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E06404: A letter of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 9.184) of 599, to Constantius, bishop of Milan (northern Italy), sends relics of *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), *John (possibly the Baptist, S00020) and *Pancratius (martyr of Rome, S00307), and sets out how they should be deposited. 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 9.184

Full text of the letter:

Lator praesentium Euentius diaconus fraternitatis uestrae nobis inter alia intimauit sibi a uobis iniunctum ut reliquias beati Pauli apostoli sed et beatorum Iohannis et Pancratii per eum ad uos dirigere deberemus. Quam petitionem uestram curauimus effectui mancipandam. Fraternitas ergo uestra solito studio perscrutari non differat, quatenus in locis quibus recondendae sunt luminaria uel alimonia ibidem seruientium ante dedicationem loci ipsius debeant profligari et tunc in eisdem locis directa sanctuaria sui cum reuerentia collocentur, ne loca deo dicata, si praedicta prouisio omissa nunc fuerit, futuris temporibus destituta, quod absit, seruientium repperiantur obsequiis.

'Gregory to Constantius, bishop of Milan
The bearer of this letter, Eventius, deacon of your Fraternity, intimated to us among other things that you had ordered him that we ought to direct to you through him relics of Saint Paul the apostle and also Saints John and Pancratius. And we have taken care to bring this petition of yours into effect. Therefore, let your Fraternity not put off examining this with your usual keenness, so that in the places where the lamps and food of those servants of God in Milan had to be stored before the dedication of that place they should be removed, and then in the same places the relics we have sent should be placed with reverence, in case those places, dedicated to God, might become destitute in future times (Heaven forbid!), if the aforesaid provision should now be omitted, and be used for the burial of servants of God.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 2, 740. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 2, 657, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paul, the Apostle : S00008 John the Baptist : S00020 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042 Pancratius, martyr of Rome : S00307

Saint Name in Source

Paulus Iohannes Iohannes Pancratius

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 - Places

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Unspecified relic

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles


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).


It is not clear from the letter which Saint John, of multiple possibilities, is the saint whose relics are here discussed. The John most venerated was the Baptist; but Rome was not a major repository of his 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: 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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