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E04648: Fragmentary Latin inscription with a poem commemorating the refurbishment of the crypt of *Cornelius (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00172) by pope Damasus, apparently to make it better accessible to visitors. Found in the 'crypt of Saint Cornelius' at the Cemetery of Callistus, between the Via Appia and Via Ardeatina (Rome). 366-384.

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posted on 2018-01-21, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Damasus, Epigrammata 19 (ICVR IV, 9368)

The text, as preserved on the stone:

[---]to teneb[ri]sq(ue) [f]ugatis
[--- t]umulu[mq(ue)] sacratum
[--- Da]masi pra[es]tantia fecit
[--- me]lior po[pu]lisq(ue) paratum
[--- v]aleas si [f]undere puro
[---] melior consurgere posset
[---]r tenuit mage cura laboris

'[- - -] the darkness expelled
[- - -] and the sacred tomb
[- - -] the insistence of Damasus carried out this work
[- - -] would be made better available to the crowds
[- - -] if you were able to pour out pure
[- - -] may get up (?) having recovered
[- - -] the concern for this work which detained him

Text: Trout 2015, no. 19 (p. 119). Translation: Lapidge 2018, 642, adapted.

The text, as hypothetically restored by Giovanni Battista de Rossi:

[Aspice, descensu extruc]to teneb[ri]sq(ue) [f]ugatis
[Corneli monumenta vides t]umulu[mq(ue) sa]cratum.
[Hoc opus aegroti Da]masi pra[es]tantia fecit,
[esset ut accessus me]lior po[pu]lisq(ue) paratum
[auxilium sancti, et v]aleas si [f]undere puro
[corde preces, Damasus] melior consurgere posset,
[quem non lucis amo]r, tenuit mage cura laboris.

'Look: you can see the monument of Cornelius and his sacred tomb,
now that a staircase has been constructed and the darkness expelled.
The insistence of Damasus, though ill, carried out this work
so that access (to the tomb) would be better, and the saint's assistance would be
made available to the crowds; and, if you are able to pour out prayers
with a pure heart, Damasus may get up having recovered – it was not
the love of light but rather the concern for this work which detained him.'

Text: de Rossi 1864, 291. Translation: Lapidge 2018, 642.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Cornelius, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00172

Type of Evidence

Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.) Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Literary - Poems


  • 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

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries

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

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Damasan and pseudo-Damasan poems

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Crowds Merchants and artisans Ecclesiastics - Popes

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



Right-hand part of a marble plaque, broken into several conjoining smaller fragments. High quality lettering, Philocalian script. H. 0.6 m; W. 1.01 m; original W. c. 1.75 m. Letter height 0.036 m. A fragment of the stone was found by de Rossi in 1852, still in situ, on the tomb of Cornelius. Other fragments were scattered. Several of the fragments recovered by de Rossi are now lost. They were missing already during Maximillian Ihm's visit to the cemetery in 1894. We give the text as presented by Dennis Trout (2015), including all the now missing fragments underlined. Digital photographs of good quality are offered in the Epigraphic Database Bari.


The inscription records a poem composed in seven hexameter verses. Based on the script, and the apparent mention of the name Damasus in verse 3 it has been attributed to pope Damasus (366-384) and his engraver, Furius Dionysius Philocalus. Sadly, the text was not copied by any known travellers to Rome, as many of the other Damasan inscriptions were, so a confident restoration of the missing parts is impossible. De Rossi offered a largely hypothetical restoration, but Ihm was already reluctant to accept it in his edition as the basic text. De Rossi's general interpretation of Damasus' actions commemorated by the poem, has, however, been widely accepted. He suggested that Damasus built a skylight in the celling of the crypt, to illuminate its interior, and made other adaptations (e.g. a staircase) to ease the movement of visitors. For bishop Cornelius, commemorated in the present inscription, see E04644.


Editions: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB20438, see Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry. Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 119-120, no. 19. De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 4: Coemeteria inter Vias Appiam et Ardeatinam (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1964), no. 9368. Ferrua, A., Epigramata damasiana (Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1942), 136-137, no. 19. Ihm, M., Damasi epigrammata (Anthologiae Latinae Supplementa 1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1895), no. 19. de Rossi, G.B., La Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. 1 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1864), 291, Tav. II and IV. Further reading: Amore, A., I martiri di Roma. A cura di Alessandro Bonfiglio (Todi: Tau Editrice, 1st ed. 1975, 2nd ed. 2013), 158-172. De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), no. 58. Giordani, R., "Sul problema dell'età della traslazione a Roma delle spoglie di papa Cornelio," Vetera Christianorum 42 (2005), 251-273. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), 195-200, and 642. Löx, M., Monumenta Sanctorum: Rom und Mailand als Zentren des frühen Christentums. Märtyrerkult und Kirchenbau unter den Bischöfen Damasus und Ambrosius (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2013), 83-86, 194-196 and Abb. 33. Reekmans, L., La tombe du pape Cornelie et sa région cémétériale (Roma sotterranea cristiana 4, Città del Vaticano, 1964). Reutter, U., Damasus, Bischof von Rom (366-384): Leben und Werk (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 88-89, no. 19. de Rossi, G.B., La Roma Sotterranea Cristiana, vol. 1 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1864), 287-291.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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