Pope Callixtus I as the first of three popes to choose the name Callixtus. He was the 16th pope of the Church and one of the early men martyred for their beliefs and positions. Having spent his early years as a slave, he had a deep commitment to helping the poor. The life and death of Pope Callixtus I are some of the topics covered in this article.
Born circa 155 AD, Callixtus was known as Kallistos until he became the pope. Though Greek by birth, he was born and raised in Rome and spent his whole life living in the Roman Empire. Callixtus was a slave and belonged to a man named Carpophorus. His master collected funds from other Christians in the area to help young children and widows in need. He gave the funds to Callixtus and asked him to deliver the money. Callixtus lost the money and escaped. When he was captured, the man attempted to run away but was captured a second time and sent back to his master.
Before His Papacy
In the hopes that Callixtus would repay the money he lost, his master let him go free. He was caught trying to force Jewish people in a local synagogue to repay their debts by force. This led to him being arrested and sent to work in the mines. He became so sick in the mines that he was sent to Anzio to recover. Pope Victor believed that he was a good man who made some bad choices and gave him a pension for support. It was during this time that Callixtus turned to the Church and became a deacon.
As the 16th pope, Callixtus established policies that allowed heretics and others who spoke out against the Church to return. He converted some and absolved others of their sins. The pope believed that even those who murdered others, used early forms of birth control and indulged in other major sins were worthy of the Church. This led to Hippolytus rising as the antipope and converting followers to his side who did not agree with the pope.
Callixtus practiced in the Basilica di Santa Maria and was martyred there in either 222 or 223. A popular legend from the time claimed that opponents attacked him in the church and threw his body in a well, leaving him to die there. Though modern historians doubt this happened, the church still has the remains of an ancient well on the property. The legend also claims that Saint Asterius of Rome traveled to the church in the darkness of night and recovered the pope’s body, which he then had moved to the Cemetery of Saint Calepodius. For his actions, one of the pope’s opponents had Asterius arrested and thrown from a bridge. During the 9th century, the relics of Pope Callixtus were set to his former church in Santa Maria.
Quick Facts About Pope Callixtus I
- He was Greek by birth but born in Rome.
- Known as Kallistos, he was born circa 155 AD.
- The pope died in either 222 or 223.
- He was a martyr, and legend claims that he was thrown into a well.
- The papacy of Pope Callixtus I began circa 218, though official records list this date as December 20, 217.
- His papacy ended when the pope was martyred.
- Pope St. Urban succeeded him in the papacy.
Interesting Facts About Callixtus I
- Callixtus was only the second pope recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. The first pope saint was Peter.
- In the Catholic Church, his feast day is October 14, which is an optional date for followers of the Church to celebrate. This is the official date listed for the interment of his body in the cemetery. He is also the patron saint of cemetery workers.
- As a former slave, Callixtus was aware of the troubles that slaves faced. He was the first pope to accept the marriages between free people and slaves and the first to recognize those marriages as valid in the Church.
- Callixtus served as one of the seven deacons of Rome and was appointed by Pope Zephyrinus. The two men grew so close that other bishops believed Callixtus was the rightful heir to the papal throne when the former pope passed away.
- During his papacy and in later years, some called him the Lax Pope because he allowed so many people to return to the Church. Among those were individuals who committed the sins of fraud, adultery, murder, fornication and blasphemy.