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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor describes how in 693/694 a church in Constantinople near the palace, dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), was demolished and rebuilt elsewhere by the emperor Justinian II. Chronicle compiled in the Byzantine Empire in the early 9th c., using extracts from earlier Greek texts

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Major author/Major anonymous work


Chronicle of Theophanes, AM 6186 [AD 693/4]

ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς ἀπῄτει Καλλίνικον τὸν πατριάρχην ποιῆσαι εὐχὴν, ἵνα καταλύσῃ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τῆς ἁγίας θεοτόκου τῶν μητροπολίτου τὴν οὖσαν πλησίον τοῦ παλατίου, θέλων ἐν τῷ τόπῳ στῆσαι φιάλην καὶ βάθρα κτίσαι τοῦ δήμου τῶν Βενέτων, ὅπως ἐκεῖ δέχωνται τὸν βασιλέα. ὁ δὲ πατριάρχης ἔλεγεν ὅτι· "εὐχὴν ἐπὶ συστάσει ἐκκλησίας ἔχομεν, ἐπὶ δὲ καταλύσει ἐκκλησίας οὐ παρελάβομεν." βιαζομένου δὲ αὐτὸν τοῦ βασιλέως καὶ πάντως ἀπαιτοῦντος τὴν εὐχήν, ἔφη ὁ πατριάρχης· "δόξα τῷ θεῷ τῷ ἀνεχομένῳ πάντοτε, νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. ἀμήν." καὶ τοῦτο ἀκούσαντες κατέλυσαν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐποίησαν τὴν φιάλην. καὶ ἐποίησαν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τῶν μητροπολίτου εἰς τὸ Πετρίν.

'Now the emperor demanded the patriarch Kallinikos that he should recite a prayer enabling him to demolish the church of the holy Mother of God
ton metropolitou, which was near the palace, because he wished to set up a fountain at that spot and erect benches for the Blue faction that they might receive the emperor there. But the patriarch said, "We do have a prayer for the construction of a church, but none has been handed down to us for the destruction of a church." As the emperor went on pressing him and demanding a prayer at all cost, the patriarch said, "Glory be to God who suffers everything, now and for ever and ever. Amen." On hearing this, they destroyed the church and built the fountain. And they built the church ton metropolitou at the Petrion.'

Text: de Boor 1883, 367-8. Translation: Mango and Scott 1997, 513.

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Construction of cult buildings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family
Ecclesiastics - bishops


Theophanes (759/60-818) came from a wealthy and politically prominent family from Constantinople. After marriage and a brief career as a secular official, he became a monk, living in the monastic communities centred around Mount Sigriane in Bithynia, and eventually abbot of the community known as Megas Agros. He acquired the epithet 'Confessor' (Homologetes) through his resistance to the renewal of Iconoclasm by the emperor Leo V (813-820), which led to Theophanes' imprisonment and then exile to the island of Samothrace, where he died. For full discussion of the evidence for Theophanes' life, see Mango and Scott 1997, xliv-lii, and, for a briefer summary, his entry ('Theophanes 18') in the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (

Chronicle of Theophanes covers the period from 284/5 to 812/813. It was a continuation of the Chronicle of George Synkellos (ob. c. 810) which ran from the creation of the world to 284. George had apparently intended to continue his chronicle down to his own time but died before he could do so; the extent to which Theophanes, in producing his chronicle, was simply editing and polishing material already collected by George remains uncertain (see Mango and Scott 1997, liv-lv). The Chronicle of George Synkellos contains some material relevant to the cult of saints, up to its stopping point in 284; however, this is not included in the CSLA database, because the sources for all George's information (chiefly Eusebius) survive and have database entries in their own right.

Theophanes and his sources
The key characteristic of Theophanes’ Chronicle is that it is not a composition of Theophanes’ own, but a patchwork of extracts from earlier sources, collected and arranged in chronicle form, in other words under an entry for each year. Theophanes’ role was confined to piecing the patchwork together (i.e. removing pieces from their original context and placing them under individual years), and to some extent condensing and abbreviating material. As he put it in his preface: 'I did not set down anything of my own composition, but have made a selection from the ancient historians and prose-writers and have consigned to their proper places the events of every year, assigned without confusion' (trans. Mango and Scott 1997, 2). Since many of Theophanes’ sources are still extant, the extracts in his chronicle can often be compared with the original, which shows that that this was indeed his method of compilation, though he makes occasional editorial interventions, and sometimes misunderstands source material (Mango and Scott 1997, lxxii, xci-xcv; Howard-Johnston 2010, 272-3, 276-84).

It is because Theophanes'
Chronicle is essentially a compilation of earlier sources, that a number of extracts from the Chronicle are included in the CSLA database, even though the work itself dates from more than a century after AD 700, our usual cut-off point for evidence. We have not included entries for material in his chronicle which reproduces passages from sources already entered in our database (such as Eusebius, John Malalas, Theodore Lector, Procopius, and Theophylact Simocatta), but have included entries (for the period up to 700) for items in Theophanes whose original source is lost.

For discussion of Theophanes' work as a whole, see the introduction to Mango and Scott's translation (Mango and Scott 1997, xliii-c); Howard-Johnston 2010, 268-312; and the essays in Jankowiak and Montinaro 2015.

Theophanes' chronology is based primarily on the annus mundi (year since Creation). There was more than one system of calculating AM dates in late antiquity and the early middle ages: the one used by Theophanes, following George Synkellos, was the Alexandrian era, which started from the equivalent of 5492 BC, thus making the first year of the chronicle, AD 284/5, the AM year 5777. The first day of the year under the Alexandrian system was 25 March, and this was used by John Synkellos; however, it is evident that Theophanes (without ever stating his practice explicitly) used 1 September as the first day of his chronicle years, thus matching the standard secular dating system in the Byzantine empire (indictions): see Mango and Scott 1997, lxvi. While the year-by-year chronology is based on the annus mundi, Theophanes includes considerable other information in the heading for each entry (not given here): the year from the Incarnation (the same principle as AD dating, but the system used by Theophanes dated the Incarnation to AD 8/9), and the regnal years of the Roman emperor (Theophanes only ever lists one emperor here, normally the one ruling in Constantinople), the king of Persia (the Caliph in later entries), and the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The accuracy and mutual consistency of these different forms of dating varies greatly across different entries. In the body of each entry, Theophanes often preserves the form of dating used by his source, such as consular years or indictions. For a full overview, see Mango and Scott 1997, lxiii-lxxiv.


The precise source for this story is unknown, but it shares the hostility towards Justinian II which is general across the sources for his reign: in this case depicting him as demolishing a church for frivolous purposes. Theophanes states that Justinian replaced the demolished church near the palace and the hippodrome with a new one in the Petrion district, which was in the north of Constantinople, along the Golden Horn, and thus a long way from its original site. On the church of the Mother of God ton metropolitou, see Janin 1969, 197.


de Boor, C., Theophanis Chronographia (Leipzig: Teubner, 1883).

English translation and commentary:
Mango, C., and Scott, R., The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813 (Oxford: OUP, 1997).

On Theophanes:
Howard-Johnston, J., Witnesses to a World Crisis: Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century (Oxford: OUP, 2010).

Jankowiak, M., and Montinaro, P. (eds.),
Studies in Theophanes (Travaux et mémoires 19; Paris: Centre d'Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance, 2015).

Further reading:
Janin, R., La géographie ecclésiastique de l'empire byzantin. I: Les églises et les monastères de la ville de Constantinople (2nd ed.; Paris, 1969).

Record Created By

David Lambert

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of Christἡ θεοτόκοςCertain

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