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E04664: Scarcely preserved painted Greek inscription, just possibly referring to relics of *Caecilia (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00146). Found on a wall of the 'crypt of Caecilia', Cemetery of Callixtus, Via Appia, Rome. Probably very late 7th-9th c., possibly c. 820.

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posted on 2018-01-24, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Fragment 1:

[Κύριε βοήθει τῷ δούλῳ (?)] σοῦ ᾿Ιωάν[νῃ ἀμὴ]ν

'[O Lord, help (?)] your [servant] Ioannes! Amen.'

Fragment 2:
Above, and to the right of the former text, around a painted frame:

[---] πάπας
τὶ λ-
[- - -]

The meaning is very unclear. The inscription may mention some 'holy relics', λείψανα. De Rossi offers a provisional Italian translation: ‘papa in luogo delle reliquie’ - ‘pope, in the place of (or: in exchange for) relics’.

Text: ICVR, n.s., IV, n.s., no. 9529.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Caecilia, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00146

Type of Evidence

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


  • Greek

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

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


The inscription (or inscriptions, as we do not know if they formed a continuous text), come from the wall closing the 'crypt of Caecilia' in the cemetery of Callistus. The letters are painted in black on white plaster. Letter height 3.5-4.5 cm. based on the drawing offered by Giovanni Battista de Rossi and Antonia Ferrua, one can infer that the text ran around a painted border. Single letters and an ivy leaf from an inscription within the border are also visible in the drawing. First published by de Rossi in 1867. Republished by Ferrua in 1964.


The first fragment very plausibly records the name of a certain Ioannes, named as a servant of God or of a saint. The second fragment probably contains the term λείψανα. De Rossi suggested that it could refer to a memoria built on the site where Caecilia's relics were deposited. He also interpreted some of the letters visible on the plaster as a reference to a date: III ΚΑΛ - the third day before the calendae of an unspecified month. This he identifies as the date of invention or of translation of Caecilia's relics, as it is different from the dates of her feasts as recorded in martyrologies. Dating: The shape of letters suggests a late date: 8th c., or even later. De Rossi notes that this time-frame corresponds to the pontificate of pope Paschal I (817-824) who moved the relics of Caecilia to the church dedicated to her in Trastevere in 820. De Rossi also hypothetically identified Ioannes from fragment 1 with a certain presbyter Ioannes, titular priest of Santa Cecilia, mentioned in the acts of the council of Rome in AD 879 (see de Rossi 1867, 127). Ferrua notes that although the identification of this Ioannes with our supplicant is very tentative, a date in the 9th c., for the present inscription, is very reasonable. The body of Caecila was removed from the catacomb in 820, and dedications to her are unlikely to postdate this event. Antonio Felle in the Epigraphic Database Bari, however, dates this text to the very late 7th-early 8th c. (690-725).


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB20192, see 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. 9529. de Rossi, G.B., La Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. 2 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1867), 126, and Tav. XXXI.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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