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E06440: Two letters of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 14.7 and 14.13) of 603 and 604, to Alciso, bishop of Corfu, refer to the deposition of the body of *Donatus (bishop of Euria, ob. late 4th c, S01274) in a church dedicated to *John (the Baptist, S00020, or the Apostle and Evangelist, S00042) in the fortress of Cassiopus (Corfu, Ionian Islands). 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 14.7 [AD 603]

Extracts from two letters which both deal with an issue caused by insecurity on the mainland opposite Corfu. The clergy of the city of Euria (in the province of Epirus Vetus) had decided to withdraw to the greater security of Corfu, bringing with them the body of their saint, Donatus, and had established themselves in the castrum Cassiopi on Corfu. This Gregory approves of, as long as it does not in any way infringe on the authority of the bishop of Corfu, Alciso, within whose diocese the castrum Cassiopi lay:

Oportet ergo ut sacerdotes uel clerus Euriae ciuitatis ab antefati Cassiopi castri habitatione nullatenus repellantur, sed et beati Donati sanctum ac uenerabile corpus, quod se cum detulerunt, in una ecclesiarum antedicti loci, quam elegerint, siue intus seu foris habeant recondendi debita cum ueneratione licentiam; sic tamen, ut dilectioni tuae, in cuius parrochia castrum ipsum est positum, emissa procuretur cautione munitio, per quam promittat nullam sibi in eo potestatem, nullum priuilegium, nullam iurisdictionem, nullam tamquam cardinalis episcopus ulterius auctoritatem defendere sed, pace deo propitio reddita, ablato uenerabili sancti Donati, si maluerint, corpore ad propria se modis omnibus reuersuros, ut huius promissionis persistente memoria nec illi de cetero quicquam sibi illic principaliter quacumque occasione audeant uindicare sed omni se tempore esse ibidem hospites recognoscant, et fraternitatis tuae ecclesia iuris uel priuilegii sui in qualibet parte praeiudicium non incurrat.

‘Therefore, it is proper that the priests and clergy of the city of Euria should in no way be banned from inhabiting the aforesaid fortress of Cassiopus, and they should have the right of depositing with due reverence the holy and venerable body of Saint Donatus, which they brought with them, in one of the churches chosen by them in the aforesaid locality, either inside it or outside it. But let them do so in such a way that your Beloved, in whose diocese that fortress lies, can obtain protection with the issue of a caution, whereby their bishop promises not to defend any power for himself there, or any privilege or any jurisdiction or any further authority. Rather, when peace is restored through the grace of God, they should anyway return to what is theirs, and remove the body of the venerable Saint Donatus, if they prefer to do so, so that as the memory of this promise persists, in future they do not dare to claim any sort of rule there for themselves for any reason, but should recognise that they are guests there at all times, and the church of your Fraternity should incur no prejudice over any part of your lawful privilege.’

Pope Gregory the Great, Register of Letters 14.13 [604]

Sed quia in eodem capitulare memoratus sperasse legebatur antistes, ut in ecclesia beati Iohannis, quae intra castrum quod Cassiopi uocatur est posita, sanctum ac uenerabile corpus beati Donati habeat recondendi licentiam, paratum se esse inquiens dilectioni tuae, propter quod tua probatur esse diocesis, munitionem emittere, nullum tibi ex hoc praeiudicium generari, petitionem ipsius sine effectu non praeuidimus relinquendam, postquam ita sibi necessitatis tempore desiderat ferri consultum, ut ecclesiae tuae iurisdictionem seruare se in omnibus fateatur. Hac itaque ratione permoti, fraternitatem tuam scriptis praesentibus adhortamur ut sine aliqua mora uel excusatione in praenominata beati iohannis ecclesia recondendi suprascripti sancti uenerabile corpus praebeat facultatem.

‘But in that document, the bishop [of Euria] mentioned above was said to have hoped he might have permission to bury the holy and venerable body of Saint Donatus in the church of Saint John, that lies inside the fortress called Cassiopus, saying that he was ready to provide a safeguard for your Beloved, as it is proved to be in your diocese, stating that no damage to you would arise from this act. We decided, therefore, that his request should not be left without a result, for in a time of need he wants a decision to be made about himself, in such a way that he may admit that preserves the jurisdiction of your church in all matters. And so, influenced by this argument, we exhort your Fraternity with this present letter that, without any delay or excuse, you provide an opportunity for the venerable body of the Saint mentioned above to be buried in the afore-named church of Saint John.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 2, 1075 and 1084-5. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 3, 873-4 and 879, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Donatus, bishop of Euroia (Epirus), ob. 387 : S01274 John the Baptist : S00020 John, the Apostle and Evangelist : S00042

Saint Name in Source

Donatus Iohannes Iohannes

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

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Transfer, translation and deposition of 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).


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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