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E04650: The Martyrdom of *Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix (martyrs of Rome, S00886) is written in Latin, presumably in Rome, at an uncertain date, by the 9th c. at the latest. It narrates the execution of the brothers Simplicius and Faustinus and their burial next to Sextus Philippi on the via Portuensis by Lucina; later, after staying for seven months with Lucina, Beatrix is also killed by the greedy landowner Lucretius and buried on the same site by Lucina.

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posted on 2018-01-22, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix (BHL 7790)


§ 1: At the time of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Christians are killed in Rome. Beatrix is the sister of Simplicius and Faustinus who were tortured and sentenced to death. Their bodies were cast into the Tiber at the ‘stone bridge' (pons lapideus) but then found next to Sextus Philippi on the via Portuensis. Beatrix, with the priests Crispus, Iohannes and other Christians, takes the bodies and buries them in Sextus Philippi on the 4th day before the Calends of August [= 29 July]. Beatrix then stays with her sister Lucina for seven months; she is visited by two crows, each bringing her a nut.

§ 2: Hoping to seize an estate (praedium) belonging to Beatrix and her brothers, the neighbouring landowner (possessor) Lucretius has her arrested. As she refuses to offer sacrifice to Diana, Lucretius orders her to be sent to prison hoping to make her change her mind. As she does not yield, he then orders her to be strangled at night by his servants. Lucina buries her next to her brothers in Sextus Philippi on the 4th day before the Calends of August [= 29 July].

§ 3: Lucretius seizes the estate of the saints and hosts a feast. Among those present, a breast-fed infant speaks to Lucretius denouncing his deeds and predicting that he will be seized by the Devil. Lucretius, full of fear, is seized by Satan and dies three hours later. All those present become Christians out of fear and tell about the martyrdom of Beatrix and how she was avenged. As Lucina flees, Beatrix appears to her and tells her to stay because in the same month persecution is to be set to an end.

Text: Acta Sanctorum, Iul. VII, 36-37 (from which paragraph numbers are taken). Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix, martyrs in Rome : S00886

Saint Name in Source

Simplicius, Faustinus, Beatrix

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

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Punishing miracle Miracles causing conversion Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Animals Aristocrats Slaves/ servants Children

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Discovering, finding, invention and gathering of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix 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 Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix The most widespread version of the Martyrdom, and thought to be the earliest, is BHL 7790 (variant versions are BHL 7790d and 7790f, not considered here). It is found in 94 manuscripts according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (, the earliest from the 9th century: Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes 14, f. 70v-71r (9th-10th c.); Paris, BNF, lat. 5299, f. 34v-36r (9th c.); Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 846, f. 111r-11v (9th-10th c.).


Evidence about the feast day and burial of these martyrs corresponds to what is found in other late antique sources, in particular the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (see S00886). For a summary of scholarship about the site of burial and the Martyrdom in general see Lapidge. When the Martyrdom was composed is most uncertain, but it must have been by the 9th century, when the earliest manuscripts preserved were copied and when it was used by Ado in his martyrology (Quentin, H., Les martyrologes historiques du Moyen Âge. Etude sur la formation du martyrologe romain (Paris, 1908), 573-574). Lapidge recently suggested that it might have been written at some point in the 7th century, after the restoration of the basilica by Pope Vigilius (537-555).


Editions (BHL 7790): Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), II, 531-532. The original edition was published c. 1480. Acta Sanctorum, Iul. VII, 36-37. English translation: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 600-602. Further reading: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 598-600.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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