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Callixtus I
CalixtusI.jpg
Papacy began 217
Papacy ended 222
Predecessor Zephyrinus
Successor Urban I
Personal details
Birth name Callixtus or Callistus
Born ???
???
Died 222
???
Other Popes named Callixtus

Pope Saint Callixtus I or Callistus I, was pope from about 217 to about 222, during the reigns of the Roman Emperors Elagabalus and Alexander Severus. He was martyred for his Christian faith and is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

His contemporary and enemy, the author of Philosophumena (probably Hippolytus of Rome) relates that Callixtus, as a young slave, was, by his master Carpophorus, put in charge of collected funds, given as alms by other Christians for the care of widows and orphans; Callixtus lost the funds, and fled from Rome, but was caught near Portus. According to the tale, Callixtus jumped overboard to avoid capture, but was rescued and taken back to his master. He was released at the request of the creditors, who hoped he might be able to recover some of the money, but was rearrested for fighting in a synagogue when he tried to borrow money or collect debts from some Jews.

Philosophumena goes on to claim that, denounced as a Christian, Callixtus was sentenced to work in the mines of Sardinia. Finally, he was released with other Christians at the request of Hyacinthus, a eunuch presbyter, who represented Marcia, the favourite mistress of Emperor Commodus (and the poisoner who took part in Commodus' murder). His health was so weakened that his fellow Christians sent him to Antium to recuperate and he was given a pension by Pope Victor I.

Callixtus was the deacon to whom Pope Zephyrinus entrusted the burial chambers along the Appian Way. In the third century, nine Bishops of Rome were interred in the Catacomb of Callixtus, now also called the Capella dei Papi. It had been completely lost and forgotten, until in 1849 they were rediscovered by the archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi.

When Callixtus followed Zephyrinus as Bishop of Rome, he established the practise of the absolution of all repented sins, for which he is "most renowned"[1] but for which Tertullian criticized him.[2] Hippolytus and Tertullian were especially upset by the pope's admitting to communion those who had done public penance for murder, adultery, and fornication, as well as by his alleged belief in Sabellianism, from which he attempted to distance himself.

Statue of Pope Callixtus I, Cathedral of Reims

In an apocryphal anecdote in the collection of imperial biographies called the Augustan History, the spot on which he had built an oratory was claimed by tavern keepers, but Alexander Severus decided that the worship of any god was better than a tavern. The story is the basis for dating the original structure of the present Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere.

The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere was a titulus of which Callixtus was the patron. The 4th-century basilica of Ss Callixti et Iuliani was rebuilt in the 12th century by Pope Innocent II and rededicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The 8th-century Chiesa di San Callisto is close by, with its beginnings apparently as a shrine on the site of his martyrdom, which is attested in the 4th-century Depositio martyrum and so is likely to be historical. It is possible that Callixtus was martyred around 222, perhaps during a popular uprising, but the legend that he was thrown down a well has no historical foundation, though the church does contain an ancient well.

Callixtus was honoured as a martyr in Todi, Italy, on 14 August. He was buried in the cemetery of Calepodius on the Aurelian Way and his anniversary is given by the 4th-century Depositio Martirum and by subsequent martyrologies on 14 October. His relics were translated in the 9th century to Santa Maria in Trastevere.[3]

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates his optional memorial on 14 October.

The Acts of Callixtus are spurious.[3]

References

  1. ^ The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' introduction to saints notes that St. Callistus is "most renowned for the reconciliation of sinners, who following a period of penance, were re-admitted to communion with the Church." [http://www.usccb.org/nab/saints/todaysaint.shtml.
  2. ^ Tertullian, De Pudicitia xxi.
  3. ^ a b "Pope Callistus I". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03183d.htm.  
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Zephyrinus
Bishop of Rome
Pope

217–222
Succeeded by
Urban I
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