Key to Umbria

Please be aware that what follows are the speculations of an amateur.  If you have a serious interest, you would do well to consult the sources referenced below.

Early Martyrologies 

The Martyrology of Florus (825-40) contains an entry under under 10th December for SS Abundius and Carpophorus according to which they were respectively a priest and a deacon, cruelly tortured by the judge “Martiano” in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian.  They were then martyred “apud Hispolitanum” (near Spello).

Other early martyrologies (of Adon and of Usuard) placed the martyrdom of SS Carpophorus and Abundius at Spoleto.

Legend of the Twelve Syrians

Introductory Section

As set out in the page Legend of the Twelve Syrians I, the first part of that legend explains (inter alia) how SS Carpophorus and Abundius came to be in the Duchy of Spoleto:

  1. They travelled from Syria to Rome in a party led by an older relation, St Anastasius, in the reign of the Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-3).

  2. When the party arrived in Rome, a bishop named Urban (“ss. Urbano episcopo”,  ss. papa Urbano” or other variants thereof) ordained ordained St Carpophorus as a priest and St Abundius as a deacon.. 

  3. When St Anastasius was executed, his son St Brictius led the rest of the family to safety along  Via Cornelia.

  4. Two of the Syrians left the group at a place called “Pax Sanctorum”.  St Brictius and the rest of the family, which included SS Carpophorus and Abundius, continued to Spoleto.

There is no reason to think that this section of the Legend of the Twelve Syrians drew on the same source as the Martyrology of Florus, which:

  1. does not mention the rather important fact that SS Carpophorus and Abundius were from Syria; and

  2. is almost certainly set some decades before the reign of Julian the Apostate.

Rest of Part I

The rest of Part I is mostly concerned with the martyrdom of SS Carpophorus and Abundius.  Following the publication of the anti-Christian edict (according to this legend, and perfectly plausibly, on 23rd July 303), the proconsul Martianus arrested SS Carpophorus and Abundius.  They were tortured and subsequently executed.  

It seems highly likely that this section of the Legend of the Twelve Syrians drew on the same sources as the Martyrology of Florus.  However, it contains additional information and also some discrepancies, particularly in relation to geography (see below).

According to the legend, SS Carpophorus and Abundius and some of their followers at the house of a Christian lady called Sincleta:  

  1. Most of those arrested were beheaded outside the walls of Spoleto on 25th September, and Sinacleta buried them "in cimiterio Pontiani, non longe ab urbe Spoletana".  This almost certainly refers to the early Christian cemetery near the church of San Ponziano, just outside the walls of Roman Spoletium.

  2. SS Carpophorus and Abundius were taken to Foligno and were beheaded on 10th December at “Thanaritanus”, at the foot of "Monte Rotundus" (the round mountain), a Roman mile from the city.  An angel appeared to a Christian matron named Eustachia and told her to recover their bodies there and to bury them in a new sarcophagus.  She duly found the bodies and buried them in “spelunca sua” (literally “her cave”, presumably a cavern used for burial).

Place of Martyrdom

It is interesting to speculate why the author of the Legend of the Twelve Syrians discounted the information in the source for the early martyrologies that SS Carpophorus and Abundius were martyred: near Spello (Martyrology of Florus); or at Spoleto (Martyrologies of Adon and Usuard).  Why, specifically, did he think that they were transferred from Spoleto to Foligno before their execution?

It seems likely that he wanted to account for the fact that the relics of the saints were venerated at Foligno, at least by 850, when Bishop Domenico of Foligno agreed to give the relics of St Abundius to Abbot Tiberius of Berceto [as set out in more detail in the page on these saints.]  It is interesting to note that he also claimed to have the relics of “those who had suffered with them”.

