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Le culte de sainte Agnès à place Navone entre Antiquité et Moyen Âge

Archaeology and the Cult of Saints in the Early Middle Ages: Accessing the Sacred

Caroline Goodson

Résumé

In order to contextualise the development of S. Agnese in agone, this paper examines four other intramural churches of Rome dedicated to cults of martyrs : SS Giovanni e Paolo, S. Cecilia in Trastevere, S. Pudenziana and S. Felicita as well as chapels or oratories dedicated to martyrs in larger intra muros churches. At these sites, archaeology was invested with a sacred function during the late antique or early medieval period. The original functions of ancient structures were reconfigured by a new understanding of Christian history ; through the reading of Passiones, people identified these archaeological spaces as places associated with lives and deaths of martyrs. Such hagiographic invention could take place either at the time of the foundation of a church or a posteriori, as in the case of SS. Giovanni e Paolo or S. Cecilia in Trastevere.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Important work on this process of transformation includes Markus 1994 ; Thacker 2002.

1The early medieval city of Rome was filled with monuments - old, more recent, and ancient - some of which were also loca sancta, holy places. The processes by which these were transformed from one into another shed light onto the importance of the material environment of Rome as a bearer of memory and history.1 Relics of Roman buildings sometimes were used by Romans of the early middle ages as a means to connect with sacred history. The cult of S. Agnese at the Stadium of Domitian is one example of this use of material remains, and here I aim to situate the development of the cult site of S. Agnese at the Stadium of Domitian within a pattern of the eighth and ninth centuries. In what follows, I aim to demonstrate firstly that at Rome the material evidence of the city’s past was sometimes evaluated in terms of the narratives of the saints’ lives and passions, and that this practice is a phenomenon of the social and political culture of saint veneration in the eighth and ninth centuries.

  • 2 Goodson 2007.
  • 3 Marucchi 1909.
  • 4 Costambeys 2001.
  • 5 Reekmans 1989.

2Broadly speaking, the cult of saints at Rome focussed upon the tombs of saints and their veneration in their original resting place from the first Christian centuries.2 These were predominantly located outside the city walls, outside the pomerium, where most Roman burials were located up to the fifth century. Epitaphs and other memoriae of martyrs, saints and confessors, carved in the first, second or third centuries, served as markers for later pilgrims and signposts signalling places of devotion. For example the epitaphs of Popes Fabianus (236–50) and Pontianus (230–35) have been identified along with those of a number of other early bishops in the so-called Cripta dei Papi in the catacombs of Callixtus. These tombs bear the names of the bishops and their title episcopus and have also been carved with the first letter of the word « martyr » to encourage veneration of these men not only as leaders of the early church but also as martyrs to Christ.3 While these graves were initially part of a larger contemporary cemetery, set apart from the rest of the graves by their inscribed epitaphs, over time they became increasingly memorials and sites of veneration. From the fifth century onwards, burial practices at Rome changed, and people were less and less buried in the old cemeteries outside the walls and increasingly buried elsewhere, closer in to the city.4 Cult spots around tombs such as these became increasingly ancient testimonies to the lives and deaths of the « very special dead », where the markers took on different significance as the uses and customs attached to the area changed.5

  • 6 LP I, p. 158. This passage of the Liber Pontificalis was composed, most scholars agree, in the sixt (...)
  • 7 CT, IX, 17.
  • 8 Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 326 (1076). For a facsimile of the manuscript, see http://www.e (...)
  • 9 Valentini Zucchetti 1942, p. 67-131 ; Osborne 1985.
  • 10 Reekmans 1989.
  • 11 This is true at S. Prassede, S. Cecilia, SS. Quattro Coronati, and S. Pietro in Vincoli, for exampl (...)
  • 12 Geary 1991.
  • 13 Goodson 2007.

