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E02509: The Martyrdom of *Restitutus (martyr of the via Numentana near Rome, S01446) is written in Latin, at an uncertain place and date, by the late 9th or early 10th c. at the latest. It narrates Restitutus’ trial, imprisonment, miraculous freeing of prisoners, death by beheading, and burial in a crypt at the 16th milestone on the via Numentana, where miracles happen. An appendix narrates the translation of the body next to the church of St Andrew in Aurisarius at the time of Pope Hadrian, probably Hadrian I (771-795).

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posted on 2017-03-08, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Restitutus (BHL 7197)


§ 1: A tempest hurls itself against the Christians under Diocletian and Maximian. At this time the distinguished Restitutus is arrested and brought by the soldiers to the praeses Hermogenes who governs Rome. They announce that he is Christian and preaches against the gods. Hermogenes asks Restitutus to identify himself. Restitutus announces that he is a Roman by citizenship, and of noble birth; his common name is Restitutus, but in terms of faith his name is Christian (Christianus). Hermogenes then challenges Restitutus over the orders of the emperors which demand that all should sacrifice to the gods or face punishment. Restitutus replies that he follows Jesus Christ’ commandments against worshipping idols. Hermogenes demands that he follow the imperial orders or he will be tortured. Restitutus replies that he is ready and will offer himself as a sacrifice to his Lord.

§ 2: Hermogenes orders Restitutus’ jaw to be broken with stones, but even when the soldiers set upon him, Restitutus says that he feels no harm, professing his devotion to the Lord. The praeses takes pity on Restitutus’ youth and again pleads with him to sacrifice, but to no avail. Then, angered by Restitutus’ recalcitrance, Hermogenes orders him stripped and beaten with lashes. Nevertheless, Restitutus is joyful and even laughs as he is beaten. He prays, saying that he fears nothing that can be inflicted upon him because the Lord is with him. He commands Hermogenes to give up his vain devotion to idols and worship the Lord God instead. At length Hermogenes has Restitutus beaten with leaden scourges, and again commands him to abandon his folly, asking him if he wishes to die a violent death (biothanatus). But in truth, remarks Restitutus, it is Hermogenes and his emperors, worshippers of deaf and mute statues, who will die violent deaths (biothanati) because they do not open their eyes and hearts to the Lord creator of all things.

§ 3: Hermogenes orders Restitutus to be imprisoned, and his whole body to be tightly bound; furthermore, he should receive no visitors. In prison, though, many other inmates ask Restitutus to pray to God for them, hoping to receive some relief from the suffering endured in prison. Hearing them, Restitutus weeps and offers up his prayer, invoking Jesus Christ, son of God born from the virgin Mary, quoting Luke 11:9 about the fulfilment of prayers, and asking for all the chains to be broken. An earthquake follows with glowing light and a sweet smell; all chains are broken and the prison doors open. All the prisoners throw themselves at Restitutus’ feet, giving thanks to God. Restitutus tells them that this is the Lord’s reward to those who love him. He exhorts the prisoners either to go wherever they like or to stay with him to save their soul. All go away in the middle of the night, even those who were infirm, as they are healed. In the morning, the guards find the pirson open and empty, except for Restitutus, who is praying. They go to the praeses’ house and tell him what happened.

§ 4: The praeses, outraged, orders Restitutus to be brought before him, and demands that Restitutus explain by what magic, after easily overcoming tortures, he now has broken all chains and let criminals escape. Restitutus explains that none of this has to do with magic; rather it is given to his servant by the Lord for the praise and glory of His name. Once more, Hermogenes orders Restitutus to sacrifice or suffer the consequences. Restitutus rejects the gods as mere idols and Hermogenes orders him to be brought to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, threatening capital sentence if he still refuses to comply. At the temple, Restitutus tells the soldiers to ask the gods to speak. Restitutus further rejects the gods, the soldiers try to compel him to sacrifice without success, then they bind his hands behind his back and behead him outside the Capitol. They throw his body to the dogs next to the triumphal arch ad Palmam.

§ 5: Iusta, a matron and religious woman (religiosa femina), assisted by some clergy (viri ecclesiastici) and a few Christians, collects Restitutus’ body at night with the help of her servants, and goes to her house iuxta Metamsudantem, embalms the body with perfume, puts it in a shroud, and places it on her vehicle (pavo) in order to bring it at night to her estate (praedium) on the via Numentana. She asks the bishop Stephanus to join her with priests, deacons, other clerics, servants of God (servi Dei), and sacred virgins, together with the Christian faithful. At dawn, chanting hymns and praises, they carry the body to the 16th milestone in the estate of the matron Iusta in a crypt, and hold a burial ceremony on the 6th day [variant: 4th day] before the Calends of June [= 27/29 May]. They mourn there for seven days. Iusta pays for everything. Many who are possessed by demons and suffer various illnesses frequently come to Restitutus’ tomb (tumulus) from nearby places in the city of Numentum and return home healed.

Appendix found only in later, 12th c. manuscripts Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 1191 and 1196:

[§ 7 (sic). Restitutus’ body rested there until the time of Pope Hadrian. Then, following a revelation from the martyr himself, his body was recovered and translated to a site near the church of St Andrew in Aurisaurius, where the blessings of the Lord are to be seen even in the present day.]

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Mai., VII, 11-13. Summary: M. Humphries, The Roman Martyrs Project, Manchester University, revised and expanded by M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Restitutus, martyr of the via Numentana near Rome : S01446

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, village, etc

via Numentana

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

via Numentana 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 - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracle after death Miracles experienced by the saint Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Healing diseases and disabilities Miraculous sound, smell, light Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Exorcism Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics – unspecified Aristocrats Soldiers Slaves/ servants The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves)

Cult Activities - Relics

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


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Restitutus 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 Restitutus There is one main version of the Martyrdom, BHL 7197 (a marginal variant ending is BHL 7197a). It is preserved in 7 manuscripts according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (, the earliest from the late 9th or early 10th century, from Farfa: Roma, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Farf. 29 (alias 341), f. 156r-159r (see a list of the oldest manuscripts in Vocino 2017, 228).


The appendix to the Martyrdom (§7), preserved in 12th century manuscripts and added to the edition of the Martyrdom in the Acta Sanctorum, relates the translation of Restitutus’ body to Rome under a certain Pope Hadrian, while the main narrative clearly situates Restitutus’ cult on the via Numentana at the 14th milestone. Thus it seems that the appendix was added later to the original narrative. The Martyrdom is of uncertain date of composition, but should have been written by the late 9th century at the latest when it is found in manuscripts. It was generally dated to the 6th century (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2226; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 84), however Lanéry suggests that it was perhaps rather composed at the end of the 8th century, perhaps with some connection to the abbey of Farfa (where the earliest preserved manuscript was written). The composition would be situated shortly before the translation of Restitutus’ body to Rome, if the Pope Hadrian, supervising the translation according to the appendix to the Martyrdom, is to be identified with Hadrian I (771-795). Lanéry also emphasises that the Martyrdom would have borrowed from the Martyrdom of Primus and Felicianus (for its beginning, see E02094) and from a number of Roman martyrdom accounts. More recently, Vocino, while agreeing with the identification of Pope Hadrian and a dating in the 8th century, notes that the association of the Martyrdom with the abbey of Farfa is uncertain, and that it might have been composed in Numentum to promote the cult of Restitutus after the translation of Primus and Felicianus’ bodies to Rome.


Edition (BHL 7197): Acta Sanctorum, Mai., VII, 11-13. 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 313-314. 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 226-228.

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