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Prisca, Saint

A martyr of the Roman Church, whose dates are unknown

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Prisca, Saint, a martyr of the Roman Church, whose dates are unknown. The name Prisca or Priscilla is often mentioned by early authorities of the history of the Church in Rome. The wife of Aquila, the pupil of St. Paul, bore this name. The grave of a martyr Prisca was venerated in the Roman Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria. The place of interment is explicitly mentioned in all the seventh-century itineraries to the graves of the Roman martyrs (De Rossi, "Roma sotterranea", I, 176, 177). The epitaph of a Roman Christian named Priscilla was found in the "larger Catacomb", the Caemeterium maius, on the Via Nomentana, not far from the Catacomb of St. Agnes [De Rossi, Bull. di arch. crist. (1888-1889), 130, note 5]. There still exists on the Aventine a church of St. Prisca. It stands on the site of a very early title church, the Titulus Priscae, mentioned in the fifth century and built probably in the fourth. In the eighteenth century there was found near this church a bronze tablet with an inscription of the year 224, by which a senator named Caius Marius Pudens Cornelianus was granted citizenship in a Spanish city. As such tablets were generally put up in the house of the person so honored, it is possible that the senator's palace stood on the spot where the church was built later. The assumption is probable that the Prisca who founded this title church, or who, perhaps as early as the third century, gave the use of a part of the house standing there for the Christian church services, belonged to the family of Pudens Cornelianus. Whether the martyr buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla belonged to the same family or was identical with the founder of the title church cannot be proved. Still some family relationship is probable, because the name Priscilla appears also in the senatorial family of the Acilii Glabriones, whose burial-place was in the Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria. The "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" mentions under January 18 a martyr Priscilla on the Via Salaria (ed. De Rossi-Duchesne, 10). This Priscilla is evidently identical with the Prisca whose grave was in the Catacomb of Priscilla and who is mentioned in the itineraries of the seventh century. Later legendary traditions identified the founder of the Titulus Priscae with St. Paul's friend, Priscilla, whose home would have occupied the spot on which the church was later erected. It was from here that St. Paul sent a greeting in his Epistle to the Romans. Another legend relates the martyrdom of a Prisca who was beheaded at the tenth milestone on the Via Ostiensis, and whose body Pope Eutychianus is said to have translated to the church of Prisca on the Aventine. The whole narrative is unhistorical and its details impossible. As January 18 is also assigned as the day of the execution of this Priscilla, she is probably the same as the Roman martyr buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla. Her feast is observed on January 18.

J. P. KIRSCH


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