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E00254: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, in its account of *Telesphorus (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00131), tells how he was an anchorite from Greece, became bishop of Rome, died a martyr, and was buried in Rome close to the body of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) on 2 January [c. AD 137].

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posted on 13.01.2015, 00:00 by Bryan
Liber Pontificalis 9

First edition (as reconstructed by Duchesne)

Thelesfor, natione Graecus, ex anachorita, sedit ann. XI mens. III dies XXI. Fuit autem temporibus Antonini et Marci ... Martyrio coronatur ... Qui etiam sepultus est iuxta corpus beati Petri in Vaticanum IIII non. ian.

'Telesphorus born in Greece, a former anchorite, held the see 11 years 3 months 21 days. He was bishop in the time of Antoninus and Marcus ... He was crowned with martyrdom ... He was buried close to the body of the blessed Peter on the Vatican on the fourth day before the Nones of January [2 January].'


Second edition

Telesphorus, natione Graecus, ex anachorita, sedit ann. XI mens. III dies XXI. Fuit autem temporibus Antonini et Marci ... Martyrio coronatur. Qui vero sepultus est iuxta corpus beati Petri in Vaticanum IIII non. ianuar.

'Telesphorus born in Greece, a former anchorite, held the see 11 years 3 months 21 days. He was bishop in the time of Antoninus and Marcus ... He was crowned with martyrdom. He was buried close to the body of the blessed Peter on the Vatican on the fourth day before the Nones of January [2 January].'


Text: Duchesne 1886, 57 and 129. Translation: Davis 2010, 4, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E00254

Saint Name

Telesphoros, anchorite, martyr and bishop of Rome, ob. c. 130 : S00131

Saint Name in Source

Telesphorus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

530

Evidence not after

546

Activity not before

130

Activity not after

546

Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Rome

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Liber Pontificalis

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Source

The Liber Pontificalis consists of a series of short lives of popes. The preface attributes it to pope Damasus (366-384), but this attribution is obviously false. According to Louis Duchesne, the first modern editor of the Liber Pontificalis, the original series of lives was written in Rome by an anonymous author, probably a member of the lesser clergy, in the 530s, and contained the lives from *Peter the Apostle to Felix IV (ob. 530). Shortly after, before 546, the text was re-edited by another anonymous author and only this edition survives. The first edition, however, can be reconstituted on the basis of its two epitomes (and the second edition). The second edition started to be continued systematically from the time of pope Honorius (625–638). It should be noted that Theodor Mommsen dated both editions of the Liber Pontificalis to the 7th century, but his opinion is widely rejected and the commonly accepted dating is that of Duchesne. For the pre-Constantinian period (before 312), the credibility of the Liber Pontificalis is very low. The chronology is confused, and details concerning the personal lives, decisions, and ordinations of the bishops of Rome at best reflect what people in the 6th century trusted to be true, at worst are a pure invention of the author. The situation changes with the later lives. Already the information of 4th century papal foundations and offerings are generally trustworthy. The early 6th century evidence, based on the author's first hand knowledge is even better, though still imperfect.

Discussion

Irenaeus, writing towards the end of the second century (and so quite close to the date of Telesphorus' death in around 137), states that he died a martyr (Adversus haeresies 3.3.3), but, other than this record in the Liber Pontificalis, there is no evidence from Rome of his martyrdom, and no evidence that he attracted cult. For the claim by the author of the Liber Pontificalis that almost all the early bishops of Rome were buried at the Vatican close to St Peter, see E00265. The claim that Telesphorus was an anchorite is obviously false, since this way of life did not exist before the 4th century.

Bibliography

Edition: Duchesne, L., Le Liber pontificalis. 2 vols (Paris: E. Thorin, 1886-1892). (With substantial introduction and commentary.) Translation: Davis, R., The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) (Translated Texts for Historians 6; 3rd ed.; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010).

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