Quinta porta Numentana; ibit sanctus Nicomedes presbiter et martir, itemque uia eodem modo dicitur. Iuxta uiam aecclesia sanctae Agnetis et corpus; in altera sancta Emerentiana et martires Alexander Felix Papias. In septimo miliario eiusdem uiae sanctus papa Alexander cum Euentio et Theodolo pausat.
'The fifth gate, the Nomentana - there is saint Nicomedes, priest and martyr - and the road called by the same name. By the road are both the church and the body of saint Agnes, and in another [church] saint Emerentiana and the martyrs Alexander, Felix, Papias. At the seventh milestone on the same road rests the holy Pope Alexander with Eventius and Theodulus.'
Text and translation: Mynors, Thomson, and Winterbottom 1998, 616-617, lightly modified.
[*Nicomedes, priest and companion martyr of Nereus and Achilleus, S00403
; *Agnes, virgin and martyr of Rome, S00097
; *Emerentiana, virgin and martyr of Rome, S00495
; *Felix and Alexander, martyrs of Rome with Victor, buried on the via Nomentana S02229
; *Papias, companion of Maurus, soldiers and martyrs of Rome, buried on the via Nomentana, $02057; *Alexander, Eventius and Theodolus, bishop, priest and deacon, martyrs of Rome, S00127
Saint NameNereus and Achilleus, eunuchs and martyrs of Rome, and companions : S00403
Agnes, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00097
Emerentiana, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00495
Papias and Maurus, soldiers and martyrs of Rome, buried on the via Nomentana : S02
Saint Name in SourceNicomedes
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries
Evidence not before642
Evidence not after683
Activity not before642
Activity not after683
Place of Evidence - RegionRome and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcRome
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Rome
Major author/Major anonymous workLists of Shrines in Rome
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPilgrimage
Cult Activities - RelicsBodily relic - entire body
SourceThe graves of the martyrs of Rome are quite exceptional in two respects: for the overwhelming number of saints whose names are recorded; and for the level of detail we have on where their bodies were venerated - in the many Martyrdoms surviving from Rome (incomparably more than from any other city), in uniquely rich epigraphic evidence, and in a narrative history, the Liber Pontificalis, that records in loving detail papal improvements to the saintly graves and churches of the city. From the century between circa 590 and 690, we even have four long lists of venerated graves, which were compiled entirely independently of each other: one (the Monza papyrus, E06788) is a catalogue of holy oil collected at these graves, but the other three, the Notitia Ecclesiarum (E07900), the De Locis Sanctis (E07901) and the Itinerarium Malmesburiense (E07883), are 'itineraries' - in other words texts that introduce their readers to the graves by taking them on a journey through the burial churches and cemeteries that ringed the city. They are often described as pilgrim-guides, which was certainly one of their functions, though they could also serve to introduced the saints of Rome to distant readers.
William of Malmesbury, a monk of Malmesbury abbey in Wiltshire (England), included one of these itineraries in his massive work of history, the Gesta Regum Anglorum ('Deeds of the English Kings'), which he completed in 1125: hence the modern title given to this itinerary, the Itinerarium Malmesburiense (the 'Malmesbury Itinerary'). William introduces the text as an excursus on the gates and saints of Rome, as if it were his own composition: '... that it [Rome] may lack none of its due honour, I will append the number of the gates and its long list of the remains of saints'. But in reality he is quoting a much earlier text, that he had found somewhere in an English library, dating from before the massive translation of saintly bodies into the city in the late eighth and ninth centuries; indeed, as we will see below, the text can be dated with confidence to the mid or later seventh century. There is of course a possibility that William edited what he had found; but there are no obvious anachronisms in what he recorded, and when he wrote, in introducing the itinerary, that he 'will use the casual words of everyday speech', he may well be excusing the verbatim transcription of a text so simple that it rather offended his educated sensibilities.
Like the other two itineraries, the Itinerarium Malmesburiense, takes one round the suburban cemeteries of Rome, major road by major road, listing the churches and principal graves that lay along them, starting with the via Cornelia and the church and grave of Peter, then proceeding clockwise round the city to the via Aurelia, and closing with a short list of those saints whose bodies already rested within the walls. Uniquely, our itinerary names not only the roads, but also the relevant gates in the Aurelianic walls, revealing that these were increasingly being called after the saints whose shrines lay near them. Unlike the Notitia Ecclesiarum, which directly addresses the reader in the second person singular ('Then you go ...' etc.), the Itinerarium (in common with the De Locis), uses the impersonal 'By this road is ...' etc.
The Itinerarium can be dated with confidence to the years between 642 and 683, from information given in its list of intramural saintly burials (E07897). There we learn that the bodies of Primus and Felicianus were already in the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo, the result of a translation from a cemetery on the via Nomentana effected by Pope Theodore I (642-649; E01629). On the other hand, the translation of the bodies of Simplicianus, Faustinus and Beatrix from the via Nomentana to the church of Santa Bibiana, carried out by Pope Leo II (682-683; E01678), is not mentioned, and, since our author seems to have done a very thorough job of recording intramural burials, this must mean that it had not yet occurred.
DiscussionAll of these saints are also attested in other texts as buried on the via Nomentana, though sources vary whether Alexander, Eventius and Theodolus were on the via Nomentana or on the via Salaria (their cemetery presumably lay between the two roads).
Mynors, R.A.B., Thomson, R.M., and Winterbottom, M. (ed. and trans.), William of Malmesbury. Gesta Regum Anglorum (Oxford Medieval Texts; Oxford 1998), vol. 1, 614-621.
Glorie, F. (ed.), Itinerarium Malmesburiense, in Itineraria et alia geographica aetatis patrum, saec. VI - VIII (Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 175; Turnhout: Brepols, 1965), 325-328. [Reproduces Valentini and Zucchetti's text.]
Valentini, R. and Zucchetti, G. (ed.), Codice topografico della città di Roma (Istituto storico italiano - Fonti per la storia d'Italia; Roma 1942), vol. 2, 141-153.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018), 664-666. [Translates most of the text, but omits parts less relevant to the martyrdom accounts that he includes in his collection.]