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St. Linus
Papacy began circa 67
Papacy ended circa 76
Predecessor Peter
Successor Anacletus
Personal details
Birth name Linus
Born Unknown
Died circa 76
Rome, Italy

Saint Linus (d. ca. 76) was, according to several early sources, Bishop of Rome after Saint Peter. This makes Linus either the second Bishop of Rome, if Peter is seen as the first, or as the first Bishop of Rome, if the position of Peter in Rome is seen as distinct from that of a bishop. Other early sources make Clement the Bishop of Rome after Peter.


Early views on chronological order of first Bishops of Rome

The earliest witness is Irenaeus, who in about the year 180 wrote:"The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate."[1] The Oxford Dictionary of Popes interprets Irenaeus as saying that Linus was the first bishop of Rome.[2] Linus is presented by Jerome as "the first after Peter to be in charge of the Roman Church",[3] by Eusebius, as "the first to receive the episcopate of the church at Rome, after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter"[4] by John Chrysostom as "second Bishop of the Church of Rome after Peter",[5] while the Liberian Catalogue[6] presents Peter as the first Bishop of Rome and Linus as his successor in the same office. The Liber Pontificalis;[7] also presents a list that makes Linus the second in the line of bishops of Rome, after Peter; but at the same time it states that Peter ordained two bishops, Linus and Cletus, for the priestly service of the community, devoting himself instead to prayer and preaching, and that it was to Clement that he entrusted the Church as a whole, appointing him as his successor. Tertullian too makes Clement the successor of Peter.[8] And while, in another of his works, Jerome gives Clement as "the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter" (i.e., fourth in a series that included Peter), he adds that "most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle".[9]

The Apostolic Constitutions[10] says that Linus was the first bishop of Rome and was ordained by Paul, and that he was succeeded by Clement, who was ordained by Peter. Cletus is given as Linus's successor by Irenaeus and the others cited above who present Linus either as the first bishop of Rome or, if they give Peter as the first, as the second.


The Liberian Catalogue and the Liber Pontificalis date Linus's episcopate to 56–67 during the reign of Nero, but Jerome dates it to 67–78, and Eusebius puts the end of his episcopate at the second year of the reign of Titus (80).

Irenaeus identifies Linus with the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 as an associate of the Apostle Paul. Others of the sources mentioned above say the same.

According to the Liber Pontificalis, Linus was an Italian from Tuscany (though his name is Greek), and his father's name was Herculanus. The Apostolic Constitutions names his mother as Claudia (immediately after the name "Linus" in 2 Timothy 4:21 a Claudia is mentioned, but the Apostolic Constitutions does not explicitly identify that Claudia as Linus's mother). The Liber Pontificalis also says that he issued a decree that women should cover their heads in church, and that he died a martyr and was buried on the Vatican Hill next to Peter. It gives the date of his death as 23 September, the date on which his feast is still celebrated.[11] His name is included in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

On the statement about a decree requiring women to cover their heads, J.P. Kirsch comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Linus: "Without doubt this decree is apocryphal, and copied by the author of the 'Liber Pontificalis' from the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (11:5) and arbitrarily attributed to the first successor of the Apostle in Rome. The statement made in the same source, that Linus suffered martyrdom, cannot be proved and is improbable. For between Nero and Domitian there is no mention of any persecution of the Roman Church; and Irenaeus (1. c., III, iv, 3) from among the early Roman bishops designates only Telesphorus as a glorious martyr."

The Roman Martyrology does not call Linus a martyr. The entry about him is as follows: "At Rome, commemoration of Saint Linus, Pope, who, according to Irenaeus, was the person to whom the blessed Apostles entrusted the episcopal care of the Church founded in the City, and whom blessed Paul the Apostle mentions as associated with him."[12]

A tomb found in St. Peter's Basilica in 1615 by Torrigio was inscribed with the letters LINUS, and was once taken to be Linus's tomb. However a note by Torrigio shows that these were merely the last five letters of a longer name (e.g. Aquilinus or Anullinus). A letter on the martyrdom of Peter and Paul was once attributed to him, but in fact dates to the 6th century.[13]

In what appears to be a relatively recent British Israelite legend, Claudia, identified as the historical Claudia Rufina, is given as Linus's sister, and both are said to have been children of the Iron Age Brythonic chieftain, Caratacus.[14]

Pope Linus
Papal succession
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Saint Peter
Bishop of Rome
Succeeded by
Saint Anacletus


  1. ^ Against Heresies3:3.3
  2. ^ J. N. D. Kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes, 2005
  3. ^ "Post Petrum primus Ecclesiam Romanam tenuit Linus" -Chronicon, 14g (p. 267)
  4. ^ Church History 3.2
  5. ^ Homily X
  6. ^ The Chronography of 354 AD Part 13: Bishops of Rome
  7. ^ Liber Pontificalis 2
  8. ^ De praescriptione haereticorum, 32
  9. ^ Illustrious Men, 15
  10. ^ Apostolic Constitutions 7.4
  11. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  12. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7), 23 September
  13. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Pope St. Linus" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  14. ^ George Jowett, The Drama of the Lost Disciples, 1961

Further reading

  • Louise Ropes Loomis, The Book of Popes (Liber Pontificalis). Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. ISBN 1-889758-86-8 (Reprint of the 1916 edition. Stops with Pope Pelagius, 579–590. English translation with scholarly footnotes, and illustrations).

External links



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