Saint NameCornelius, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00172
Saint Name in SourceCornelius
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Inscriptions - Graffiti
Evidence not before253
Evidence not after300
Activity not before253
Activity not after300
Place of Evidence - RegionRome and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcSuburban catacombs and cemeteries
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Suburban catacombs and cemeteries
Cult activities - Festivals
- Anniversary of relic invention/translation
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsCeremonies at burial of a saint
Cult Activities - RelicsTransfer, translation and deposition of relics
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsInscription
SourceFour conjoining fragments of a large marble plaque. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.56 m; W. 1.70 m; Th. 0.05 m. Presumed original width 1.73 m. The left-hand end is lost. Letter height 0.04 m.
The fragment bearing the passage 'nelius martyr' was first recorded by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1849 in a vineyard above the cemetery, lying in the ground close to a house (although another record says that it was found in 1848, probably in error, according to Antonio Ferrua). De Rossi found the lower missing fragments in 1853 in a crypt identified as that of Cornelius. The inscription is now displayed in the crypt.
First published by de Rossi in 1853. For a full list of editions up to 1964, see the commentary in the Insciptiones Christianae Urbis Romae, vol. 4, no. 9367.
DiscussionThe inscription is the epitaph for the mid-3rd c. bishop of Rome (pope) Cornelius. Ferrua supposed that the lost part of the inscription recorded the date of the deposition of Cornelius' body. Based on the literary sources, it has been disputed whether Cornelius died a martyr's death. The Liberian Catalogue (Catalogus Liberianus) records his peaceful death in exile at Centumcellae in Italy: Centumcellis dormitionem accepit (sub a. 253). Similarly, regarding our inscription, Josef Wilpert suggested that the word 'martyr' was carved later than the rest of the text, by a different stone-cutter, whilst Paul Styger proposed that it was added later but by the same artisan. Antonio Ferrua argued against these interpretations, and believed that the term 'martyr' was an integral part of the inscription from the very beginning. His main argument is, however, the presumed presence of the now lost date of the deposition which he perceived as a sign of esteem due to martyrs. For a short reassessment of current scholarship on the life and death of Cornelius, see Trout 2015, 120.
Ferrua notes that the plaque bears several visitors' inscriptions, published under ICUR IV, no. 9374 (= EDB1924-1925, 19741-19742):
A: Teo[fi]latu | Leo
B:Tufilatus Petr(u)s | Γρεγόρι πρ(εσβυτέρου)
C: Atrianus | + Bibianoc (?)
Dating: The inscription must postdate the death of Cornelius which is traditionally placed in 253 (or: 252, see Amore 1975/2013, 158-159, and Lapidge 2018, 195-196), and his burial in the crypt. Recent scholars (Giordani 2005, Amore 1975/2013, 158-172) argue, however, for the deposition of Cornelius' relics only after 354, probably during the pontificate of pope Damasus, as he does not appear in the Depositio martyrum dated 354 (see E01052). Or, as he was buried elsewhere than earlier popes, at least after 283, after the last burial and apparent filling in of the 'Papal Crypt'. The visitors' inscriptions are dated by Antonio Felle to the late 8th - early 9th c.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB20437, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/20437
De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 4: Coemeteria inter Vias Appiam et Ardeatinam (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1964), no. 9367, and corrigenda, p. 533.
Ferrua, A., Epigramata damasiana (Roma: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1942), 138, n. 19(2).
de Rossi, G.B., La Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. 1 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1864), 277, 293, 304 and Tav. IV 2.
de Rossi, G.B., Annali delle scienze reliogiose 11 (1853), 283.
Amore, A., I martiri di Roma. A cura di Alessandro Bonfiglio (Todi: Tau Editrice, 1st ed. 1975, 2nd ed. 2013), 158-172.
Giordani, R., "Sul problema dell'età della traslazione a Roma delle spoglie di papa Cornelio", Vetera Christianorum 42 (2005), 251-273.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), 195-200, and 642.
Reekmans, L., La tombe du pape Cornelie et sa région cémétériale (Roma sotterranea cristiana 4, Città del Vaticano: , 1964).
de Rossi, G.B., Bullettino di archeologia cristiana (1881), 159 (the date of discovery recorded as 1848).
Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry. Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 120.
Wilpert, J., La Cripta dei Papi e la cappella di Sainta Cecilia ne cimetero di Callisto (Rome: Desclée & C., 1910), 26-36.