Gaius (Caius), Pope, St.

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Pontificate: Dec. 17, 283 to April 22, 296. The biography of Gaius in the Liber pontificalis describes him as a Dalmatian and supposedly a relative of the Emperor Diocletian. He is said to have decreed that the hierarchical orders from lector to priest had to be observed before a bishop could be consecrated; he assigned deacons to administer the seven ecclesiastical districts of Rome. an astasius the librarian records Gaius's imprisonment with the future popes sixtus and dionysius in 257; legend connects him with the Diocletian persecution, and the Passio S. Susannae associates him in the martyrdom of Susanna, apparently identifying him with the donor of the title church Gaii near the Quirinal. The Passio Sancti Sebastiani says that Gaius encouraged sebastian, the famous Christian soldier who has been the subject of numerous paintings, to be firm in his martyrdom (the pagans shot him to death with arrows). However, his name appears in none of the martyrologies. It does head a trustworthy list of Roman ordination dates, and he is listed in the Liberian Catalogue as reigning from Dec. 17, 283 to April 22, 296, thus anticipating the Diocletian persecution. Eusebius cites him as a contemporary and credits him with a fifteen-year pontificate (Ecclesiastical History 7.32). According to the Depositio episcoporum Gaius was buried in the cemetery of St. Callistus in a room separate from the bishops' grotto, but this statement is unconfirmed by archeological research, although Pope urban viii transported the body to the church of St. Caius in 1631. His epitaph, "Burial of Gaius, bishop April 22," has been reconstructed by G. de Rossi.

Feast: April 22.

Bibliography: g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 3d. ed. (Freiburg 1995) 2:877. duchesne, Liber Pontificalis 1:xcviiixcix, 7172, 154, 161. Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart, et al. (Paris 1912) 11:237238. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie. ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq and h. i. marrou (Paris 190753) 2.2:173839. g. b. de rossi, La Roma sotterranea cristiana, 4 v. (Rome 186497) 114120; suppl 1, ns, j. wilpert, Die Papstgräber in der Katakombe des hl. Kallistus (Freiburg 1909). e. ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997) 1:446. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 24.

[e. g. weltin]