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E00344: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, in its account of *Cornelius (bishop and martyr of Rome, ob. c. 307, S00172), tells of his martyrdom, and his burial in a crypt near the cemetery of Callixtus on the via Appia outside Rome, organised by a pious lady Lucina, on 14 September [AD 253].

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posted on 17.03.2015, 00:00 by robert
Liber Pontificalis 22

First edition (as reconstructed by Duchesne)

Cornelius, natione Romanus, sedit ann. II m. II d. III. Martyrio coronatur
...
Tunc Decius iussit os eius cum plumbatis cedi et duci eum ad templum Martis ut adoraret (aut capite truncaretur). Quod et factum est. Qui etiam decollatus est [in locum supradictum]. Cuius corpus noctu collegit beata Lucina et sepelivit in cripta iuxta cimiterium Calisti, via Appia, in predio suo, XVIII kal. octob.


'Cornelius, born in Rome, held the see 2 years 2 months 3 days. He was crowned with martyrdom.
...
[There follows a short description of Cornelius' trial before the emperor Decius] Then Decius ordered that saint Cornelius’ mouth be beaten with lead-weighted lashes, and that he be taken to the temple of Mars to adore there or be beheaded. And so it happened: he was beheaded [in that place]. The blessed Lucina collected his body at night and buried him in a crypt close to the cemetery of Callixtus on the via Appia on her estate, on the 18th day before the Kalends of October [14 September].'


Second edition

Cornelius, natione Romanus, ex patre Castino, sedit ann. II m. II d. III. Martyrio coronatur
...
Tunc Decius, iracundia plenus, iussit os beati Corneli cum plumbatis caedi et praecepit duci eum ad templum Martis ut adoraret; quod si non fecerit, dicens capite truncari. Hoc autem factum est. Qui etiam decollatus est in locum supradictum et martyr effectus est. Cuius corpus noctu collegit beata Lucina cum clericis et sepelivit in crypta iuxta cymiterium Calisti, via Appia, in praedio suo, XVIII kal. octob.


'Cornelius, born in Rome, son of Castinus, held the see 2 years 2 months 3 days. He was crowned with martyrdom.
...
[There follows a short description of Cornelius' trial before the emperor Decius] Then Decius filled with anger ordered that saint Cornelius’ mouth be beaten with lead-weighted lashes, and that he be taken to the temple of Mars to adore there, saying that if he did not do it he would be beheaded. And so it happened: he was beheaded in that place and became a martyr. The blessed Lucina along with the clergy collected his body at night and buried him in the crypt close to the cemetery of Callixtus on the via Appia on her estate, on the 18th day before the Kalends of October [14 September].'


Text: Duchesne 1886, 65/67 and 150-151. Translation: Davis 2010, 9, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E00344

Saint Name

Cornelius, martyr and bishop of Rome, ob. c. 253 : S00172

Saint Name in Source

Cornelius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

530

Evidence not after

546

Activity not before

253

Activity not after

253

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 - cemetery/catacomb

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Women

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

Cornelius was one of the papal martyrs who acquired significant cult, with his own Martyrdom of Cornelius (E02489), which survives in over 100 manuscripts, and, according to a later passage in the Liber Pontificalis (E01305), a church built to him on the via Appia by Leo I (pope 440-461), which (if the information is accurate) is an accolade at a comparatively early date. Oil from his grave was collected for Queen Theodolinda in c. 600 (E06788), and his grave and/or church are mentioned in all three seventh-century pilgrim itineraries (E00683, E06992, E07892). The account of Cornelius' martyrdom given by the Liber Pontificalis, including the detail of his burial by Lucina, closely follows the story given in the Martyrdom of Cornelius, and is certainly dependent on it.

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). Further reading: Cooper, K., "The martyr, the matrona and the bishop: the matron Lucina and the politics of martyr cult in fifth- and sixth-century Rome," Early Medieval Europe 8 (1999), 297-317.

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