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Raid on an Ancient House Church Reveals Some Surprises

Posted by ГАБРІЕЛЬ ТОМАС РЕЙТЕНАУЕР on

The following document is part of an official record of actions taken against a house church in the town of Cirta* in Algeria during the Diocletian persecution. It provides a description of both the church hierarchy of the Ante Nicene period (consisting of a single bishop, as well as priests, deacons, subdeacons and readers as it is in the Orthodox Church to this day) as well as an inventory of material possessions (including gold, silver, and bronze liturgical items, as well as texts and clothing evidently stored for distribution to the poor).

"In the eighth consulship of Diocletian and the seventh of Maximian [A.D. 303] on the fourteenth day before the Kalends of June [19 May], from the records of Munatius Felix, high priest for life,mayor of the colonia of Cirta. Arrived at the house where the Christians used to meet, Felix, high priest for life and mayor, said to Paul the bishop: 'Bring out the texts of the law and whatever else you have here, as has been instructed, so that you can obey the order.Paul the bishop said: 'The readers have our texts, but we will give you what we have here.'Felix, high priest for life and mayor said to Paul the bishop: 'Point out the readers or send for them.'Paul the bishop said"'You know them all.'Felix, the high priest for life and mayor of the town said: 'We do not know them.'Paul the bishop said: 'The municipal office knows them, that is the clerks Edusius and Junius.'Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town said: 'Leaving aside the matter of the readers, whom the office will point out, give us what you have.'Paul the bishop, and Montanus, Victor Deusatelius and Memorius the priests remained seated; Mars and Helius deacons stood by, as did Marcuclius,Catullinus, Silvanus and Carosus under-deacons. Januarius, meraclus, Fructuosos, Miggin.Saturinus, Victor [son of Samsuricus] and the other diggers [brought forth the objects].Victor son of Aufidius made the following brief record: two gold cups, also six silver cups, six silver jugs, a silver vessel, seven silver lamps, two candlesticks, seven small bronze candelabra with their lamps, also eleven bronze lamps with their chains, eighty-two women's tunics, thirty-eight cloaks, sixteen men's tunics, thirteen pairs of men's shoes, forty-seven pairs of women's shoes, ninetenn rustic belts.Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town, said to the diggers Marcuclius, Silvanus and Carosus: 'Bring out what you have.'Silvanus and Carosus said: 'We have put out everything that was here.'Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town,said to Marculclius, Silvanus and Carosus: 'Your answer is entered in the record.'After some empty cupboards were found in the library, Silvanus then brought out a silver vase and a silver lamp, which he said he found behind a chest.Victor son of Aufidius said to Silvanus: 'You would have been dead,if you had not found them.'Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town, said to Silvanus:' Look more carefully, to make sure nothing is left here.'Silvanus said: 'Nothing is left; we have put everything out.'And when the dining room was opened, they found there four storage jars and six chests.Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town, said: 'Bring out the texts that you have so that we can obey the instructions and order of the emperors.'Catulinus brought out one very large volume.Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town, said to Marcuclius and Silvanus: 'Why have you given only one volume? Bring out the texts you have.'Catulinus and Marcuclius said: 'We have no more, because we are under-deacons. But the readers have the volumes.'Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town, said to Marcuclius and Catulinus: 'Point out the readers.'Marcuclius and Catulinus said: 'We do not know where they live.'Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town, said to Catulinus and Marcuclius" 'If you don't know where they live tell me their names.'Catulinus and Marcuclius said" 'We are not informers. Here we are. Order us to be killed.'Felix, high priest for life and mayor of the town, said: 'Arrest them.'"

Source: Beard, North and Price, Religions of Rome, Vol. 2, A Sourcebook, pp. 112-113

* "The city of Cirta, which took in the fourth century the name of its restorer, Constantine, and in which this emperor built two churches, was an episcopal see from the second century up to the time of the Mussulman invasion. The Bishops Agapius and Secundinus, the soldier Æmilianus, and the virgins Tertulla and Antonia were martyred there under Valerian (253-60). A Latin inscription cut in the rocks at the entrance to the Rummel Pass (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum: Africa, 7924) mentions Sts. Marian and James as martyrs either at Cirta or Lambesa during the same persecution."--The Catholic Encyclopedia