sitting on his tribunal. His wife and family tell the supervisors and the news reaches Diocletian, who orders them to be shut up alive in leaden coffins (loculi) and thrown into a river. A certain togatus Nicitius who assisted Lampadius does as required by Diocletian. The bishop Quirillus, hearing about what happened is distressed and dies. They were martyred on the 6th day before the Ides of November [= 8 November].

§§ 21-22: In those days, Diocletian goes to Sirmium. After 42 days, a Christian named Nicodemus takes the coffins and buries them in his own house. After 11 months, Diocletian travels from Sirmium and arrives in Rome. He orders a temple dedicated to Asclepius to be built with a marble statue in the baths of Trajan. When this is done, he orders cures to be publicly inscribed in bronze in the temple and all military services (militiae) to offer sacrifice and incense at the statue of Asclepius, especially soldiers of the urban prefecture. As all are compelled to sacrifice, four cornicularii refuse to comply. This is told to Diocletian who orders them to be killed with leaden scourges (plumbatae). Their bodies are thrown on the street for the dogs and left unburied for five days. Then the blessed Sebastianus (Sevastianus) collects their bodies at night with bishop Miltiades and buries them on the via Labicana at the third milestone from the city, with other saints in the sand quarry (arenarium). This happened two years later on the same day, that is the 6th day before the


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Four Crowned Martyrs - the second group (Sempronianus, Nicostratus, Claudius, Castor), martyrs in Sirmium (Pannonia), in the late 3rd c. : S00685

Saint Name in Source

Claudius, Castorius, Simpronianus, Nicostratus, Simplicius

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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - sarcophagus/coffin

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Power over objects Punishing miracle Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Merchants and artisans Officials Pagans Soldiers Prisoners Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Privately owned relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of the Four Crowned Martyrs 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 the Four Crowned Martyrs The main version of the Martyrdom (BHL 1837, with BHL 1836 and 1837b being only slightly divergent variants) is preserved in more than 100 manuscripts according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (, the earliest from the 9th century: Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, 14, f. 116v-118 (9th-10th c.); Paris, BNF, lat. 10861, f. 75v-82v; Trier, Stiftsbibliothek, 648 (1573): fragment. To this list one should add New Haven, Yale University Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS 1151 (9th c. fragment: BHL 1837 has been edited by Delehaye in the Acta Sanctorum on the basis of 15 manuscripts, including the two earliest complete ones. Delehaye also provides an edition of the Greek version (BHG 1600) on the basis of Vat. gr. 1608.


§§ 1-20 narrate the martyrdom of the Pannonian martyrs, while §§ 21-22 focus on the four martyrs venerated in Rome, who receive the names of four of the Pannonian martyrs. For a recent discussion of the Martyrdom, in particular the realistic features of the 'Pannonian' part, see Lapidge 2018, 450-452. On the obscure origins and development of cult of the Four Crowned Martyrs in Rome, see Lapidge 2018, 452-456, and P. Nowakowski's discussion in E05236; for other early evidence on the saints see S00685. The Martyrdom is of uncertain date of composition, but must have been written by the 9th century at the latest when it is found in manuscripts. It was generally dated to the 5th or 6th centuries (Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 59). The issue of its dating is entirely related to the origin and development of cult of its main characters. While Amore favoured a Roman origin for their cult, Guyon, followed by Lanéry and Lapidge, suggests that our Martyrdom is a Roman reworking of an original lost Pannonian martyrdom account about five stonecutters: Claudius Nicostratus, Simpronianus, Castorius and Simplicius. Lanéry situates it with uncertainty in the 6th or 7th century, while Guyon argues that it was not written before the 7th century; Lapidge places it around 600. It should be noted that these characters are also found in the Martyrdom of Sebastianus (E02512).


Edition (BHL 1836-1837) Acta Sanctorum, Nov., III, 765-779. Translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 456-467. Further reading: Amore, A., “Il problema dei SS. Quattro Coronati,” in Miscellanea Amato Pietro Frutaz (Rome, 1978), 123-146. Guyon, J., “Les Quatre Couronnés et leur culte des origines au IXe siècle,” Mélange de l’Ecole Française de Rome. Moyen Âge, 87 (1975), 505-561. 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, 290-291. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 448-456.

Continued Description

Ides of November [= 8 November]. Their names could not be retrieved and the bishop Miltiades ordered them to be remembered as Claudius, Nicostratus, Simpronianus and Castorius on their feast day. An addition often missing in manuscripts: This account was written by the actuarius Porphyry. Text: Acta Sanctorum, Nov., III, 765-779. Summary: M. Pignot.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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