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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

A document, probably by Caesaria the Younger, abbess of the women's monastery in Arles, regulates burials in the triple church dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), *John (the Baptist, S00020), and *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397, S00050) by Caesarius of Arles. Written in Latin at Arles (southern Gaul), 550/570.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Canonical and legal texts

Caesaria the Younger (?), Constitutum

... uel amico uel patrono uel deseruienti ad ipsam basilicam sancta Maria in quolibet officio defuncto locum sepulturae intra capsum ipsius uel intra latera sanctorum ei adiacencia, hoc est sancti Iohannis et sancti Martini, nullatenus indulgere, neque in eo membro quod ibi nuper uidetur subiunctum; in quo licet aliqui praedecessores presbiteri uideantur esse sepulti, considerandum tamen sit quod illo tempore ineuitabilis fuit causa necessitatis, quia sacrarium erat; nunc uero ratione data excluditur, quia membrum ipsum basilica facta est, deuotis uirginibus praeparata sepeliendis, non clericis, quibus per alteras basilicas debitus sepulturae negari non potest locus. Nam si deseruientium occupetur sepulturis orationis ambitus, numquid iustum uidebitur, ut nos foris eiciamur quandoque sepeliendae, quibus uoluit deus sicut uitae unum esse ouile, ita et aream unam esse in possessione sepulcri? Quapropter ad euadendam transgressionis poenam, si contra regulam quidpiam in huius modi facto praesumatur, propter scripturam dicentem:
Ne transgrediaris terminos antiquos, quos posuerunt patres tui, ad conseruandum ipsius resurrectionis consortium secundum eum qui dedit et uitae unius contubernium, conspirata Christo inspirante deliberatione subscribamus. Hoc constitutum nostrum perpetua inter eos ualeat, qui nobis deo uolente successerint. obseruatione memorandum, non solum cum iureiurandi ...

'... nor to a friend who has died, nor a patron, nor someone serving the basilica of St Mary in any office, is a place of burial in any way to be granted within the central nave itself or the sides adjacent to it belonging to the saints, that is St John and St Martin, nor in that part which has recently been added, in which, indeed, some past presbyters are buried, but it should be considered that at that time there was an unavoidable cause, since it was the sacristy. But now this is excluded by the reason given, that it has been made part of the basilica prepared for the burial of devoted virgins, not clerics for whom a proper burial place cannot be denied in other churches. For if the place of prayer is occupied by the burials of the serving clergy, will it seem just that we are forced outside for burial, for whom God wanted, just as for there to be a a single sheepfold in life, so also for there to be possession of a single burial place? Hence, to avoid the punishment of transgression if anyone should commit an act of this kind against the rule, because of the saying in scripture:
Do not pass the ancient boundaries which your fathers set [Prov. 22:28], in order to preserve community in the resurrection itself, following him who also gave community of one life, deliberating together through the inspiration of Christ, we subscribe. Let this instruction of ours remain valid perpetually among them who, God willing, succeed us, to be remembered through observance, not merely when it is pledged ...

Text: de Vogüé and Courreau 1988, 496-8. Translation: David Lambert.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Burial ad sanctos

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The Constitutum was discovered by Germain Morin in a fragmentary manuscript (Tours 617, 10th/11th c.) in the municipal library at Tours, which came originally from the monastery of St Martin at Autun. The manuscript disappeared during the Second World War, so Morin's transcription is now the only basis for the text (on the manuscript, see De Vogüé and Courreau 1988, 139-41). As it stands, the text is incomplete, missing at least a few words at the beginning and probably at the end; it also has no title or author's name, but it is clear that it must have been written by the abbess of the female monastic community founded by Caesarius of Arles. It is known as the Constitutum ('decree', 'ordinance') since that term is used by the author (hoc constitutum nostrum).

