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A martyrology is a catalogue or list of martyrs and other saints and beati arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts. Local martyrologies record exclusively the custom of a particular Church. Local lists were enriched by names borrowed from neighbouring churches. [1] Consolidation occurred, by the combination of several local martyrologies, with or without borrowings from literary sources.

Martyr person who suffers persecution and death for advocating, refusing to renounce, and/or refusing to advocate a belief or cause, usually a religious one

A martyr is someone who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, or refusing to advocate a belief or cause as demanded by an external party. This refusal to comply with the presented demands results in the punishment or execution of the martyr by the oppressor. Originally applied only to those who suffered for their religious beliefs, the term has come to be used in connection with people killed for a political cause.

Saint one who has been recognized for having an exceptional degree of holiness, sanctity, and virtue

A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God. However, the use of the term "saint" depends on the context and denomination. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, and Lutheran doctrine, all of their faithful deceased in Heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered worthy of greater honor or emulation; official ecclesiastical recognition, and consequently veneration, is given to some saints through the process of canonization in the Catholic Church or glorification in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Beatification recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person

Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name. Beati is the plural form, referring to those who have undergone the process of beatification.


This is the now accepted meaning in the Latin Church. In the Orthodox Church, the nearest equivalent to the martyrology is the Synaxarion and the longer Menologion. [lower-alpha 1] As regards form, one should distinguish between simple martyrologies that simply enumerate names, and historical martyrologies, which also include stories or biographical details; for the latter, the term passionary is also used.

Latin Church automonous particular church making up of most of the Western world Catholics

The Latin Church is the largest particular church of the Catholic Church, employing the Latin liturgical rites. It is one of 24 sui iuris churches, the 23 other forming the Eastern Catholic Churches. It is headed by the Bishop of Rome - the pope, traditionally called the Patriarch of the West - with headquarters in the Vatican City, enclaved within Rome, Italy. The Latin Church traces its history to the earliest days of Christianity, according to Catholic tradition, through its direct leadership under the Holy See.

Oldest examples

The martyrology, or ferial, of the Roman Church in the middle of the fourth century still exists. It comprises two distinct lists, the Depositio martyrum and the Depositio episcoporum , lists most frequently found united. [1]

Among the Roman martyrs, mention is already made in the Ferial of some African martyrs (March 7, Perpetua and Felicitas; September 14, Cyprian). The calendar of Carthage, which belongs to the sixth century, contains a larger portion of foreign martyrs and even of confessors not belonging to that Church. [1]


In ancient Roman culture, felicitas is a condition of divinely inspired productivity, blessedness, or happiness. Felicitas could encompass both a woman's fertility, and a general's luck or good fortune. The divine personification of Felicitas was cultivated as a goddess. Although felicitas may be translated as "good luck," and the goddess Felicitas shares some characteristics and attributes with Fortuna, the two were distinguished in Roman religion. Fortuna was unpredictable and her effects could be negative, as the existence of an altar to Mala Fortuna acknowledges. Felicitas, however, always had a positive significance. She appears with several epithets that focus on aspects of her divine power.

Cyprian Bishop of Carthage and Christian writer

Saint Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and a notable Early Christian writer of Berber descent, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education. Soon after converting to Christianity, he became a bishop in 249. A controversial figure during his lifetime, his strong pastoral skills, firm conduct during the Novatianist heresy and outbreak of the plague, and eventual martyrdom at Carthage vindicated his reputation and proved his sanctity in the eyes of the Church. His skillful Latin rhetoric led to his being considered the pre-eminent Latin writer of Western Christianity until Jerome and Augustine. The Plague of Cyprian is named after him, owing to his description of it.

The Martyrologium Hieronymianum

The most influential of the local martyrologies is the martyrology commonly called Hieronymian, because it is (pseudepigraphically) attributed to St. Jerome. It was presumably drawn up in Italy in the second half of the fifth century, and underwent recension in Gaul, probably at Auxerre, in the late sixth. [2] All known manuscripts of the text spring from this Gallican recension.

Auxerre Prefecture and commune in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, France

Auxerre is the capital of the Yonne department and the fourth-largest city in Burgundy. Auxerre's population today is about 39,000; the metropolitan area comprises roughly 92,000 inhabitants. Residents of Auxerre are referred to as Auxerrois.

Setting aside the additions it later received, the chief sources of the Hieronymian are a general martyrology of the Churches of the East, the local martyrology of the Church of Rome, a general martyrology of Italy, a general martyrology of Africa, and some literary sources, among them Eusebius.

