Saints of the Day – 13 August – St Pope Pontian and St Hippolytus – Martyrs
St Pope Pontian (c 200 – October 235 in Sardinia, Roman Empire) St Pope Pontian was the Bishop of Rome from 21 July 230 to 28 September 235. In 235, during the persecution of Christians in the reign of the Emperor Maximinus the Thracian, Pontian was arrested and sent to the island of Sardinia. He resigned to make the election of a new pope possible.
St Hippolytus (170 – 235 AD) was the most important 3rd-century theologian in the Christian Church in Rome, where he was probably born. Photios I of Constantinople describes him in his Bibliotheca (cod. 121) as a disciple of Irenaeus, who was said to be a disciple of Polycarp, and from the context of this passage it is supposed that he suggested that Hippolytus so styled himself. However, this assertion is doubtful. He came into conflict with the popes of his time and seems to have headed a schismatic group as a rival to the Bishop of Rome. He opposed the Roman bishops who softened the penitential system to accommodate the large number of new pagan converts. However, he was very probably reconciled to the Church when he died as a martyr. Patronages – horses, prison guards, officers and workers, Bibbiena, Italy, Laterina, Italy.
22.4.2010: south wall, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
Today the Church celebrates the witness of the martyrs Saints Pontian and Hippolytus — theirs is not only a story of martyrdom but of reconciliation, forgiveness and enemies becoming friends.
St. Pontian was the successor to the apostles Peter and Paul, the bishop of the Church of Rome. He was arrested during a persecution of the Church ordered by the Roman emperor Maximinus in the third century. He was sentenced to a “living death” — slavery in the salt mines of Sardinia.
St. Hippolytus might have been remembered as a heretic and a schismatic if not for the strange workings of God’s providence. He felt the bishop of Rome was not adequate enough in his defense of the apostolic faith, so he broke away from the Church’s communion and established himself as the Bishop of Rome. He was the first “anti-pope.” This distinction did not save him from arrest for being a Christian. He too was sentenced to a “living death” in the mines of Sardinia.
It is in their captivity that Saints Pontian and Hippolytus reconciled with one another. Both died of torture and deprivation.
Pope Fabian had the bodies of both Pontian and Hippolytus brought back to Rome in 236 or 237 and buried in the papal crypt in the Catacomb of Callixtus on the Appian Way. The slab covering his tomb was discovered in 1909. On it is inscribed in Greek: Ποντιανός Επίσκ (Pontianus Episk; in English Pontianus Bish). The inscription “Μάρτυρ”, “MARTUR” had been added in another hand.
Pontian’s feast day was previously celebrated on 19 November, but since 1969 both he and Hippolytus are commemorated jointly on 13 August.