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E05796: Agnellus of Ravenna, in his Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis, written in Latin, refers to a church dedicated to *Agatha (virgin and martyr of Catania, S00794) in Ravenna (northern Italy). Agnellus claims this church was present between 494 and 570 and that bishops of Ravenna were buried therein; 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 44

Sepultus est in praedictae sanctae martiris Agathae basilica post altare, in eo loco ubi angelum stantem uidit; effigiem que eius super sedilia depictam cotidie conspicimus. Apparet quod fuisset tenui forma et nigri capilli, paucos canos.

‘He [John, Bishop of Ravenna, 477-494] was buried in the above-mentioned basilica of the holy martyr Agatha behind the altar, in the place where he saw the angel standing; and daily we see his image depicted above the benches in the apse. It appears he was thing of form with black hair, a few being grey.’

Agnellus of Ravenna, Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis 84

Seruiuit in ecclesia beatae Agathae unde leuita fuit, et ipsam ecclesiam in titulo habuit, domus que eius haerebat superscriptae ecclesiae muro, quam nos cognouimus usque in praesentem diem.

‘He [Agnellus, Bishop of Ravenna, 557-570] served in the church of blessed Agatha, where he was a deacon and he became a priest of that church, and his house clung to the wall of the said church, which we recognise up to the present day.’

Agnellus of Ravenna, Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis 92

Qui obiit die primo Kalendas Augusti et sepultus est in ecclesia sanctae Agathae martiris ante altarium.

‘He [Agnellus, Bishop of Ravenna, 557-570] died on the first day of August and was buried in the church of St Agatha the martyr before the altar.’

Text: Deliyannis 2006. Translation: Deliyannis 2004.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agatha, virgin and martyr of Catania : S00794

Saint Name in Source


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 - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


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.


The church of St Agatha was damaged in several earthquakes and rebuilt in the 15th and 18th centuries. The original basilica was very similar in design to the church dedicated to *John (the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) which is now known as the San Giovanni Evangelista (see E05781). The nave was apparently separated from the aisle by a colonnade of ten columns. Columns, bases, capitals and impost blocks vary in date from the first to the sixth century, suggesting that spolia was used here. Agnellus learned of Bishop Agnellus' burial in the church dedicated to Agatha from his epitaph, which he quotes in full. It is possible he learned of Bishop Agnellus' previous involvement with the church from a textual source which is now lost. John's epitaph survives to this day (CIL II 304). It was found in the floor of the Basilica Ursiana, but in her notes on her translation, Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis argues that John was indeed originally buried in the church dedicated to Agatha, and this inscription was moved later. This is because Bishop Agnellus' epitaph, included here, was also found later in the pavement of the Basilica Ursiana. A reconstruction of this foundation and maps showing the likely locations of the foundations in Classe and Ravenna are attached to 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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