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Liber Pontificalis

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de vitis Romanorum Pontificum, GESTA ROMANORUM PONTIFICUM, LIBER GESTORUM PONTIFICALIUM, are the names of a history of the bishops of Rome from the apostle Peter down to Nicolas I (t 867), to which those of Adrian II and of Stephen VI (t 891) were subsequently added. On the authority of Onuphrio Pavini, the first editors of this Liber Pontificalis considered as its author Anastasius, abbot of a convent at Rome, and librarian of the church under Nicolas I; but more thorough researches have proved this liber to vary greatly in style, and even in views manifested in the different biographies, and therefore led to the supposition that the work is not all by the same author. This belief is further strengthened by the fact that already Anastasius, on some occasions, made use of passages from the Liber Pontificalis, and that there are MSS. extant which can with certainty be ascribed to the close of the 7th or the beginning of the 8th century, and which contain extracts from the Liber Pontificalis. In the early part of the 17th century, several writers put forth arguments in favor of the last-mentioned views. Among them are Emanuel of Schelstrate, librarian of the Vatican (Dissertatio de antiquis Romanorum Pontificumn catalogis, ex quibus Liber Pontificalis concinnatus sit, et de Libri Pontificalis auctore ac prmstantia [Romae, 1692, fol.; reprinted in Muratori, Rerum Italicarum scriptores, 3:1 sq.]), Joannes Ciampini (magister brevium gratiae: Examen Librai Pontificalis sive vita rum Romanorum Pontificum, quae sub nomine Anastasii bibliothecarii circumferuntur [Romans 1688, 4to; reprinted in Muratori, page 33 sq.]), and others. The supposition that the codex was compiled by pope Damasus, the successor of Liberius, as maintained by the authors of the Origines, is untenable. The correspondence between Damnasus and Jerome which is adduced in support of this view is evidently spurious (see Schelstrate, Dissertatio, etc.). The author or authors are unknown, but the information it contains is valuable. It is now generally thought to have been written about the 4th century.

The oldest source known at present of the liber is generally considered to have been a list of the popes down to Liberius, and probably written during his life (352-366), as it makes no mention of his death (see Schelstrate, Dissertatio, etc., chapter 2, 3; Hefele, Tü binger theolog. Quartalschrift, 1845, page 312 sq.). The original MS. of this so-called Codex Liberii is now lost. In 1634 a copy was made of it from an Antwerp MS. by Bucher, the Bollandists give one in the Acta Sanctorunm, April, volume 1:1675, and Schelstrate another from a Vienna codex. These three texts are given side by side in the Origines de l'eglise Romaine, par les membres de la communauute de Solermes (Paris, 1826), volume 1.

Another list of the popes extends down to Felix IV (t 530). It was first published in a codex of the Vatican Library by Christine of Sweden, afterwards by Sylvester of Henschen and Papebroch, and is also found in the introduction of the first volume of the Acta Sanctorum for April, in Schelstrate, and in the above-mentioned Origines, page 212. There are transcripts of French origin, and the original MS. of this so-called Catalogus Felicis IV is lost, but the two at present in existence are evidently copies of the same original, as results from a careful comparison of them by Schelstrate. That the author of it must have consulted the Catalogus Liberii is evident from the fact that its errors are repeated in it. They both omit the names of the consuls and emperors between Liberius and John I (523), and commence again at the reign of the latter, and of his successor, Felix IV (al. III). Schelstrate already correctly surmised from this fact that the author lived in the time of these two popes, which view is also supported by the completeness and thoroughness with which their history, in particular, is treated. Still, as to the author, there is no definite information. The numerous references to the archives of the Roman Church, in which, moreover, the first MS. was discovered, would make it probable that the author was himself a librarian of the archives, if the confusion and even incorrectness of some parts did not militate against this view. Aside from the similarity of this collection with the Catalogus Liberii, which extends so far that whole passages are copied literally, or nearly so, from the one into the other, the Catalogus Felicis IV differs from the Liberii principally by its full particulars on the ordination, by its mention of the birthplace of the popes, and their funerals, which the author may have derived from tradition and other similar sources, pseudo- decretals and canons, martyrologies, etc. The only parts which have heretofore been considered worthy of full confidence are those which coincide with the Catalogues Liberii, and those which refer to the times of John and Felix, when the author would be better acquainted with the facts than with those of preceding periods.