3By (an admittedly later) papal account, as early as the third century Pope Felix (269-75) decreed that masses should be celebrated over the memoriae of martyrs.6 In 386 the emperor Theodosius confirmed that bodies, including those of saints, should not be removed from one place to another, but monuments (which he called martyria) could be built over the bodies of martyrs.7 Much of our evidence about the original setting of saint veneration at Rome, prior to the relic translations of the early middle ages, comes from itineraries and calendars composed in the seventh and eighth centuries. These may well have been based on extant inscriptions or collections of transcribed inscriptions; epigraph may have been privileged in the early middle age as factual records. Sylloges of observable inscriptions were recorded in many of the same manuscripts as the devotional itineraries, the famous Einsidlensis manuscript is a case in point.8 That Romans and pilgrims alike visited the catacombs to venerate tombs of saints, identified by inscriptions and other devices, is attested by the seventh-century Notitia and other itineraries, as well as paintings and inscriptions dating from the centuries after the catacombs ceased to be used for burial.9 In a gradual centripetal motion, relics were translated from extramural churches and catacombs to new sites within the city wall.10 In the numerous church crypts built in the city of Rome in the seventh and eighth centuries, the faithful could see newly translated relics through small windows beneath altars. They were often held in ancient sarcophagi placed in the confessiones under the church, implying the direct propinquity of relic to altar that became standard after the seventh century.11 The antiquity of a translated sarcophagus and the permanent position of the relics under the altar are two characteristics typical of Rome, and different from other places in the western Medieval world, where relics were often fragmented, transportable and brought out on display.12 At Rome, this kind of containment and protection of saints’ bodies and their placement beneath the floor level are indicative of local interest and emphasis on visiting the original burial place of the saint.13 The study of the architectural setting for the cult of saints often focuses on the interventions and additions to a cult site and changes in these interventions over time. It is also worth reflecting on the way in which the faithful of the early middle ages considered archaeology significant for the purposes of identifying relic shrines and as connections to the sacred past.

  • 14 Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 326(1076), 81v. fons sancti petri, ubi est carcer eius.

4As the few preserved itineraries of Rome indicate, the faithful of the early middle ages visited ancient monuments within the city of Rome along side the urban and extraurban churches where they prayed and honoured the saints. They also visited sites now unknown to us, such as the Fountain of Peter in Trastevere, mentioned in the Einsiedeln Itinerary.14 They also visited underground or excavated parts of ancient buildings that were associated with lives and deaths of the saints. In contrast to the great monuments of the ancient city visited by pilgrims alongside the new churches or cult sites, the examples described below were smaller-scale ancient architecture. These were not separate or independent monuments, like the bath complexes, theatres, and triumphal arches that were the focus of some visitors’attentions, but were small subterranean areas accessed through churches. The archaeological sites, attached to the saints, were given a frame and purpose by the contemporary, by which I mean medieval, churches. I want to identify five such sites of ancient archaeology of interest to the medieval visitor: SS. Giovanni e Paolo, S. Pudenziana, S. Cecilia in Trastevere and S. Felicita.

SS. Giovanni e Paolo

  • 15 The most recent discussion is in Brenk 2003 ; Brenk 1995.
  • 16 Brenk 1995, p. 191 argues that the niche was closed and decorated with painted plaster, where he su (...)
  • 17 Brenk 1995 reviews the interpretations n. 15, p. 188-96.
  • 18 BHL 3241. For the most relevant discussion of the Passio, see Leyser 2007.
  • 19 Colini 1944, p. 192; Apollonj-Ghetti 1975.
  • 20 Colini 1944, p. 180-181 ; Gasdia 1937.

