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E06436: A letter of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 13.43) of 603, to Eulogius, bishop of Alexandria (Lower Egypt), is accompanied by a small cross containing fragments of the chains of the apostles *Peter (S00036) and *Paul (S00008); Eulogius is encouraged to place the cross over his eyes, since these relics often effect miracles. Gregory also thanks Eulogius for a gift of relics of *Mark (the Evangelist, S00293). 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 13.43

Extract from the very end of the letter:

Praeterea transmisimus crucem paruulam, in qua de catenis amatorum uestrorum sanctorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum inserta benedictio, quae oculis uestris assidue superponatur, quia multa per eandem benedictionem miracula fieri consueuerunt.

Omnipotens Deus cordi uestrae beatitudinis aspiret, ut pro me orare assidue curetis, et uos uestrosque omnes sua dextera protegat atque post longa annorum curricula ad caelestia regna perducat.

Eulogias uero sancti Marci a beatissima fraternitate uestra transmissas cum ea caritate qua sunt directae secundum notitiam earum suscepimus et gratias affectui uestro referimus, quia ex exterioribus, quales erga nos interius sitis, agnoscimus.

‘Further, we have sent over a tiny cross, with a blessing (benedictio) inserted from the chains of your beloved Saints Peter and Paul the apostles. Place this regularly over your eyes, as many miracles have taken place through that blessing.

May almighty God inspire the heart of your Beatitude to take care in praying for me continuously, and may he protect you and all your people with his right hand, and after long cycles of years, lead you to his heavenly kingdom.

We have received the blessings (eulogiae) of Saint Mark sent by your most blessed Fraternity with that love with which they were sent, following the notice of them, and we return thanks for your affection, because from these external things we recognise what you are like towards us internally.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 2, 1049. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 3, 858.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008 Mark the Evangelist : S00293

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Paulus Marcus

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

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - instrument of saint’s martyrdom Reliquary – privately owned Privately owned relics Division of relics Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Other activities with relics


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 sent relics, containing filings from the chains that had bound Peter, to a substantial number of his most distinguished correspondents: two were within reliquaries in the form of a cross: E06436 and E06343; most within reliquaries in the form of keys, an obvious echo of Peter's role as the keeper of the keys of heaven: E02814, E02825, E06345, E06363, E06383, E06410, E06422, E06427. Several letters tell us that they were designed to be worn round the neck of the recipient, and would offer protection against various evils. They are sometimes described as a 'most sacred key from the body' of Peter, suggesting that, as well as containing a relic of the chains, they had lain for a period in close proximity to Peter's grave. From a letter of Gregory to Theoctista, the sister of the emperor Maurice (E06375), we learn that at least one such key was made of gold, and that the practice of distributing them began before Gregory's pontificate, since a story told in this letter has a gold key being returned to Gregory's predecessor, Pelagius II (pope 579-590). Rome also claimed chains that had bound the Apostle Paul, from which Gregory also sent out fragments: E06351 and E06436. In a letter to the empress Constantina, offering her fragments of the chains of Paul (E06351), Gregory explains how these were obtained: by a priest applying a file to them; he is, however, careful to state that this did not always work, implying that divine sanction was also required. In this letter, Gregory also thanks Eulogius for 'blessings of Saint Mark', which he had sent, using the Greek word eulogiae, to echo Eulogius' name. Presumably these blessings were relics of the Evangelist, like the blessing/benedictio from the chains of Peter and Paul that Gregory sent to Alexandria.


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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