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E04565: The Martyrdom of *Pastor (presumably priest and martyr of Rome, S01842) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, at an uncertain date, by the 12th-13th centuries at the latest. The Martyrdom relates that Pastor is from Nicomedia, where he converts to Christianity after a miracle, is instructed by the bishop Erasmus, converts his parents, is arrested and tortured by Diocletian and performs miracles. He is then brought by an angel to Rome where he performs further miracles and conversions, leading to his arrest, trial and execution, dragged by wild horses. He is said to be buried next to the clivus cucumeris by a priest Iohannes.

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posted on 2018-01-09, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Pastor (BHL 6470d)


Under Diocletian and Maximian, in Nicomedia, a certain Sisinnius has a son named Pastor, who takes care of his sheep. One day, as they are led astray by wolves, Pastor prays to the God of Christians for them to return, promising to believe. His prayer is fulfilled, he leaves his sheep and his family and goes to the bishop Erasmus, who instructs and baptises him. After three years, advised by an angel, he returns to Nicomedia where he converts many to Christianity, including his father Sisinnius and his mother Tecla. Diocletian hears about it and has him arrested. As he refuses to worship the gods, Pastor is tortured with leaden scourges (plumbatae) and put in jail. The next day he is presented to Diocletian but keeps his resolve, and is tortured with claws (ungulae) on a rack. His mouth is crushed and his teeth broken. He is dragged along the streets, his head bound to a rope until, left for dead, he is put back in jail. He is cured by an angel, brought to a temple where a statue of Jupiter is destroyed following his prayer, leading three thousand men to believe. Brought back to jail, he is then freed by an angel who brings him to Rome, where he preaches and performs many miracles, leading seven thousand men to believe. The emperor Maximian hears about Pastor, orders him to be arrested and brought to him. After enduring several tortures, he is put into public custody and spends the whole night chanting psalms to God. In the morning, he is presented to the emperor: as he keeps his faith, he is sent to a burning furnace, but comes out of it unharmed thanks to divine help. This astonishes the emperor and a great multitude believes in the Lord. At the emperor’s orders, Pastor is led outside the porta Salaria, his neck bound to wild horses that drag him through rocks and thorns until he dies. His body is taken at night by the priest Iohannes, who buries it next to the clivus Cucumeris on the 7th day before the Calends of August [= 26 July].

Text: Delehaye 1936, 267-268. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Pastor, priest and martyr of Rome : S01842

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

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 - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miracles experienced by the saint Miracles causing conversion Miracle with animals and plants Healing diseases and disabilities Invisibility, bilocation, miraculous travels Freeing prisoners, exiles, captives, slaves Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Animals Ecclesiastics - bishops Pagans Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Angels Monarchs and their family Relatives of the saint

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Pastor 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 Pastor There is only one version of the Martyrdom, BHL 6470d , the earliest manuscripts being from the 12th-13th centuries (see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta at listing 5 manuscripts).


The martyr Pastor in this text, despite a different status, perhaps relates to the priest Pastor, mentioned in a number of other martyrdom accounts (in particular E02093 and E02507). Pastor’s manner of death recalls that of Hippolytus in the Martyrdom of Sixtus, Laurentius and Hippolytus (E02513), while Sisinnius is a name often found in Roman and Italian martyrdom accounts (for instance E02482, E02483, E02488, E02501, E3221). Despite it being generally dated to the 6th century (Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 80), there is no evidence to date the text. The earliest preserved manuscript being from the 12th century, and the church of Saint-Pudentiana being dedicated to Pastor and John the Baptist at that time, Lanéry guesses that it might have been composed following that dedication. The Life of Pastor (E04565), does not relate to our Martyrdom as it presents Pastor as an aristocrat and priest from Rome, whose main duty is to preach and bury martyrs, and who dies peacefully. However, it shares the same feast day, 26 July, and may point to diverging traditions on the same saint.


Edition (BHL 6470d): Delehaye, H., Étude sur le Légendier Romain. Les saints de Novembre et de Décembre (Brussels, 1936), 267-268. Further reading: Delehaye, H., Étude sur le Légendier Romain. Les saints de Novembre et de Décembre (Brussels, 1936), 137-140. 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 299.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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