St Felix I


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(3 Jan. 269–30 Dec. 274)

Described by LP as a Roman by birth, son of Constantius, he is one of the obscurest popes, even his dates being conjectural. He was the recipient, probably, of the letter announcing the deposition of the local bishop, Paul of Samosata, for Trinitarian error, and the election of Domnus I in his place, which the synod of Antioch sent in 268/9 to Pope Dionysius, Bishop Maximus of Alexandria, and other bishops. As a result he seems to have entered formally into communion with Domnus and corresponded with Maximus. A creed-like fragment bearing his name, which circulated in Alexandria and was cited by Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) in the 5th-century Christological debates, may possibly be a retouched extract from his letter to Maximus. Although deposed, Paul of Samosata refused to vacate the church building at Antioch until Emperor Aurelian (270–5), to whom the orthodox appealed, ordered it to be handed over to ‘those with whom the bishops of Italy and of Rome were in communication’. It must therefore have been Felix who gave the decision in favour of Timaeus, the successor of Domnus (d. 270/1), and secured the undignified expulsion of Paul. Apart from these surmises, nothing is known about Felix's activities. LP's report that he died a martyr and was buried on the Via Aurelia is erroneous, the result of a confusion between him and actual Roman martyrs bearing the same name. The Roman calendar of 354 includes him in its list of episcopal burials, not that of martyrs; and the 4th-century Liberian Catalogue states that he was interred in the papal crypt in the cemetery of Callistus on the Appian Way. Feast 30 Dec.

Further Reading

Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7. 30. 19–23, 7. 32. 1LP i, pp. cxxv, 158 (Davis 1: 11, 100, 108)Caspar i. 43, 84, 468J. Quasten, Patrology (Utrecht and Antwerp, 1953), ii. 242H. Lietzmann, Apollinaris von Laodicea und seine Schule (Tübingen, 1904), 91–4, 318–21C. H. Turner, ‘The Papal Chronology of the Third Century’, JTS17 (1916), 349F. Millar, ‘Paul of Samosata, Zenobia and Aurelian’, JRS61 (1971), 1–17DHGE xvi. 886 f. (P. Nautin)Levillain i. 570 f. (M. Christol)EThC 35 (G. Schwaiger)NCE v. 666 (E. G. Weltin)

Subjects: Christianity.

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