Posted in MARTYRS, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 5 January – Saint Telesphorus (Died c 138) Confessor, Pope, Martyr.

Saint of the Day – 5 January – Saint Telesphorus (Died c 138) Confessor, Pope Martyr. Papal Ascension – 128 to 129 and died by Martyredom in 138 to 139. Also known as – Telesforo.

The Roman Martyrology reads today: “In Rome, in the time of Antoninus Pius, St Telesphorus, Pope, who after many sufferings for the Confession of Christ, underwent a glorious Martyrdom.”

He was of Greek ancestry and born in Terranova da Sibari, Calabria, Italy.

Telesphorus is traditionally considered as the Eighth Bishop of Rome in succession after Saint Peter. The Liber Pontificalis mentions that he had been an Anchorite Monk prior to assuming office.

Engraving of St Telesphorus by Johann Andreas Pfeffel (1674-1748)

The tradition of Christmas Midnight Masses, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, the keeping of a seven-week Lent before Easter and the singing of the Gloria, are usually attributed to his Pontificate. A fragment of a letter from St Irenæus to Pope Victor I, during the Easter controversy in the late 2nd Century, also preserved by Eusebius, testifies that Telesphorus was one of the Roman Bishops who always celebrated Easter on Sunday,, rather than on other days of the week, according to the calculation of the Jewish Passover. Unlike Victor, however, Telesphorus remained in communion with those communities who did not follow this custom.

14th Century depiction of St Telesphorus in the Carmelite Monastery of Straubing in Bavaria

According to the testimony of St Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3), he suffered a “glorious Martyrdom.” Although most early Popes are called Martyrs by sources such as the Liber Pontificalis, Telesphorus is the first to whom St Irenaeus, writing in c 180, gives this title, thus making his Martyrdom the earliest attested Martyrdom of a Pope, after Saint Peter.

Eusebius (Church History iv.7; iv.14) places the beginning of his Pontificate in the twelfth year of the reign of Emperor Hadrian (128–129) and gives the date of his death as being in the first year of the reign of Antoninus Pius (138–139).

The Carmelites venerate Telesphorus as a Patron Saint of the Order since some sources depict him as a hermit living on Mount Carmel. The town of Saint-Télesphore, in the southwestern part of Canada’s Quebec Province, is named after him.


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