Eusebius Greek church historian

Eusebius of Caesarea, also known as Eusebius Pamphili, was a historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. He became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima about 314 AD. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon and is regarded as an extremely learned Christian of his time. He wrote Demonstrations of the Gospel, Preparations for the Gospel, and On Discrepancies between the Gospels, studies of the Biblical text. As "Father of Church History", he produced the Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus, the Chronicle and On the Martyrs.

Victor De Buck ("Acta SS.", Octobris, XII, 185, and elsewhere) identified the relationship of the Hieronymian Martyrology to the Syriac Martyrology discovered by Wright. This is of assistance in recognizing the existence of a general martyrology of the East, written in Greek at Nicomedia, and which served as a source for the Hieronymian.

Unfortunately, this document is in a lamentable condition. Proper names are distorted, repeated or misplaced, and in many places the text is so corrupt that it is impossible to understand it. With the exception of a few traces of borrowings from the Passions of the martyrs, the compilation is in the form of a simple martyrology.

There were three manuscript versions: that of Bern, Wolfenbuttel. and Echternach. The latter is thought to be the earliest, based on a copy possibly brought to England by Augustine of Canterbury in 597, and written at the Abbey of Echternach, founded by the English missionary Willibrord. [3]

The Martyrologium Hieronymianum Epternacense, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, is thought to have been written in the early eighth century as an Insular version of the "Hieronymianum", compiled from two separate copies. In some instances the feast is misplaced by a day. [4] Also known as the Echternach recension, it was adapted to the English Church, incorporating memorials for Augustine of Canterbury, Paulinus of York and others. [5]

In 1885 De Rossi and Duchesne published a memoir entitled Les sources du martyrologe hiéronymien (in Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire, V), which became the starting-point of a critical edition of the martyrology, published through their efforts in Vol. II for November of the "Acta SS." in 1894.

The medievalist Dom Henri Quentin and Bollandist Hippolyte Delehaye collaborated on an annotated edition, Commentarius Perpetuus in Martyrologium Hieronymianum, (Brussels, in 1931); Quentin supplied the textual commentary and Delehaye the historical.

Historical martyrologies

There is another type of martyrology in which the name is followed by a short history of the saint. These are the historical martyrologies. There exists a large number of them, from the ninth century. It may be said that their chief sources are, besides the Hieronymian, accounts derived from the Acts of the martyrs and some ecclesiastical authors.

Of the best-known historical martyrologies, the oldest go under the names of:

The most famous of all is that of Usuard (c. 875), Martyrology of Usuard , on which the Roman martyrology was based.

The first edition of the Roman martyrology appeared at Rome in 1583. The third edition, which appeared in 1584, was approved by Gregory XIII, who imposed the Roman martyrology upon the whole Church. In 1586, Baronius published his annotated edition, which in spite of its omissions and inaccuracies is a mine of valuable information.

The historical martyrologies taken as a whole have been studied by Dom Quentin (1908). There are also numerous editions of calendars or martyrologies of less universal interest, and commentaries upon them. Mention ought to be made of the famous marble calendar of Naples. [9]


The critical study of martyrologies is rendered difficult by the multitude and the disparate character of the elements that compose them. Early researches dealt with the historical martyrologies.

The chief works on the martyrologies are those of Heribert Rosweyde, who in 1613 published at Antwerp the martyrology of Ado; [10] of Sollerius, to whom we owe a learned edition of Usuard; [11] and of Fiorentini, who published in 1688 an annotated edition of the Martyrology of St Jerome. The critical edition of the latter by J. B. de Rossi and Louis Duchesne, was published in 1894. [12]

The notes of Baronius on the Roman Martyrology cannot be passed over in silence, the work having done much towards making known the historical sources of the compilations of the Middle Ages. In Vol. II for March of the "Acta Sanctorum" (1668) the Bollandists furnished new materials for martyrological criticism by their publication entitled Martyrologium venerabilis Bedæ presbyteri ex octo antiquis manuscriptis acceptum cum auctario Flori …. The results then achieved were in part corrected, in part rendered more specific, by the great work of Père Du Sollier, Martyrologium Usuardi monachi (Antwerp, 1714), published in parts in Vols. VI and VII for June of the "Acta Sanctorum."

Although Du Sollier's text of Usuard is not beyond criticism, the edition surpasses anything of the kind previously attempted. Henri Quentin (Les Martyrologes historiques du moyen âge, Paris, 1908) took up the general question and succeeded in giving a reasonable solution, thanks to careful study of the manuscripts.