5Beneath the fifth-century basilica of SS. Giovanni e Paolo on the Celio were some ancient shops converted into a domus, and within the domus a Christian shrine was created in the fourth century.15 The shrine seems to have consisted of a platform, inserted into an existing staircase rising in a corridor of the late antique house, which led originally to the upper story of the residence. The upper story must have been abandoned when the shrine was created as a wall blocked the rise of the stairs. A platform was created in front of this wall, which had a small window or niche. The walls were decorated with paintings and the window or niche was lined with plaster.16 The paintings are very difficult to interpret, given their state of preservation and obscure iconography. It may be that they depict private patrons venerating a saint or otherwise holy person.17 These paintings are also difficult to date, but they are conventionally held to be fourth-century. The sixth-century Passion narrative of Iohannis and Paulus reports that the two Roman Christian noblemen lived in a house, referred to as a palatium on the Celio.18 They died in the persecutions of Emperor Julian in 362 and were buried beneath the staircase of the palace and were venerated there. Indeed, the window or niche of the shrine was cut and opened onto a shaft, cut through the existing masonry, to reach the bedrock under the house, where two rough oblong cuts were discovered.19 The nineteenth-century excavators of the site believed that they had found the graves of the Saints Iohannis and Paulus, and that the platform with painted niche had been built as a means to venerate the saints’ bodies.20

  • 21 Brenk 1995, p. 199. Brenk concludes that the presence of spatheia of the sixth and seventh centurie (...)
  • 22 Gasdia 1937, p. 8.

6In the early fifth century, some of the rooms of the domus and shops were partially backfilled and a large basilica was constructed over top of the complex. The entrance was level with the ground midway up the Caelian hill, and the church extended away from the crest of the hill, following the alignment of the Clivus Scauri and the ground-level shops. The apse was supported by some of the walls of the domus. The lower levels were in part filled with rubble to support the weight of the fifth-century basilica and rooms gradually filled with amphorae dating from the fifth to seventh centuries, perhaps storage facilities or rubbish dumped from the clergy of SS. Giovanni e Paolo.21 It then was filled with bones and other material, perhaps tombs, and emptied only in the modern excavations.22

  • 23 Brenk 1995, p. 199.
  • 24 On the paintings, and their ninth-century date, see Wilpert 1924, taf. 131, 166.4, 208.2 ; Gasdia 1 (...)

7A small stair led from steps in the side aisle down into two rooms associated with the domus and its shops.23 The staircase and room were painted in formats that were typical of the eighth or ninth century in Rome: the Harrowing of Hell, an extra-biblical story of Christ’s descent into Limbo and released the souls of Adam and Eve—not commonly depicted in Rome in the early middle ages, and martyrdom scenes, now badly faded and impossible to reconstruct but conventionally interpreted as the condemnation and martyrdom of Saints Giovanni e Paolo.24

  • 25 On the inscription fragment and the argument that it bears the text of the inscription reported in (...)
  • 26 Germano 1892; Brenk 1995 inexplicably omits discussion of this inscription.

8An inscription fragment in pseudo-Philocalian letters, which may be part of a verse about the saints composed in the fourth century naming the martyrs and celebrating their sacrifice, was found in the excavations of the site.25 The presence of this inscription fragment suggests that the propinquity between monumental shrine, excavated shaft, and saints’ cult (if not indeed bodies) may have been in place earlier than the circulation of the Passion narrative. The fragment is minute, however, and it remains difficult to prove its relationship to the poem, recorded only in a Carolingian sylloge.26

9If the fragment of the inscription is indeed a fourth-century monumental inscription of verses about Saints Iohannis and Paulus, then very shortly after the believed martyrdom of the saints, we have a small shrine created in domestic space behind some shops, commemorated by a monumental inscription. This shrine gave access to the purported location of the saints’ burial and then the church was completely monumentalised in the following century, though some memory of the significance of the substructures was passed on and reified in the Passion narrative. If the monumental inscription is something else and, given its fragmentary nature it could be part of quite a few phrases in a late antique monumental inscription, then the situation is more like that described by Brenk: after the sixth century, the archaeology of the substructures of the basilica of SS. Giovanni e Paolo was modified to fit the specificities of the Passion narrative then circulating Rome. In either case, places identified in the Passion with relatively high specificity were deliberately connected with the bodies of the saints and the place of their veneration after the sixth century.

  • 27 Wilpert 1924, p. 651ff and Krautheimer 1937-1977, I, p. 284.

