Cornelius, pope and martyr – September 16th
St Cornelius (d. 253, Civitavecchia, Italy) (Relics: Rome, Italy; Aachen, Germany)
St Cornelius died in the Italian city of Civitavecchia in 253 AD. His remains were then transferred south to Rome and placed in the Catacombs of San Callisto on the Appian Way. Five centuries later his relics, along with those of St Callistus I, were transferred to the Roman church of Santa Maria in Trastevere by Pope Adrian I (772-795). Pope Gregory IV (827-844) then had their remains placed under the main altar of this same church during his pontificate. From here a tradition claims that the remains of both St Cornelius and the bishop, St Cyprian, were transferred to Compiègne, France. Some of the sources conflict, however, with regard to this tradition. For instance, the Martyrology of Ado mentions the transfer of St Cyprian but not the transfer of St Cornelius. As a result two separate traditions have arisen with regard to St Cornelius’ relics. The Roman tradition holds that some of his relics still remain under the main altar in Santa Maria in Trastevere. In the 18th century some of these relics were transferred to the Roman church of Santi Celso e Giuliano. A sarcophagus with these relics can still be found in this church. On the other hand the highly venerated relic of St Cornelius’ head in the Kornelimünster Abbey near Aachen, Germany demonstrates that the purported transfer of his relics to Compiègne in the 9th century may also have credence.
First Class Relics
Pfarrkirche St. Kornelius
(Parish Church of Saint Cornelius)
52076 Aachen, Germany
*This church was once part of the historic Kornelimünster Abbey that was founded in the 9th century by the Carolingian Emperor, Louis the Pious. However, in 1802 the abbey was dissolved and this church was made into a parish. The abbey has since then been reestablished and now exists in a new building just a short walk from this church.
*A number of remarkable relics are preserved within this church. In 875, through the efforts of Emperor Charles the Bald, this church received the relic of St Cornelius’ head from L’abbaye Saint-Corneille in Compiègne, France. This relic is now enshrined within a magnificent reliquary bust positioned within the center of an octagonal-shaped chapel located in the apse of this church. Also preserved at this church are three separate cloths connected to the life of Christ. One was used by Christ to wash the disciples’ feet, a second to wipe the brow of Christ, and the last in his burial. These relics are not often available for public viewing.
Santa Maria in Trastevere (Our Lady in Trastevere)
Via della Paglia 14 / Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
*This church is located in Trastevere.
*Relics of the two popes St Callistus I (d. 222) and St Cornelius rest under the main altar of this church. These relics are joined by others in particular those of the priest and martyr St Calepodius (d. 232).
*Also the mosaic above the main altar depicts St Cornelius as the third individual to the right of Jesus Christ.
Santi Celso e Giuliano (Saints Celsus and Julian)
Vicolo del Curato 12 / Via del Banco Santo Spirito
*This church is located across the Tiber River from Castel Sant’Angelo. The main entrance to the church is on Via del Banco Santo Spirito.
*Some relics of St Cornelius were transferred to this church in the 18th century. A sarcophagus containing these relics is located just to the right of the main entrance.
Other Places of Honor in Rome:
Catacombs of San Callisto
Via Appia Antica 110/126
*These catacombs are located south of the Aurelian Walls.
*St Cornelius, St Pontian (d. 235), St Fabian (d. 250), St Sixtus II (d. 258), and a number of other early popes were originally buried here within the Papal Crypt. The remains of St Cornelius were later moved to Santa Maria in Trastevere, the remains of St Fabian to San Sebastiano Fuori Le Mura, and the remains of St Sixtus II to San Sisto Vecchio.
*St Cecilia was also buried in these catacombs. In 821 her remains were removed and taken to Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.
*Finally, it was at this location in the year 258 that Roman soldiers burst into a chapel and arrested St Sixtus II and four other deacons while they were celebrating the liturgy. St Lawrence (d. 258) was not among this group; however, a legend holds that St Lawrence was able to speak to St Sixtus just before the pope was martyred. In this conversation St Sixtus said to St Lawrence, “You shall follow me in three days.” St Lawrence then in three days went on to suffer his own martyrdom by being burnt alive on a gridiron.