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Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna

Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna


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Agnellus' Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis (Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna), written in the ninth century, is an essential source for the study of Italian history from the fourth to the ninth centuries. Agnellus seems to have been a well-born priest in the church of Ravenna, and his work is strongly colored by his personal experiences. He wrote the book to demonstrate two strongly-held opinions. One was the apostolicity and independence of the Ravennate archbishopric; the other was the moral decline of recent bishops and their erosion of clerical rights. Using the framework of a series of biographies of the bishops of his see, Agnellus presents his highly idiosyncratic view of history. The work is filled with anecdotes, miracle stories, and mini-sermons, as well as information about historical events and artistic and architectural patronage, all of which have made it an invaluable source for those interested in early medieval Italy.

Ravenna's heyday was in the fifth through eighth centuries, when it was the capital first of the western Roman empire, then of the kingdom of the Ostrogoths, and finally of the Byzantine exarchate of Italy. By the time Agnellus was writing, the city and its leaders were struggling to maintain power and prestige in the new Carolingian regime. Agnellus' work is usually used as a source of information about the more illustrious past, and it has been especially useful to art historians who investigate the remarkable monuments that still survive in Ravenna. However, it also provides crucial information about the Carolingian world in which Agnellus lived, a time when the marvels of Ravenna were being copied or literally carried off by emperors who sought to recreate Ravenna's imperial splendor.

This translation makes this fascinating text accessible for the first time to an English-speaking audience. A substantial introduction to Agnellus and his composition of the text is included along with a full bibliography. The maps printed in the book are also available on the web .


Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis is a Visiting Lecturer in the Departments of History and Art History at Indiana University. She has prepared the definitive Latin text of the work, which will be published by Brepols. She is also the editor of Historiography in the Middle Ages.


"This volume is much more than a translation of Agnellus's Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis. It includes what amounts to an important short monograph on this early medieval text, in addition to extensive and careful annotation. As such, it is an important contribution to scholarship on early medieval Italian ecclesiastical history. . . . An extremely well done volume that makes a substantial contribution to scholarship in several areas: the analysis of early medieval texts, the artistic and architectural history of Ravenna, and the ecclesiastical genre of gesta episcoporum. "—Maureen C. Miller, Catholic Historical Review

"Deliyannis is to be congratulated for producing the first full English translation of the main source for early medieval Ravenna. Her version of an often convoluted and obscure Latin text is accurate and lucid and is complemented by a wide-ranging introduction.Finally a distinctive, acerbic and often amusing work which vividly illuminates not only artistic and ecclesiastical developments but also the mentalities of early medieval churchmen and their urban congregations has been made accessible to a wide audience of scholars and students."—Thomas S. Brown, University of Edinburgh

"This is an important and very useful Latin text, and its translation is highly significant. . . . The scholarship is impressively sound. Deliyannis demonstrates an amazing mastery of a number of

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813213583
Publisher: Catholic Univ.of America Press
Publication date: 04/01/2004
Series: Medieval Texts in Translation
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.85(d)

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By Agnellus of Ravenna
The Catholic University of America Press
Copyright © 2004

The Catholic University of America Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8132-1358-3


Let this be read at the same time.

That kind apostle and true prince of the apostles [Peter], giving the highest seat of bishops to one [Apollinaris] whom as a disciple he taught with holy admonitions, sent him to call Ravenna and her people correctly to God.

He [Apollinaris] gave sight to the blind and he raised Tecla, who long lay on her bed, enfeebled in her limbs. Joyfully he arrived at the high temple, he overthrew the crowds of demons in the name of the Lord. Smiting the bonds of greedy death, he restored to life the daughter of Rufus through the Lord. Through the divinity of the Lord he restored the gift of speech to a citizen of Classe, whose name is Boniface.

By the executioner he was crowned with martyrdom, but first he bore many wounds from whips. Recalled by the king of heaven, his spirit then seeks the assemblies of heaven and the angelic choruses.

Let him not be displeased, who, however capable, is unable to understand meter, I humbly beseech. But taking a journey of prose, let him direct his steps through accessible ways, and rejoicing let him enjoy it in peace with me.

Here end the pentameter and hexameter verses. Whoever does not understand it, let him turn to the prose.


1. St. Apollinaris, Antiochene by birth, educated in Greek and Latin letters, was a disciple of the apostle Peter, and arrived with him in the city of Rome?

