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E06340: A letter of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 3.19) of 593, to Petrus, sub-deacon and papal agent in Campania (southern Italy), requests relics of *Severinus (hermit and monk of Noricum, S00848) for the purpose of the rededication of an Arian church in Rome. Written in Latin in Rome.

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posted on 2018-09-11, 00:00 authored by frances
Pope Gregory the Great, Register of Letters 3.19

Full text of the letter:

Cor nostrum pia diuinitatis inspiratione conpungitur loca quondam exsecrandis erroribus deputata in catholicae religionis reuerentia dedicare. Quia ergo ecclesiam positam iuxta domum Merulanam regione tertia, quam superstitio diu arriana detinuit, in honore sancti Seuerini cupimus consecrare, experientia tua reliquias beati Seuerini summopere debita cum ueneratione transmittat, quatenus quae nostris animis perficienda decreuimus implere, omnipotentis gratia suffragante, possimus.

‘Gregory to Peter, sub-deacon of Campania
Our heart is being pricked by the holy inspiration of divinity to dedicated, with the reverence of our Catholic religion, places which were once condemned for detestable sins. Since therefore we desire to consecrate, in honour of Saint Severinus, a church located next to the Merulan house in the third region, long occupied by the Arian superstition, would your experience please send over relics of Saint Severinus, with the reverence which is highly deserved, so that we can implement what we have decided in our mind should be carried out, with the support of the grace of almighty God.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 1, 165. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 1, 248.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Severinus, hermit and monk in Noricum, ob. 482 : S00848

Saint Name in Source


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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Appropriation of older cult sites

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Heretics

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic


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).


Gregory was presumably seeking relics (whether corporeal or otherwise is not specified) from the monastery of Saint Severinus in the castellum Lucullanum, just outside Naples, where the saint's body rested. It is possible that Gregory intended to dedicate the former Arian church in Rome specifically to Saint Severinus, and with relics of the saint, because Severinus in his lifetime had upheld the Catholic faith when surrounded by Arians in Noricum (see E02347). The letter can be dated to January of 593. There is no further reference in our sources to this planned dedication to Severinus; but in a letter which can be dated to March 594, Gregory mentions the dedication to Saint Agatha (E06350) of a former Arian church in Rome, and this same conversion and dedication are also mentioned in his Dialogues (E04501) and in the short Life of Gregory in the Liber Pontificalis (E01419): the church, Sant'Agata dei Goti, survives. The most likely explanation of the disappearance of a dedication to Severinus of a former Arian church, and the appearance, shortly afterwards, of a dedication to Agatha (also of a former Arian church), is that Gregory changed his mind over which saint to dedicate the same church to, perhaps because he never received the relics of Severinus that he is here requesting.


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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