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Italy and Early Medieval EuropePapers for Chris Wickham$
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Ross Balzaretti, Julia Barrow, and Patricia Skinner

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198777601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198777601.001.0001

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Lands and Lights in Early Medieval Rome

Lands and Lights in Early Medieval Rome

(p.315) 22 Lands and Lights in Early Medieval Rome
Italy and Early Medieval Europe

Joanna Story

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyses the text and epigraphy of two monumental inscriptions in Rome; both are important sources of information on landholding in early medieval Italy, and both shed light on the development of the Patrimony of St Peter and the evolving power of the popes as de facto rulers of Rome and its environs in the seventh and eighth centuries. Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604) commissioned the earlier of the two inscriptions for the basilica of St Paul, where it still survives (MEC I, XII.1). The inscription preserves the full text of a letter from Gregory to Felix, rector of the Appian patrimony (Ep. XIV.14). It ordered Felix to transfer the large estate (massa) of Aquae Salviae, with all its farms (fundi) as well as other nearby properties, from the patrimony into the direct control of the basilica of St Paul in order to fund the provision of its lighting; it was one of the last letters that Gregory wrote. The patron of the second inscription was Gregory’s eighth-century namesake and successor, Pope Gregory II (715–31), indignus servus (MEC I, XIV.1). This one is fixed in the portico of the basilica of St Peter, where it stands alongside another eighth-century inscription, namely, the epitaph of Pope Hadrian I that was commissioned by Charlemagne after Hadrian’s death in 795. Gregory II’s inscription also records a donation in Patrimonio Appiae, this time to provide oil for the lights of St Peter’s. This chapter investigates the form, content, and historical context of the production and display of these two inscriptions, analysing parallels and differences between them. It considers what they reveal about estate organization and the development of the territorial power of the papacy in this formative period, as well as the role of Gregory the Great as an exemplar for the early eighth-century popes.

Keywords:   lighting, lights, oil, papacy, Gregory the Great, Gregory II, inscriptions, Rome

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