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E03995: A hostile account of the actions of Pope Damasus written by supporters of his rival Ursinus, accuses him and his supporters of attacking supporters of Ursinus at the extramural church of *Agnes (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00097) in Rome in 368. Written in Latin at Rome, 368/9, and preserved in the Collectio Avellana.

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posted on 2017-09-07, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Collectio Avellana 1 (Quae gesta sunt inter Liberium et Felicem episcopos)

(12.) Sed populus timens deum multisque persecutionibus fatigatus non imperatorem, non iudices nec ipsum auctorem scelerum et homicidam Damasum timuit sed per coemeteria martyrum stationes sine clericis celebrabat. Unde cum ad sanctam Agnem multi fidelium conuenissent, armatus cum satellitibus suis Damasus irruit et plurimos uastationis suae strage deiecit.

'(12.) But the people, who feared God and were weary with much persecution, did not fear the emperor nor the judge nor Damasus himself, the criminal and murderer, but held services without clergy in the cemeteries of the martyrs. When, therefore, many of the faithful had met at St. Agnes, Damasus with his creatures fell upon them and cut down many in their savage onslaught.'

Text: Günther 1895. Translation: Shotwell and Loomis 1929, 632.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agnes, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00097

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other


  • 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


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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds


The Collectio Avellana is a collection of 244 letters and other documents written by or sent to various popes between 367 and 553, mostly correspondence between the papacy and the imperial authorities in Italy or in Constantinople. The date of its compilation is uncertain, but has most frequently been placed soon after 553. The anonymous text Quae gesta sunt inter Liberium et Felicem episcopos ('What happened between bishops Liberius and Felix') is a polemical account of the internal divisions of the church at Rome in the 350s and 360s, written from a point of view hostile to Damasus (Bishop of Rome 366-384) and favourable to his rival Ursinus.


In the 350s and 360s there were serious internal divisions in the church at Rome, following from the exile of Pope Liberius from 355 to 358, because of his opposition to the religious policies of the emperor Constantius II, and the appointment by the emperor of a rival pope, Felix. After Liberius' death on 24 September 366, two rival popes, Damasus and Ursinus, were elected by different elements among the clergy and people. It is evident from documents such as this one that the supporters of Ursinus saw themselves as the true followers of Pope Liberius, and Damasus as compromised by his links with Liberius' rival Felix. After violent clashes between the two sides in which many people were killed, Ursinus was exiled by order of the emperor. Damasus remained pope until his death in 384. The events mentioned here are specified in the text as taking place in the immediate aftermath of Ursinus' removal from Rome for the second time (after briefly being allowed to return) on 16 November 368. The church of St Agnes is S. Agnese fuori le mura, an extra-mural church, cemetery and catacomb on the Via Nomentana, the main road leading north-east from Rome. It was built in the early 4th century on the site of the grave of the martyr Agnes, and grew into a complex including the mausoleum of Constantine's daughter Constantina (now the church of Sta. Costanza) and a large funerary basilica, now ruined. The 4th century church dedicated to St Agnes was replaced in the 7th century by the church currently standing.


Edition: Günther, O., Collectio Avellana. 2 vols (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 35/1-2; Vienna, 1895-1898). Translation: Shotwell, J.T, and Loomis, L.R., The See of Peter (New York, 1927). Further reading: Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry (Oxford, 2015).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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