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Felix I
Bishop of Rome
ChurchEarly Christianity
Papacy began5 January 269
Papacy ended30 December 274
Personal details
Died30 December 274
Rome, Roman Empire
Feast day30 December
30 May (1960 Calendar)
6 Hathor (Coptic Christianity)[1]
Other popes named Felix

Pope Felix I was the bishop of Rome from 5 January 269 to his death on 30 December 274.

Life and works

A Roman by birth,[2] Felix was chosen to be pope on 5 January 269,[2] in succession to Dionysius, who had died on 26 December 268.[2]

Felix was the author of an important dogmatic letter on the unity of Christ's Person. He received Emperor Aurelian's aid in settling a theological dispute between the anti-Trinitarian Paul of Samosata, who had been deprived of the bishopric of Antioch by a council of bishops for heresy, and the orthodox new bishop Domnus.[3] Paul refused to give way, and in 272 Aurelian was asked to decide between the rivals. He ordered the church building to be given to the bishop who was "recognized by the bishops of Italy and of the city of Rome" (Felix). See Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. vii. 30.[4]

The text of that letter was later interpolated by a follower of Apollinaris in the interests of his sect.[5]

The notice about Felix in the Liber Pontificalis ascribes to him a decree that Masses should be celebrated on the tombs of martyrs ("Hic constituit supra memorias martyrum missas celebrare"). The author of this entry was evidently alluding to the custom of celebrating Mass privately at the altars near or over the tombs of the martyrs in the crypts of the catacombs (missa ad corpus), while the solemn celebration always took place in the basilicas built over the catacombs. This practice, still in force at the end of the fourth century, dates apparently from the period when the great cemeterial basilicas were built in Rome, and owes its origin to the solemn commemoration services of martyrs, held at their tombs on the anniversary of their burial, as early as the third century. Felix probably issued no such decree, but the compiler of the Liber Pontificalis attributed it to him because he made no departure from the custom in force in his time.[5]

Death and veneration

Felix I as depicted on a fresco in the Sistine Chapel

The acts of the Council of Ephesus give Pope Felix as a martyr; but this detail, which occurs again in the biography of the pope in the Liber Pontificalis, is unsupported by any authentic earlier evidence and is manifestly due to a confusion of names. It is obviously a confusion with a Roman martyr of the same name buried on the Via Aurelia, and over whose grave a church was built. The Liber Pontificalis states that Felix erected a basilica on the Via Aurelia, and also that he was buried there.[6] The latter detail is evidently an error, for the fourth-century Roman calendar of feasts says that Pope Felix was interred in the Catacomb of Callixtus on the Via Appia.[7] In the Roman "Feriale" or calendar of feasts, the name of Felix occurs in the list of Roman bishops (Depositio episcoporum), and not in that of the martyrs.[5]

As above, Felix was interred in the catacomb of Callixtus on 30 December,[5] "III Kal. Jan." (third day to the calends of January) in the Roman dating system. Saint Felix I is mentioned as Pope and Martyr, with a simple feast, on 30 May. This date, given in the Liber Pontificalis as that of his death (III Kal. Jun.), is probably an error which could easily occur through a transcriber writing "Jun." for "Jan."[5] This error persisted in the General Roman Calendar until 1969 (see General Roman Calendar of 1960), by which time the mention of Saint Felix I was reduced to a commemoration in the weekday Mass by decision of Pope Pius XII (see General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII). Thereafter, the feast of Saint Felix I, no longer mentioned in the General Roman Calendar, is celebrated on his true day of death, 30 December, and without the qualification of "martyr".[8]

According to more recent studies, the oldest liturgical books indicate that the saint honoured on 30 May was a little-known martyr buried on the Via Aurelia, who was mistakenly identified with Pope Felix I,[9] an error similar to the identification in the liturgical books of the martyr saint celebrated on 30 July with the antipope Felix II, corrected in the mid-1950s.

See also


  1. ^ "Hator 6 : Lives of Saints : Synaxarium –".
  2. ^ a b c Annuario Pontificio 2012 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), p. 8*
  3. ^ "St. Felix I". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
  4. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Felix (Popes)" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ a b c d e Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope St. Felix I" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  6. ^ "Hic fecit basilicam in Via Aurelia, ubi et sepultus est"
  7. ^ "III Kal. Januarii, Felicis in Callisti", it reads in the Depositio episcoporum.
  8. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  9. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 125