10In the early middle ages, the substructures of the site were made into a place of veneration. Descending down from the ground floor of the basilica a small stair led into a small room, subdivided from the rest of the earlier archaeological structures with a wall painted with « modern » painting. The spiritual rewards of visiting this subterranean place were made explicit by the image of the Harrowing of Hell. As Christ went down to Limbo and redeemed Adam and Eve, so too the faithful could achieve spiritual benefits in going down to pray at the images of the saints in the buildings which had traditionally been connected with the place of martyrdom of the saints and their burial. This little staircase was blocked in the twelfth century.27

11In sum, at SS. Giovanni e Paolo there are several archaeological features coinciding around the cult of the saints: the fourth-century shrine to the saints on a platform outside the late antique house, the shaft with two cuts which might be graves, the eighth- or ninth-century stairwell leading down to the former shops, painted with devotional images. As the faithful read or heard the Passion narrative of the saints with their burial in the urban palace described; the structures beneath the basilica appears to have served as a referent, the setting of the martyrdoms which witnessed the blood of Saints Iohannis and Paulus. A layer of meaning about the substructures, that is their connection to a narrative about Christ’s redemption and, perhaps, a cycle of pictorial narrative paintings, was added in the late eighth or ninth century.

S. Cecilia in Trastevere

  • 28 For description of the archaeology, see Goodson 2010, p. 172-178.
  • 29 The brick stamps of the bath walls and floor date from the second century to the late third. Since (...)
  • 30 Osborne 1992.
  • 31 Claussen 2002, p. 227-249.
  • 32 Laderchi 1722-1723, p. 12.

12A church dedicated to Saint Cecilia had existed within the city wall since the late fifth century, and it was most probably in Trastevere, though there is very little evidence available for the actual shape of that church. There is a baptismal font of the shape conventionally used in fourth- or fifth-century baptisteries in Rome located in some of the buildings underneath the current site.28 The ancient structures now below ground are a domus of the second century BC, built around a peristyle court. The domus was incorporated in the second century into an insula, into which a bath complex was installed in late antiquity.29 When Paschal constructed the basilica of S. Cecilia in about 820, the builders reused some of the walls of the earlier structures as the foundations of the walls and colonnades of the church. Pope Paschal’s new church complex included a corridor parallel to the exterior foundation wall of the church running up to the baptismal font (subterranean at this point). The new corridor was painted with fictive drapery, vela, a decoration typical of early medieval ecclesiastical spaces.30 This new wall and its decoration suggests that the baptismal font was accessible as part of Paschal’s new ninth-century church. There is no clear evidence that Paschal also made the bath building accessible to the faithful, but it was certainly an important chapel in the eleventh century, when it was repaved in the then-« modern » Cosmatesque style of opus sectile31 and given an altar, consecrated in 1073.32 Given that the lines of the ninth-century church observe the orientation of the bath buildings, and that they were a chapel in the eleventh century, it seems possible, even probable, that Paschal made them accessible along with the baptismal font.

  • 33 BHL 1495-1500.
  • 34 The most recent edition of the Passio is Delehaye 1936, p. 73-96, 194-220. See also Bosio 1600, p.  (...)

13The importance of these two spaces annexed to the ninth-century church lies in their relationship to the major episodes in the martyrdom of Saint Cecilia. Cecilia was a noble woman who was martyred for her faith in her own home.33 She was locked into her private bath and eventually beheaded. The executioner failed to sever her head entirely, and in the three days it took her to expire, she turned her home into a church and her faith converted many to Christianity, who were baptised by Pope Urban.34 In situating his new basilica adjacent to these two ancient structures, providing a corridor with niches, painted with hanging textiles, (and presumably creating a means of access to these rooms, now lost), Pope Paschal used the archaeology of the site to create a holy place where the faithful could venerate the sacred site of the saint’s life and death. To round out this archaeological locus sanctus, Pope Paschal also brought the body of the Saint Cecilia, her husband and companions to the church. They were placed in an ancient sarcophagus in the crypt under the altar, along with the cloth shroud that wrapped Cecilia’s body in her extramural grave. The votive inscriptions that had been placed next to the graves in the catacombs were also brought to the urban church. In this way the ancient paraphernalia of the cult corroborated the sacrality of the site, which combined a new, papal basilica, with the ancient material remains of the martyr’s passion, as well as her relics.