After much time Peter ordained him a bishop and bestowed upon him the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and gave him the kiss; and traveled together with him about thirty miles from the city of Rome, where the monasterium of blessed Peter which is called ad Janiculum is located. There the apostle of Christ prayed, and where he placed his knee, the stone appeared soft, like wax by fire, and thus the stone was hollowed out by his knee.

And at another monasterium of this apostle, which is called "at the Elm," they slept together that night, and furrows appear in that stone where his head or back and rump and shins occupied it, up to this day. And then he sent Apollinaris to Ravenna.

And that most blessed one, before he would enter the city of Ravenna, gave light to the blind son of Hereneus-Hereneus indeed means "peaceful"-and he performed many miracles within this city: he overthrew the temples of the gods and smashed the idols, he ordained priests and deacons, he cured the sick, he put demons to flight, he cleansed lepers, he baptized many in the river Bedento and in the sea.

In the basilica of blessed Euphemia, which is called ad Arietem, he first performed baptism, and where his feet stood, the rock was liquefied, and his footprints are impressed as a sign.

He also revived the dead daughter of the patrician Rufus. And we see the house of that patrician as the episcopal residence of the church of Bologna up to the present day; thus indeed I know that house to be whole and unharmed, as it was in antiquity. And almost five years ago now, Theodore the bishop of Bologna carried off the stone sarcophagus in which the patrician Rufus was placed with his daughter, and took it away to his church at Bologna, so that, after his death, he might be buried there. But what did it benefit him, that he cast out others from it? He was not buried in it, for he acted too slowly to set it up.

2. Therefore most blessed Apollinaris was sent [shackled] with a huge weight of iron into the prison not far from the center of this city of Ravenna, in which, with the guards looking on, angels supplied him with heavenly food.

And again they forced him out and threw him out of the city not far from the sixth milestone, where the ancient church of St. Demetrius was built. After this he was led as a captive to parts of Illyria, and then through Salona, also Pannonia, along the banks of the Danube and into Thrace, and there and on the shores of Corinth the Lord worked many miracles through him.

After three years he returned to Ravenna and was received with great joy by his faithful followers and clergy. After a longer interval, the savage pagans made him stand with bare feet on live coals and inflicted many other torments on him.

He demolished by his prayers the temple of Apollo, which stood before the gate which is called the Golden Gate, next to the amphitheater.

His sanctity and mildness were so great that never, while he suffered, did he do any injury to anyone, or curse anyone, except, while he was being strongly tortured, he said to the governor: "O most wicked one, why do you not believe in the Son of God, so that you might escape eternal torments?"

In the exceeding fullness of days, he became stooped. In the time of the emperor Vespasian he was crowned with martyrdom. He occupied the pontifical throne twenty-eight years, one month, four days.


3. Adentus, the first bishop, a man holy and fearful of God, was ordained priest by most blessed Apollinaris, and like a wise architect built on the foundation of his master and teacher. He incessantly prayed to God on behalf of his flocks, that they might turn away from the worship of idols and confess the living God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. And in his days, after the storm of persecution, many accepted baptism; then he gathered many to the Lord.

He died in the city of Classe on September 27, as some say. He is buried in the basilica of blessed Probus, not far from the church of blessed Apollinaris, about one stade. He reigned ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


4. Fleuchadius, the second bishop, whose name means "white" in Latin. He was gentle and wise, and holy Apollinaris consecrated him deacon. His love of wisdom was so great that he put together many books about the New and Old Testaments, and wrote volumes on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ and on His passion. Wherefore in the passio of Apollinaris, the athlete of Christ, it is read, "he made Fleuchadius the philosopher a deacon." He indeed preached correctly to the peoples, and in his church, anointed with the oil of piety, he shone like the light of a lamp.

He died on February 14, and was buried outside the walls of Classe, where up to today a church in praise of his name is built and consecrated to God. He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


5. Marcian, the third bishop, a distinguished prelate, was sprung from noble stock. He remained, full of the Holy Spirit, in the holy church. He increased the clergy who were learned in holy doctrine and consecrated many deacons and priests. And he was ordained deacon by blessed Apollinaris together with wise Eleuchadius, as is reported in the passio of the one who ordained him, where it says, "He consecrated Marcian the most noble man and Eleuchadius as deacons."

