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E05236: Latin graffiti by visitors invoking a saint Clemens, probably one of the *Four Crowned Martyrs (S00685), crucial for the discussion of their early cult. Found in the cemetery inter duas lauros /ad Sanctos Marcellinum et Petrum, via Labicana, Rome. Probably 7th c.

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posted on 2018-03-20, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
A: + s(an)c(t)e Cle[mens]/'+ O Saint Clemens!'

B: Leo pr(es)b(yter)

C: + [D]omna

D: + Leo D(eu)sdedit

E: Lupulus

Text: ICVR, n.s., VI, no. 15938 = EDB1876-1877, EDB7256, EDB9770-9771.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Four Crowned Martyrs - the second group (Sempronianus, Nicostratus, Claudius, Castor), martyrs in Sirmium (Pannonia), in the late 3rd c. : S00685

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)


  • 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

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Women Other lay individuals/ people


Graffiti executed with a stylus on a plastered wall in cubiculum Yp in the cemetery ad Sanctos Marcellinum et Petrum /inter duas lauros on the via Labicana, that is a large, double cubiculum recently identified as the tomb of the *Four Crowned Martyrs (S00685). Letter height: 0.015 m (A, C), 0.02 m (D), 0.01 m (B, E). First published by Rodolfo Kanzler in 1913. Later reedited by Orazio Marucchi (1915) and Antonio Ferrua (1975). The texts were discussed anew by Jean Guyon and are key evidence for the identification of the crypt as the saints' tomb. Photographs are now offered in the Epigraphic Database Bari.


The graffiti in this crypt were executed by people visiting tombs of the martyrs located in the cemetery. One of them (A) invokes a certain Saint Clemens without further specifying his identity. Already Rodolfo Kanzler and Orazio Marucchi noted that a Saint Clemens is mentioned in the Depositio Martyrum in the Chronography of 354 as buried together with three other martyrs on the fifth day before the ides of November (9 November) 'in comitatum': 'V idus Nov. Clementis Semproniani Claui Nicostrati in comitatum' (E01052). The association of our Clemens with the Clemens of the Depositio was supported by Antonio Ferrua in 1975. In the 1980s, Jean Guyon did further research on this region of the cemetery, and used the graffito, and the quoted calendar entry, to argue that the crypt where our visitor graffiti were found housed the tombs of the *Four Crowned Martyrs (the Quattro Coronati). If so, this suggests that they were originally venerated under the names Clemens, Sempronianus, Clauus, and Nicostratus, which is an important testimony, as the names of the Four Crowned Martyrs differ in the literary tradition, with the name Clemens rarely appearing among them (except for the case of the Chronography of 354 where, however, the group is not specifically identified as the 'Crowned Martyrs', and an entry in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, see below). For example, the Martyrdom of the Four Crowned Martyrs, sculptors of Pannonia martyred in Rome (E02508), gives their names as Claudius, Castorius, Simpronianus and Nicostratus (aided by a certain Simplicius). At the end of the text, the Martyrdom says, however, that 'Their names could not be retrieved and the bishop Miltiades ordered them to be remembered as Claudius, Nicostratus, Simpronianus and Castorius on their feast day.' The issue is even more complicated, as the Depositio Martyrum mentions another group martyrs on the sixth day before the ides of August (8 August), who were also venerated as the Four Crowned Martyrs, but were soldiers executed in Albanum: 'VI idus Aug. Secundi Carpofori Victorini et Severiani Albano' (For this group, see S00587). The later Roman cult of the Four Crowned Martyrs probably amalgamates the two groups. The Depositio Martyrum describes the place of burial of the four martyrs Clemens, Sempronianus, Clauus, and Nicostratus as in comitatum. This was long considered an imperial estate at Sirmium in the Balkans (see Lapidge 2018, 454), but could in fact refer to the cemetery inter duas lauros on the via Labicana. This is because in comitatum is a very vague expression which need not be a specific toponym; it could refer to virtually any imperial estate, or even to 'the imperial comitatus, the group of ministries which were attached to the emperor's person'. Therefore, Lapidge argues that here it very likely denotes the vast imperial estate on which the cemetery inter duas lauros was located. This also fits with the description of the burial of the saints as presented in the Martyrdom, which says that Saint *Sebastianus and bishop Miltiades buried them on the via Labicana at the third milestone from the city. The Four Crowned Martyrs are also recorded in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum. Lapidge says that their feast is mentioned on 9 November only by the Depositio Martyrum and the Martyrdom, while the Martyrologium Hieronymianum and other calendars place it on 8 November. But as a matter of fact it is Delehaye's edition which drops the feast from 9 November, whereas two of these saints, ‘Clemens and Simpronius’, are mentioned on that day in the manuscripts (E05014). The same Martyrologium does however also lists 8 November as the feast of Simpronianus, Claudius, Nicostratus, and Castor, and ascribes it to the Caelian Hill (E05013), where the present-day church of SS. Quattro Coronati is sited. This may refer to the phase of the church built by Pope Honorius I (625-638), whose construction is recorded in the Liber Pontificalis (E01443), or to an earlier church to the martyrs on the Caelian (see Lapidge 2018, 455). It seems, however, that the feast on 9 November preserves a much older tradition, possibly to be associated with the cemetery inter duas lauros and our graffito invoking Clemens. The cult of the Four Crowned Martyrs on the via Labicana is also recorded by the 7th c. Notitia Ecclesiarum Urbis Romae (E00680). Dating: The graffiti are dated by Carlo Carletti in EDB to roughly the 7th c.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB1876-1877, EDB7256, EDB9770-9771 see De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 6: Coemeteria viis Latina, Labicana et Praenestina (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1975), no. 15938. Marucchi, O., "Osservazioni sulla cripta storica recentemente scoperta nel cimitero dei Santi Marcellino e Pietro sulla via Labicana", Nuovo bullettino di archeologia cristiana 21/1 (1915), 7. Kanzler, R., "Relazione ufficiale degli scavi eseguiti dalla Commissione di Archeologia sacra nelle Catacombe romane negli anni 1911-1912", Nuovo bullettino di archeologia cristiana 20/3 (1914), 73. Kanzler, R., "", Studi romani: rivista di archeologia e storia 1 (1913), 194-195, Tav. XVIII. Further reading: Guyon, J., Le cimitière aux deux lauriers : Recherches sur les catacombes romaines (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome 264, Rome: Pontificio istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1987), 71–78, 130–133. Guyon, J., "Duas lauros (inter), coemeterium", in: M. Steinby (ed.), Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, Suburbium II, 209–215. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), 453-454.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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