Both lists were subsequently continued, and this is what produced the Liber Pontificalis. This filiation, however, can only be traced by the aid of MSS. The oldest copy known belongs to the close of the 7th or the beginning of the 8th century. It ends at the death of Conon (686-687). A rather incomplete Codex rescriptus, discovered by Pertz (Archiv. page 50 sq.) at Naples, gives the list of the popes down to Conon; it must have been written, at the latest, in the early part of the 8th century. Another is found in a codex of the cathedral chapter of Verona, ending also with Conon, but to it was added afterwards a list of the names of the popes down to Paul I (t 767). This MS. was published in the fourth volume of Bianchini's collection, but, unfortunately, we have no description of this codex; it was to have been given in the fifth volume, which never appeared (see Rostell, Beschreibung der Stadt Romans 1:209, 210), so that it is impossible clearly to establish its relation to the Neapolitan MS. A continuation of this first work goes down to Gregory II (from 714), and is to be found in the Codex of the Vatican, No. 5269, which must be a copy of an older MS. (Schelstrate, chapter 5, § 3). Then there is another continuation from the second part of the 8th century, contained in a codex of the Ambrosian Library of Milan (M. no. 77, 4to), which is of the same date. The biographies close with Stephen III (t 757), and at the end is simply remarked, "xcv Paulus sedit annis x, mensibus ii, diebus v" (Muratori, Rerum Ital. Scriptores, 3:7). The variations on this MS. are given by Muratori under the letter A. It belonged originally to the convent of Bobbio. According to a very plausible supposition of Niebuhr, the above-mentioned Neapolitan Codex came also from that convent. It will probably be possible, when the subject shall have been more thoroughly studied, to trace a connection between the two, and the Liber Pontiicalis also. After the middle of the 8th century there appeared several continuations, as is shown by the numerous MSS. of them in existence (see, in Muratori, B, C, D; and Pertz, who gives notices of several MSS. of the kind). Some of these codices extend down to Nicolas I (t 867), others to Stephen VI (t 891), which is as far as the so-called Liber Pontificalis extends.

If from what we have stated it is concluded that the work dates back as far as the 7th century, it is clearly impossible that the librarian Anastasius should have been its author. He could at best only have continued it. Schelstrate thinks that the biography of Nicolas I can alone be ascribed to him (c. 8, § 10); while Ciampini is induced by some peculiarities of the style to consider him also as the author of the four preceding ones (1.c. sect. 5, 6). Ii the present state of the question it is impossible to decide between the two opinions. But it is clearly a mistake to attribute the biographies of Adrian II and Stephen IV to a certain Bibliothecarius Gulielntus, as is generally done (Ciampini names the librarian Zachary, sect. 4, 7, 8). This error originated in an inscription in the Vatican Codex (3762, fol. 90 b-96), which, however, states only that a certain Peter Guillermus of Genoa, librarian of the convent of S. AEgidius, wrote this Vatican Codex in the year 1142 (see Giesebrecht, in the Kieler Allgem1. Monatsschrift, etc., April, 1852, pages 266, 267; Monumental Germaniae, 11:318).

The sources of the Liber Pontificalis, besides those above mentioned, consist partly in traditions, partly in MS. documents, and remaining monuments, auch as buildings, inscriptions, etc. The collection of canon law of the 7th or 8th century, published by Zachary from a codex of Modena, stands in close connection with the Liber Pontificalis (see Zaccaria, Dissertazioni varie Italiane a storia eccleslastica appartenenti, Romans 1780, volume 2, diss. 4; reproduced by Galland, De vetustis canonum collectionibus dissertationum sylloge, Mogunt. 1770, 4to, 2:679 sq.); yet it is not to be considered as one of its sources, but rather appears to have been based on the Liber Pontificalis. The Liber Pontificalis has become particularly valuable for the correctness of the information since the latter part of the 7th century, when the Roman archives were regularly organized, and the continuation of the Liber Pontificalis could only be intrusted to the librarians or other members of the clergy having free access to the archives. The Liber Pontificalis is especially useful for the history of particular churches, ecclesiastical institutions, the discipline, etc. Schelstrate names as its first edition Peter Crabbe's Concilien (Cologne, 1538); but this is neither complete nor well connected. It only contains extracts on each pope, like Baronius's Annutles and subsequent collections of canons, and as the "editio priinceps," the edition of J. Busä us (Mayence, 1602, 4to) is generally accepted, which is based on a MS. of Marcus Welser, of Augsburg. It was followed by the edition of Hannibal Fabrotti (Par. 1649), for which several codices were consulted. Lucas Holstenius prepared another by collating Busaus's with a number of MSS., and, although never published, it was greatly used by Schelstrate and others (see Schelstrate, cap. 5, No. 3 sq.). From the hands of Schelstrate the MS. of Holstenius passed into the library of the Vatican in 1734 (see Dudik, Iter Romanum, part 1 [Vienna, 1855, page 169]). The next edition was published by Francis Bianchini (Romans 1718, folio), and this served as a basis for Muratori's, contained in the 3d volume of his Scriptores rearum Italicarulm (1723); Bianchini's work was continued by his nephew, Joseph Bianchini (volumes 2-4, Romans 1735; there was to have been a 5th volume, but it never appeared). There also appeared at Rome an edition by John and Peter Joseph Vignoli (1724, 1752, 1755, 3 volumes, 4to). Risstell recently undertook another for the Monumenta Germaniae, while Giesebrecht announced for the same work a continuation of the Libel Pontificalis (see Giesebrecht, Ueber die Quellen d. frü heren Papstgesch., art. ii in the Kieler Allgem. Monatsschrift f. Wissenschajft u. Literatur, April 1852, pages 257-274).