After many miracles he gave up his soul in peace to God his Creator. From which I judge that he was buried in the church of blessed Eleuchadius. He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


6. Calocerus, the fourth bishop, is translated "good time"; and if by chance the c is turned into an "i," it says "ieros," meaning "elder," or "priest," or "lord." For he was a very old man in advanced age. In his days the Lord performed many graces and great miracles through him for the people. His preaching was so great, and he took such care of his flock, that not only did he teach the sheep already acquired, but also cast out the dwelling place and strength of the devil from the souls of the gentiles and created them anew at the holy font of baptism for the heavenly Lord.

He died and was buried, as some say, on February it, in the basilica of blessed Probus the confessor. He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


7. Proculus, the fifth bishop. He was faithful, like a father to his sons, and brought many into the bosom of the church, and gave to his people the nourishment of his preaching, like honey in sweetness, and provided it like cups of milk to those who are thirsting.

When he reached old age, grey of head, filled with grace, he ended his priesthood along with his life. And I do not know where his tomb might be; it is uncertain to me whether he is placed in the basilica of blessed Probus, or in that of holy Eleuchadius the confessor.' He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


8. Probus, the sixth bishop, gentle and upright, shining in appearance, gleaming in work, wise of speech, judicious of heart, full of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Whosoever might come to him sick would return cured, by Probus's prayers, no matter to what sort of debility he had been subject. And he cast out impure spirits and made whole the wounded or broken bodies of the masses.

At the close of his life, after he saw the angelic host, suddenly his holy soul slipped from his body on November to. Then all the people in mourning buried his body with great reverence, and his tomb is venerated by us up to the present day; and his church is located to the east.

And in no churches inside the city of Ravenna or Classe is the mass celebrated over the people except in this one alone. This said basilica was built next to the narthex of blessed Euphemia by the Sea, which we now see to have been demolished.

He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


9. Datus, the seventh bishop. He indeed was a religious man and very dutiful and vigilant about night prayers, and a distinguished gatherer of men's souls and frequently a preacher to the heathen; and like a mirror his face shone forth clearly over all.

For when he was called to celestial grace, his holy soul receded from his body. And, as some assert, he was buried in the church of blessed Probus. He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


10. Liberius the eighth bishop, a great man, full of charity, a refreshing fountain, distinguished in faith, kindly in mind. In his days he increased the church with all honor. By the great humility of his life he preserved his soul and held dominion over every branch of learning.

However after these things he died and was buried, as indeed some suspect, with his predecessor. He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


11. Agapitus, the ninth bishop, whose name in the Latin tongue is translated "full of charity." He daily performed works of charity to strangers, he eagerly bestowed gifts upon paupers, and daily offered up goodness in the temple of his body, daily offered up his soul, like the host, at the altar of his heart, in the presence of the almighty Lord.

Later the divine command came to him, and his holy soul was released from the flesh. He was buried, as [some] suspect, with the others named above. He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


12. Marcellmus, the tenth bishop, just and God-fearing, he destroyed the camps of demons by his prayers and diligently guarded the sheep that had been bestowed upon him by the Lord, so that that monstrous wolf, which daily rants and raves against them, should not be able to tear them to pieces outside his church and carry off prey from among his sheep; so that it might not devour in its bestial maw the souls of Christians which the holy man had acquired for Almighty God, nor deliver them to the power of hell with its infernal chains binding them.

And when the course of many years was run, he let slip the pontificate and his life; his body emitted such fragrant odors that the noses of those burying him seemed to smell incense of precious myrrh. He was buried, as some allow, in the basilica of blessed Probus. He sat ___ years, ___ months, ___ days.


13. Severus, the eleventh bishop, whose name in its formation means "true fierce." This does not pertain to savagery, but to strength: "fierce," that is, "strong," "true" high priest. His priesthood was so predestined by Almighty God, that in his election the holy spirit was sent in the form of a dove, which the whole people saw corporeally with their eyes, and it rested on his head. From this event a proverb concerning him is said up to today by some people, "Blessed be that land, where in the election of a bishop the holy spirit descended in the likeness of a dove, and the one on whose head it rested was ordained." But woe unto you, unhappy Ravenna, neighbor of destroyed Classe, since now a bishop is ordained in your city with great strife and controversy.