S. Pudenziana

  • 35 Milella 1999.
  • 36 On the Vita Pudentianae, see BHL 6988–6991; AASS, 19 Maii. For discussion of both of these Vitae, s (...)
  • 37 On the Vita Praxedis, see BHL 6920; Mombritius 1978, p. 390–391; AASS, 21 Iulii.
  • 38 Guidobaldi 2002, Milella 1999 ; Tommasi 1999 ; Krautheimer 1937-1977, III, p. 280-305.

14On the Viminale, the church of S. Pudenziana was built right at the end of the fourth century and decorated at the beginning of the fifth century.35 It was constructed in the upper levels of an existing bath building and a house, both of the second century. The sixth-century Vita Praxedis tells the story of Saint Praxedis and Saint Pudentiana, daughters of the Senator Pudens, who hosted the apostle Paul in their senatorial home, and then went on to found churches in their family’s properties on the Esquiline with the assistance of the second-century Pope Pius.36 According to the Vita Pudentianae, the senator’s residence on the Vicus Patricii was converted to a church and baptistery, which eventually became the titulus Pudentis or Pudentianae, while the Vita Praxedis reports that the priest Novatus, a son of Pudens, also left his property to the church. Prassede asked Pope Pius that the baths of Novatus be made into a church and baptistery, which eventually became the titulus potentianae.37 In the fourth or fifth century a basilica was built into and on top of a second-century insula with a fountain in the atrium.38 Until very recently, the substructures of the church were held to be bath buildings, with their ornamental tanks for water, and they were long believed to be the Baths of Novatus, mentioned in the Vita Praxedis.

  • 39 Ciacconio (ca. 1590) BAV, Vat. Lat. 5407, f. 156, reproduced in Krautheimer 1937-1977, I, p. 287.
  • 40 Grisar 1896.
  • 41 Wilpert 1924, IV, taf. 218, dated them to the second half of the ninth century.
  • 42 Cecchelli 1989.
  • 43 On the inscription, see Goodson 2010, p. 327-333.

15The legend of Pudenziana was linked with the life of the apostle Peter by the architecture of this church. A side oratory in the fourth- or fifth-century church of S. Pudenziana was dedicated to Saint Peter and decorated with images of the apostle, perhaps contemporary with the building of the church.39 Below the church, in the ground floor levels of the insula which was excavated in the nineteenth century, a small painted niche was discovered. It was cut into the existing brickwork and is located precisely under the middle of the nave towards the entrance.40 According to the excavation notes, the niche was above a tank or bath from the ancient structure. The painting shows Saints Prassede and Pudenziana flanking the Apostle Peter, each labelled with their name. This frontal hieratic imagery and the lettering of the tituli point to a date in the eighth or ninth century.41 Maria Cecchelli argued that a tank from the presumed bath must have been filled with relics translated from the catacombs by Pope Paschal I as part of his programme of relic translations into the city;42 however, there is positively no evidence for such an event, nor the association of that pope with the painted niche, nor is there any history of relics at this site in the early middle ages: indeed the relics of Saints Pudenziana and Prassede were translated to Paschal’s church of S. Prassede, as the famous ninth-century inscription there reports.43

16Later renovations and the nineteenth-century excavation make it very difficult to know the original context of the painted niche, or by what means it was visible or accessible to the faithful in the early middle ages. The painting and niche is very high on the wall and so it would be nearly inaccessible from the Roman ground level of the bath building. It seems therefore likely that there was an intermediary earthen ground level in this section of the building, a floor level accessible either from the basilica above or perhaps from the outside street level below. In any case, it seems clear that the substructures below the church were in some way accessible and were furnished with devotional paintings which, by their inclusion of the sister saints with the apostle Peter, refer both generically to the cult of Pudenziana, and specifically to the narratives of her Vita and related texts, by referring to her sister Prassede, and this reference brings with it the association of the archaeology to the initial dedication of family property to a church with the assistance of a pope. It is very difficult to know the precise function of this subterranean niche, but it is clear that in the eighth or ninth centuries, people had access to the ruins of a house beneath the church of S. Pudenziana and were familiar with the three-hundred-year old narratives about the creation of a church on that site from a pious private donation.

