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E05294: Latin epitaph recording the construction of a tomb in a 'basilica maior near the lord Laurentius (ad dominum Laurentium)' (*Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037). Found in the cemetery of Cyriaca ad Sanctum Laurentium, via Tiburtina, Rome. Probably first half of the 5th c.

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posted on 06.04.2018, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Lucillus Felio \s/e vivu conparab[it]
locum vescandente in basilica
maiore ad domnu Laurentium
[in mesu et situ pr](e)sbiteriu

1. Pelio: Ferrua, Felio: Agostinelli || 2. vescandente = biscandentem = bipartium: de Rossi, Ferrua || conparab[it]: Ferrua, comparabit: Agostinelli

'Luclius Felio, when still alive, prepared (this) bipartite tomb in the basilica maior near the lord Laurentius, [in the middle, at the site] of the presbyterium.'

Text: ICVR, n.s., VII, no. 17912 = EDB27138. Translation: P. Nowakowski


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries

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

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Burial ad sanctos

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


Marble plaque broken into three conjoining fragments. H. 0.59 m; W. 1.00 m; Th. 0.03-0.035 m. Letter height 0.045 m. The lower left-hand quarter is now lost. First recorded by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1876, on the surface of the cemetery of Cyriaca ad Sanctum Laurentium in the ager Veranus, in the ruins of an ancient building (a mausoleum?). Deposited in a storehouse at the ager Veranus; in 1890 moved to a storehouse at the Caelian Hill. When revisited by Giuseppe da Bra in the late 1940s or the early 1950s, it was fixed on a wall at a monastery, and one of the fragments was missing. Now on the south wall in the lower church of San Lorenzo fuori le mura. First published by de Rossi in 1876. Reedited with no substantial changes by a number of editors. In the Epigraphic Database Bari, Antonella Daniela Agostinelli offers a colour photograph, and a transcription slightly different from the hitherto reference edition by Antonio Ferrua in the seventh volume of the new series of the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae.


The inscription records the construction of a tomb in the presbyterium of a church termed the basilica maior ad dominum Laurentium. Given the find-spot of the inscription, this, as suggested already by de Rossi, could be a reference to the basilica located near the tomb of the martyr Laurentius (E01295), founded by Pope Sixtus/Xistus III in the 440s, immediately to the west of an earlier Constantinian basilica (with apses symmetrically facing each other), and a subterranean shrine housing the tomb of the martyr (cf. E00404). The latter would then became a kind of a crypt with the body of the martyr for the new church. De Rossi speculated that the tomb of Lucilius Pelio was termed ad dominum Laurentium as it lay in the presbyterium of the basilica maior (the 5th c. church of Sixtus), but still close to this 'crypt' (the 4th c. shrine), accessible by a staircase. De Rossi stressed that these were not the ruins where the plaque was found, and that the stone was apparently displaced from its original location probably after a major refurbishment of the two churches and the obliteration/merging of their adjacent apses. This hypothesis was, however, based mainly on the data supplied by the Liber pontificalis, and early archaeological exploration of the site, whereas the results of the more recent excavations, which revealed the foundations of a Constantinian 'circus-shaped' basilica/burial enclosure in a different place than expected, make it difficult to reconcile the material evidence with the literary sources. The subsequent interventions of Pope Pelagius II (c. 580), and of Pope Honorius III (13th c.), responsible for the present-day shape of the church of San Lorenzo, levelled some earlier structures, and do not ease the problem. Probably the same church, also termed a basilica maior, is mentioned in another inscription from the same cemetery, recording the purchase of a tomb from a grave-digger in b]as{s}ilica maxio[re (ICVR, n.s., VII, no. 17943). In addition, 7th c. pilgrim accounts (E00679; EXXX) still mention two basilicas located at the tomb of Laurence: a major and a minor one. These have been differently interpreted as either, respectively, the Constantinian basilica and the 6th c. church of Pope Pelagius II, or as the 5th c. church of Sixtus III and the Constantinian basilica. To sum up, it is not clear to which of the known, or still to be discovered, churches on the ager Veranus our inscription belongs. We can only regret that it was not found in situ. Its date is, therefore, highly hypothetical, but it is usually dated to the first half of the 5th c.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB27138, see De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), no. 88. De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 7: Coemeteria via Tiburtinae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1980), no. 17912. Krautheimer, R., Corpus basilicarum christianarum Romae. S.Lorenzo fuori le mura (Città del Vaticano: Pontificio istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1962), 96, fig. 91. da Bra, G., Le iscrizioni latine della Basilica di S. Lorenzo fuori le mura del chiostro e delle catacombe di S. Ciriaca (Rome: Scuola tipografica Pio X, 1931), 100, no. 159. Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2129. Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 169, no. 155. Marucchi, O., Le catacombe romane (Rome: Desclée, Lefebvre E.C., 1905, 2nd ed.), 308. Armellini, M., Gli antichi cimeteri cristiani di Roma e d'Italia (Rome: Tipografia poliglotta, 1893), 300. de Rossi, G.B., "Scoperte nell'agro Verano e nel sotterraneo cimitero di Ciriaca", Bulletino di archeologia cristiana 3 Ser. 1 (1876), 23. Further reading: Fiochhi Nicolai, V., "Basilica Marci, coemeterium Marci, basilica coemeterii Balbinae. A proposito della nuova basilica circiforme della via Ardeatina e della funzione funeraria delle chiese "a deambulatorio" del suburbio romano" in: A. Guiglia Guidobaldi (ed.), Ecclesiae urbis: Atti del Congresso internazionale di studi sulle Chiese di Roma (IV-X secolo), Roma, 4-10 settembre 2000 (Città del Vaticano: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, 2002), 1194, note 34. Geertman, H., ""Cripta anulare ante litteram." Forma, contesto e significato del monumento sepolcrale di San Lorenzo a Roma", in: M. Lamberigts, P. van Deun, Martyrium in multidisciplinary perspective: Memorial Louis Reekmans (Leuven: University Press, 1995), 143, note 43. Solin, H., "Analecta epigraphica CCVII-CCXV", Arctos 37 (2003), 201.

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