This paper will argue that there were at least two sorts of Christian pilgrim ‘route’ established in Rome by the 7th century: what I call ‘linear devotional pathways’ and mental or internalised routes determined by written or earlier oral traditions. These routes, respectively, led either directly from intramural Christian centres celebrating a martyr to the extramural tomb of that martyr on the same road; or along a more haphazard path determined by a martyrdom tradition and churches built on the particular loca sancta described.
There are two examples of linear pathways from this period: the via Appia-Ardeatina, where a road, long-used as a showpiece for aristocratic ambition, became a road to facilitate devotion towards the local Christian martyrs Nereus, Achilleus and the martyr bishop Sixtus II; and the via Aurelia where the pilgrimage of bishop Calixtus took place. My example of a pilgrim itinerary determined by a mental map and a topography created to externalise that, is that of the pilgrimage of St. Lawrence. Here is where a written tradition provided the impetus, or the reinforcement, for a series of church landmarks to be constructed along a route established in the context of this hagiographic framework.
In comparing these two sorts of routes, or pilgrimages, alongside the pre-existing ancient topography, we can better understand ancient and early medieval concepts of space and orientation. Did the Christian cult of martyrs and the later written hagiographic tradition fundamentally change urban movement networks in Rome or did these networks merely use pre-existing templates? Urban theory, cartographic, archaeological and hagiographic sources, as well as early medieval itineraria will be used to try to enlighten us.