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E06399: A letter of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 9.166) of 599, to Fortunatus, bishop of Naples, mentions the foundation and consecration of a monastery dedicated to *Hermes (martyr of Rome, buried on the via Salaria vetus, S00404), *Sebastianus (martyr of Rome, S00400), *Cyriacus (presumably the martyr of Rome, S00678) and *Pancratius (martyr of Rome, S00307) in Naples (southern Italy). Written in Latin in Rome.

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posted on 2018-09-11, 00:00 authored by frances, Bryan
Pope Gregory the Great, Register of Letters 9.166

Full text of the letter:

Fraternitati uestrae esse non putamus incognitum quia Romanus clarissimae memoriae uir per ultimae suae uoluntatis arbitrium in domo iuris sui, quae in ciuitate uestra sita est, aedificari monasterium deputauit. Et quia Deo miserante defuncti noscitur uoluntas impleta, sanctitas uestra illic ingrauanter accedat et, si nullum ibidem corpus constat humatum, locum ipsum in honore sanctorum Hermes, Sebastiani, Cyriaci atque Pancratii sollemniter studeat absque missis publicis cum ueneratione debita consecrari, ita ut in eodem loco numquam baptisterium construatur nec presbyterum constituas cardinalem. Sed quotiens missas sibi degentes illic monachi fieri uoluerint, a dilectione uestra presbyterum nouerint postulandum, quatenus nihil tale a quolibet alio sacerdote ullatenus praesumatur.

‘Gregory to Fortunatus, bishop of Naples
We think that your Fraternity is well aware that Romanus, a man of most distinguished memory, through the decision of his final will, decreed that a monastery should be built in a house, legally his, situated in your city. And because the dead man’s will is known to have been implemented, with God’s mercy, let your Holiness go there willingly, and if it is certain that no human body has ever been buried there, you should solemnly take care to consecrate the place itself in honour of Saints Hermes, Sebastianus, Cyriacus and Pancratius, doing so without public masses and with due veneration, so that no baptistry is ever built in that place and you do not consecrate its own priest there. But whenever the monks living there want masses to be held for them, they will know that they will need to request a priest from your Beloved, so that nothing of this sort is ever presumed by any other priest.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 2, 724-5. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 2, 648, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Hermes, martyr of Rome : S00404 Pancratius, martyr of Rome : S00307 Sebastianus, martyr of Rome : S00400 Cyriacus, Smaragdus, Largus and their companions, martyrs of Rome : S00678

Saint Name in Source

Hermes Pancratius Sebastianus Cyriacus

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 - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people


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). From his grouping with the Roman maratyrs Hermes, Sebastianus and Pancratius, the Saint Cyriacus mentioned is presumably the martyr of Rome (S00678), not the more famous Kyrikos/Cyriacus of Tarsus (S00007).


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: 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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