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E03245: The Martyrdom of *Domninus (martyr of Fidenza, S01867) is written in Latin, presumably in Fidenza (near Parma in Northern Italy) at an uncertain date but by the mid 9th c. It narrates how Domninus, with other Christians from Germania, refuses to adore pagan gods, then flees through the via Claudia, is executed near Parma, and carries his head over the river Sistirionis, to rest in a place where numerous miracles occur.

online resource
posted on 2017-07-11, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Domninus (BHL 2264-2265):

BHL 2264 and 2265 are two only slightly diverging versions of the same narrative. BHL 2265 has been taken as the basis of this summary; the few noteworthy differences from BHL 2264 are given in square brackets (for the edition of BHL 2264 see the bibliography).

§§ 1-2: There is a great persecution against Christians under the emperor Maximian. During his sixth year as emperor, Maximian goes to Milan and orders Christians to be tortured. With part of his army he moves to Germania where he meets certain Christians and learns from them about Christ. He then tries to compel them to offer sacrifice to the gods but they refuse. He orders them to be arrested and beheaded, on the 8th day before the Calends of September [= 24 August].

§§ 3-4: There were nearly 500 Christians there, among them Domninus, cubicularius primus, who was in charge of the emperor’s crown. All Christians are summoned by Domninus who preaches against Maximian and paganism and exhorts them to martyrdom. They then all go to Rome and tell the emperor [in BHL 2264 travel to Rome happens only after speaking to the emperor] that they are Christian and refuse to worship his gods. Maximian orders them to be beheaded. Some are seized and executed but others, among them Domninus flee [BHL 2264: to Rome] through the via Flaminia, the via Aurelia and the via Claudia. Domninus takes the via Claudia and reaches the 15th milestone [BHL 2264: ‘’12th milestone’] from Julia Crisopolis [Parma] where he is seized near the river Sistirionis and is beheaded on the via Claudia. Domninus collects his head, crosses the river and then rests in a place [BHL 2264 also has: ‘where his body remains untouched] where sick people are healed thanks to him, and where his prayers [BHL 2264: ‘his miraculous works' ] abound up to this day.

§ 5: Many sick people from various provinces hear about these miracles and come to Domninus who cures them. A man coming by horse is also cured and thanks to Domninus he also retrieves his horse, which had been stolen. [BHL 2264 then mentions that many more miracles were performed by Domninus]. Domninus was buried on the 7th day before the Ides of October [= 9 October] [BHL 2264: ‘on the Nones of November’ (5 November)].

Text: Lequeux 2004, 260-266. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Domninus, martyr of Fidenza in northern Italy : S01867

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

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Fidenza Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Healing diseases and disabilities Finding of lost objects, animals, etc. Saint aiding or preventing the translation of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Soldiers Officials

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Bodily relic - head Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Domninus 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 Domninus BHL 2264 and 2265 are the earliest preserved and closely related versions of our Martyrdom. There are 25 manuscripts preserved of BHL 2265 according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (, the earliest from the 9th-10th century: Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, 14, f. 45r-46r; Rome, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Farf. 29 (alias 341), f. 267v-269v; Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana 5771, f. 124r-125v. BHL 2264 was published in the Acta Sanctorum on the basis of a now-lost passionary from Fulda dating from the 9th-10th century; there are 12 manuscripts currently preserved according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta, the earliest from the 10th century. As shown by Lequeux, our Martyrdom was translated into Greek by the 10th century (BHG 2102), but reworked with the addition of other sources, and on the basis of a text related but not identical with BHL 2264-2265.


BHL 2264 and 2265 record two different feast days, respectively 5 November and 9 October. On 5 November the Martyrologium Hieronymianum records the martyrdom of a certain Domninus martyred in the East (perhaps Domninos martyr of Palestine S00190), while 9 October is the date adopted in the martyrologies of Rabanus Maurus and Usuardus. Dufourcq has argued that the Martyrdom would have been inspired by Eucherius' narrative about the martyrdom of the Theban Legion in Acaunus (E06108), Domninus taking the role of Mauritius as the leader of a group of Christians martyred under Maximian. If this is accepted, it would mean that the Martyrdom was not written before the mid 5th century. The date of composition of the Martyrdom remains highly uncertain however; it can only be firmly said to date from no later than the first half of the 9th century: the earliest attested version of our Martyrdom, BHL 2265, is found in manuscripts from the 9th-10th century and the earliest mentions of Domninus in martyrologies, borrowed from the Martyrdom, are found in Rabanus Maurus ingt the mid 9th century and in Usuardus shortly later. It was traditionally dated to the 6th or 7th century (Dufourcq; Lanzoni; Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2182; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 61), however Lequeux recently suggested that a composition in the early 9th century is more likely.


Editions: BHL 2264: Acta Sanctorum, Oct. IV, 991-992. BHL 2265: Lequeux, X., “Le martyre BHG 2109 et les Passions BHL 2264-2265 de Donnino le céphalophore de Fidenza,” Analecta Bollandiana 122 (2004), 247-269 at 260-266. Further reading: Dufourcq, A., Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, 5 vols. (Paris, 1988; first edition in 4 vols., 1900-1907), III, 178. 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 325. Lanzoni, F., Le diocesi d’Italia dalle origini al principio del secolo vii, 2 vols. (1927), II, 804-805. Lequeux, X., “Le martyre BHG 2109 et les Passions BHL 2264-2265 de Donnino le céphalophore de Fidenza,” Analecta Bollandiana 122 (2004), 247-269.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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