As regards documents, the most important distinction is between local and general martyrologies. The former give a list of the festivals of some particular Church; the latter are the result of a combination of several local martyrologies. We may add certain compilations of a factitious character, to which the name of martyrology is given by analogy, e.g. the Martyrologe universel of Chatelain (1709). As types of local martyrologies we may quote that of Rome, formed from the Depositio martyrum and the Depositio episcoporum of the chronograph of 354; the Gothic calendar of Ulfila`s Bible, the calendar of Carthage published by Mabillon, the calendar of fasts and vigils of the Church of Tours, going back as far as Bishop Perpetuus (d. 490), and preserved in the Historia Francorum (xi. 31) of Gregory of Tours. The Syriac martyrology discovered by Wright (Journal of Sacred Literature, 1866) gives the idea of a general martyrology. [13]

Prior to Vatican II, the Martyrology was read publicly as part of the Roman Catholic Divine Office at Prime. It was always anticipated, that is, the reading for the following day was read. After Vatican II, the office of Prime was suppressed. A fully revised edition was issued in 2001, with rubrics suggesting that the Martyrology might be proclaimed at the end of the celebration of Lauds or of one of the Little Hours, or apart from liturgical celebrations in community gatherings for meetings or meals. [14]

Roman Martyrology

The model of the Roman Martyrology is directly derived from the historical martyrologies. It is in sum the Martyrology of Usuard , completed by the "Dialogues" of Pope Gregory I and the works of some of the Fathers, and for the Greek saints by the catalogue known as the Menologion of Sirlet. The editio princeps appeared at Rome in 1583, under the title: Martyrologium romanum ad novam kalendarii rationem et ecclesiasticæ historiæ veritatem restitutum, Gregorii XIII pont. max. iussu editum. It bears no approbation. A second edition also appeared at Rome in the same year. This was soon replaced by the edition of 1584, which was approved and imposed on the entire Roman rite of the Church by Pope Gregory XIII. Baronius revised and corrected this work and republished it in 1586, with the Notationes and the Tractatio de Martyrologio Romano. The Antwerp edition of 1589 was corrected in some places by Baronius himself. A new edition of the text and the notes took place under Pope Urban VIII and was published in 1630. Pope Benedict XIV was also interested in the Roman Martyrology: his Bull of 1748 addressed to John V, King of Portugal, was often included as a preface in printed copies of the Roman Martyrology.

After the Second Vatican Council, a fully revised edition was promulgated in 2001, followed in 2005 by a version (bearing the publication date of 2004) that adjusted a number of typographical errors that appeared in the 2001 edition and added 117 people canonized or beatified between 2001 and 2004, as well as a number of more ancient saints not included in the previous edition. "The updated Martyrology contains 7,000 saints and blesseds currently venerated by the Church, and whose cult is officially recognized and proposed to the faithful as models worthy of imitation." [15]

Further comments

See also


  1. The Greek synaxaries are a counterpart. The literature of the synaxaries comprises also the books of that category belonging to the various Oriental rites (see Analecta Bollandiana , XIV, 396 sqq.; Hippolyte Delehaye, Synaxarium ecclesiæ Constantinopolitanæ Propylæum ad Acta Sanctorum novembris, 1902).

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Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla, and Pancras

Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla, and Pancras are venerated as martyrs of the Roman Catholic Church.


Synaxarion or Synexarion is the name given in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches to a compilation of hagiographies corresponding roughly to the martyrology of the Roman Church.

Saint Alban English protomartyr

Saint Alban is venerated as the first-recorded British Christian martyr, for which reason he is considered to be the British protomartyr. Along with fellow Saints Julius and Aaron, Alban is one of three named martyrs recorded at an early date from Roman Britain. He is traditionally believed to have been beheaded in the Roman city of Verulamium sometime during the 3rd or 4th century, and his cult has been celebrated there since ancient times.

Hippolyte Delehaye, S.J., was a Belgian Jesuit who was a hagiographical scholar and an outstanding member of the Society of Bollandists.

<i>Martyrologium Hieronymianum</i>

The Martyrologium Hieronymianum or Martyrologium sancti Hieronymi 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.

<i>Martyrology of Usuard</i>

The Martyrology of Usuard is a work by Usuard, a monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The prologue is dedicated to Charles the Bald indicating that it was undertaken at that monarch's instigation. It was apparently written shortly before the author's death.

Usuard was a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and a Carolingian scholar.

Acts of the Martyrs

Acts of the Martyrs are accounts of the suffering and death of a Christian martyr or group of martyrs. These accounts were collected and used in church liturgies from early times, as attested by Saint Augustine.

Martinian and Processus Christian martyrs

Martinian and Processus were Christian martyrs of ancient Rome. Neither the years they lived nor the circumstances of their deaths are known. They are currently buried in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Saint Nicomedes was a Martyr of unknown era, whose feast is observed 15 September.

