University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04652: The Martyrdom of *Exantius, Carpophorus and Companions (martyrs of Como, S01485), written in Latin, is perhaps a fragmentary version of a wider hagiographical cycle centred around *Alexander (martyr of Bergamo, S01121), including the martyrdoms of *Alexander and *Fidelis (E01915 and E04651), perhaps written in the 8th c. After a narrative shared with the Martyrdom of Alexander, it narrates Fidelis’ travel to the vicus Summolacanus, the tortures endured and martyrdom of Exantius, Carpophorus and their companions in Silvula near Como, where their bodies rest.

online resource
posted on 2018-01-22, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Exantius, Carpophorus and Companions (BHL 2923)


§§ 1-10: Beginning corresponding to the Martyrdom of *Alexander (BHL 277, §§ 1-10 including the prologue, with small variants, starting “Supplicationibus”). See the summary in E01915.

§ 11: Fidelis arrives at the lake, finds no boat, prays to God and sailors appear who ask him where he comes from and where he wants to go. Fidelis tells that he comes from the East and has travelled to this province, has been instructed by the bishop of Milan, Maternus, has become a Christian and wants to earn Christ’s crown. Fidelis sails to the vicus Summolacanus.

§ 12: Maximian hears that Carpophorus, Fidelis and Exantius are Christian and have deserted the army. He asks his most faithful soldiers to find, torture and kill them. The soldiers come to Silvula where Carpophorus and Exantius hide. They summon them to offer sacrifice, otherwise they will be tortured and killed. Carpophorus replies that this is the place where they will rest and that they reject sacrificing. They are ready to suffer and die to earn eternal life, while the persecutors will die and burn forever.

§ 13: The persecutors severely beat them with sticks, threatening them with further tortures. The saints exhort them to continue, as this suffering will earn them eternal life. They can torture their bodies but they cannot reach their souls. The persecutors torture them further with claws and iron-weighted scourges, for the saints’ blood to flow like a stream. The martyrs however profess their faith in God and curse them. The martyrs are sentenced to death. The blessed Carpophorus, Exantius, Cassius, Severius, Secundus and Licinius kneel, pray, are beheaded and earn the eternal kingdom. They were martyred on the 7th day before the Ides of August [= 7 August] in the place called Silvula near Como where their bodies rest and where abundant favours are bestowed.

Text: Savio 1902, 36-39. Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Exantius and Carpophorus, martyrs of Como : S01485 Alexander, martyr of Bergamo, northern Italy : S01121 Fidelis, martyr of Summus Lacus near Como : S01484

Saint Name in Source

Exantius, Carpophorus, Cassius, Severius, Secundus, Licinius Alexander Fidelis

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

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Como Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Observed scarcity/absence of miracles

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Soldiers Monarchs and their family Torturers/Executioners Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Exantius, Carpophorus and Companions 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 Exantius, Carpophorus and Companions The Martyrdom, BHL 2923, is found in a 12th c. manuscript according to the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, E 84 Inf, f. 163v-166r, from which it was published by Savio.


The Martyrdom provides details about Fidelis which are not given in his martyrdom account (E04651), while the narrative of the persecution and killing of Exantius and Carpophorus bears several contacts with that account. Both martyrdoms provide the same geographical coordinates for the martyrdom of these saints. Following the hypothesis put forward by Savio and adopted by Lanéry, the Martyrdom would be a fragmentary part of a wider hagiographical cycle centred around Alexander, of which the Martyrdom of Alexander (BHL 277) and the Martyrdom of Fidelis (E04651) would also be fragmentary versions (see our discussion E01915). If this hypothesis is accepted, the Martyrdom would thus date from the 8th century.


Edition (BHL 2923) Savio, F., “La légende des SS. Fidèle, Carpophore et autres martyrs,” Analecta Bollandiana 21 (1902), 29-39, at 36-39. Further reading: 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 322-323. Savio, F., “La légende des SS. Fidèle, Carpophore et autres martyrs,” Analecta Bollandiana 21 (1902), 29-39.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager