Depositio Martyrum

views updated


The oldest list of Roman martyrs, forming, together with the Depositio Episcoporum, the so-called Philocalian Calendar. The two lists are found along with other documents in the chronographer of a.d. 354, written perhaps by Furius Dionysius Philocalus, the calligrapher of Pope damasus i (d. 384). By means of these depositiones the faithful of Rome were informed concerning the day and place of liturgical worship. Both lists were probably fixed by 336 since the Depositio Martyrum names no one after this date, and the Depositio Episcoporum maintains an orderly arrangement of feasts from January to December, in which the name of Pope sylvester i (d.335) is the last recorded; and two popes, Mark I (d. 336) and Julius I (d. 352), are evident additions. Their feasts fall on October 7 and April 12.

In both depositiones the indications are kept to a minimum: the day of month, the name of the pope or martyr, and location of his tomb. When two notices are given under one and the same heading in the Depositio Martyrum, the order is inverted; the indication of the cemetery precedes the name of the martyr. No information is given to identify individuals, nor are there indications of the kind of death suffered by the saint.

The earliest name in the Depositio Episcoporum is Pope Lucius I (d. 254). With the exception of the Apostles Peter and Paul, none of the 52 martyrs recorded in the Depositio Martyrum is prior to the 3d century; the earliest African martyrs are perpetua and felicity (d.203), and the earliest Roman martyr of certain date is Pope Callistus (d. 222). Notations are made for the celebration of Christmas on December 25, Natus Christus in Bethleem Iudaeae ; and on February 22, the Natale Petri de cathedra.

The Philocalian Calendar underwent subsequent revisions, two of which are attributed respectively to the time of innocent i (401417) and boniface i (418422); and at a later date both depositiones, enlarged in the course of years, were used in the compilation of the martyrology of st. jerome at the beginning of the 5th century. Archeological investigation has confirmed the reliability of the two lists of saints. In the Depositio Martyrum the names of the cemeteries and related topographical indications have been verified by findings of inscriptions and graffiti such as those concerning St. Fabian, and findings of inscriptions in the cemetery of St. Callistus have confirmed the exactness of the Depositio Episcoporum.

Bibliography: r. valentini and g. zucchetti, eds., Codice topografico della città di Roma, 4 v. (Rome 194053) 1:128. h. lietzmann, ed., Die drei ältesten Martyrologien (2d ed. Bonn 1911). Liber Pontificalis, ed. l. duchesne (Paris 188692) v. 1. j.p. kirsch, Der stadtrömische christliche Festkalender im Altertum (Münster 1924). w. h. frere, Studies in Early Roman Liturgy, 3 v. (Oxford 193035) v.1. r. stieger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 7:138140.

[r. bryan]