  • 44 Cecchelli 1989 observed the similarities in this situation.

17The situation resembles in many ways that of SS. Giovanni e Paolo44: a fourth/fifth-century church built on private property, which was—or came to be—associated with the lives and deaths of martyrs, though in each case their Vita narratives are attested only from the sixth century. The churches took the form of monumental basilicas oriented on the earlier structures. In the eighth or ninth centuries, the buildings underwent renovations, which permitted some kind of interaction between the upper basilica and the archaeology below. These « archaeological areas » below the main ecclesiastical space do not have traces of altars, but do have devotional paintings of depicting the saints of the church and are painted and decorated as sacred spaces, quasi ecclesiastical spaces: the painted textiles, marbled floors, the paintings of the saints or of Christological scenes. The decorations give us some indications of the « tone » of these places, even if we cannot know whether they were for private devotion, or prayerful meditation, or ritual processions, or recitations of the Passions, or something else altogether.

S. Felicita

  • 45 For the Passion, see AASS, Iul III 12, BHL 2853-2855.
  • 46 Arciprete 1995. De Rossi 1884-1885 makes this connection. Armellini – Cecchelli 1942, p. 178.

18These three examples are fairly well known. There may be many others of these at Rome, less well preserved or attested. We have a glimpse of this in the so-called Oratory of S. Felicita. A small chapel dedicated to the popular Saint Felicita has been identified in the structures adjacent to the domus Aurea, under the baths of Titus. It has been linked to the residence of the saintly martyr and her seven sons, identified as the place where they were held prior to their trial. According to the Passion, which was composed at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century, this pious matron and her seven children held fast their Christian faith under interview and trial by the Roman Prefect; they were eventually martyred by various means and celebrated on different days of the calendar45. The cult of the saint Felicita was well attested at her place of burial at the catacombs of Massimo, on the via Salaria, and a church dedicated to her existed certainly by the end of the sixth century.46

  • 47 Ihm 1960, cat n° xii, p. 147-148.
  • 48 Felicitas cultrix Romanarum /uo[tum] soluit. Santa martyr/ multum praesta[n]s hob uoti cereor. Feli (...)

19The paintings show the mother Felicita with her seven sons, each labelled with their name, and an inscription: Victor votum sulvit – et pro votu sulvit.47 The frescoes attest to the devotional use of the site, as does the presence of an early votive inscription naming the martyr, but there was no trace of an altar, or tombs at the site.48 The dating is unclear; the paintings are now destroyed and have been variously dated from the fourth to the eighth century. The evidence for this site and mechanism for its association with the life and death of the martyr Felicita more fragmentary than the above-discussed examples, but it does indicate that at Rome there was a common practice of discovering archaeological remains and identifying them with places described in the stories of the saints’ lives and deaths.

Chapels in Rome

  • 49 Mackie 2003, p. 69-90.
  • 50 Bauer 1999, p. 437-438.
  • 51 Augenendt 1983.

20These « archaeological areas » are different from the other chapels and oratories which existed in Rome in several key ways. Firstly, they do not, as far as I can see, include altars like the chapels located at the places of saints’ burials in the catacombs, the classically defined martyrium of Grabar, which often included altars, and the raison d’être of which was very closely tied to the saints’ remains. There were certainly chapels dedicated to saints within churches, including the fifth-century Symmachan chapels or oratoria at S. Peter’s, the Lateran Baptistery and S. Maria Maggiore.49 These were dedicated to individual saints, some biblical saints, some Roman martyrs, and some martyrs from elsewhere. And some of these oratoria were in ancient buildings, such as the chapel of S. Andrea made in one of the imperial mausolea on the flank of St Peter’s. Indeed the phenomenon of side altars dedicated to saints other than the principle titular saints of a church is well attested in the Liber Pontificalis and extant inscriptions. To add to those mentioned in the sources but now lost, there are preserved side altars and chapels from the eighth century in S. Maria Antiqua and S. Crisogono, to name but two intramural churches. Franz Alto Bauer identified this multiplication of altars in Roman churches as a development of the seventh and specifically eighth century, when the needs and desires of the pilgrims to Rome and the faithful and clergy of Rome itself required more points of contact with the sacred and specifically, more altars and masses.50 Here he related the development to the phenomenon that Arnold Angenendt observed specifically in Francia, of the increase in different kinds of masses, including private masses, all of which increased the need for more altars in churches.51

