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E04501: Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues (3.30), describes the re-consecration of an Arian church in the Suburra, Rome, and its dedication to *Sebastianus (martyr of Rome, S00794) and *Agatha (virgin and martyr of Catania, S00400); visible signs of both God’s presence and the expulsion of evil spirits are described. Written in Latin in Rome, c. 593.

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posted on 2017-12-20, 00:00 authored by frances
Gregory the Great, Dialogues 3.30


An Arian church in the Suburra region of Rome was to be re-consecrated and dedicated to Sebastian and Agatha. Their relics [unspecified in the account] were to lie in the church. People processed into the church singing praise to God. A demon, in the form of a small invisible pig, was felt running over the congregation’s feet before it left by the main door. That night, loud noises were heard: Gregory explains this was the sound of the Devil leaving the building. A few days later, a cloud and sweet fragrance were observed hanging over the altar, and lamps in the church were lit with heavenly fire.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agatha, virgin and martyr of Catania : S00794 Sebastianus, martyr of Rome : S00400

Saint Name in Source

Agatha Sebastianus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • 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

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory the Great (pope)

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Procession

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites

Cult Activities - Miracles

Exorcism Miracle after death Miraculous sound, smell, light

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Demons Crowds

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic


Gregory the Great (Pope, 590-604) wrote his Dialogues on the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers (Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum italicorum) in Rome around 593. Organised into four books, the first three are a collection of lives and miracles of various Italian saints. The longest is the Life of Benedict of Nursia, which comprises the entirety of book 2. The final book consists of an essay on the immortality of souls after death. As a whole, the work documents and explains the presence of the miraculous in the contemporary world and the ability of saints to effect miracles both before and after death. The attribution of the Dialogues to Gregory has been disputed, most recently by Francis Clark who argued that the work was created in the 680s in Rome. Others - such as Adalbert de Vogüé, Paul Meyvaert and Matthew dal Santo - have, however, strongly argued for Gregory's authorship and it is broadly accepted that Gregory was responsible for the Dialogues. For a discussion of Gregory's devotion in writing the Dialogues, see E04383, and for the role of the Dialogues as a tract justifying the nature of miracles and theorising on the immortality of souls, see E04506. Gregory's principal aim in collecting the miracle stories of the holy men and a very few women of sixth-century Italy was to show the presence of God's power on earth as manifested through them, rather than to encourage the cult of these individuals. Indeed, though posthumous miracles at the graves of a few individuals are recorded (and also a few miracles aided by contact relics of dead saints), there is very little emphasis in the Dialogues on posthumous cult; some of the miraculous events that Gregory records (e.g. E04429) are not even attributed to named individuals. Although very few of the holy persons in the Dialogues are 'proper' saints, with long-term cult, we have included them all in our database, for the sake of completeness and as an illustration of the impossibility of dividing 'proper' saints from more 'ordinary' holy individuals.


This is the present-day church of Sant'Agata dei Goti ('St Agatha of the Goths'). The rededication is also mentioned in Gregory's letters (EXXXXX) and in his biography in the Liber Pontificalis (E01419).


Edition: Vogüé, A. de, Grégoire le Grand, Dialogues, Sources chrétiennes 260 (Paris: Cerf, 1979). Translation: Zimmerman, O.J., Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great, Fathers of the Church 39 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1959). Further Reading: Clark, F.,The 'Gregorian' Dialogues and the Origins of Benedictine Monasticism (Leiden: Brill, 2003). Dal Santo, M., "The Shadow of A Doubt? A Note on the Dialogues and Registrum Epistolarum of Pope Gregory the Great (590–604)," Journal of Ecclesiatical History, 61.1, (2010), 3-17. Meyvaert, P., "The Enigma of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues: A Reply to Francis Clark," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 39 (1988), 335–81. Vogüé, A. de, "Grégoire le Grand et ses Dialogues d’après deux ouvrages récents," Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 83 (1988), 281–348.

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