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E05789: Agnellus of Ravenna, in his Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis, written in Latin, refers to the foundation of a church dedicated to *Severus of Ravenna (S01884) in Classe (near Ravenna, northern Italy) and the later translation of this saint's relics from a monasterium dedicated to *Rophilius (4th c. bishop of Formipopoli, northern Italy, S02145). Agnellus dates the consecration of the church incorrectly, but evidence from his story suggests this event took place in 498/514. Account written in Ravenna in 830/846.

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posted on 2018-06-19, 00:00 authored by frances
Agnellus of Ravenna, Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis 93

Temporibus Symmachi papae Roma in concilio sedit. Fundauit que ecclesiam beati Seueri confessoris Christi, sed mors sibi interueniens, reliquit, in ciuitate dudum Classis, in regione quae uocatur Vico Salutaris.

‘In the times of Symmachus the pope of Rome he [Peter III] sat in council. And he founded the church of St Severus the confessor of Christ, but with his death intervening he left it [unfinished], in the former city of Classe, in the region that is called the District of Safety.’

Agnellus of Ravenna, Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis 98

Post beati Petri amissionem opus inconsummatum quod reliquerat, id est ecclesiam beati Seueri, iste consummauerat et usque ad effectum perduxit, et corpus beati Seueri confessoris in medio dedicauit templo ... mira magnitudine uisibus ornauit. Sublatum est ab eo sanctum corpus de monasterio sancti Rophili, quod ad ipsius ecclesiae latus suffultum est, uirorum parte, et in media ecclesia collocauit.

‘After the loss of blessed Peter, this one [John II, Bishop of Ravenna, 578-590] finished the incomplete work which he had left, that is, the church of St Severus, and brought it to completion, and he dedicated the body of St Severus the confessor in the middle of the temple ... he decorated it in appearance with wonderful size. The holy body was taken up by him from the monasterium of St Rophilius, which is attached to the side of this church, on the men’s side, and he placed it in the middle of the church.’

Text: Deliyannis 2006. Translation: Deliyannis 2004.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Severus of Ravenna, bishop of Ravenna, Italy in 283 : S01884 Rophilius, 4th c. bishop of Formipopoli, northern Italy : S02145

Saint Name in Source

Seuerus Rophilius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Ravenna Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Agnellus of Ravenna

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Construction of cult building to contain relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics


Agnellus 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.


Agnellus incorrectly attributes the foundation of this church to Peter III. If the church was built in the reign of Pope Symmachus, then it must have been founded between 498 and 514. This would mean would mean Peter II founded it. Indeed Rossi, in Historiarium Ravennatium recorded a dedicatory inscription of the church naming Peter III and his successor John the Roman as patrons – and not founders – of the church (at 178). It is likely that Agnellus' information, then, comes from a misread inscription. The dating of the decoration Agnellus refers to – and attributes to John II – is not certain. The account may be based on an inscription, which is now lost, or it may be spurious. We can, however, be more sure of the presence of a monasterium dedicated to Rophilius by the 6th c. The dimensions of the church dedicated to Severus were originally 64.7 metres x 27.3 metres. A reconstruction of the original church – along with the monasterium dedicated to Rophilius – is attached to this record. Additionally, maps showing the likely locations of the foundations in Classe and Ravenna are attached to this record. Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis suggests that part of the text is missing, but notes there is no apparent break in the manuscript. This is indicated in the record. J. M. Stansterre and E. Morini have both argued convincingly that, throughout Agnellus’ account, monasterium can used to mean any foundation – for example a chapel or church – dedicated to a saint. It does not necessarily refer to a monastery. As such, the original Latin is preserved in this record.


Text: Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Agnelli Ravennatis Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 199; Turnhout, 2006). Translation: Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna (Washington D.C., 2004). Further Reading: 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).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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