Elias is one of the most relevant figures in the history of the patriarchate of Aquileia, both in promoting Grado to the new see of the bishop after the Lombard invasion, and for his decisive support to the Three-Chapter controversy. In that precarious situation which had brought Rome to declare the Church of Aquileia schismatic, the pride of Aquileia claimed its fidelity to the Council held at Chalcedonia in 451 in St. Euphemia’s basilica, therefore to that saint Elias dedicated the cathedral of Grado that he had resumed and improved on the base of a structure, the construction of which is assigned to Nicetas. On 3 November 579 this so-called ‘nova’ basilica, just after being completed, housed a great synod summoned to affirm their orthodoxy and faithfulness to the doctrine, as well as loyalty to the authority of Aquileia not only by the Aquileian clergy escaped to Grado, but also by the suffragan bishops: there were indeed present thirteen bishops of ‘Venetia et Histria’, two of Pannonia (and Savia), three of the Mediterannean Noricum and one of ‘Raetia II’. All the attempts pope Pelagius II made, between 585 and 586, to obtain from Elias and the suffragan bishops of Aquileia their return to obedience to the Roman see were vain.
Elias renewed and enriched the basilicas of Grado with precise and innovating aesthetic and formal trends: his name more times recurs on the mosaic floor of St. Euphemia’s, where he is solemnly proclaimed EPIS(COPUS) SANCTAE AQUIL(EIENSIS) ECCL(ESIAE). For Elias St. Euphemia’s basilica, which would have housed the tombs of the patriarchs for many centuries and in its treasure maintained the martyrs’, above all the Cantiani’s worshipping alive, turned out to be a resumption, especially in the mosaics, but also a renewal of illustrious traditions.
For further information see the entry Elia, patriarca d’Aquileia written by Sergio Tavano, in Nuovo Liruti, Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 1, Il Medioevo, edited by C. Scalon, Udine, Forum, 2006, 269-273.