St Mark

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(18 Jan.–7 Oct. 336)

Although LP describes him as a Roman, son of Priscus, nothing is reliably known of his background. He should possibly be identified with the Mark mentioned by Constantine the Great (305–37) in his letter to Pope Miltiades in 313 asking him to hold a synod to adjudicate the case of Caecilian of Carthage; if so, he must have then been prominent among the Roman clergy. His short reign fell in eventful times, with Athanasius (c.296–373) banished from Alexandria to Trier, Marcellus of Ancyra (d. c.374) and other leaders of Nicene orthodoxy deposed, and the arch-heretic Arius on his deathbed; but there is no evidence that Mark was in any way involved in the struggle arising out of the council of Nicaea (325); an exchange of letters attributed to Athanasius and him in the 9th-century collection known as the False Decretals is spurious. LP claims that he granted the pallium (a band of white wool decorated with crosses, worn by the pope and bestowed by him on metropolitans) to the bishops of Ostia and decreed that they should always consecrate the bishop of Rome. The former statement is doubtful, since while popes began using the pallium in the 4th century there is no proof of their conferring it on other prelates so early; but the latter may well be correct since St Augustine, writing in 413, takes it as established custom for the Roman pontiff to have the bishop of Ostia as the first of his three consecrators. It seems that Mark founded two churches. One was the title church of Mark, originally named after him but later placed under the patronage of the Second Evangelist; probably a simple house which he owned and converted into a church, it was long ago incorporated into what is now the Palazzo di Venezia. The other was a basilica in the cemetery of S. Balbina on the Via Ardeatina, the ruins of which survived until the 17th century. There is evidence that it was during his reign that the compilation of the Depositio episcoporum and the Depositio martyrum, the precious ancient lists of anniversaries of the deaths of Roman bishops and martyrs, was begun. Feast 7 Oct.

Further Reading

JW i. 30–32LP i. 80 f., 202–4 (Davis 1: 27–8, 101)Caspar i. 18, 142DCB iii. 825 (J. Barmby)DTC ix. 1959 f. (É. Amann)EC viii. 50 (V. Monachino)BSS viii. 699 f. (G. D. Gordini)Levillain ii. 970 f. (E. Paoli)NCE ix. 187–8 (J. Chapin)A. Ferrua, ‘La basilica di papa Marco’, Civiltà cattolica, 99 (1948), 503–13V. Monachino, La cura pastorale a Milano, Cartagine e Roma nel iv secolo (Rome, 1947), 282, 300

Subjects: Christianity.

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