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E04282: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) demolished a small old church of *Michael (the Archangel, S00181) in Constantinople, originally constructed by a patrician senator, and rebuilt it in splendid style. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 2017-11-06, 00:00 authored by julia
Procopius of Caesarea, On Buildings , 1.3.14-18

Τοῦ δὲ ἀρχαγγέλου Μιχαὴλ ἱερὸν εὗρεν ἐν Βυζαντίῳ βραχύ τε καὶ ἀφεγγὲς ἄγαν καὶ ὡς ἥκιστα τῷ ἀρχαγγέλῳ ἀνεῖσθαι πρέπον πρὸς σενάτορός τινος τῶν πατρικίων ἐν χρόνῳ γεγενημένον τῷ ἔμπροσθεν, κοιτωνίσκῳ οἰκίας ἀτεχνῶς ἐμφερὲς οὐδὲ λίαν εὐδαίμονος. διὸ δὴ καθεῖλε μὲν αὐτὸ ἐς τὸ ἔδαφος ἐκ τῶν θεμελίων, ὡς μή τι αὐτῷ τῆς προτέρας ἀκοσμίας ἀπολειφθείη. εὐμέγεθες δὲ τεκτηνάμενος κατὰ τὸν νῦν φαινόμενον τρόπον, ἐς κάλλος μεταβιβάζει θαυμάσιον οἷον.

'He found a shrine (hieron) of the Archangel Michael in Byzantium [= Constantinople] which was small and very badly lighted, utterly unworthy to be dedicated to the Archangel; it was built in earlier times by a certain patrician senator, quite like a tiny bedroom of a dwelling-house, and that, too, of the house of one who is not very prosperous. So he tore this down, even to the lowest foundations, so that no trace of its earlier unseemliness might remain. And increasing its size to the proportions which it now displays, he transformed it into a marvellously beautiful building.'

A description of the church follows (§17-18).

Text: Haury 1913. Translation: Dewing 1940.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Aristocrats


Procopius of Caesarea, (c. 500 – c. 560/561 AD) was a soldier and historian from the Roman province of Palaestina Prima. He accompanied the Roman general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian (527-565). He wrote the Wars (or Histories), On Buildings and the Secret History. On Buildings is a panegyric in six books. It lists, and sometimes describes, the buildings erected or renovated by the emperor Justinian throughout the empire (only on Italy is there no information). The bulk of these are churches and shrines dedicated to various saints; the Buildings is therefore a very important text for the evidence it provides of the spread of saintly cults by the mid 6th c. On Buildings dates from the early 550s to c. 560/561; a terminus post quem is 550/551 as the text mentions the capture of Topirus in Thrace by the Slavs in 550 and describes the city walls of Chalkis in Syria built in 550/551; a probable terminus ante quem is 558 when the dome of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople collapsed, which is not mentioned in the book; or before 560 when the bridge on the river Sangarius was completed, as Procopius reports on the start of works. On Buildings thus belongs to the later years of Justinian’s reign. The work is not finished and is probably Procopius’ last work. It glorifies Justinian, depicting him as a great builder and an emperor restlessly transforming the state, expanding and reforming it, destroying paganism, extirpating heresy, and re-establishing the firm foundations of the Christian faith (Elsner 2007: 35). More on the text: Downey 1947; Elsner 2007; Greatrex 1994 and 2013. Overview of the text: Book 1. Constantinople and its suburbs Book 2. Frontier provinces of Mesopotamia and Syria. Book 3. Armenia, Tzanica, and the shores of the Black Sea. Book 4. Illyricum and Thrace (the Balkans). Book 5. Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine. Book 6. North Africa, from Alexandria to central Algeria.


This church is identified with the church of St Michael at the Sinatoros (Gr. en tois sinatoros) by the Arcadianae Baths. The district called ta Sinatoros is placed there by the Synaxaria, which establish the synaxis of the Archangel on 8 November (cf. Acta SS, Propylaeum to November, col. 204. 1.13, Bruxelles 1902, ed. Delehaye). The original church was built by a senator (as Procopius states), hence the name of the district. Further reading: Janin 1950, 391; Janin 1969, 345.


Edition: Haury, J., Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia, vol. 4: Περι κτισματων libri VI sive de aedificiis (Lipsiae: Teubner, 1962-64). Translations, Commentaries: Compagnoni, G.R., Procopio di Cesarea, Degli Edifici. Traduzione dal greco di G. Compagnoni (Milano: Tipi di Francesco Sonzogno, 1828). Dewing, H.B., Procopius, On Buildings. Translated into English by H.B. Dewing, vol. 7 (London: William Heinemann, New York: The MacMillan Co., 1940). Grotowski, P.Ł., Prokopiusz z Cezarei, O Budowlach. Przełożył, wstępem, objaśnieniami i komentarzem opatrzył P.Ł. Grotowski (Warszawa: Proszynski i S-ka, 2006). Roques, D., Procope de Césarée. Constructions de Justinien Ier. Introduction, traduction, commentaire, cartes et index par D. Roques (Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2011). Veh, O., Pülhorn, W. (eds.), Procopii opera. De Aedificiis. With a Commentary by W. Pülhorn (München: Heimeran, 1977). Further Reading: Downey, G.A., “The Composition of Procopius’ ‘De Aedificiis’," Transactions of the American Philological Association 78 (1947), 171-183. Elsner, J., “The Rhetoric of Buildings in De Aedificiis of Procopius”, in: L. James (ed.), Art and Text in Byzantine Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 33-57. Greatrex, G., “The Dates of Procopius’ Works,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 18 (1994), 101-14. Greatrex, G., “The Date of Procopius Buildings in the Light of Recent Scholarship,” Estudios bizantinos 1 (2013), 13-29. Janin, R., Constantinople byzantine: développement urbain et répertoire topographique (Paris: Institut français d'études byzantines, 1950). Janin, R. La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire Byzantin I 3: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople. 2nd ed. (Paris, 1969). Mango, C., Studies on Constantinople (Aldershot: Variorum, 1997 [repr. of 1993]). Van Millingen, A., Byzantine Churches in Constantinople. Their History and Architecture (London: Macmillan, 1912).

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