Site logo

The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Gregory the Great in a papal letter (Register 3.58) of 593, to Fortunatus, bishop of Naples, mentions the foundation of an oratory dedicated to *Mary (the Mother of Christ, S00033) in the city or territory of Naples (southern Italy). Written in Latin in Rome.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory the Great (pope)

Pope Gregory the Great, Register of Letters 3.58

Extract from the opening of the letter:

Religiosis desideriis sine difficultate praestari decet effectum. Atque ideo Gratiosa abbatissa una cum congregatione sua, oblata petitione quae tenetur in subditis, postulauit quod patriciae recordationis Rustica, per ultimum uoluntatis suae arbitrium, in ciuitate Neapolitana in domo propria in regione Herculensi in uico qui appellatur Lampadi, monasterium ancillarum dei, in quo praefatam Gratiosam abbatissam praeesse disposuit, simul que et oratorium exstruxisse dinoscitur, cui et pro uoto suo quattuor uncias totius substantiae suae dimisisse suggessit, quod que in honore beatae Mariae semper uirginis genitricis dei et domini nostri Iesu Christi desiderat consecrari. Et ideo, frater carissime, praesenti praeceptione dilectionem tuam duximus adhortandam ut, inspecto primitus testamento, si iure subsistit, et easdem quattuor uncias uerissime eidem monasterio collatas esse compereris, ad praedictum locum cum postulauerint ingrauanter accedas, uenerandae sollemnia dedicationis impendens, ut quotiens necesse fuerit a presbyteris ecclesiae in superscripto loco deseruientibus celebrentur sacrificia ueneranda missarum.

‘It is right to fulfil religious desires when it is not difficult. And this is so in the case of Abbess Gratiosa, who has joined her community in presenting a petition, which is contained in her appendix. In it she has claimed that Rustica, recorded as a patrician, is known to have built a monastery for nuns, through the final decision of her will, in the territory [
or city] of Naples (in civitate Neapolitana). It is in her own home, in the region 'of Hercules', in the village [or quarter] called Lampas. Here she has arranged that the aforesaid Gratiosa should be abbess in charge. She has also built an oratory and, to carry out her vow, Gratiosa has suggested that she withdraw a third of her whole fortune, and she wants it to be consecrated in honour of the blessed Mary, ever virgin and mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. And for that reason, my very dear brother, we thought that your Beloved should be encouraged with the present injunction to inspect the final will first of all and, if it remains lawful, to make certain that the same third has in all truth been spent on the same convent. Please approach the aforesaid place not unwillingly when they ask you to, using the solemn rites of a venerable dedication. Thus the venerable sacrifices of masses may be celebrated by priests of the church in the above mentioned place, whenever necessary.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 1, 206-7. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 1, 278-9, lightly modified.

Cult Places

Cult building - monastic
Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


A letter transmitted as part of Gregory the Great’s Register of Letters. This letter collection, organised into fourteen books, is large and contains letters to a variety of recipients, including prominent aristocrats, members of the clergy and royalty. The issues touched on in the letters are equally varied, ranging from theological considerations to mundane administrative matters. This collection of letters, which was possibly curated by Gregory, was originally much larger. The surviving Register comprises several groups of letters which were extracted at several later moments in history, the largest of which took place in the papacy of Hadrian I (772-795).


Norberg, D., S. Gregorii Magni, Registrum epistularum. 2 vols. (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 140-140A; Turnhout: Brepols, 1982).

English translation:

Martyn, J.R.C.,
The Letters of Gregory the Great, 3 vols. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004).

Further Reading:

Neil, B., and Dal Santo, M. (eds.),
A Companion to Gregory the Great (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

Record Created By

Frances Trzeciak

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Frances Trzeciak, Cult of Saints, E06347 -