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E06390: Two letters of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 9.58 and 9.59), both of 598, relate to the foundation of an oratory dedicated to *Sabinus (bishop and martyr of Spoleto, S01878) in Fermo, and to the obtaining of relics of the saint from Spoleto; all in central Italy. 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 9.58 (to Passivus, bishop of Fermo)

Full text of the letter:

Valerianus notarius ecclesiae fraternitatis tuae petitoria nobis insinuatione suggessit, quod habetur in subditis, in fundo Visiano iuris sui iuxta muros ciuitatis Firmanae oratorium se pro sua deuotione fundasse, quod in honore beati martyris Sauini desiderat consecrari. Et ideo, frater carissime, si in tuae parrochiae memorata constructio iure consistit et nullum corpus ibidem constat humatum, percepta primitus donatione legitima, id est in reditu solidos tres liberos a tributis fiscalibus, gestis que municipalibus allegata, praedictum oratorium absque missis publicis sollemniter consecrabis ita, ut in eodem loco nec futuris temporibus baptisterium construatur nec presbyterum constituas cardinalem. Et si missas ibi fieri forte maluerit, a dilectione tua presbyterum nouerit postulandum, quatenus nihil tale a quolibet alio sacerdote ullatenus praesumatur. Sanctuaria uero suscepta sui cum reuerentia collocabis.

‘Gregory to Bishop Passivus
Valerianus, a notary of the church of your Fraternity, has suggested to us with an ingratiating petition, included herewith in an appendix, that he has founded an oratory to show his devotion, in the Visianus estate under his control, next to the walls of the city of Fermo. He wants this to be consecrated in honour of the blessed martyr Sabinus. And for that reason, dearest brother, if the building mentioned is under the control of your parish, and it is certain that no human body has been buried there, first of all receive the legal donation, that is, three gold coins in return, free of payments to the treasury, and record the transaction in the municipal records. Then you will solemnly consecrate it, without public masses, [ensuring] that [neither now] nor in the future is a baptistery constructed in that place and that you do not appoint its own priest. And if perhaps he should wish masses to be celebrated there, he should know that he must ask for a priest of your choice, so that nothing of that sort is presumed by another priest in any way at all. Once you have received his relics, you will place them therein with due reverence.’

Pope Gregory the Great, Register of Letters 9.59 (to Chrysantus, bishop of Spoleto)

The opening sentence of a short letter:

Valerianus notarius ecclesiae firmanae sanctuaria beati martyris Sauini oblata petitione sibi postulat debere concedi, quatenus in eius nomine oratorium propriis constructum sumptibus possit sollemniter consecrari.

‘Valerianus, a notary of the church of Fermo, asks with a petition that he has offered, that relics of the blessed martyr Sabinus should be granted him, so that an oratory built at his own expense might be solemnly consecrated in his [Sabinus'] name.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 2, 615-16. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 2, 580-1, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sabinus, bishop, and companions, martyrs of Assisi and Spoleto (central Italy) : S01878

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 - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials Ecclesiastics - bishops

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).


This is one of a number of surviving papal letters - two from Pelagius I (556-561) and four from Gregory the Great (590-604) - permitting, while also carefully regulating, the consecration and dedication to saints of private oratories, either on aristocratic estates or in monasteries, by the use of a set form of wording: E06878 and E06880 (both from Pelagius); E06377, E06390, E06399, E06403 (all from Gregory). Here the word sanctuaria clearly refers to relics. John McCulloch highlights how Gregory uses this word throughout the Register not only to refer to holy places, but also to relics.


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: 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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