The investigations made on this subject permit us to distinguish three continuations of the Liber Pontificalis.

1. From an unknown source have been composed three histories of the popes:

(a) one is contained in the Vatican Codex 3764, extending from Laudo (912) to Gregory VII, and belonging to the end of the 11th century. It is reproduced in the first volume of Vignoli's edition of the Liber Pontificalis.

(b) The second, in the codex of the library of Este, 6:5, and extending as far down, was written during Gregory's lifetime.

(c) The third, dating from the time of Paschal II, in the early part of the 12th century (in the library of Maria sopra Minerva at Rome).

2. Another continuation of the Liber Pontificalis, composed in the 12th century, extends from Gregory VII to Honorius II (1124-1129). Onuphrius Panvini and Baronius name as its author either the subdeacon Pandulph of Pisa or a Roman librarian named Peter Constant. Gaetani published in 1638 a biography of Gelasius II alone, and asserted that the continuation of the Liber Pontifticis down to Innocent III was due to cardinal Pandulph Masca of Pisa, and was written in the time of Innocent III. But Papebroch brings forth very plausible arguments to prove that the subdeacon Peter of Pisa wrote only the biography of Paschal II, and that the subsequent ones are due to the subdeacon Peter of Alatri, still Muratori, in the 3d volume of the Scriptores, gives this collection of biographies under the name of Pandulph of Pisa, and the question of authorship has not been further inquired into since. Giesebrecht (page 262 sq.) maintains that the Codex Vaticanus 3762, of the 12th century, is the original from which all the other IMSS. were copied (also the codex No. 2017, of the 14th century, in the Barberini Library at Rome; comp. Vignoli, Liber Pontisf volume 3; Pertz, Archiv. page 54), and also that the author of the life of Paschal I was the cardinal- deacon Peter. The life of Gelasiuts II and that of Calixtus II were written by Pandulph after 1130, as is shown by his own statement (Muratori, 3:389, 419). The similarity of style shows that he wrote also the life of Ionorius II. But it is highly probable that Pandulph is the same person afterwards designated as the cardinal-deacon of the church of St.Cosmas and Damianus, a nephew of Hugo of Alatri, cardinal-priest and for a long time governor of Benevento. Peter and Pandulph were partisans of Anacletus II, and were afterwards declared schismatics by the adherents of Innocent II; this put an end to their work.

3. Another continuation originated at the close of the 12th century. Baronius designates it as the Acta Vaticana, but Muratori published it under the name of the cardinal of Aragon. Nicolas Roselli (a Dominican, made cardinal in 1351, t in 1362) caused a collection of old historical documents to be prepared, which contained the lives of the popes from Leo IX to Alexander III (omitting Victor III and Urban II), and also the biography of Gregory IX. Pertz (Archiv. page 97) says that these biographies are borrowed from the Liber censzuum camereas apostolicae of Cencius Camerarius, who in 1216 became pope under the name of Honorius III. But these also are not the work of Cencius himself, but of some anterior writer. The life of Adrian IV was written by his relative, cardinal Boso, from materials furnished by himself, during the reign of Alexander III. The life of Alexander III was written at the same time, and most likely also by Boso, who probably wrote most of the whole collection. The introduction is taken from Bonizo's collection of canons, the biographies of John XII, and from Leo IX down to Gregory VII are adapted from the ad Ameicum of the same writer; subsequent ones down to Eugenius III are based on the records, but after that they become more complete, resting on Boso's own experience, as he then lived at Rome. For subsequent biographies the sources are much more numerous. We might also mention, as a compendium of the whole, the Actus Pontificum Romanorum of the Augustinian monk Amaricus Angerii, written in 1365, and extending from St. Peter to John XII (1321), which is to be found in Eccard, Corpus hist. medii cevi, 2:1641 sq., and in Muratori, volume 3, part 2: Herzog, Real-Encyclop. 8:367 sq. See Baxmann, Politik der Papste (Elberfeld, 1868), vol. i (see Index); Watterich, Vitae Romanorum Pontificum (Lpz. 1862); Piper, Einleit. in die monumentale Theologie (Gotha, 1867); De Rossi, Roma Sotteranea (1857).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Liber Pontificalis'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​l/liber-pontificalis.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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