Catalogue of the Churches of the City of Rome (Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae) 20
Postea peruenies uia Appia ad sanctum Sebastianum martirem cuius corpus iacet in inferiore loco. Et ibi sunt sepulcra apostolorum Petri et Pauli, in quibus XL annorum requiescebant. Et in occidentali parte ecclesiae per gradus discendis ubi sanctus Cyrinus papa et martir pausat.
'Then [from the via Latina] you come to saint Sebastianus, the martyr, on the via Appia, whose body rests in a place below. And there, are also the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul, in which they were resting for 40 years. And in the western part of the church you descend by stairs to the place where saint Cyrinus, pope and martyr, rests.'
Text: Glorie 1965, 308. Translation: R. Wiśniewski.
[Sebastianus, martyr of Rome, S00400
; Peter, the Apostle, S00036
; Paul, the Apostle, S00008
; Cyrinus, martyr of Rome, buried under S. Sebastiano, S00539
Saint NamePaul, the Apostle : S00008
Peter the Apostle : S00036
Sebastian, martyr at Rome, d. c. 285-305 : S00400
Cyrinus, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Appia, in the cemetery ad Catacumbas, under the church of San Sebastiano : S00539
Saint Name in SourcePaulus
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries
Evidence not before625
Evidence not after649
Activity not before625
Activity not after649
Place of Evidence - RegionRome and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcRome
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Rome
Major author/Major anonymous workLists of Shrines in Rome
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPilgrimage
Cult Activities - RelicsBodily relic - entire body
Transfer, translation and deposition of relics
SourceThe graves of the martyrs of Rome are quite exceptional in two respects: for the overwhelming number of saints whose names are recorded; and for the level of detail we have on where their bodies were venerated - in the many Martyrdoms surviving from Rome (incomparably more than from any other city), in uniquely rich epigraphic evidence, and in a narrative history, the Liber Pontificalis, that records in loving detail papal improvements to the saintly graves and churches of the city. From the century between circa 590 and 690, we even have four long lists of venerated graves, which were compiled entirely independently of each other: one (the Monza papyrus, $E06788) is a catalogue of holy oil collected at these graves, but the other three, the Notitia Ecclesiarum ($E07900), the De Locis Sanctis ($E07901) and the Itinerarium Malmesburiense ($E07883), are 'itineraries' - in other words texts that introduce their readers to the graves by taking them on a journey through the burial churches and cemeteries that ringed the city. They are often described as pilgrim-guides, which was certainly one of their functions, though they could also serve to introduced the saints of Rome to distant readers.
The Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae is the earliest of these three itineraries. Though it bears the deceptive title 'A catalogue of the churches of the city of Rome', in reality it is an itinerary through the cemeteries outside the city. The itinerary is arranged by the major roads leaving the city, starting in the north, with the via Flaminia, and working round clockwise, to end on the via Cornelia; this arrangement was certainly intentional, in order to close the list with Rome's greatest shrine, the church and grave of Peter on the Vatican hill. Of the three itineraries we have, the Notitia is the closest we have in style to a modern guidebook and the text that it is easiest to imagine in a pilgrim's hands, rather than being pored over in a distant monastic library. In particular, it is the richest in topographical detail, and the only one that directly addresses its reader - 'Then you leave the via Appia ...', 'You descend into the catacomb and find there ...', etc. - whereas the other two itineraries are expressed in the impersonal third person - 'By the via Salaria is the church of ...', etc.
The Notitia was certainly composed during, or shortly after, the pontificate of Pope Honorius I (625-638), because several of his constructions or works of repair are noted, and it is equally certain that it was written before the end of the pontificate of Theodore I (642-649), since, when it describes the church of Valentinus on the Via Flaminia ($E00633), it mentions a repair by Honorius but fails to mention a major rebuilding by Theodore (for which, see $E01629).
A description of the basilica of St Peter (primarily a list of its altars) was subsequently appended to the original text, around the middle of the 8th century. Although this addition falls outside the chronological limits of our database (which we set at AD 700), we have included it for completeness' sake (and because it is an interesting text!) - see $E00690.
The author of the Notitia had a thorough knowledge of the extramural shrines of Rome; but inevitably, with so many Roman martyrs (many with similar or identical names) and with the accretion of different traditions over the centuries, many of the names of martyrs given in the text are of uncertain identification, and it also contains some statements that we can confidently identify as 'errors' (for instance, several popes who are known to have died a peaceful death are here described as martyrs). It is, however, impossible to tell which of these uncertainties and errors were already firmly established at the shrines and which were introduced by our author.
The Notitia survives in a single manuscript, written in Salzburg in the late 790s (Vienna, National Library Ms 795).
For a useful discussion of the text: Valentini and Zucchetti 1942, 67-71.
(Philip Polcar and Bryan Ward-Perkins)
DiscussionThis is the extant church of San Sebastiano on the via Appia, built over the 'Catacumbas' cemetery (a name which was to give us the word 'catacomb').
This place certainly played an important role in the cult of the Apostles Peter and Paul at its very early stage. This role is attested by different pieces of evidence, but the reasons why the Apostles were venerated there remains uncertain. According to some sources (see especially E01052, E01943, E02512, E05087, E06351), it was where the relics of the Apostles were deposited for some time, possibly in the mid-third century. The credibility of this tradition is highly uncertain, but it was widely believed in a later period: see Eastman, 2011, 94-109 and Wiśniewski 2019, 14-17.
The Cyrinus/Quirinus buried under San Sebastiano is a shadowy figure. His grave here is also attested in both the other seventh-century itineraries (E06992 and E07892), but he was certainly never a pope.
Glorie, F. (ed.), Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Christianorum, series Latina 175; Turnhout: Brepols, 1965), 305-311. [Reproduces Valentini and Zucchetti, with a few emendations.]
Valentini, R. and Zucchetti, G. (ed.), Codice topografico della città di Roma (Istituto storico italiano - Fonti per la storia d'Italia; Roma 1942), vol. 2, 72-94.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018), 660-662. [Translates most of the text, but omits parts less relevant to those martyrdom accounts that he includes in his collection.]
Further reading (on the tradition concerning the relics of the Apostles at San Sebastiano):
Wiśniewski, R., The Beginnings of the Cult of Relics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).
Eastman, D., Paul the Martyr: The Cult of the Apostle in the Latin West (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature , 2011).