St Alexander I

(c. 109—116)

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Peter (c. 64 ad)


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(c. 109–c. 116)

In the earliest succession lists of bishops of Rome he stands fifth in the line inaugurated by the Apostles Peter and Paul; later convention reckoned him the sixth pope from St Peter. The early sources differ about the length of his reign; the figures they give, which vary from seven to ten years, are clearly guesses. LP reports that he was a Roman, the son of a man also called Alexander. It attributes to him, with transparent anachronism, the insertion of the narrative of the institution of the Last Supper into the mass and the introduction of the practice of blessing houses with water mixed with salt. The Roman tradition, which it reproduces, that he died a martyr, being beheaded on the Via Nomentana leading north-east out of Rome, resulted from confusing him with an actual martyr bearing the same name whose tomb was discovered on the Via in 1855. In view of the silence of early authorities it is highly improbable that he was martyred. Virtually nothing is reliably known about him except that he held a leading position in the Roman church, and in view of the late emergence of the monarchical episcopate at Rome his constitutional position as leader of the community remains obscure. Feast 3 May (suppressed).

Further Reading

Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 3. 3. 3Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4. 1, 4. 4, 5. 6. 4LP i, pp. lxxxix–xcii, 54 f. (Davis 1: 4, 98), 127Caspar i. 8–16DHGE ii. 204–6 (A. Dufourcq)EC i. 787 (P. Goggi)BSS i. 792–8 (E. Josi)NCE i. 253 (E. G. Weltin)Lampe

Subjects: Christianity.

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