Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2382
Gregory the Great orders Bishop Venantius of Luni (Italy) to take action against ex-presbyter Saturninus who, despite demotion, continues to offer Eucharist on the island of Gorgona near Pisa. Gregory the Great, Letter 5.5, AD 594.
Letter 5.5 to Bishop Venantius of Luni (September 594)
Gregorius Venantio episcopo Lunensi
Accedens ad Gorgonam insulam fraternitas uestra discutiat id quod ad nos de Saturnino expresbytero est perlatum. Peruenit namque ad nos quia, postquam pro crimine lapsus sui sacerdotii ordine est deiectus, ad explendum presbyterii ministerium praesumpsit accedere et omnipotenti Deo hostias immolare. Quod si ita factum fraternitas uestra reppererit, eum sacri corporis et sanguinis Dominici participatione priuatum in paenitentiam redigat, ita ut usque ad diem obitus sui in eadem excommunicatione permaneat et uiaticum tantummodo exitus sui tempore percipiat. Sin autem eum talem paenitentiam agere fraternitas tua cognouerit, ut ei iuste ad recipiendam communionem inter laicos et ante exitum debeat misereri, hoc in tuae fraternitatis ponimus potestate.
(ed. Norberg 1982: 270)
Letter 5.5 to Bishop Venantius of Luni (September 594)
Gregorius to Venantius, bishop of Luni
Your Fraternity must go to the island of Gorgona and investigate what has been brought to us concerning the ex-presbyter Saturninus. For it has come to our attention that, after being removed from his priestly order (ordo sacerdotii) because of his sinful lapse in faith, he has presumed to return to carrying out the ministry of presbyterate (ministerium presbyterii), and to offering the sacrifice to almighty God. If your Fraternity finds that this is what has happened, you must deprive him of the holy body and blood of our Lord and force him to penitence, in such a way that right up to the day of his death he remains in the same state of excmmunication, and receives viaticum only at the time of his demise. But if your Fraternity finds out that he is showing such penitence that he ought to be pardoned justly, so as to receive communion among the laymen, and before the time of his death, we entrust this decision to the power of your Fraternity.
(trans. Martyn 2004: 325–326, slightly altered by J. Szafranowski)

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia
  • Rome
  • Luni

About the source:

Author: Gregory the Great
Title: Letters, Epistulae, Epistolae, Registrum epistularum, Registrum epistolarum
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Gregory, later called the Great (Gregorius Magnus), was born ca 540 to an influential Roman family with some connection to the ancient gens Anicia. His great-great-grandfather was Felix III, who served as the bishop of Rome from 526 to 530. Possibly, Agapetus I, pope between 535 and 536, was his relative as well. Little is known about his early career, but in 573 Gregory ascended to the high office of city prefect. Shortly afterwards, however, he resigned from his post and adopted the monastic way of life. He founded a monastery dedicated to St. Andrew within his family estate on Coelian Hill, next to the library established by Agapetus and Cassiodorus. Six other monasteries were founded in the estates his family owned in Sicily. Soon after his monastic conversion, he started to be given various tasks by Popes Benedict I (575–578) and Pelagius II (578–590). At that time, he was ordained a deacon. Between 579 and 585/6, Gregory acted as Pelagius` envoy in Constantinople. In 590, he was elected Pelagius` successor to the bishopric of Rome. The registry of his letters contained copies of Gregory`s papal correspondence up to his death in 604. The scope of Gregory`s original registry is still the subject of scholarly speculation. There are 854 extant letters gathered in fourteen volumes, most of them (686 letters) originating from the collection compiled at the time of Pope Hadrian I (772–795).
It is worth remembering that the majority of Gregory’s correspondence was jointly produced by the pope and his subordinates, see Pollard 2013.
D. Norberg ed., S. Gregorii Magni Registrum Epistularum, Corpus Christianorum: Series Latina 140, 140A, Turnhout 1982.
The Letters of Gregory the Great, trans. J.R.C. Martyn, Mediaeval Sources in Translation 40, Toronto 2004.
R.M. Pollard, A Cooperative Correspondence: The Letters of Gregory the Great, in: M. Dal Santo, B. Neil (eds.), A Companion to Gregory the Great, Leiden-Boston 2013, pp. 291–312.


Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Usurping presbyterial power
Ritual activity - Eucharist
Further ecclesiastical career - Lay status
Administration of justice - Ecclesiastical
Administration of justice - Excommunication/Anathema
Administration of justice - Demotion
Administration of justice - Penance
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: J. Szafranowski, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2382,