Saint NameSebastianus, martyr of Rome : S00400
Innocentius, bishop of Rome, ob. 417 : S00575
Saint Name in SourceSebastianus
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before401
Evidence not after417
Activity not before401
Activity not after417
Place of Evidence - RegionRome and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcSuburban catacombs and cemeteries
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Suburban catacombs and cemeteries
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsVow
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
SourceMarble plaque broken into two conjoining pieces. H. 0.63 m; W. 1.30 m. Letter height 0.07 m.
The earliest records (14th c.) say that the plaque was displayed in the left sector of the church of San Sebastiano, at the Cemetery ad Catacumbas, on the Via Appia. Antonio Bosio (early 17th c.) says that it was reportedly brought there from the staircase leading to the crypt of San Sebastiano Pope Pius VII had it relocated to the Vatican Museums. On the suggestion of Giovanni Battista de Rossi it was added to the epigraphic collection of the Lateran. Now in the Vatican Museums, Lapidario Cristiano ex Lateranense.
Beginning in the 14th c., the inscription appears in manuscript sylloges of Latin inscriptions. It was known to a number of early modern scholars including, for example, Cyriacus of Ancona and Konrad Peutinger. It first appeared in print in 1570, in Onofrio Panvinio's De septem urbis ecclesiis. For a list of manuscripts, and printed editions up to 1971, see the lemma in Antonio Ferrua's ICVR, n.s., V, no. 13122. A high-quality photograph is published in the Epigraphic Database Bari.
DiscussionThe inscription commemorates the completion of an unspecified vow to the martyr Sebastianus by two presbyters of the titulus Byzantis, that is the Roman church of *Iohannes and Paulus (SS. Giovanni e Paolo) on the Caelian Hill. Antonio Ferrua notes that presbyters of this church were in charge of the church of Sebastianus/Basilica Apostolorum and its cemetery.
It is not clear what the object of the vow made by the two presbyters was. Ferrua suspends judgement. Earlier scholars speculated that it could have been the entire church, the crypt of the saint, or just the marble revetment of the altar. Therefore, the inscription is sometimes unjustly presented as the building inscription for the church of Sebastianus. See also the comments by Anna Maria Nieddu (2006, 369, note 1695) on a theory by Orazio Marucchi who, based on the present and other inscriptions marking the presence of the clergy of Iohannes and Paulus in the Church of Sebastianus/Basilica Apostolorum, implausibly argued that it was not built by the emperor Constantine, but rather by the presumed founders of the church of Iohannes and Paulus: a certain Byzantius and his son Pammachius.
Dating: the dating formula says that the vow was fulfilled during the episcopacy of Innocentius I (401-417). However, as the pope is termed sanctus / 'holy', or possibly 'saint', Antonio Zaccaria (1781), and Giovanni Battista de Rossi supposed that the inscription was carved after Innocentius' death. Antonio Ferrua was not convinced by their reasoning, and placed the inscription within the pontificate of Innocentius.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB1476, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/1476
Lega, C., Le iscrizioni cristiane di Roma conservate nei Musei Vaticani. Indice dei vocaboli (Città del Vaticano: , 2000), XY.
Di Stefano Manzella, I., Le iscrizioni dei cristiani in Vaticano (Città del Vaticano: Monumenti, Musei e gallerie pontificie; Rome: Distribuzione esclusiva, Edizioni Quasar, 1997), 289-291, no. 3.7.1.
De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 5: Coemeteria reliqua Viae Appiae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1971), no. 13122.
Hendrichs, F., La voce delle chiese antichissime di Roma (Rome: Desclée & C. Editori Pontifici, 1933), Tav. 34, fig. 138.
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 1776.
Marucchi, O., "Marucchi, Orazio: Di una iscrizione storica che puň attribuirsi alla basilica Apostolorum sulla via Appia", Nuovo Bulletino di Archeologia Cristiana (1921), 65.
Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), no. 177.
Duchesne, L., Le Liber pontificalis, vol. 1 (Paris: E. Thorin, 1886), 236.
De Rossi, G.B., Inscriptiones christianae urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores, part 1, vol. 2 (Rome: Ex Officina Libraria Pontificia, Officina libraria Philippi Cuggiani, 1888), 322.
Panvinio, O., De septem urbis ecclesiis (Rome, 1570), 93.
Ferrua, A., 'I lavor di Proclinus e Ursus a S. Sebastiano', La civiltà cattolica 40 (1964), 287-293.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), 93, no. 12.
Nieddu, A.M., La Basilica Apostolorum sulla via Appia e l'area cimiteriale circostante (Città del Vaticano: Pontificio istituto di archeologia cristiana, 2009), 369 note 1695.
Pesci, B., 'Il culto di S. Sebastiano a Roma nell’antichità e nel medioevo', Antonianum 20 (1945), 187-188.