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E06339: A letter of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 3.3) of 592, to Iohannes, an abbot of Syracuse (Sicily), asks that a tunic of Saint *John (either the Baptist, S00020, or the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) be brought to him. Written in Latin in Rome.

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posted on 2018-09-11, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Pope Gregory the Great, Register of Letters 3.3

From a letter to the abbot of the monastery of Saint Lucia in Syracuse:

De tunica uero sancti Iohannis omnino grate suscepi, quia sollicitus fuisti mihi indicare. Sed studeat dilectio tua mihi ipsam tunicam aut, quod est melius, eundem episcopum qui eam habet cum clericis suis cum ipsa ad me transmittere, quatenus et benedictione tunicae perfruamur, et de eodem episcopo uel clericis mercedem habere ualeamus.

‘But I heard about the tunic of Saint John with extreme gratitude, as you had taken the trouble to inform me. But let your Beloved be keen to send the tunic itself over to me, or even better, send the same bishop who has it along with his clergy, so that we may enjoy the blessing of the tunic and receive a benefit (merces) from the same bishop and clergy.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 1, 148. Translation: Martyn 2004, 236-7.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

Iohannes Iohannes

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • 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


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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory the Great (pope)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Transfer/presence of relics from distant countries


A letter transmitted as part of Gregory the Great’s Register of Letters. This letter collection, organised into fourteen books, is large and contains letters to a variety of recipients, including prominent aristocrats, members of the clergy and royalty. The issues touched on in the letters are equally varied, ranging from theological considerations to mundane administrative matters. This collection of letters, which was possibly curated by Gregory, was originally much larger. The surviving Register comprises several groups of letters which were extracted at several later moments in history, the largest of which took place in the papacy of Hadrian I (772-795).


Nothing more is known about this relic. It is most likely to have been a tunic of the Baptist, who attracted considerably more cult than the Apostle and Evangelist.


Edition: Norberg, D., S. Gregorii Magni, Registrum epistularum. 2 vols. (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 140-140A; Turnhout: Brepols, 1982). English translation: Martyn, J.R.C., The Letters of Gregory the Great, 3 vols. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004). Further Reading: Dal Santo, M., Debating the Saints' Cult in the Age of Gregory the Great (Oxford: OUP, 2012). McCulloch, J., "The Cult of Relics in the Letters and Dialogues of Gregory the Great," Traditio 32 (1976), 145-184. Neil, B., and Dal Santo, M. (eds.), A Companion to Gregory the Great (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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