There are several saints named Rufus, of which the Roman Martyrology records ten; historical mention is made of the following ones, which have liturgical feasts:

  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.
Flavia Domitilla (saint) Daughter of Domitilla the Younger

Flavia Domitilla, daughter of Domitilla the Younger by an unknown father, perhaps Quintus Petillius Cerialis, had the same name as her mother and her grandmother Domitilla the Elder. She was thus a granddaughter of Emperor Vespasian and a niece of Emperors Titus and Domitian. She married her cousin, the consul Titus Flavius Clemens, a grand-nephew of Vespasian through his father Titus Flavius Sabinus.

The Roman Martyrology is the official martyrology of the Catholic Church. Its use is obligatory in matters regarding the Roman Rite liturgy, but dioceses, countries and religious institutes may add to it duly approved appendices. It provides an extensive but not exhaustive list of the saints recognized by the Church.

Saint Hermes Greek saint

Saint Hermes, born in Greece, died in Rome as a martyr in 120, is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. His name appears in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum as well as entries in the Depositio Martyrum (354). There was a large basilica over his tomb that was built around 600 by Pope Pelagius I. It was restored by Pope Adrian I. A catacomb in the Salarian Way bears his name.

Hermagoras of Aquileia Bishop of Aquileia

Saint Hermagoras of Aquileia is considered the first bishop of Aquileia, northern Italy. Christian tradition states that he was chosen by Saint Mark to serve as the leader of the nascent Christian community in Aquileia, and that he was consecrated bishop by Saint Peter. Hermagoras and his deacon Fortunatus evangelized the area but were eventually arrested by Sebastius, a representative of Nero. They were tortured and beheaded.

Victoria, Anatolia, and Audax saints

Saints Victoria, Anatolia, and Audax are venerated as martyrs and saints by the Catholic Church. Victoria and Anatolia are mentioned in the Roman Martyrology under the date of 10 July. Anatolia was first mentioned in the De Laude Sanctorum composed in 396 by Victrice (Victricius), bishop of Rouen (330-409).

Basilides, Cyrinus, Nabor and Nazarius are saints of the Roman Catholic Church, mentioned in the Martyrology of Bede and earlier editions of the Roman Martyrology for 12 June as four Roman martyrs who suffered death under Diocletian.

Quirinus of Neuss German saint

Saint Quirinus of Neuss, sometimes called Quirinus of Rome is venerated as a martyr and saint of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. His cult was centered at Neuss in Germany, though he was a Roman martyr.

Henri Quentin French catholic priest, philologist and monk

Dom Henri Quentin was a French Benedictine monk. A philologist specializing in biblical texts and martyrologies, he was the creator of an original method of textual criticism. He pioneered techniques to compare texts and produce trees of relationships between version and editions in order to study their origins and variations.



  1. 1 2 3 Delehaye, Hippolyte. "Martyrology." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 11 Dec. 2014
  2. Damico, Helen. Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline, Routledge, 2014 ISBN   9781317732020
  3. Lapidge, Michael. "Cynewulf and the Passio S. Julianae", Unlocking the Wordhord: Anglo-Saxon Studies in Memory of Edward B. Irving, Jr, (Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe, Edward Burroughs Irving, Mark Amodio. eds.), University of Toronto Press, 2003 ISBN   9780802048226
  4. Clayton, Mary. "Feasts of the Virgin in the Anglo-Saxon Church", Anglo-Saxon England, Vol. 13, Peter Clemoes, Simon Keynes, and Michael Lapidge eds., Cambridge University Press, 2007 ISBN   9780521038379
  5. Bischoff, Bernhard and Lapidge, Michael. Biblical Commentaries from the Canterbury School of Theodore and Hadrian, Cambridge University Press, 1994 ISBN   9780521330893
  6. Acta sanctorum Marlii , vol. ii.
  7. A metrical martyrology, of which Ernst Dümmler published a critical edition ( Monumenta Germaniæ , Poetæ lat., II, 578-602).
  8. c. 896 v. Analecte bollandiana , xvii. If
  9. It is at present in the archdiocesan chapel, and is the object of the lengthy commentaries of Mazocchi (Commentarii in marmoreum Neapol. Kalendarium, Naples, 1755, 3 vols) and of Sabbatini (Il vetusto calendario napolitano, Naples, 1744, 12 vols.)
  10. Roswyde's edition of Ado was preceded by the "Little Roman," which he called "Vetus Romanum". It was only replaced by that of Giorgi (Rome, 1745), based on new MSS. and enriched with notes.
  11. Acta sanctorum Junii , vols. vi. and vii.
  12. In vol. ii. of the Acta sanctorum Novembris .
  13. Cited source: Article MARTYROLOGY, Encyclopaedia Britannica - Read it from Wikisource
  14. Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, Vatican Press (Typis Vaticanis), see pages 29-31.
  15. Adoremus Bulletin, February 2005