University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E05296: Fragmentary Latin epitaph with a poem for an archdeacon and psalmist, recording his burial in a church dedicated to *Laurence/Laurentius (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) in the ager Veranus, on the via Tiburtina, Rome, presenting considerations about the actual uselessness of burials ad sanctos compared with the true merits of the pious life, and probably naming Laurence as a martyr and priest. Probably 5th c.

online resource
posted on 2018-04-09, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Sepulcrum Sabini archidiaconi.
Altaris primus per tempora multa minister
elegi sancti ianitor esse loci,
4 nam terram repetens quae nostra probatur origo
hic tumulor muta membra Sabinus humo.
Nil iuvat immo gravat tumulis haerere piorum;
sanctorum meritis optima vita prope est;
8 [co]rpore non opus est, anima tendamus ad illos,
[q]uae bene salva potest corporis esse salus.
[Ille eg]o qui voce psalmos modulatus et arte
[div]ersis cecini, verba sacrata sonis,
12 [ossibus] hic posui sedes in limine primo.
[Iudi]cii tempus certus adesse cit[o],
[ut dulci sonitu r]esonans tuba caelitu[s artus]
[cum vocet e terra ad] castra super[na pios]
16 [- - - ma]rtyr lev{v}it[a - - -]
[- - - t]unc quoq[ue - - -]

'Tomb of Sabinus, archdeacon. For a long time the first servant of the altar, I chose to become the doorkeeper of (this) holy place, because, returning to the earth, which proves to be our origin, I, Sabinus, am buried here, having given my silent limbs to the soil. Clinging to the tombs of the holy ones does not help, but rather increases the burden; (it is) a good life that is close to the merits of the saints; not through the body do we reach them, but by the soul which, if safe, can be the salvation of the body. I, who recited psalms, and skilfully sang the holy word with different sounds, here made the resting place for [my bones], at the first threshold. It is certain that the time of judgement is fast approaching, like a trumpet of power sounding with a sweet sound from heaven, when it summons the pious from the earth to the heavenly fortress [- - -] the martyr and priest (levita) [- - -]'

Text: ICVR, n.s., VII, no. 18017 = EDB30595. Translation: P. Nowakowski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions Literary - Poems


  • 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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Bodily relic - bones and teeth


Thirty conjoining fragments of a marble plaque. H. 0.66 m; W. 1.64 m; letter height 0.037 m. Letters imitating the Philocalian script. Found by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1864, in the pavement of the narthex of the lower church of the present-day church of San Lorenzo on the Via Tiburtina, in the ager Veranus, which de Rossi believed to have been part of the 4th c. Constantinian basilica. The plaque was probably reused there, as no tomb was located beneath the plaque. The fragments are now fixed on the south wall. First published by de Rossi in 1864. His restoration of the missing fragments was only partly accepted by later editors. For example, Franz Bücheler attempted a different restoration of the final verses. These are, however, highly hypothetical, and Antonio Ferrua dropped them in his edition in the seventh volume of the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae (1980). We follow the text as presented by Antonella Daniela Agostinelli in the Epigraphic Database Bari, based on the edition by Ferrua. Some of the fragments seen and read by de Rossi are now lost. These are underlined in the text. A colour photograph is offered in the Epigraphic Database Bari.


The epitaph is composed in eight elegiac couplets. It says that a certain Sabinus was buried in a church where he formerly served as an archdeacon. Sabinus tells us that he chose to be buried at the entrance to the church, not in the aisles or perhaps even in the presbyterium (cf. E05294), as he thinks that the importance of the location of a tomb is secondary to the importance of a pious life. He adds that a burial too close to the saints can be a burden, rather than an aid to the deceased. The inscription ends probably with a reference to the martyr Laurence/Laurentius, venerated in the ager Veranus, termed levita/'priest'. The same title appears in the poem inscribed on the mosaic of the triumphal arch of the church, erected by Pope Pelagius II (see E05292). Dating: The inscription is dated by Antonella Agostinelli (EDB) to the 5th c. It is difficult to say if Sabinus was buried in the Constantinian basilica, or one of the later churches dedicated to Laurence in the ager Veranus.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB30595, see De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), no. 89. De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 7: Coemeteria via Tiburtinae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1980), no. 18017. Hendrichs, F., La voce delle chiese antichissime di Roma (Rome: Desclée & C. Editori Pontifici, 1933), Fig. 240. da Bra, G., Le iscrizioni latine della Basilica di S. Lorenzo fuori le mura del chiostro e delle catacombe di S. Ciriaca (Rome: Scuola tipografica Pio X, 1931), 8, no. 2. Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 1194. Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 176, no. 169. Marucchi, O., Le catacombe romane (Rome: Desclée, Lefebvre E.C., 1905, 2nd ed.), 317. Bücheler, F., Anthologia Latina sive poesis Latinae supplementum, pars posterior: Carmina epigraphica, vol. 2 (Leipzig: In aedibus B.G. Tebneri, 1897), no. 1423. Armellini, M., Gli antichi cimeteri cristiani di Roma e d'Italia (Rome: Tipografia poliglotta, 1893), 304. de Rossi, G.B., "Scoperte nella basilica di S. Lorenzo nell'agro Verano", Bulletino di archeologia cristiana 2 (1864), 33. Further reading: Carletti, C., "Quod multi cupiunt et rari accipiunt. A proposito di una nuova iscrizionie della catacomba dell' ex vigna Chiaraviglio", in: A. Recio Veganzones (ed.), Historiam pictura refert: miscellanea in onore di Padre Alejandro Recio Veganzones O.F.M (Città del Vaticano: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1994), 125-126. Carletti, C., Epigrafia dei cristiani in Occidente dal III al VII secolo. Ideologia e prassi (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008), 87. Duval, Y., Auprèse des saints, corps et âme. L'inhumation "ad sanctos" dans la chrétienité d'Orient et d'Occident du IIIe au VIe siècle (Paris: Etudes augustiniennes, 1988), 59, 100. Janssens, J., Vita e morte del cristiano negli epitaffi di Roma anteriori al sec. VII (Roma: Università Gregoriana, 1981), 273.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity