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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 a papal letter (Register 14.9) of 603, to Iohannes, bishop of an unnamed see, authorises the consecration of a basilica dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) somewhere in 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 14.9

Full text of the letter:

Basilicam quam a dilectione tua in honorem beatae semper uirginis Mariae per Sauinum subdiaconum nostrum et rectorem patrimonii suggeris esse perfectam consecrandi tibi praeceptionis nostrae serie facultatem noueris attributam, quatenus, frater carissime, deuotionis tuae desiderium complens celebritatis perfectione gratuleris.

‘Gregory to Bishop Iohannes
You suggest that a basilica has been completed by your Beloved in honour of the ever blessed Virgin Mary, through Sabinus, our sub-deacon and manager of our patrimony. Be aware that the right to consecrate it has been attributed to you by the words of our command, so that, my dearest brother, you may rejoice in the perfection of renown, by completing the object of your devotion.’

Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 2, 1079. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 3, 876.

Liturgical Activities

Ceremony of dedication

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Construction of cult buildings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - bishops


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).


Sabinus was a manager of Gregory’s affairs in Calabria. Although a note in the MGH edition suggests that John was bishop of Palermo, this suggests that a city in mainland southern Italy is more plausible.


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, E06442 -