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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues (3.14), refers to a virgin called Gregoria who was at that time living in Rome, near a church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), almost certainly S. Maria Maggiore. She provides information about *Isaac, (6th c. abbot of Spoleto, central Italy S01755). Written in Latin in Rome, c. 593.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory the Great (pope)

Gregory the Great, Dialogues 3.14

Quem nostrorum multi nouerunt, et maxime sacra uirgo gregoria, quae nunc in hac romana urbe iuxta ecclesiam beatae mariae semper uirginis habitat.

‘Many of our people know of him [Isaac], especially the saintly virgin Gregoria, who now lives here in Rome near the church of the Blessed Mary Ever Virgin.’

Text: de Vogüé 1978. Translation: Zimmerman 1959, modified.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Oral transmission of saint-related stories


Gregory the Great (Pope, 590-604) wrote his Dialogues on the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers (Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum italicorum) in Rome around 593. Organised into four books, the first three are a collection of lives and miracles of various Italian saints. The longest is the Life of Benedict of Nursia, which comprises the entirety of book 2. The final book consists of an essay on the immortality of souls after death. As a whole, the work documents and explains the presence of the miraculous in the contemporary world and the ability of saints to effect miracles both before and after death. The attribution of the Dialogues to Gregory has been disputed, most recently by Francis Clark who argued that the work was created in the 680s in Rome. Others - such as Adalbert de Vogüé, Paul Meyvaert and Matthew dal Santo - have, however, strongly argued for Gregory's authorship and it is broadly accepted that Gregory was responsible for the Dialogues.

For a discussion of Gregory's devotion in writing the
Dialogues, see E04383, and for the role of the Dialogues as a tract justifying the nature of miracles and theorising on the immortality of souls, see E04506.

Gregory's principal aim in collecting the miracle stories of the holy men and a very few women of sixth-century Italy was to show the presence of God's power on earth as manifested through them, rather than to encourage the cult of these individuals. Indeed, though posthumous miracles at the graves of a few individuals are recorded (and also a few miracles aided by contact relics of dead saints), there is very little emphasis in the
Dialogues on posthumous cult; some of the miraculous events that Gregory records (e.g. E04429) are not even attributed to named individuals. Although very few of the holy persons in the Dialogues are 'proper' saints, with long-term cult, we have included them all in our database, for the sake of completeness and as an illustration of the impossibility of dividing 'proper' saints from more 'ordinary' holy individuals.


The church dedicated to Mary is almost certainly Santa Maria Maggiore, although this is not explicit in the text (if it had been a lesser church, Gregory would probably have specified where it was sited). A community of virgins (presumably the same community) is also described living here by Gregory in Dialogues 4.16 (E04586).


Vogüé, A. de, Grégoire le Grand, Dialogues, Sources chrétiennes 260 (Paris: Cerf, 1979).

Zimmerman, O.J., Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great, Fathers of the Church 39 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1959).

Further Reading:
Clark, F.,The 'Gregorian' Dialogues and the Origins of Benedictine Monasticism (Leiden: Brill, 2003).

Dal Santo, M., "The Shadow of A Doubt? A Note on the
Dialogues and Registrum Epistolarum of Pope Gregory the Great (590–604)," Journal of Ecclesiatical History, 61.1, (2010), 3-17.

Meyvaert, P., "The Enigma of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues: A Reply to Francis Clark,"
Journal of Ecclesiastical History 39 (1988), 335–81.

Vogüé, A. de, "Grégoire le Grand et ses Dialogues d’après deux ouvrages récents,"
Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 83 (1988), 281–348.

Record Created By

Frances Trzeciak

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain
S01755Isaac, 6th c. abbot of SpoletoIsaacCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Frances Trzeciak, Cult of Saints, E04477 -