14. While this blessed above-named Severus was celebrating mass, when his deacon had ascended into the pulpit and was reading the letters of the blessed apostle Paul, so that the assembly of the people might be refreshed with spiritual words, suddenly the holy man went into a trance, as if held in sleep, neither fully sleeping nor awake. His attendants, thinking that he had fallen asleep, began to strike his sides. He, however, rose up as if from deepest sleep and said to them with sad spirit, "Oh, what have you done? Why did you disturb me? Although I seemed to you to be here, I was in another place" But they persisted in asking him, saying, "Tell us, where were you, father?" He said to them, "May the Lord pardon you, most esteemed sons, for having woken me up; for I was in the holy church of Modena and there I committed the soul of my brother and fellow bishop Gemmianus, bishop of that church, to almighty God, and there I stood, until his holy body was placed in the tomb."

On account of this, so that the truth might be discovered, the citizens of Ravenna and Classe sent riders to the above-mentioned city of Modena, in order that the words of the holy man might be confirmed. The Modenese, when they had been asked the day and hour in which the holy soul of blessed Gemmianus had passed to the Lord, said, "Did not lord Severus your bishop commit his soul to heaven and stand here a long time, until his body had been closed in the tomb? When it was closed, he suddenly vanished from our eyes." The riders, having returned, told their citizens the story as it had been told to them. From that day they began to venerate his sanctity even more.

15. The life of this blessed man is not told to us in written history; but some say that the Lord performed many miracles and prodigies for the people through him, about which my pen did not have the power to reveal. It is said that his sanctity was so great that his wife, though dead for a long time, rolled over on her side.

When the daughter of this most blessed confessor of Christ Severus, by the name of Innocentia, had died, everyone came to place her small body in the tomb of her mother Vicentia. They saw that the tomb was small and said, "Two bodies cannot rest here, since the container is too small."

With tears the lord Severus said, "O wife, why are you troublesome to me? Why do you not make a place for your daughter? Take what you bore, do not hesitate to receive what was taken from your flesh. Behold I give to you what you have given to me; do not delay. She has returned to whence she came. Give her a place for burial, do not sadden me." At his voice the bones of his wife moved by themselves to the side with great speed, so fast that living bodies of men could hardly move more swiftly, and she allowed her daughter a space for burial.

It happened after this that his holy soul, which men loved on earth, by divine command was to be lifted up by holy angels to the pleasant realm. I shall confide to your ears, just as I have heard people tell about the passing of the blessed man. One day when he had celebrated mass and had received the holy flesh and blood of the Lord, wrapped in the pontifical stole, he ordered his tomb to be opened, he entered alive, and lying himself down between his wife and daughter he ordered it to be closed. There while praying he rendered up his precious soul to God. He died in such peace and tranquillity on the first of February. And the Lord displays many miracles at his tomb in his church, which is located in the former city of Classe, not far from the region which is called Salutaris, up to the present day.

16. And again I will tell you that we have seen these deeds in our time; I call it to memory, that you might remember it. One man, who is still alive, when he was young, because of an illness of his body, when his mother had prostrated herself at the tomb of Severus the blessed confessor of Christ, and everyone had fallen asleep, that sick boy, alone, grew frightened of the dead of night and sent out a cry, waking everyone. And they saw the candles, which had been previously extinguished, shining with their usual light. And when everyone saw the great light, terrified in mind they gave glory to God and to Severus his confessor.


Excerpted from THE BOOK OF PONTIFFS OF THE CHURCH OF RAVENNA by Agnellus of Ravenna Copyright © 2004 by The Catholic University of America Press . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Contents Preface....................vii
List of Abbreviations....................xi
Structure and Genre....................20
Written Sources....................46
Oral Sources and Orality....................57
Art and Architecture in the LPR....................66
Note on Editions and This Translation....................91
The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna....................93
Prefatory Verses....................95
Probus I....................107
Liberius I....................108
Liberius II....................114
Probus II....................116
Liberius III....................117
Peter I....................120
John I....................136
Peter II....................157
Peter III the Elder....................204
John II the Roman....................213
John III....................218
John IV....................221
John V....................257
John VI....................286
Table of the Bishops of Ravenna....................307
Glossary of Artistic and Architectural Terminology....................309
General Index....................361
Topographical Index of Ravenna and Classe....................367

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