Martyrologium Hieronymianum

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Saint Jerome with the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, by El Greco El Greco 031.jpg
Saint Jerome with the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, by El Greco

The Martyrologium Hieronymianum or Martyrologium sancti Hieronymi (both meaning "martyrology of Jerome") is an ancient martyrology or list of Christian martyrs in calendar order, one of the most used and influential of the Middle Ages. It is the oldest surviving general or "universal" martyrology, and the precursor of all later Western martyrologies.


Pseudepigraphically attributed to Saint Jerome, the Martyrologium Hieronymianum contains a reference to him derived from the opening chapter of his Life of Malchus (392 AD) where Jerome states his intention to write a history of the saints and martyrs from the apostolic times: "I decided to write [a history, mentioned earlier] from the coming of the savior up to our age, that is, from the apostles, up to the dregs of our time". [1]

Date and textual history

The Martyrologium Hieronymianum appears to have drawn for its material on the existing calendar of Rome, on one from Africa, and on a compilation made in Greek around the year 362 A.D. and which used as a major source the details found regarding the martyrs in works of Eusebius of Caesarea. The contents of the 362 AD compilation are known to us from an untidy Syriac translation, the Martyrology of AD 411 . [2] It is the geographical spread of the sources which gave this pioneering martyrology its general or "universal" character. Nevertheless, on account precisely of this non-local character and because the date of final compilation considerable postdates the end of the main anti-Christian persecutions, the antiquity of much of the information gathered is undermined by the inevitable errors caused by multiple compilers and by scribes to whom the persons mentioned could not have been personally unknown. [3] It appears that the initial Latin text was fabricated in Northern Italy, probably within the Patriarchate of Aquileia, in the 430s or 440s. [4] but then later reworked in Gaul, probably at Auxerre, about the year 600. It is from this line of transmission that the surviving manuscripts descend.

The three earliest manuscripts which do survive of the Latin Martyrologium Hieronymianum as such are all relatively late, from the 8th century, which means they have inevitably suffered interference in the course of transmission. The oldest of them [5] comes from the monastery of the Northumbrian missionary St Willibrord at Echternach and was written in England in the first years of the 8th century. Two other important manuscripts were written in the same century, one for the monastery of Saint Avoldus near Metz, [6] and the other was copied by 772 AD for the monastery of Saint-Wandrille and then came to the monastery of St Peter in Wissembourg. [7]

In 1894 the text of the three manuscripts were juxtaposed in a publication contributed by Giovanni Battista de Rossi and Louis Duchesne to the monumental Acta Sanctorum, [8] which prepared the way for a critical edition published by Henri Quentin in 1931 along with a historical commentary by the Bollandist Hippolyte Delehaye, again in connection with the Acta Sanctorum, [9]

Scholars generally assume that in the lists of martyrs that head each day's entry, newer additions were added at the bottom of the lists, and thus the first names are most likely to be those from the lost earliest versions of the Martyrologium Hieronymianum.


The material preserved in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum is such that highly specialist training is needed to evaluate it. Derived as the material often is from calendars, it is no surprise that the greater part of the entries contain only summary lists of names and places, for example: "On the third day before the Ides of January, at Rome, in the [catacomb] cemetery of Callixtus, on the Appian Way, was buried Miltiades, the bishop".

The first "historical" martyrologies, (containing narrative history of the life of a saint), would not flower until the Carolingian period, starting with the martyrology of Bede.

See also

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  1. On 19 April, a group of martyrs in Melitene in Armenia, one of whom bears the name of Rufus. These martyrs are mentioned already in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum.
  2. On 1 August, Rufus, with several companions who, according to the most reliable manuscripts of the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" died at Tomi, the place being afterwards by mistake changed to Philadelphia.
  3. On 27 August, two martyrs named Rufus at Capua -- one, whose name also appears as Rufinus in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum". The other is said to have suffered with a companion, Carponius, in Diocletian's persecution circa 304 AD.
  4. On 25 September, several martyrs at Damascus, among them one named Rufus.
  5. On 7 November, a Rufus of Metz, who is said to have been Bishop of Metz; his history, however, is legendary. His name was inserted at a later date in an old manuscript of the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum"(ed. cit., 140). In the ninth century his relics were transferred to Gau-Odernheim in Hesse, Diocese of Mainz.
  6. On 12 November, Rufus, legend, without any historical proof, the supposed first Bishop of Avignon, who is perhaps identical with Rufus, the disciple of Paul. [cf. Louis Duchesne, "Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule", I, 258; Duprat in "Mémoires de l'Académie de Vaucluse" (1889), 373 sqq.; (1890), 1 sqq., 105 sqq.].
  7. On 21 November, Rufus the disciple of the Apostles, who lived at Rome and to whom Saint Paul sent a greeting, as well as he did also to the mother of Rufus. St. Mark says in his Gospel that Simon of Cyrene was the father of Rufus, and as Mark wrote his Gospel for the Roman Christians, this Rufus is probably the same as the one to whom Paul sent a salutation [cf. Cornely, "Commentar. in Epist. ad Romanos", 778 sq.].
  8. On 28 November, a Roman martyr Rufus, probably identical with the Rufinianus who was buried in the Catacomb of Generosa on the Via Portuensis, and who is introduced in the legendary Acts of the martyrdom of St. Chrysogonus.
  9. On 18 December, the holy martyrs Rufus and Zosimus, who were taken to Rome with St. Ignatius of Antioch and were put to death there for their unwavering confession of Christianity during the persecution of Trajan. St. Polycarp speaks of them in his letter to the Philippians.
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The Martyrology of 411 is the oldest Eastern Christian martyrology, preserved in one of the oldest Syriac manuscripts, British Library, Add MS 12150, dated to November 411.


  1. Vita Malchi, chapter 1: "Scribere enim disposui [...] ab adventu salvatoris usque ad nostram aetatem, id est, ab apostolis, usque ad nostri temporis faecem..."
  2. London, British Library, Ms. additional 12150, published by F. Nau, in Patrologia Orientalis, t. 10, 1955, pp. 7-26 (Syriac with French translation).
  3. Jacques Dubois, O.S.B., Les martyrologes du Moyen Âge latin 1978: 29-30.
  4. Hippolyte Delehaye, Commentarius perpetuus in martyrologium hieronymianum, 1931, p. 55.
  5. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. lat. 10837, folios 2 - 33.
  6. Bern, Swiss National Library, ms. 289.
  7. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Library, ms. Weissenburg 23.
  8. Volume November, II, pp. [1-156].
  9. Henri Quentin and Hippolyte Delehaye, Commentarius Perpetuus in Martyrologium Hieronymianum, Brussels, 1931.

Further reading