University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E03235: The Martyrdom of *Secundianus, Marcellianus and Verianus (martyrs of Tuscia, S02503) is written in Latin, at an uncertain date, by the 9th c. at the latest. It narrates the conversion of the scholars Secundianus, Marcellianus and Verianus in Rome, their exile and trial in Centumcellae, and their martyrdom and burial in a place called Coloniacum, at the 62nd milestone from Rome. Their cult is celebrated in a church in Tuscia dedicated to *Peter (the apostle, S00036).

online resource
posted on 2017-07-11, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Secundianus, Marcellianus and Verianus (BHL 7550)


§ 1: There is a great persecution against Christians on the 5th day before the Ides of August [= 9 August] under the emperor Decius and the prefect Valerian, in Coloniacum, which is called Colonia. At that time, the togatus Secundianus, a most learned man in all secular arts (rhetoric, music, philosophy, arithmetic and astronomy) takes part in the persecution and wonders why Christians wish to die for Christ. He hears about the most learned man Marcellianus, who persecutes Christians, and invites him at his home. They start discussing philosophy and come to read Virgil, Eclogue 4, 6-7.

§§ 2-3: This reading leads Secundianus to preach about Christianity to Marcellianus. After they are joined by their friend Verianus (Virianus), Secundianus suggests that they should believe in Christ and seeks the priest (presbyter) Timotheus of the titulus pastoris. They are baptised on Secundianus’ request, after stating their faith. Then the bishop Sixtus is fetched and signs them with the cross.

§ 4: The three start giving away their possessions to the poor. After two months, Valerian hears of their conversion and sends a letter to Secundianus requiring him to come before him. Secundianus tells his companions that the fight is near. Although he is ready to go alone, they decide to join him. All three come to the palace of Sallustius (palatium Salustii) where Valerian lives with Decius.

§§ 5-7: Valerian receives Secundianus in the basilica Asclepii. Secundianus confirms that although he has persecuted Christians, now he has converted to Christianity. He rejects Valerian and Decius’ friendship, speaking against the idols. Valerian orders him to be imprisoned. Marcellianus and Verianus protest and are imprisoned together with Secundianus. After Valerian discussed the matter with Decius, the next day, Secundianus is brought before the emperor and then sent into exile together with Marcellianus and Verianus to the governor Promotus in Centumcellae to be compelled to sacrifice to the gods. They are taken there by 50 soldiers, bound and put in prison, guarded by three hundred soldiers. The next day, the governor of Tuscia Promotus orders a tribunal to be prepared in the forum of Centumcellae. A statue of Saturn and a tripod are made ready and Secundianus, Marcellianus and Verianus are brought in. However, they refuse to sacrifice.

§ 8: Promotus orders them to be stripped naked and beaten with sticks, however they praise God. Again summoned to sacrifice, they spit at the statue, it falls and is destroyed. Promotus orders them to be tortured with claws and torches on a rack. However, they thank God, one of the torturers is killed and another is taken by a demon who names them as saints of the almighty God. Full of anger, Promotus orders them to be beheaded.

§ 9: They are brought to the place called Coloniacum, which is called Colonia, at the 62nd milestone from Rome and are beheaded there. Their bodies are thrown in the sea and at night a servant of God named Deodatus collects the bodies that he finds on the seashore together with two heads. The next day he finds the other head and joins it to the bodies, which he buries near the place where they were beheaded, on the 5th day before the Ides of August [= 9 August]. Their prayers flourish in the church of the blessed apostle Peter in the city of Tuscia (in civitate Tuscana).