21I want to draw a line distinguishing between these kinds of secondary altars, chapels and oratories in Roman churches and the four examples I have just given, the group of « sacred archaeological areas » into which I suggest S. Agnese fits. In our cases, and not in the cases of other secondary altars, the dedication of an area or an altar to a saint was not deliberately connected to the narrative of the saints involved. For example, the side chapels of SS. Quirico e Giulitta at S. Maria Antiqua did not purport to have witnessed the life or martyrdom of its titular saints. At SS. Giovanni e Paolo, S. Pudenziana, S. Cecilia and S. Felicita, however, these spaces were held indeed as witnesses. The antiquity of the structures, the fact that they were small in scale and generally less than monumental, perhaps the fact that they were underground all may have contributed to the significance of the place for the medieval faithful and its susceptibility to saintly interpretation.

22In our examples, the archaeology of late antiquity was a means by which the faithful of early medieval Rome could access the sacred past and venerate the saints of Rome. Not only were relics of the saints’ bodies the objects of desire and devotion of the faithful – as is well known -- but here I aim to show that vestiges of the archaeology of ancient Rome also had the authenticity of relics. At Rome, the attention paid to the place of burial of the saint, and the deep urban stratigraphy of the city that in the medieval imagination witnessed the lives and deaths of early Christians, encouraged the veneration of saints at certain places, both where they had died and where they had been buried. The venerable qualities of these places were made clear to the faithful by their location underneath and below the ground level of the medieval city and the designation of these spaces as holy by the addition of hagiographic and votive paintings. Narrative details of the saints’ Lives and Passions mapped onto the archaeological realities at the site, confecting a very particular kind of memorial. It is in the context of these kinds of shrines, and perhaps in this kind of chronology, that I suggest we situate the church of S. Agnese in Agone and the relationship between its archaeological reality and the stories of the saint’s Passion.

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Bibliographie

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Notes

1 Important work on this process of transformation includes Markus 1994 ; Thacker 2002.

2 Goodson 2007.

3 Marucchi 1909.

4 Costambeys 2001.

5 Reekmans 1989.

6 LP I, p. 158. This passage of the Liber Pontificalis was composed, most scholars agree, in the sixth century.

7 CT, IX, 17.

8 Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 326 (1076). For a facsimile of the manuscript, see http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/de/preview/sbe/0326 [accessed 11 November 2011]

9 Valentini Zucchetti 1942, p. 67-131 ; Osborne 1985.

10 Reekmans 1989.

11 This is true at S. Prassede, S. Cecilia, SS. Quattro Coronati, and S. Pietro in Vincoli, for example.

12 Geary 1991.

13 Goodson 2007.

14 Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 326(1076), 81v. fons sancti petri, ubi est carcer eius.

15 The most recent discussion is in Brenk 2003 ; Brenk 1995.

16 Brenk 1995, p. 191 argues that the niche was closed and decorated with painted plaster, where he suggests a reliquary was located.

17 Brenk 1995 reviews the interpretations n. 15, p. 188-96.

18 BHL 3241. For the most relevant discussion of the Passio, see Leyser 2007.

19 Colini 1944, p. 192; Apollonj-Ghetti 1975.

20 Colini 1944, p. 180-181 ; Gasdia 1937.

21 Brenk 1995, p. 199. Brenk concludes that the presence of spatheia of the sixth and seventh centuries in the fills are a « prova indiscutibile » of the practical, not devotional, use of the substructures of the church.

