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E03234: The Martyrdom of *Terentianus (bishop and martyr of Todi, S02490) is written in Latin, presumably in Todi, at an uncertain date, perhaps in the 6th or 7th c. It narrates Terentius’ trial, the conversion of the pagan priest Flaccus after a miraculous healing, their martyrdom near the walls of Todi and burial in a place called Colonia eight miles from Todi, where miracles abound.

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posted on 2017-07-11, 00:00 authored by CSLA Admin
Martyrdom of Terentianus (BHL 8003)


The year of Terentianus’ martyrdom according to various historical and religious chronologies: while Jesus Christ was born in the 42nd year of the emperor Augustus and suffered on the 18th year of Tiberius, and the Apostle John died on the 69th year after Jesus Christ’s passion at the age of 97 under Trajan, 85 years had passed since Jesus Christ’s passion when Terentianus was martyred (§ 1).

After the emperor Hadrian’s return from Jerusalem to Rome, the prefect Marianus tells him that the old bishop Terentianus, not far from Rome, preaches Christianity and leads the people to abandon the gods. Hadrian reacts by ordering a persecution against Christians (§ 2). After the orders reach the proconsul of Tuscia Lecianus in Todi, Terentianus is arrested, interrogated, accused of performing magic, and summoned to offer sacrifice. Terentianus refuses and proclaims his faith in the Trinity (§§ 3-7). Terentianus is tortured and idols of Hercules and Jupiter are brought before him to be worshipped. He prays to God, the statues are destroyed, and the pagan priest Flaccus is blinded. Terentianus is further tortured on a rack but again proclaims his faith and does not yield. His tongue is cut off and he is put in jail. Immediately, the proconsul dies (§§ 8-10). The next day, Terentianus is brought to the forum by Celsius and Leontius to be interrogated and tortured. On the way, following Flaccus’ request (prompted by a vision of a most beautiful man), he heals him and baptises him. They arrive together before Celsius and Leontius. The judge Leontius orders Terentianus and Flaccus to be beheaded (§§ 11-12). They are executed on the Calends of September [= 1 September] near the walls of the city, by the Tiber river. That night, their bodies are buried by the priest (presbyter) Exuperantius and Laurentia in a rocky place (loco qui dicitur Petrosus) called Colonia, eight miles from Todi. There, miracles abound up to the present day (§13).

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Sept. I, 112-115. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


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

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

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

Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Miracle at martyrdom and death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Monarchs and their family Officials Angels

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 Terentianus 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 Terentianus The earliest attested and most widespread version of the Martyrdom is BHL 8003, our focus here. It is found in 12 manuscripts according to D’Angelo 2017, 338 the earliest from the 11th century (see as well a partial list in the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta at BHL 8000 seems to be an early reworking of it (for its four preserved manuscripts, the earliest from the 12th century, see D’Angelo 2017, 337 and the already mentioned database), while BHL 8001-8002, a more thorough rewriting, probably dates from the 11th century (D’Angelo 2017, 317).


While cult of Terentianus is already attested in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, there is little evidence to accurately date the Martyrdom (with only late manuscripts and no evidence of borrowing in early martyrologies). As summarised recently by D’Angelo, the Martyrdom has theological concerns, aiming at enforcing the Nicene creed against Arianism and has thus been connected to attempts to evangelise the Lombards. Thus scholars place its composition with uncertainty in the 6th or 7th century (see further discussion of various hypotheses in Dufourcq, Paoli and Menestò). Relating to the issue of its dating, connections to the martyrdoms of Sabinus (E03233) and Valentinus (E02517) have also been highlighted (with debates on the way borrowings may have occurred, see the contrasting opinions of Dufourcq and Lanzoni).


Editions: BHL 8000: Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), II, 595-598. The original edition was published c. 1480. BHL 8003: Acta Sanctorum, Sept. I, 112-115. Further reading: D’Angelo, E., “Bibliotheca Hagiographica Umbriae – pars altera – (314-1130),” in: Goullet, M. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. VII (Turnhout, 2017), 269-344, at 306-308. Dufourcq, A., Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, vol. III (Paris, 1907), 123-125. Lanzoni, F., Le diocesi d’Italia dalle origini al principio del secolo vii, 2 vols. (1927), I, 425. Paoli, E., “L’agiografia umbra altomedievale,” in: Umbria cristiana. Dalla diffusione del culto al culto dei santi (secc. IV-X), Atti del XV Congresso internationale di studi CISAM, Spoleto, 23-28 ott. 2000 (Spoleto, 2001), 479-529, at 512-515. Paoli, E., “Il culto dei santi patroni e l’agiografia a Todi nei secoli VI-XIII,” in: Todi nel Medioevo (secoli vi-xiv). Atti del XLVI Convegno storico internazionale, Todi, 10-15 ottobre 2009 (Spoleto, 2010), I, 491-589, at 513-515. Menestò, E., “Rileggere e riscrivere il Lanzoni. Seconda puntata: la Colonia Iulia Fida Tuder (Todi),” in: Vespignani, G. (ed.), Polidoro, Studi offerti ad Antonio Carile (Spoleto, 2013), 1005-1045, at 1027-1029.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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