The author of the legend accounted for the presence of the relics at Foligno by suggesting that SS Carpophorus and Abundius had been executed and then buried there.  However, it is alternatively possible that they were indeed executed at Spoleto (or, less probably, at Spello), and that their relics were subsequently translated to Foligno.  Although there is no evidence of such a translation, it is not inherently unlikely, since Foligno formed part of the Duchy of Spoleto after the Lombard invasion of 568.  In the religious turmoil that followed, its diocese absorbed those of Forum Flaminii, Spello and Carsulae before being itself absorbed by that of Spoleto.  It had re-emerged by 680, when its bishop accompanied the bishop of Spoleto to a synod in Rome. 

Read more:

Unless otherwise stated, the legend referred to is BHL 1620 in the version from the Codex Barberiniano (now in the Vatican Library) published in the “Acta Sanctorum”, July, Volume I (1719).  This is entitled “Tractatus Praeliminaris” (search on “Passio atque conversio”).  Search the same document on “Temporibus invectissimorum Imperatorum” for the legend of the translation of the relics of St Abundius (BHL 0019).
The version of the legend (BHL 1622) was published by Bonino Mombrizio in “Sanctuarium seu vitæ Sanctorum” Volume I (1480) and republished in 1910.  It is entitled “Passio SS Abundii et Carpofori Martyrum” (page 53 of this scan). 

The version of the legend (BHL 1622d) is published in Italian and Latin in 
R. Cordella and A. Inverni, “San Brizio di Spoleto, la Pieve e il Santo: Storia, Arte, Territorio”, Spoleto (2000)

The textual similarities between the entries for St Brictius and SS Carpophorus and Adundius in the Martyrology of Florus on the one hand and BHL 1620 on the other are set out in: 
H. Quentin, “Les Martyrologies Historiques du Moyen Age”, Spoleto (1908, reprinted 2002) p 254-5 

See also: 

F. Lanzoni, “Le Diocesi d'Italia dalle Origini al Principio del Secolo VII”, Faenza (1927) pp 427-34 

G. Martelli, “Le Più Antiche Cripte Umbre” in 
“Aspetti dell' Umbria dall' Inizio del Secolo VIII alla Fine del Secolo XI: Atti del III Convegno di Studi Umbri, Gubbio 23-27 Maggio 1965” (1966) Gubbio  323-53
The reference to San Felice di Giano and San Brizio is at pp 335-6

L. Sensi, “Un Sarcofago Paleocristiano da Santa Maria in Campis”, Bollettino Storico della Città di Foligno, 6 (1982) 19-34 

E. Paoli, “I Santi Siri dell’ Umbria e della Sabina”, in 
“Agiografia e Strategie Politico-Religiose: Alcuni Esempi da Gregorio Magno al Concilio di Trento”, Spoleto (1997) pp 3-50 

E. Menestò, "Istituzioni e Territorio dell' Umbria da Augusto all' Inizio della Dominazione Franca", in 
E. Menestò (Ed), "Il Corridoio Bizantino e la Via Amerina in Umbria nell' Alto Medioevo", Spoleto (1999) pp 4-97
 The section on the “Placito di Desiderio” is at pp 88-9, with a very useful map at p 90

There are two important articles in: 
“Umbria Cristiana: dalla Diffusione del Culto al Culto dei Santi (secc. IV-X): Atti del XV Congresso Internazionale di Studi sull' Alto Medioevo (Spoleto, 23-28 Ottobre 2000)”, Spoleto (2001): 
E. Paoli, “ L' Agiografia Umbra Altomedievale”, pp 479-529 
S. Nessi, “La Diocesi di Spoleto tra Tardoantico e Medioevo”, pp 833-81

Return to: Legend of the Twelve Syrians I: Factual Summary
Legend of the Twelve Syrians II: St Anastasius 
Legend of the 12 Syrians III: St Brictius  

Proceed to Legend of the Twelve Syrians IV: Other saints

Return to the page on Saints Venerated in Umbria.

Legend of the Twelve Syrians

IV: Analysis: SS Carpophorus & Abundius

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Legend of the Twelve Syrians: I: Factual Summary   

II: St Anastasius;   III: St Brictius;   IV:  SS Carpophorus and Abundius;   V: Other Saints