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E05808: Agnellus of Ravenna, in his Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis, written in Latin, describes how members of the imperial family founded a church dedicated to *Zechariah (father of John the Baptist, S00597) in Ravenna (northern Italy), and donated a cup to the same church; he claims these events took place in the 5th c. Account written in Ravenna in 830/846.

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posted on 19.06.2018, 00:00 by frances
Agnellus of Ravenna, Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis 41

Agnellus describes how, inspired by a vision of Zechariah, Singledia, Galla Placidia’s niece, built a church dedicated to the same saint. He states that Galla Placidia endowed the church with liturgical vessels and that one of these chalices is currently present in another church, the Ursiana church. He gives the inscription on the lip of the
chalice:

Offero sancto Zachariae Galla Placidia augusta. 

‘I the empress Galla Placidia offer to St Zachariah’

Text: Deliyannis 2006. Translation: Deliyannis 2004.

History

Evidence ID

E05808

Saint Name

Zechariah, father of John the Baptist : S00597

Saint Name in Source

Zacharias

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories) Inscriptions - Inscribed objects

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

400

Evidence not after

846

Activity not before

400

Activity not after

450

Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ravenna

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

Ravenna Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Agnellus of Ravenna

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Chalices, censers and other liturgical vessels Inscription

Source

Agnellus of Ravenna (ob. c. 846) was a deacon of the cathedral in Ravenna and – by hereditary right – abbot of two monasteries in Ravenna. He wrote his Liber Pontificalis Ecclessiae Ravennatis between 830 and 846, following the model of the Roman Liber Pontificalis. This work provides biographies of all the bishops of Ravenna from the legendary founder bishop Apollinaris to those active in Agnellus’ own day, and was originally composed to be delivered orally, most likely to clerics of Ravenna. This text is preserved in two manuscripts: one from the 15th c. (Bibliotec Estense Cod. Lat. 371 X.P.4.9.) and a fragmentary manuscript from the 16th c. (MS Vat. Lat. 5834). Agnellus bases his account of the lives of late antique bishops on documents preserved in Ravenna, stories which had been transmitted orally, and his own experience of the architectural landscape of 9th c. Ravenna. Agnellus' work contains invaluable architectural and art historical information about Ravenna: Agnellus refers to several religious buildings in Ravenna and the neighbouring settlements of Caeserea and Classe. He describes their decoration and preserves several inscriptions, many of which are now lost to us. It must be remembered this is a 9th c. work. Agnellus’ descriptions of buildings and their fixtures is based on his 9th c. experience, and not late antique reality. Indeed, his accounts of the events of earlier years are often riddled with inaccuracies. Yet it is likely that his descriptions of the churches of Ravenna are more trustworthy. As Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis argues, a comparison of surviving late antique mosaics with Agnellus’ account suggests that his descriptions were largely accurate. This is limited to what he does tell us – for example Arian foundations are often ignored whilst orthodox foundations are emphasised. Yet, overall, this text provides invaluable information about the cult of saints in late antique Ravenna.

Discussion

No member of the imperial family called Singeldia is known. It is possible, as Gillian Mackie suggests, that this is a corruption of Sounigilda, the wife of the Gothic ruler Odoacer. Indeed, Agnellus states that he knows of Singledia's tomb, and we know that Sounigilda was buried in Ravenna. The attribution to a niece of Galla Placidia is therefore spurious and possibly based on oral tradition. Indeed, it is possible that it was Galla Placidia herself who patronised the church. More certain is the presence of a foundation dedicated to Zechariah in 5th c. Ravenna, to which Galla Placidia made a donation. A map showing the likely locations of the foundations in Classe and Ravenna is attached to this record.

Bibliography

Text: Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Agnelli Ravennatis Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 199; Turnhout, 2006). Translation: Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna (Washington D.C., 2004). Further Reading: Deichmann, Friedrich Wilhelm, Ravenna, Hauptstadt des spätantiken Abendlandes, vol. 1-3, (Wiesbaden, 1958-89). Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010). Mackie, Gillian, Early Christian Chapels in the West: Decoration, Function and Patronage (Toronto, 2003). Moffat, Ann, "Sixth Century Ravenna from the Perspective of Abbot Agnellus," in: P. Allen and E.M. Jeffreys (eds,), The Sixth Century – End or Beginning? (Brisbane, 1996), 236-246. Morini, E., "Le strutture monastische a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.2, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 305-312. Schoolman, Edward, Rediscovering Sainthood in Italy: Hagiography and the Late Antique Past in Medieval Ravenna (Basingstoke, 2016). Stansterre, J. M., "Monaci e monastery greci a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.1, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 323-329. Verhoeven, Mariëtte, The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna: Transformations and Memory (Turnhout, 2011).

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