August 13 – Office of Our Lady on Saturday; SS Pontianus, Pope and Hippolytus, Martyrs, Memorial

St Petersburg, The Hermitage, 1383-4
St Pontianus (or Pontian) was pope from 21 July 230 to 29 September 235; St Hippolytus, his schismatic rival, is the only anti-pope to be celebrated in the calendar as a saint.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the "Liber Pontificalis" gives Rome as St Pontian's native city and calls his father Calpurnius. With him begins the brief chronicle of the Roman bishops of the third century, of which the author of the Liberian Catalogue of the popes made use in the fourth century and which gives more exact data for the lives of the popes. According to this account St Pontian was made pope 21 July, 230, and reigned until 235.

The schism of Hippolytus continued during his episcopate; towards the end of his pontificate there was a reconciliation between the schismatic party and its leader with the Roman bishop.  In 235 in the reign of Maximinus the Thracian began a persecution directed chiefly against the heads of the Church. One of its first victims was Pontian, who with Hippolytus was banished to the unhealthy island of Sardinia. To make the election of a new pope possible, Pontian resigned 28 Sept., 235, the Liberian Catalogue says "discinctus est".

Shortly before this or soon afterwards Hippolytus, who had been banished with St Pontian, became reconciled to the Roman Church, and with this the schism he had caused came to an end. How much longer Pontian endured the sufferings of exile and harsh treatment in the Sardinian mines is unknown. According to old and no longer existing Acts of martyrs, used by the author of the "Liber Pontificalis", he died in consequence of the privations and inhuman treatment he had to bear.

Pope Fabian (236-50) had the remains of SS Pontian and Hippolytus brought to Rome at a later date and St Pontian was buried on 13 August in the papal crypt of the Catacomb of Callistus. In 1909 the original epitaph was found in the crypt of St. Cecilia, near the papal crypt. The epitaph, agreeing with the other known epitaphs of the papal crypt, reads: PONTIANOS, EPISK. MARTUR (Pontianus, Bishop, Martyr).


These days St Hippolytus is most often associated with the Eucharistic Prayer II, which is allegedly based on the form of the liturgy preserved under his name. The fact that he was a schismatic for most of his life aside, anyone who has actually translated the text concerned will quickly realise that the connection is tenuous indeed. And modern scholarship (alas too late to stop the Bugninisation of the liturgy) has now largely rejected the argument that the relevant prayers actually represented the liturgy of early Christian Rome.

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