Saint NameJohn the Baptist : S00020
Saint Name in SourceIohnnes
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)
Evidence not before830
Evidence not after846
Activity not before575
Activity not after577
Place of Evidence - RegionItaly north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcRavenna
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Ravenna
Major author/Major anonymous workAgnellus of Ravenna
Cult activities - Liturgical Activity
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
SourceAgnellus of Ravenna (ob. c. 846) was a deacon of the cathedral in Ravenna and – by hereditary right – abbot of two monasteries in Ravenna. He wrote his Liber Pontificalis Ecclessiae Ravennatis between 830 and 846, following the model of the Roman Liber Pontificalis. This work provides biographies of all the bishops of Ravenna from the legendary founder bishop Apollinaris to those active in Agnellus’ own day, and was originally composed to be delivered orally, most likely to clerics of Ravenna. This text is preserved in two manuscripts: one from the 15th c. (Bibliotec Estense Cod. Lat. 371 X.P.4.9.) and a fragmentary manuscript from the 16th c. (MS Vat. Lat. 5834). Agnellus bases his account of the lives of late antique bishops on documents preserved in Ravenna, stories which had been transmitted orally, and his own experience of the architectural landscape of 9th c. Ravenna.
Agnellus' work contains invaluable architectural and art historical information about Ravenna: Agnellus refers to several religious buildings in Ravenna and the neighbouring settlements of Caeserea and Classe. He describes their decoration and preserves several inscriptions, many of which are now lost to us. It must be remembered this is a 9th c. work. Agnellus’ descriptions of buildings and their fixtures is based on his 9th c. experience, and not late antique reality. Indeed, his accounts of the events of earlier years are often riddled with inaccuracies. Yet it is likely that his descriptions of the churches of Ravenna are more trustworthy. As Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis argues, a comparison of surviving late antique mosaics with Agnellus’ account suggests that his descriptions were largely accurate. This is limited to what he does tell us – for example Arian foundations are often ignored whilst orthodox foundations are emphasised. Yet, overall, this text provides invaluable information about the cult of saints in late antique Ravenna.
DiscussionAside from this passage, no other reference to a cult of Barbantianus can be securely dated before the tenth century, when his Life was composed. An inscription attests his burial and sanctity:
HIC VMATVR CORPVS
‘Here the body of the blessed Barbatianus is buried’.
Yet the dating of this inscription is contested, with different scholars arguing for the 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th centuries (see Schoolman 2016, 23, for a full account of this debate).
Although Edward Schoolman accepts the presence of a late antique cult of Barbantianus, Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis suggests that all these references to cultic activity surrounding Barbantianus are spurious. Indeed, alone this evidence is not strong enough to identify a cult of Barbatianus in the 6th century. It is therefore probable that the addition of Barbatianus to an account of the consecration of a church dedicated to John the Baptist is an innovation by Agnellus.
This consecration is incorrectly attributed to Peter Chrysologus (bishop of Ravenna, 433-450) by Agnellus. If the church was indeed built by Baduarius – the commander in chief of the Italian armies between 575 and 577 (PLRE IIIA, 'Baduarius 2'), these events most likely took place during the reign of Peter III Bishop of Ravenna (570-578).
Maps showing the likely locations of the foundations in Classe and Ravenna are attached to this record.
Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Agnelli Ravennatis Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 199; Turnhout, 2006).
Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna (Washington D.C., 2004).
Deichmann, Friedrich Wilhelm, Ravenna, Hauptstadt des spätantiken Abendlandes, vol. 1-3, (Wiesbaden, 1958-89).
Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010).
Mackie, Gillian, Early Christian Chapels in the West: Decoration, Function and Patronage (Toronto, 2003).
Moffat, Ann, "Sixth Century Ravenna from the Perspective of Abbot Agnellus," in: P. Allen and E.M. Jeffreys (eds,), The Sixth Century – End or Beginning? (Brisbane, 1996), 236-246.
Morini, E., "Le strutture monastische a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.2, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 305-312.
Schoolman, Edward, Rediscovering Sainthood in Italy: Hagiography and the Late Antique Past in Medieval Ravenna (Basingstoke, 2016).
Stansterre, J. M., "Monaci e monastery greci a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.1, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 323-329.
Verhoeven, Mariëtte, The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna: Transformations and Memory (Turnhout, 2011).