22 Gasdia 1937, p. 8.

23 Brenk 1995, p. 199.

24 On the paintings, and their ninth-century date, see Wilpert 1924, taf. 131, 166.4, 208.2 ; Gasdia 1937, p. 333-343; Kartsonis 1986, p. 84.

25 On the inscription fragment and the argument that it bears the text of the inscription reported in later sylloges, see Germano 1892. Ihm 1895, p. 58 was sceptical and referred to the text as Pseudo-damasian. Ferrua 1942, p. 229 was more positive about the epigram, if not the inscription. Hanc aram domi[ni s]ervant Paulusq Ioannes/Martyrium Christi partier pro nomine passi, Sanguine purpureo mercantes praemia uitae. « John and Paul watch over this altar of the Lord, who both equally suffered martyrdom for the name of Christ, purchasing the rewards of [eternal] life by their crimson blood. »

26 Germano 1892; Brenk 1995 inexplicably omits discussion of this inscription.

27 Wilpert 1924, p. 651ff and Krautheimer 1937-1977, I, p. 284.

28 For description of the archaeology, see Goodson 2010, p. 172-178.

29 The brick stamps of the bath walls and floor date from the second century to the late third. Since many bricks are reused, this suggests a date of construction around the fourth century. Parmegiani – Pronti 2004, p. 68–69. Krautheimer and his team had difficulty examining the bath structures and had hypothesised a date of the second century judging from what he saw of the masonry: Krautheimer 1937-1977, I, p. 100, n. 9.

30 Osborne 1992.

31 Claussen 2002, p. 227-249.

32 Laderchi 1722-1723, p. 12.

33 BHL 1495-1500.

34 The most recent edition of the Passio is Delehaye 1936, p. 73-96, 194-220. See also Bosio 1600, p. 1-26, Mombritius 1978, vol. I, p. 332–341.

35 Milella 1999.

36 On the Vita Pudentianae, see BHL 6988–6991; AASS, 19 Maii. For discussion of both of these Vitae, see Llewellyn 1976.

37 On the Vita Praxedis, see BHL 6920; Mombritius 1978, p. 390–391; AASS, 21 Iulii.

38 Guidobaldi 2002, Milella 1999 ; Tommasi 1999 ; Krautheimer 1937-1977, III, p. 280-305.

39 Ciacconio (ca. 1590) BAV, Vat. Lat. 5407, f. 156, reproduced in Krautheimer 1937-1977, I, p. 287.

40 Grisar 1896.

41 Wilpert 1924, IV, taf. 218, dated them to the second half of the ninth century.

42 Cecchelli 1989.

43 On the inscription, see Goodson 2010, p. 327-333.

44 Cecchelli 1989 observed the similarities in this situation.

45 For the Passion, see AASS, Iul III 12, BHL 2853-2855.

46 Arciprete 1995. De Rossi 1884-1885 makes this connection. Armellini – Cecchelli 1942, p. 178.

47 Ihm 1960, cat n° xii, p. 147-148.

48 Felicitas cultrix Romanarum /uo[tum] soluit. Santa martyr/ multum praesta[n]s hob uoti cereor. Felic / itates sperare innocentes, non despe/rare. Felicitas / conturbatis ipsa fortuna co[n]stet / memoranda / Silianus Martialis Filipus Felix Vitalis Alexsander Zenuarius. Diehl 1961-1967, n°1905.

49 Mackie 2003, p. 69-90.

50 Bauer 1999, p. 437-438.

51 Augenendt 1983.

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Référence électronique

Caroline Goodson, « Archaeology and the Cult of Saints in the Early Middle Ages: Accessing the Sacred », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge [En ligne], 126-1 | 2014, mis en ligne le 09 avril 2014, consulté le 23 août 2017. URL : http://mefrm.revues.org/1818 ; DOI : 10.4000/mefrm.1818

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Caroline Goodson

Birkbeck College, University of London - c.goodson@bbk.ac.uk

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