Pontianus, Pope, St.

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Pontificate: July 21, 230 to Sept. 28, 235. The Liber pontificalis states that Pontianus was from Rome and presided over that see for five years. Little is known of his pontficate, but the Roman church enjoyed peace under the tolerant emperor Severus Alexander (22235). Alexander's successor, Maximus Thrax (235238) exiled Pontianus to Sardinia with the theologian and antipope, hippolytus. After maltreatment, he died in October of 235. His body and that of Hippolytus, with whom he had been reconciled, were returned to Rome for burial by Pope fabian in 236 or 237.

Pontianus may have been the first occupant of the new bishop's grotto in the Cemetery of Callistus. The depositio martyrum published by the chronographer of 354 lists him as the first Roman bishop-martyr, while his epitaph also lists him as a martyr; he is so celebrated. The date he resigned the episcopacy, Sept. 28, 235, although this designation is obviously an addition to the original inscription, is the oldest precise date in the history of popes. Under his direction a Roman synod reaffirmed the excommunication of origen pronounced by two Alexandrian councils in 231232.

Feast: Nov. 19.

Bibliography: eusebius, 6:23, 29. l. keop, Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, ed. t. klauser (Stuttgart 1941 [1950]) 2:410415. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster, MD 1950) 2:235. j. shotwell and l. loomis, The See of Peter (New York 1927), 312313. e. ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York 1997), 2:935. j. n. d. kelly, Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1997) 16.

[e. g. weltin]