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E04332: Procopius of Caesarea, in his On Buildings, reports that the emperor Justinian (r. 527-565) built the first church in Constantinople of the Apostles *Peter and *Paul (S00036 and S00008), in around 519, as well as the church of *Sergios and *Bakchos (soldiers and martyrs of Rusafa and Barbalissos, S00023 and S00079), both at the palace of Hormisdas. Written in Greek at Constantinople, in the 550s.

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posted on 2017-11-07, 00:00 authored by julia
Procopius of Caesarea, On Buildings, 1.4.1; 1.4.3

Ἐς δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἀποστόλους τὸ πιστὸν ἐπιδέδεικται τρόπῳ τοιῷδε. πρῶτα μὲν Πέτρῳ καὶ Παύλῳ νεὼν οὐ πρότερον ὄντα ἐν Βυζαντίῳ ἐδείματο παρὰ τὴν βασιλέως αὐλήν, ἣ Ὁρμίσδου τὸ παλαιὸν ἐπώνυμος ἦν· οὗ δὴ καὶ τέμενος ἄλλο ἁγίοις ἐπιφανέσι Σεργίῳ τε καὶ Βάκχῳ ἐδείματο, καὶ ἔπειτα καὶ τέμενος ἄλλο ἐκ πλαγίου τούτῳ παρακείμενον.

'His faith in the Apostles of Christ he displayed in the following manner. First he built a church (neōs) of Peter and Paul, which had not previously existed in Byzantium [= Constantinople], alongside the imperial residence which in former times was called by the name of Hormisdas. There too he built another shrine (temenos) to the famous Saints Sergios and Bakchos, and then also another shrine which stood at an angle to this one.'

Text: Haury 1913. Translation: Dewing 1940, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa : S00023 Bakchos, soldier and martyr of Barbalissos : S00079

Saint Name in Source

Πέτρος Παῦλος Σέργιος Βάκχος

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


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.


The Palace of Hormisdas, later the Bucoleon Palace, was initially the seat of a Persian Sassanid prince, Hormisdas, who being persecuted by his brother-in-law King Shapur II escaped to Constantinople in 323 during the reign of the emperor Constantine the Great, who gave him the palace. The complex is located on the shore of the Sea of Marmara to the south of the Hippodrome and in the close vicinity of the Great Palace. Justinian made it his private residence before his accession to the throne, and after that, but not before 532, he connected it with the Great Palace, probably by way of a corridor or portico. The church of Peter and Paul was erected by Justinian before his accession, since it is already documented in 519, thus just one year after Justin I acceded to the throne, which may suggest that the construction works had already started under Anastasius I (r. 491-518). Since Justinian’s Christian name was Petrus Flavius Sabbatius, the emperor-to-be could have been personally interested in building the church dedicated to his own patron. On 29 June 519 Justinian sent a letter to Pope Hormisdas in Rome with a request to send relics of the two Apostles and of Saint Laurence for the newly-built church; the Pope agreed to send relics, but refused to send any that were corporeal (see E00615, E00616, E00617). The church has not survived, but the dedicatory inscription which adorned it was recorded in the Greek Anthology (E00551) The church of Sergios and Bakchos was erected as the last part of the entire complex and is now the only existing part. It was dedicated to the famous Syrian soldier martyrs, whose cult had been fostered by the emperor Anastasius. The dedicatory verse inscription of the church survives (E###). Interestingly, it mentions only Sergios, while Procopius states that it was dedicated to both him and Bakchos. The church has been converted into a mosque, called the ‘Little Hagia Sophia Mosque’ (Turk. Küçük Ayasofya Camii), because its domed central plan resembles that of Hagia Sophia. The precise date of the foundation of the church is uncertain, varying between 527 in ancient sources (John Kedrenos) which is unlikely, and the period 531-536 (Mango 1972; 1975) or 527-533 (Bardill 2000; 2004) according to modern scholars. Both churches – that of Sergios and Bakchos and that of the Apostles Peter and Paul - were situated parallel to each other and shared an atrium; the narthex of the former extended into that of the latter. Further reading: Janin 1969, 451-454.


Edition: Haury, J., Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia, vol. 4: Περι κτισματων libri VI sive de aedificiis (Leipzig: Teubner, 1962-64). Translations and Commentaries: Compagnoni, G.R., Procopio di Cesarea, Degli Edifici. Traduzione dal greco di G. Compagnoni (Milan: 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: Macmillan, 1940). Grotowski, P.Ł., Prokopiusz z Cezarei, O Budowlach. Przełożył, wstępem, objaśnieniami i komentarzem opatrzył P.Ł. Grotowski (Warsaw: 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., and Pülhorn, W. (eds.), Procopii opera. De Aedificiis. With a Commentary by W. Pülhorn (Munich: Heimeran, 1977). Further Reading: Bardill, J., “The Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople and the Monophysite Refugees,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54 (2000), 1-11. Bardill, J., Brickstamps of Constantinople. 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Croke, B., Crow, J., “Procopius and Dara,” Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983), 143-159. 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). Key Fowden, E., The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius between Rome and Iran (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 1999). Mango, C., "The Church of Saints. Sergius and Bacchus at Constantinople and the Alleged Tradition of Octagonal Palatine Churches," Jahrbuch der österreichischen Byzantinistik 21 (1972), 189-193. Mango, C., “The Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus once again,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 68 (1975), 385-392. 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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