Pope St. Anicetus

Pope Anicetus was the 11th pope of the Church and also known as Pope Saint Anicetus. Though he led from around 157 to 168 AD, some records indicate that his papacy began as early as 153 AD.

Early Life

As his papacy occurred early in the years of the Church, there aren’t many records about his early life. Anicetus was born in Emesa, Syria to Syrian parents. His birth date is unknown but likely occurred sometime in 92 AD. The city where he was born and raised is now called Homs.

Pope Saint Pius

Anicetus was picked to handle the Church after Pope Saint Pius was martyred. His papacy began circa 157 AD. Some early Church records claim that his papacy began in 153 AD, which would mean that Pius died earlier than previously thought. His papacy was marked by opposition to the Church.

Easter and Passover

Polycarp of Smyrna visited Rome to speak with Pope Anicetus about the Easter celebration. He was a former disciple of John the Evangelist and the leader of the Church of Smyrna. The man believed that they should celebrate the crucifixion of the Savior two weeks or 14 days after Nisan started. He also believed that they should keep this date the same every year, no matter what day it fell on.

The pope did not agree with the man’s beliefs but did agree that his Church could celebrate the crucifixion on the date that they wanted. This would cause problems in the future as the Church set Easter on a specific date. The Church of Smyrna would continue celebrating Easter at the same time as Passover, while the Catholic Church celebrated Easter on Sunday.

No Priests with Long Hair

One of the main acts that Anicetus did was prohibit priests from having long hair. He spoke out against other faiths that he viewed as a threat, including the Gnostic faith. Many of the men in this order had long hair. Historians now believe that Anicetus forbid priests from having long hair as a way to show that did not approve of that group.


The Church recognizes Pope Anicetus as a martyr, which is one of the reasons why he is now a saint. Tradition holds that he was martyred on the orders of Roman Emperor Lucius Verus who co-ruled the empire with Marcus Arulleius who was his adopted brother.

Unlike other martyred popes, there are no records to indicate how he died or where it occurred. Some believe that he was martyred because he encouraged others to practice Christianity rather than worship the Gods and idols that other Romans did.

He was likely in his early to mid-70s at the time of his death. To honor him, the Church had his body moved and buried in the cemetery and tombs of Callixtus. In later years, the Church began calling Anicetus Pope Saint Anicetus after he became canonized.

Quick Facts About Pope Anicetus

  • Anicetus was born in Emesa, Syria.
  • He was born circa 92 AD.
  • The pope died circa April 168 AD.
  • Most believe that he died as a martyr.
  • The papacy of Pope Saint Anicetus began circa 157 AD.
  • His papacy ended when Anicetus died around 168 AD.
  • His successor was Pope Saint Soter.

Interesting Facts About Pope Anicetus

  • Saint Hegesippus was an early historian in the Christian Church who converted to the faith as an adult. He took the time to visit Rome and speak with Pope Anicetus, which many believe helped establish the Church as a legitimate organization.

  • Some records list Anicetus as the 12th pope rather than the 11th pope. This commonly occurs in records that show Pope Anacletus and Pope Cletus as two different individuals. As we now know that they were the same man, Anicetus is officially the 11th pope.

  • Though we do not have official records from this era, the papacy of Pope Saint Anicetus likely lasted for somewhere between 10 and 11 years. He was the first pope in history born in Syria and was a Hellenized Syrian.

  • The feast day for Pope Saint Anicetus is April 17 in the east and April 20 in the west. April 17 was originally chosen because the Church believed this was the date of his martyrdom. It was moved to April 20 in the official calendar in 1970.

  • Anicetus was one of the first 35 popes canonized by the Church and now recognized as saints.