Catalogue of the Churches of the City of Rome (Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae)
This text, although titled a catalogue of the churches of Rome, is in reality an itinerary through the cemeteries surrounding the city, listing the graves that lay along the major roads out of Rome, one road after another. The itinerary begins with a single grave inside the walls of Rome, before going north to the via Flaminia, and then proceeding clockwise round the city, ending with the via Cornelia (here called the via Vaticana) and the grave and church of Peter.
Listed here below are our entries in the database for each individual road:
The grave of Iohannes and Paulus at the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, inside the city - E00259
The graves of the via Flaminia - E00633
The graves of the via Salaria vetus - E00636
The graves of the via Salaria nova - E00637
The graves of the via Nomentana - E00676
The graves between the via Nomentana and the via Tiburtina - E00678
The graves of the via Tiburtina - E00679
The graves of the via Labicana - E00680
The graves of the via Latina - E00681
The graves at San Sebastiano on the via Appia - E00682
The other graves of the via Appia - E00683
The graves of the via Ardeatina - E00684
The graves of the via Ostiensis - E00687
The graves of the via Portuensis - E00688
The graves of the via Aurelia - E00689
The church and grave of St Peter on the 'via Vaticana' (i.e. Cornelia); followed by a later 8th c. list of the altars in the basilica - E00690
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries
Evidence not before625
Evidence not after649
Activity not before625
Activity not after649
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 - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPilgrimage
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.
The Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae is the earliest of these three itineraries. Though it bears the deceptive title 'A catalogue of the churches of the city of Rome', in reality it is an itinerary through the cemeteries outside the city. The itinerary is arranged by the major roads leaving the city, starting in the north, with the via Flaminia, and working round clockwise, to end on the via Cornelia; this arrangement was certainly intentional, in order to close the list with Rome's greatest shrine, the church and grave of Peter on the Vatican hill. Of the three itineraries we have, the Notitia is the closest we have in style to a modern guidebook and the text that it is easiest to imagine in a pilgrim's hands, rather than being pored over in a distant monastic library. In particular, it is the richest in topographical detail, and the only one that directly addresses its reader - 'Then you leave the via Appia ...', 'You descend into the catacomb and find there ...', etc. - whereas the other two itineraries are expressed in the impersonal third person - 'By the via Salaria is the church of ...', etc.
The Notitia was certainly composed during, or shortly after, the pontificate of Pope Honorius I (625-638), because several of his constructions or works of repair are noted, and it is equally certain that it was written before the end of the pontificate of Theodore I (642-649), since, when it describes the church of Valentinus on the Via Flaminia (E00633), it mentions a repair by Honorius but fails to mention a major rebuilding by Theodore (for which, see E01629).
A description of the basilica of St Peter (primarily a list of its altars) was subsequently appended to the original text, around the middle of the 8th century. Although this addition falls outside the chronological limits of our database (which we set at AD 700), we have included it for completeness' sake (and because it is an interesting text!) - see E00690.
The author of the Notitia had a thorough knowledge of the extramural shrines of Rome; but inevitably, with so many Roman martyrs (many with similar or identical names) and with the accretion of different traditions over the centuries, many of the names of martyrs given in the text are of uncertain identification, and it also contains some statements that we can confidently identify as 'errors' (for instance, several popes who are known to have died a peaceful death are here described as martyrs). It is, however, impossible to tell which of these uncertainties and errors were already firmly established at the shrines and which were introduced by our author.
The Notitia survives in a single manuscript, written in Salzburg in the late 790s (Vienna, National Library Ms 795).
For a useful discussion of the text: Valentini and Zucchetti 1942, 67-71.
(Philip Polcar and Bryan Ward-Perkins)
Glorie, F. (ed.), Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Christianorum, series Latina 175; Turnhout: Brepols, 1965), 305-311. [Reproduces Valentini and Zucchetti, with a few emendations.]
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, 72-94.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018), 660-662. [Translates most of the text, but omits parts less relevant to those martyrdom accounts that he includes in his collection.]