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Iun. I, 34-36. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Secundianus, Marcellianus and Veranus, martyrs of Tuscia : S02503 Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source

Secundianus, Marcellianus, Virianus Petrus apostolus

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 Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Coloniacum Rome

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

Coloniacum Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Punishing miracle Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Monarchs and their family Officials Soldiers Torturers/Executioners Other lay individuals/ people Demons

Cult Activities - Relics

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


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Secundianus, Marcellianus and Veranus 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 Secundianus, Marcellianus and Veranus There are three related versions of the Martyrdom, BHL 7550, 7551 and 7552. Our focus here is on BHL 7550, thought to be the earliest. BHL 7550 is found in 3 manuscripts starting from the 12th century according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( It should be noted however that the version BHL 7551 is already attested in an early 10th century manuscript: St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, 551, p. 211-225 (the transcription by V. Campanella of this previously unpublished version is available online at;dc ). Thus, further study is required to ascertain whether BHL 7551 (following the same narrative as BHL 7550 with only minor variants), might be the earliest version.


The reference to Virgil, Eclogue 4, 6-7 should be connected to the wide popularity of this passage in early Christian apologetics. The passage is commonly interpreted as a prophecy pointing to Jesus Christ and therefore used as a strong argument to bring intellectuals to convert to Christianity. The place of martyrdom of the saints (Coloniacum, qui dicitur Colonia) is of uncertain identification and open to interpretation: most scholars have suggested that it might correspond to Colonia Iulia Castrumnovum, near Centumcellae. However, most recently, Susi, exploring the later medieval cult of Secundianus and his companions in Corneto, remarks that the 62nd milestone mentioned in the Martyrdom may well correspond to the seashore of Corneto, and that the tomb of the martyrs was therefore perhaps found in what was then the territory of the Colonia Graviscos. The Martyrdom is of uncertain date of composition, but should have been written by the 9th century at the latest when it is borrowed by Usuardus in his martyrology. It was generally dated to the 5th to 6th centuries (Lanzoni; Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2230; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 86) or to the 6th to 7th centuries (Dufourcq; Amore); however Lanéry argues that the lack of early evidence for circulation of the Martyrdom and borrowings from other martyrdom accounts would rather suggest a date in the 9th century. Most recently, however, Susi again suggests a dating in the 6th century, arguing that the Martyrdom would have borrowed from the Martyrdom of Polychronius and Companions (E02504) for its mention of the palatium Sallustii, while in turn it would have been borrowed (following a suggestion of Saxer) by the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E04914). Susi adds that this dating would fit with the saint’s travel from Centumcellae to the place of martyrdom, which could not easily have been imagined by the hagiographer if he wrote after the Lombard invasion in the late 6th century, which greatly upset the region. Nevertheless, this dating hypothesis seems rather weak and would require further proof, particularly because the Martyrologium only records the saints' feast and the location of martyrdom in Tuscia. Moreover, Susi’s suggestion of borrowing from the Martyrdom of Polychronius and Companions should be extended to a greater list of Roman martyrdom accounts which may have influenced our Martyrdom. Thus, the palatium Sallustii is not the only parallel to be drawn with the Martyrdom of Polychronius and Companions and is not exclusive to it, but is also found for instance in the Martyrdom of Susanna (E02515). Scholars have also previously highlighted possible connections to the martyrdoms of Pudentiana and Praxedis (E02507) and of Primus and Felicianus (E02094). See on all this the Acta Sanctorum, Amore; Dufourcq; Lanéry.


Edition (BHL 7550): Acta Sanctorum, Iun. I, 34-36. Further reading: Amore, A., “Secondiano, Marcelliano e Veriano, santi martiri,” Bibliotheca Sanctorum XI (Rome, 1968), 808-809. Dufourcq, A., Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, vol. III (1907), 219-223. 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 319. Lanzoni, F., Le diocesi d’Italia dalle origini al principio del secolo vii, 2 vols (Faenza, 1927), 519. Saxer, V., “La Tuscia nel Martirologio Geronimiano. Osservazioni sulla storia del martirologio e su quella della Tuscia,” in Il paleocristiano nella Tuscia. II Convegno, Viterbo 7-8 maggio 1983 (Rome, 1984), 19-42. Susi, E., “San Secondiano e Corneto,” in: Susi, E., Santi, porti e reliquie. Agiografia e e culto lungo la costa tirrenica nell’alto medioevo (Spoleto, 2016), 79-102.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager