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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) names his refurbishments in, and offerings to, several churches and oratories in Rome: dedicated to *John (Apostle and Evangelist, S00042), *John the Baptist (S00020), the Apostles *Peter (S00036) and *Paul (S00008), *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037), and *Stephen (the First Martyr, S00030).

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)

The passage about Hilarus' offerings can be found only in the second edition.

Second edition


Hic fecit oraturia III in baptisterio basilicae Constantinianae, sancti Iohannis baptistae et sancti Iohannis euangelistae et sanctae crucis, omnia ex argento et lapidibus pretiosis:
confessionem sancti Iohannis baptistae ex argento, qui pens. lib. C, et crucem auream;
confessionem sancti Iohannis euangelistae ex argento, qui pens. lib. C, et crucem auream;
in ambis oratoriis ianuas aereas argentoclusas...

'He [Hilarus] built 3 oratories in the baptistery of the Constantinian basilica, of saint John the Baptist, saint John the Evangelist, and the Holy Cross, all of silver and precious stones:
confessio of saint John the Baptist, of silver, weighing 100 lb, and a gold cross;
confessio of saint John the Evangelist of silver, weighing 100 lb, and a gold cross;
in both oratories bronze doors chased with silver.'

There follows a list of offerings for the oratory of the Holy Cross, followed by those at the confessio of saint John:

Ante confessionem beati Iohannis:
coronam argenteam, pens. lib. XX;
farum cantarum, pens. lib. XXV;
farum cantarum, pens. lib. XXV.
Item ad sanctum Iohannem intra sanctum fontem:
lucernam auream cum nixus luminum X, pens. lib. V;
cervos argenteos III fundentes aquam, pens. sing. lib. XXX;
turrem argenteam cum delfinos, pens. lib. LX;
columbam auream, pens. lib. II.

In front of the
confessio of the blessed John:
a silver crown weighing 20 lb;
a chandelier weighing 25 lb;
Also at saint John within the holy Font:
a gold lantern with 10 wicks for lighting, weighing 5 lb;
3 silver stags pouring water, each weighing 30 lb;
a silver tower with dolphins, weighing 60 lb;
a gold dove weighing 2 lb...

There follows a list of offerings at the Constantinian Basilica [= the Lateran basilica]


Ad beatum Petrum apostolum:
scyphum aureum, pens. lib. V;
alium scyphum aureum cum gemmis prasinis et yaquintis, pens. lib. IIII;
calices argenteos ministeriales X, pens. sing. lib. II;
amas argenteas II, pens. sing. lib. VIII;
fara cantara argentea XXIIII, pens. sing. lib. V. 
'At the blessed Peter the Apostle:
a gold
scyphus weighing 5 lb;
another gold
scyphus with prase and jacinth jewels, weighing 4 lb;
10 silver service chalices each weighing 2 lb;
2 silver
amae each weighing 8 lb;
24 silver chandeliers each weighing 5 lb.'


Ad beatum Paulum apostolum:
scyphum aureum, pens. lib. V;
alium scyphum aureum cum gemmis, pens. lib. V;
scyphos argenteos IIII, pens. sing. lib. VI;
calices ministeriales X, pens. sing. lib. II;
amas argenteas II, pens. sing. lib. X.

'At the blessed Paul the Apostle:
a gold
scyphus weighing 5 lb;
another gold
scyphus with jewels, weighing 5 lb;
4 silver
scyphi each weighing 6 lb;
10 service chalices each weighing 2 lb;
2 silver
amae each weighing 10 lb.'


Ad beatum Laurentium martyrem:
scyphum aureum cum gemmis prasinis et yacintis, pens. lib. IIII;
lucernam auream nixorum X, pens. lib. V;
scyphum auro purissimo, pens. lib. V;
lampadas aureas II, pens. sing. lib. I;
farum cantarum aureum, pens. lib. II;
turrem argenteam cum delfinos, pens. lib. XXV;
scyphos argenteos III, pens. sing. lib. VIII;
calices ministeriales XII, pens. sing. lib. II;
altarem argenteum, pens. lib. XL;
lampadas argenteas X, pens. lib. XX;
amas argenteas II, pens. sing. lib. X;
In basilica beati Laurenti martyris:
phara cantara argentea X, pens. lib. LX;
cantara aerea XXVI;
ministeria ad baptismum sive ad paenitentem argentea, pens. lib. X;
fara aerea L.

'At the blessed Laurence the martyr:
a gold
scyphus with prase and jacinth jewels, weighing 4 lb;
a lantern of finest gold with 10 wicks, weighing 5 lb;
scyphus of finest gold weighing 5 lb;
2 gold lamps each weighing 1 lb;
a gold chandelier weighing 2 lb;
a silver tower with dolphins, weighing 25 lb;
3 silver
scyphi each weighing 8 lb;
12 <silver> service chalices each weighing 2 lb;
a silver altar weighing 40 lb;
10 silver lamps weighing 20 lb;
2 silver
amae each weighing 10 lb.
10. In the basilica of the blessed Laurence the martyr:
10 silver chandeliers weighing 60 lb;
26 bronze chandeliers;
silver services for baptism and for penance, weighing 10 lb;
50 bronze lights.'


In urbe vero Roma constituit ministeria, qui circuirent constitutas stationes:
scyphum aureum stationarium, pens. lib. VIII;
scyphos argenteos XXV per titulos, pens. sing. lib. X;
amas argenteas XXV, pens. sing. lib. X;
calices ministeriales L, pens. sing. lib. II.
Hic omnia in basilica Constantiniana vel ad sancta Maria constituta recondit.
Hic fecit monasterio ad sanctum Laurentium et balneum et alium sub aere et pretorium <sancto Stephano. Fecit autem oratorium sancti Stephani in baptisterio Lateranense.

'In Rome he arranged services to circulate around the established
a gold
scyphus for stational use, weighing 8 lb;
25 silver
scyphi for the tituli , each weighing 10 lb;
25 silver
amae each weighing 10 lb;
50 service chalices each weighing 2 lb.
He had ordered all these to be kept at the Constantinian basilica and at St Mary’s.
He built a monastery at St Laurence’s, and a bath, and another in the open air, and a
praetorium <to saint Stephen, he also built the oratory of saint Stephen in the Lateran Baptistery>.'

Text: Duchesne 1886, 242-245. Translation: Davis 2010, 37-40, lightly modified

The passage in brackets, <>, is an interpolation, recorded in only some manuscripts of the Liber Pontificalis; it is uncertain when it was added to the text.

Liturgical Activities

Other liturgical acts and ceremonies

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)
Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Construction of cult buildings
Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels
Oil lamps/candles
Precious material objects
Water basins


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.


Two out of three oratories at Lateran Baptistry, those St John the Baptist's, St John the Evangelist's, are still extant and Hilarus' foundation is commemorated by the inscriptions at their doors (see XXXXXXXXXXXXX)

The remark about the oratory of St Stephen, which can be found only in certain manuscripts is most probably an interpolation.
There is no other evidence of this chapel and in the text of Hilarus' vita this mention is placed in a strange context (other foundations named in this part are outside city walls).

The monastery of St Lawrence in the Bath does not exist anymore.

It is not clear what was the function of the 'praetorium' of St Stephen.


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).

Further reading:
Krautheimer, R., Corpus Basilicarum Christianarum Romae: The early Christian Basilicas of Rome (IV–IX Centuries), Vatican City 1937–1977

Brandenburg, H.,
Ancient churches of Rome from the fourth to the seventh century : the dawn of Christian architecture in the West, Turnhout 2005.

Record Created By

Robert Wiśniewski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00008Paul, the ApostlePaulusCertain
S00020John the BaptistIohannes BaptistaCertain
S00030Stephen, the First MartyrStephanusCertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain
S00036Peter, the ApostlePetrusCertain
S00037Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of RomeLaurentiusCertain
S00042John, the Apostle and EvangelistIohannes EuangelistaCertain
S00566Hilarus, bishop of Rome, ob. 468HilariusCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Robert Wiśniewski, Cult of Saints, E01307 -