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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, in its account of *Hilarus (bishop of Rome, ob. 468, S00566), tells how he issued a decree at the basilica of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) inside Rome, and of his burial in a crypt outside the city, near *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037), and close to the body of *Xystus III (bishop of Rome, S00601) [AD 468].

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Major author/Major anonymous work

Liber Pontificalis

Liber Pontificalis 48

First edition (as reconstructed by Duchesne)

Hilarus, natione Sardus, ex patre Crispiniano sedit ann. VI m. III d. X...
Qui etiam sepultus est ad sanctum Laurentium, in crypta iuxta corpus beati episcopi Xysti.

'Hilarus, born in Sardinia, son of Crispinianus, held the see 6 years 3 months 10 days...
He was buried at saint Laurence, in a crypt close to the body of the blessed bishop Xystus.'

Second edition

Hilarus, natione Sardus, ex patre Crispino sedit ann. VI m. III d. X.
Hic fecit constitutum de ecclesia in basilica ad sancta Maria, consulatu Basilisco Hermenerico XVI kal. Decemb...

'Hilarus, born in Sardinia, son of Crispinus, held the see 6 years 3 months 10 days...
He issued a decree about the church in the basilica of saint Mary, on 16 November in the consulship of Basiliscus and Hermenericus [AD 465]...'

There follows a list of Hilarus' offerings to various churches in Rome, see E01307.

Qui etiam sepultus est ad sanctum Laurentium, in crypta, iuxta corpus beati episcopi Xysti.

'He was buried at saint Laurence, in a crypt close to the body of the blessed bishop Xystus.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 93 and 242/245. Translation: Davis 2010, 37-39, lightly modified.

Cult Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics
Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Burial ad sanctos


Bodily relic - entire body

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The Liber Pontificalis consists of a series of very short lives of popes. The preface attributes it to pope Damasus (366-384), but this attribution is obviously false. According to Louis Duchesne, the first modern editor of the Liber Pontificalis, the original series of lives was written in Rome by an anonymous author, probably a member of the lesser clergy, in the 530s, and contained the lives from *Peter the Apostle to Felix IV (ob. 530). Shortly after, before 546, the text was re-edited by another anonymous author and only this edition survives. The first edition, however, can be reconstituted on the basis of its two epitomes (and the second edition). The second edition started to be continued systematically from the time of pope Honorius (625–638). It should be noted that Theodor Mommsen dated both editions of the Liber Pontificalis to the 7th century, but his opinion is widely rejected and the commonly accepted dating is that of Duchesne.

For the pre-Constantinian period (before 312), the credibility of the
Liber Pontificalis is very low. The chronology is confused, and details concerning the personal lives, decisions and ordinations of the bishops of Rome at best reflect what people in the 6th century trusted to be true, at worst are a pure invention of the author. The situation changes with the later lives. Already the information of 4th-century papal foundations and offerings are generally trustworthy. The early 6th-century evidence, based on the author's first hand knowledge is even better, though still imperfect.


The decree mentioned in this passage was issued at the synod of 465, held at the Basilica of Mary (Santa Maria Maggiore). As with Xystus III (ob. 440), and very unusually for the Liber Pontificalis, the day of Hilarius' burial at San Lorenzo fuori le mura is not named in this chapter - we cannot say why. According to the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, he was buried on 10 September (assuming that the identification of Bishop Hilarius mentioned in this text with the pope is correct).


Duchesne, L., Le Liber pontificalis. 2 vols (Paris: E. Thorin, 1886-1892) (with substantial introduction and commentary).

Davis, R., The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) (Translated Texts for Historians 6; 3rd ed.; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010).

Record Created By

Robert Wiśniewski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain
S00037Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of RomeLaurentiusCertain
S00566Hilarus, bishop of Rome, ob. 468HilarusCertain
S00601Xystus III, bishop of Rome, ob. 440XystusCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Robert Wiśniewski, Cult of Saints, E01306 -