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Liber Pontificalis

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The Liber Pontificalis ("The Book of Pontiffs") is a collection of biographies of the popes from St Peter until the 15th century. The oldest part is from the 5th century.

The work contains important information about the early centuries of the Papacy, but much of the material, especially about the first four centuries, is highly uncertain. This insecurity is so well known among historians that one will often find the Liber Pontificalis quoted as if it was a safe source; a reference to the work is enough to warn other historians that it might be wrong.

The second part of the work reaches Pope Stephen V (885891, and the third part, written in a different style than the older, ends with Eugene IV (14311447 and Pius II (14581464 – the Popes between them are omitted.

Most biographies in the Liber gives the Pope's birthplace, length of pontificate, important decrees issued, contruction and renovation of churches in Rome, donations, ordinations and the burial place.

Several editions with a critical apparatus have been published, the last major one by Louis Duchesne in Paris 1886&ndash1892. Theodor Mommsen's edition from the same period remains incomplete. There are also later editions with a smaller critical apparatus, one of the more accessible to most readers being Raymond Davis, The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis), University of Liverpool Press 1898, ISBN 0-85323-216-4

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