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E06343: A letter of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 3.33) of 593, to Dynamius, patrician of Gaul, is accompanied by a small cross containing fragments of the chains of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) and of the gridiron of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037); worn round the neck, this cross will free him from sin and lead him to the Lord. Written in Latin in Rome.

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posted on 11.09.2018, 00:00 by frances
Pope Gregory the Great, Register of Letters 3.33


Gregory thanks Dynamius for a gift of gold coins sent to Peter the Apostle, and ends his letter as follows:

Transmisimus uero beati Petri apostoli benedictionem, crucem paruulam, cui de catenis eius beneficia sunt inserta, quae illius quidem ad tempus ligauerant sed uestra colla in perpetuum a peccatis soluant. Per quattuor uero in circuitu partes, de beati Laurentii craticula in qua perustus est beneficia continentur, ut hoc ubi corpus illius pro ueritate crematum est uestram mentem ad amorem domini accendat.

‘We have indeed sent over a blessing (benedictionem) of Saint Peter the apostle, a very small cross, into which relics have been inserted from Peter’s chains, which had in fact bound him in their time, but should forever free your neck from sin. Indeed, in the four parts around the cross, relics are contained from the gridiron of Saint Laurence, on which he was roasted, so that this relic of where that man’s body was burnt for the sake of Truth, may set your mind on fire with the love of our Lord.’


Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 1, 179. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 1, 257-8, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E06343

Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Laurentius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

593

Evidence not after

593

Activity not before

593

Activity not after

593

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

Gregory the Great (pope)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – privately owned Contact relic - instrument of saint’s martyrdom Contact relic - other object closely associated with saint Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Division of relics

Source

A letter transmitted as part of Gregory the Great’s Register of Letters. This letter collection, organised into fourteen books, is large and contains letters to a variety of recipients, including prominent aristocrats, members of the clergy and royalty. The issues touched on in the letters are equally varied, ranging from theological considerations to mundane administrative matters. This collection of letters, which was possibly curated by Gregory, was originally much larger. The surviving Register comprises several groups of letters which were extracted at several later moments in history, the largest of which took place in the papacy of Hadrian I (772-795).

Discussion

Gregory sent relics, containing filings from the chains that had bound Peter, to a substantial number of his most distinguished correspondents: two were within reliquaries in the form of a cross: E06436 and E06343; most within reliquaries in the form of keys, an obvious echo of Peter's role as the keeper of the keys of heaven: E02814, E02825, E06345, E06363, E06383, E06410, E06422, E06427. Several letters tell us that they were designed to be worn round the neck of the recipient, and would offer protection against various evils. They are sometimes described as a 'most sacred key from the body' of Peter, suggesting that, as well as containing a relic of the chains, they had lain for a period in close proximity to Peter's grave. From a letter of Gregory to Theoctista, the sister of the emperor Maurice (E06375), we learn that at least one such key was made of gold, and that the practice of distributing them began before Gregory's pontificate, since a story told in this letter has a gold key being returned to Gregory's predecessor, Pelagius II (pope 579-590). Rome also claimed chains that had bound the Apostle Paul, from which Gregory also sent out fragments: E06351 and E06436. In a letter to the empress Constantina, offering her fragments of the chains of Paul (E06351), Gregory explains how these were obtained: by a priest applying a file to them; he is, however, careful to state that this did not always work, implying that divine sanction was also required. Dynamius (PLRE IIIA, 'Dynamius 1'; PCBE 4, 'Dynamius 3') was a major political figure in Gaul, notably as patrician and governor (rector) of Provence in the 580s and 590s. He was also the author of a Life of the 5th century bishop of Riez, Maximus (E00852), and possibly the Life of the monk Marius of Bodanum (E06686); for his epitaph see E07862.

Bibliography

Edition: Norberg, D., S. Gregorii Magni, Registrum epistularum. 2 vols. (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 140-140A; Turnhout: Brepols, 1982). English translation: Martyn, J.R.C., The Letters of Gregory the Great, 3 vols. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004). Further Reading: Dal Santo, M., Debating the Saints' Cult in the Age of Gregory the Great (Oxford: OUP, 2012). McCulloch, J., "The Cult of Relics in the Letters and Dialogues of Gregory the Great," Traditio 32 (1976), 145-184. Neil, B., and Dal Santo, M. (eds.), A Companion to Gregory the Great (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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