Wednesday, December 31, 2008

St Silvester 1

Fresco on the North Side of the Basilica di San Piero a Grado, Pisa Italy: Pope Sylvester shows the portrait of the Apostles to the Emperor Costantine. This fresco is the work of Deodato Orlandi, who worked at Pisa from 1300 to 1312.

Pope St. Sylvester I was born in Rome to Rufinus and Justa in the late 200's.

He was educated by a priest named Charitius or Carinus in literature and theology and was ordained a priest by Pope St. Marcellinus.

He witnessed Constantine's triumph in 312 and became Pope in 314 upon the death of Pope St. Melchiades. The same year he sent four legates to the Western Council held at Arles. The Donatist schism was condemned at this council and Pope Sylvester approved the canons written at the council for the whole Church.

He was responsible for the building of the original Basilica of St. Peter's and St. John Lateran and may also have been responsible for creating the first martyrology.

In 325 the General Council of Nicea was convened to deal with the Arian Heresy. The Arians professed that Christ was not truly God and this heresy became so prevalent that for a time most of the Christian world accepted the teachings. Sylvester was not able to attend the council because of his age but sent three priests, Osius, Vito and Vincentius to act in his stead. Showing the importance of the pope's representatives, the names of these three priests are placed ahead of the Eastern patriarchs in the list of those attending the council. The council condemned Arianism and drew up the Nicene Creed.

Pope Sylvester died in 335 after being pope for 21 years. He was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla but Pope Sergius II had his body moved beneath an altar in the church attached to the cemetery in the 800's.

In 1227 Pope Gregory IX made his feast universal for the Church. The Western Church commemorates the feast on December 31st. The Eastern Church commemorates it on January 10th.


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