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E06363: A letter of Pope Gregory the Great (Register 6.6) of 595, to Childebert, king of the Franks, is accompanied by keys containing fragments of the chains of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), which will protect him from all ills if worn round his neck. 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 6.6


The final sentence of a letter commending to the king a new administrator of the papal patrimony in Francia:

Claues praeterea sancti Petri, in quibus de uinculis catenarum eius inclausum est, excellentiae uestrae direximus, quae collo uestro suspensae de malis uos omnibus tueantur.

‘Besides this, we have sent your Excellency keys of Saint Peter, in which filings from the links of his chains are enclosed. When hung from your neck, this would protect you from all evils.’


Text: Norberg 1982, vol. 1, 374. Translation: Martyn 2004, vol. 2, 406, lightly modfied.
Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

History

Evidence ID

E06363

Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036

Saint Name in Source

Petrus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

595

Evidence not after

595

Activity not before

595

Activity not after

595

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 Monarchs and their family

Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - instrument of saint’s martyrdom Reliquary – privately owned Transfer, translation and deposition of relics Privately owned relics Division of relics Other activities with 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.

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).

Licence

Exports

Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

Licence

Exports