Prima porta Cornelia, quae modo dicitur porta sancti Petri, et via Cornelia. Iuxta eam aecclesia beati Petri sita est, in qua corpus eius iacet, auro et argento et lapidibus parata; et nullus hominum scit numerum sanctorum martirum qui in eadem aecclesia pausant. In eadem uia est altera aecclesia, in qua requiescunt sanctae uirgines Rufina et Secunda. In tertia aecclesia sunt Marius et Martha, et Audifax et Abacuc filii eorum.
'The first gate, the Cornelia, which is now called saint Peter's gate, and the via Cornelia. Near it stands St Peter's church, in which his body lies, adorned with gold and silver and precious stones, and no man knows the number of the holy martyrs who rest in that same church. On the same road is another church, in which rest the holy virgins Rufina and Secunda; and in a third church are Marius and Martha with their sons Audifax and Abacuc.'
Text and translation: Mynors, Thomson, and Winterbottom 1998, 614-617, modified.
[Peter, the Apostle, S00036
; *Rufina and Secunda, virgins and martyrs of Silva Candida, near Rome, S00814
; *Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacuc, husband, wife and two sons from Persia, martyrs of the via Cornelia near Rome]
Saint NamePeter, the Apostle : S00036
Rufina and Secunda, virgins and martyrs of Silva Candida, near Rome : S00814
Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacuc, husband, wife and two sons from Persia, martyrs of the via Cornelia near Rome : S01163
Saint Name in SourcePetrus
Marius, Martha, Audifax, Abacuc
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries
Evidence not before642
Evidence not after683
Activity not before642
Activity not after683
Place of Evidence - RegionRome and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcRome
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Rome
Major author/Major anonymous workLists of Shrines in Rome
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Places Named after Saint
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPilgrimage
Cult Activities - RelicsBodily relic - entire body
SourceThe graves of the martyrs of Rome are quite exceptional in two respects: for the overwhelming number of saints whose names are recorded; and for the level of detail we have on where their bodies were venerated - in the many Martyrdoms surviving from Rome (incomparably more than from any other city), in uniquely rich epigraphic evidence, and in a narrative history, the Liber Pontificalis, that records in loving detail papal improvements to the saintly graves and churches of the city. From the century between circa 590 and 690, we even have four long lists of venerated graves, which were compiled entirely independently of each other: one (the Monza papyrus, E06788) is a catalogue of holy oil collected at these graves, but the other three, the Notitia Ecclesiarum (E07900), the De Locis Sanctis (E07901) and the Itinerarium Malmesburiense (E07883), are 'itineraries' - in other words texts that introduce their readers to the graves by taking them on a journey through the burial churches and cemeteries that ringed the city. They are often described as pilgrim-guides, which was certainly one of their functions, though they could also serve to introduced the saints of Rome to distant readers.
William of Malmesbury, a monk of Malmesbury abbey in Wiltshire (England), included one of these itineraries in his massive work of history, the Gesta Regum Anglorum ('Deeds of the English Kings'), which he completed in 1125: hence the modern title given to this itinerary, the Itinerarium Malmesburiense (the 'Malmesbury Itinerary'). William introduces the text as an excursus on the gates and saints of Rome, as if it were his own composition: '... that it [Rome] may lack none of its due honour, I will append the number of the gates and its long list of the remains of saints'. But in reality he is quoting a much earlier text, that he had found somewhere in an English library, dating from before the massive translation of saintly bodies into the city in the late eighth and ninth centuries; indeed, as we will see below, the text can be dated with confidence to the mid or later seventh century. There is of course a possibility that William edited what he had found; but there are no obvious anachronisms in what he recorded, and when he wrote, in introducing the itinerary, that he 'will use the casual words of everyday speech', he may well be excusing the verbatim transcription of a text so simple that it rather offended his educated sensibilities.
Like the other two itineraries, the Itinerarium Malmesburiense, takes one round the suburban cemeteries of Rome, major road by major road, listing the churches and principal graves that lay along them, starting with the via Cornelia and the church and grave of Peter, then proceeding clockwise round the city to the via Aurelia, and closing with a short list of those saints whose bodies already rested within the walls. Uniquely, our itinerary names not only the roads, but also the relevant gates in the Aurelianic walls, revealing that these were increasingly being called after the saints whose shrines lay near them. Unlike the Notitia Ecclesiarum, which directly addresses the reader in the second person singular ('Then you go ...' etc.), the Itinerarium (in common with the De Locis), uses the impersonal 'By this road is ...' etc.
The Itinerarium can be dated with confidence to the years between 642 and 683, from information given in its list of intramural saintly burials (E07897). There we learn that the bodies of Primus and Felicianus were already in the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo, the result of a translation from a cemetery on the via Nomentana effected by Pope Theodore I (642-649; E01629). On the other hand, the translation of the bodies of Simplicianus, Faustinus and Beatrix from the via Nomentana to the church of Santa Bibiana, carried out by Pope Leo II (682-683; E01678), is not mentioned, and, since our author seems to have done a very thorough job of recording intramural burials, this must mean that it had not yet occurred.
DiscussionThe graves along the via Cornelia mentioned here, extending to Silva Candida some way from the city, are all familiar from other texts; however, because the text of the Malmesburiense is organised according to the gates of the city (as well as the roads out of Rome), we also learn here that by the later seventh century the porta Cornelai had become the porta sancti Petri.
Mynors, R.A.B., Thomson, R.M., and Winterbottom, M. (ed. and trans.), William of Malmesbury. Gesta Regum Anglorum (Oxford Medieval Texts; Oxford 1998), vol. 1, 614-621.
Glorie, F. (ed.), Itinerarium Malmesburiense, in Itineraria et alia geographica aetatis patrum, saec. VI - VIII (Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 175; Turnhout: Brepols, 1965), 325-328. [Reproduces Valentini and Zucchetti's text.]
Valentini, R. and Zucchetti, G. (ed.), Codice topografico della città di Roma (Istituto storico italiano - Fonti per la storia d'Italia; Roma 1942), vol. 2, 141-153.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018), 664-666. [Translates most of the text, but omits parts less relevant to the martyrdom accounts that he includes in his collection.]