Saint NameAgnes, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00097
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before625
Evidence not after638
Activity not before625
Activity not after638
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 CustomsBequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - Popes
SourceThe inscription is now lost. The text is known only through the manuscript tradition, it features in the Sylloge Turonensis (codex Closterneoburgensis 723 f. 265v and Goettweihensis 64), the Sylloge Centulensis (codex Petropolitanus F. XIV 1 f. 129), the Sylloge Laureshamensis (codex Vaticanus Palatinus 833 f. 63 v), the Sylloge Virdunensis (codex Virdunensis 45 f. 213v col. 1), and in the Anthologia Latina (codex Parisinus latinus 8071 f. 61 col. 1).
The Sylloge Virdunensis says that the poem was displayed in a church of Agnes (certainly the basilica of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura, on the via Nomentana), and the Sylloge Turonensis places it on the triumphal arch of the apse.
The text first appeared in print in 1602, published by Jan Gruter from the Sylloge Laureshamensis. In 1831 Luigi Gaetano Marini re-edited it based on the codex Closterneoburgensis, by mistake collated with a different poem. Later de Rossi offered an edition based on all the available codices (actually several separate editions for each of the Sylloges). The present-day reference edition is that by Antonio Ferrua in the eighth volume of the new series of the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae.
DiscussionThe inscription, composed in two hexameters, certainly commemorates the construction of the basilica dedicated to Agnes by Pope Honorius (625-638). This generous donation is described by the Liber Pontificalis, in the paragraph on the construction of the basilica of Agnes by Honorius: 'Then he built from the ground up the church of St Agnes the martyr at the 3rd mile from Rome on the via Nomentana, where the body rests...' (see E01443). Honorius' work is, on the other hand, presented as a major restoration by the Notitia ecclesiarium urbis Romae: 'Then [you go] by the via Nomentana to the church of St Agnes, which is beautiful and in which she rests alone. This [church] was also wonderfully repaired by bishop Honorius.' (see E00676)
For an inscription commemorating the embellishment of the tomb of Agnes with silver by Pope Honorius, see E05762.
Ernst Diehl notes that the wording of our inscription resembles a poem from an inscription from the church of *Cosmas and Damianus at Rome (ILChV 1784, AD 526-530. EXXXX).
Antonio Ferrua notes that the Liber Pontificalis of the Church of Ravenna quotes a poem with an identical opening phrase (Virginis aula micat), which accompanied an image of *Mary, Mother of Christ, in a church dedicated to her by Ecclesius of Ravenna (522-532), see E05811.
Our poem, with a slightly altered verse 2, is also quoted in one of the codices of the (Roman) Liber Pontificalis, in the Life of Pope Honorius, and was an inspiration for a dedicatory inscription by Pope Paschal, which is outside our chronological timeframe (817-824): for references, see the comments by Ferrua in ICVR, n.s, VIII, no. 20756.
Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB9576, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/9576
De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), no. 100.
De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 8: Coemeteria viarum Nomentanae et Salariae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1983), no. 20756.
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 1769.
Duchesne, L., Le Liber pontificalis, vol. 1 (Paris: E. Thorin, 1886), 325, note 7.
Armellini, M., Il cimitero di s. Agnese sulla via Nomentana (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta della S.C. di Propoganda Fide, 1880), 374 (from the edition by Gruter).
de Rossi, G.B., Mosaici Cristiani e Saggi dei pavimenti delle chiese di Roma anteriori al secolo XV (Roma: Libreria Spithöver di G. Haas, 1872), XVIII f. 2.
De Rossi, G. B., Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores 2.1 (Rome: Ex Officina Libraria Pontificia, 1857-1888), 63, no. 6; 89, no. 43; 104, no. 37; 137, no. 18; 249, no. 18.
Luigi Gaetano Marini through a copy by Giuseppe Garampi in: Angelo Mai, Scriptorum veterum nova collectio e Vaticanis codicibus edita, vol. 5 (Rome: Typis Vaticanis, 1831), 418, no. 3 (from the codex Closterneoburgensis 723).
Gruter, J., Inscriptiones antiquae totius orbis Romani, in corpus absolutissimum redactae (Heidelberg: Ex officina Commeliniana, 1602), 1172 no. 5 (from the codex Vaticanus Palatinus)
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), chapter XVII.