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E00363: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, in its account of *Felix I (bishop of Rome, S00200), tells how he instituted the custom of celebrating mass at the tombs of martyrs, and records Felix's burial in his own cemetery on the via Aurelia outside Rome (the second edition states that this was in a basilica he had built there), on 30 May [AD 274].

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posted on 02.04.2015, 00:00 by robert
Liber Pontificalis 27

First edition (as reconstructed by Duchesne)

Felix, natione Romanus, ex patre Constantio, sedit ann. IIII, m. III d. XXV. Martyrio coronatur. Fuit autem temporibus Claudi et Aureliani, a consulatu Claudi et Paterni usque ad consulatu Aureliani III et Capitulini. Hic constituit super sepulcra martyrum missas celebrare ... Qui sepultus est in cimiterio suo, via Aurelia, miliario II, III kal. iun.

'Felix, born in Rome, son of Constantius, held the see 4 years 3 months 25 days. He was crowned with martyrdom. He was bishop in the time of Claudius and Aurelian, from the consulship of Claudius and Paternus [AD 269] to the third consulship of Aurelian and that of Capitolinus [AD 274]. He decreed that mass be celebrated over the tombs of martyrs ... He was buried in his own cemetery on the 3rd day before the Kalends of June [30 May], on the via Aurelia at the 2nd mile from Rome.'


Second edition

Felix, natione Romanus, ex patre Constantio, sedit ann. IIII, m. III d. XXV. Martyrio coronatur. Fuit autem temporibus Claudii et Aureliani, a consulatu Claudii et Paterni usque ad consulatu Aureliani et Capitulini. Hic constituit supra memorias martyrum missas celebrare ... Hic fecit basilicam in Via Aurelia, ubi et sepultus est, III kal. iunias, miliario ab urbe Roma II.

'Felix, born in Rome, son of Constantius, held the see 4 years 3 months 25 days. He was crowned with martyrdom. He was bishop in the time of Claudius and Aurelian, from the consulship of Claudius and Paternus [AD 269] to that of Aurelian and Capitolinus [AD 274]. He decreed that mass be celebrated over the memorials (memoriae) of martyrs... He built a basilica on the Via Aurelia, where he was buried on the 3rd day before the Kalends of June [30 May], at the 2nd mile from Rome.'


Text: Duchesne, 71 and 158. Translation: Davis 2010, 11, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E00363

Saint Name

Felix, martyr and bishop of Rome, ob. c. 273 : S00200 Anonymous martyrs : S00060

Saint Name in Source

Felix

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

530

Evidence not after

546

Activity not before

260

Activity not after

280

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 - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

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

It is in fact very doubtful that Felix was buried on the via Aurelia, since the Depositio Episcoporum of c. 354, which is a generally reliable text and some two centuries closer to Felix' s death than the Liber Pontificalis, records his grave as being in the cemetery of Callixtus on the via Appia (E01051). However, by the sixth/seventh century the belief that he lay on the via Aurelia, together with another Bishop Felix (Felix II of the fourth-century), was well established and features in the pilgrim itineraries (E00689, E06982, E07896). The uncertainty over his place of burial also raises doubts as to whether Felix really built a church on the via Aurelia. By the sixth century it was entirely normal to celebrate mass over the graves of martyrs in the churches built at their burial places. It is very probable that the Liber Pontificalis is here reading back into the third century a practice that only developed much later.

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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