Apart from the
Constitutum, the manuscript contained texts of Caesarius' Rule for Virgins and a letter from him to Caesaria the Elder, the first abbess of his community (Caesarius, Letter 21). Morin believed that the manuscript was a copy of a dossier of texts sent to Autun by Caesarius' nephew Teridius, who is known to have played a role in circulating his monastic works (Morin 1938): apart from its content, a monogram identifiable as that of Teridius appeared in the manuscript. This is significant for dating the Constitutum since Teridius was a younger contemporary of Caesarius: if he was involved in the transmission of the text it cannot have been composed more than a few decades after Caesarius' death, certainly well before the end of the 6th century.

In their edition of Caesarius' monastic works, Adalbert de Vogüé and Jo
ël Courreau attempted to put the Constitutum in a more precise context, suggesting that it was written by Caesaria the Younger, the niece of Caesarius who was abbess from the 520s, when she succeeded Caesaria the Elder, until her death, probably in the late 550s, and that it was written towards the end of her life as an instruction to her successor. While this reconstruction is plausible, de Vogüé and Courreau themselves acknowledged that it is not certain, and that the Constitutm could be the work of Caesaria's successor Liliola, who is first attested in 561/2 and died in 574 (de Vogüé and Courreau 1988, 461-2).


The Constitutum regulates burials in the 'triple basilica in a single enclosure' whose foundation is described in Life of Caesarius 1.57-8 (E06283). It confirms the statement in the Life that the basilica had a central nave dedicated to Mary, with side aisles dedicated to John the Baptist and Martin of Tours. Other sources (e.g. E07998) refer only to a basilica dedicated to Mary, which has sometimes occasioned doubt as to whether this was the same church. Taking all the evidence together, however, it seems clear that references to the triple basilica and basilica of Mary founded by Caesarius are to the same building (see further discussion in E07949). The church was intended by Caesarius to be the burial place for members of the female monastic community that he founded at Arles, and he included instructions to that effect in his Rule for Virgins (E07949). He himself was buried there on his death in 542.

It is evident from the
Constitutum that by the time it was written Caesarius' instructions were being disregarded and the basilica of Mary was being used for the burial of people from outside the women's monastery, especially members of the local clergy. The Constitutum was intended to halt this. It certainly dates from after Caesarius' death in 542, perhaps many years after (De Vogüé and Courreau 1988, 461-2). De Vogüé and Courreau point out that a significant period must have elapsed since the construction of the church (dedicated in 524) if it was filling up with burials. As noted above, they suggest that the Constitutum was written by Caesaria the Younger shortly before her death (probably in the late 550s), but acknowledge that it could be by her successor Liliola. For more detailed discussion see de Vogüé and Courreau 1988, 463-7, who note peculiarities of language such as capsus for the nave (otherwise only used by Gregory of Tours) and sacrarium for the sacristy. They suggest that the references in the text to the sacristy becoming part of the basilica may reflect only a change of authority over it, not physical alterations to the building.

Constitutum makes no direct reference to burial ad sanctos, but it is obviously likely that the wish of so many members of the clergy to be buried there was in order to be close to the grave of Caesarius.


De Vogüé, A., and Courreau, J., Césaire d'Arles, Œuvres monastiques. Tome I, Œuvres pour les moniales (Sources Chrétiennes 345; Paris, 1988), 496-8, with introduction, French translation and commentary.

Morin, G.,
Sancti Caesarii Arelatensis Opera Varia (Maredsous, 1942), 128-129.

Further reading:
Morin, G., "Problèmes relatifs à la Règle de saint Césaire d'Arles pour les moniales," Revue Bénédictine 44 (1932), 5-20.

Morin, G., "
Le prêtre arlésien Teridius, propagateur des Règles de S. Césaire d'Arles," Recherches de Science Religieuse, 28 (1938), 257-63.

Record Created By

David Lambert

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00020John the BaptistIohannesCertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristMariaCertain
S00050Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397MartinusCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
David Lambert, Cult of Saints, E07999 -