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Sylvester I and the Emperor Constantine
|Papacy began||31 January 314|
|Papacy ended||31 December 335|
Sant'Angelo a Scala, Avellino 
31 December 335|
|Other Popes named Sylvester|
|dragon and resurrecting its victims|
|Died||31 December 335|
|Venerated in||Catholic Church|
Eastern Orthodox Churches
|Feast||31 December (Roman Catholic Church)|
2 January (Eastern Orthodox Churches)
|Patronage||Feroleto Antico; Sylvestrine Benedictines|
The accounts of the papacy of Pope Sylvester I preserved in the Liber Pontificalis (7th or 8th century) are little else than a record of the gifts said to have been conferred on the Church by Emperor Constantine I, but it does say that he was the son of a Roman named Rufinus.
During his pontificate were built the great churches founded at Rome by Constantine, e.g. the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, St. Peter's Basilica, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs.
Saint Sylvester did not himself attend the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but he was represented by two legates, Vitus and Vincentius, and he approved the council's decision.
At an early stage copious legend supplemented his scanty history, bringing him into close relationship with the first Christian emperor. These legends were introduced especially into the Vita beati Sylvestri, which appeared in the East and has been preserved in Greek and Syriac; and in Latin in the Constitutum Sylvestri – an apocryphal account of an alleged Roman council which belongs to the Symmachian forgeries and appeared between 501 and 508. They also appear in the Donation of Constantine.
Sylvester's legendary relationship to Constantine was important in the Middle Ages. Pope Sylvester II, himself a close associate of Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor, chose the name Sylvester in imitation of Sylvester I.
In the West, the liturgical feast of Saint Sylvester is on 31 December, the day of his burial in the Catacomb of Priscilla. This is the last day in the year and, accordingly, in German-speaking countries and in some others close to them, New Year's Eve is known as Silvester. In other countries too, the day is usually referred to as Saint Sylvester's Day or the Feast of Saint Sylvester.
The Donation of Constantine is a document fabricated in the second half of the eighth century, purporting to be a record by the emperor himself of his conversion, the profession of his new faith, and the privileges he conferred on Pope Sylvester I, his clergy, and their successors. According to it, Pope Sylvester was even offered the imperial crown, which, however, he refused.
"Lu Santu Papa Silvestru", a story in Giuseppe Pitrè's collection of Sicilian fables, recounts the legend as follows: Constantine the king wants to take a second wife, and asks Sylvester. Sylvester denies him permission, calling on heaven as witness; Constantine threatens him and Sylvester, rather than give in, escapes into the woods. Not long after Constantine falls ill; when he is desperate of ever regaining his health he sees a dream which commands him to send for Sylvester. He obeys, and Sylvester receives his posse in his cave and swiftly baptizes them, whereafter (having shown them several miracles) they lead him back to Constantine, whom he baptizes also. In this story Constantine and his posse are not pagans but Jews.
- List of 10 longest-reigning popes
- Patron Saints Index: Pope Saint Sylvester I
- Annuario Pontificio (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2008 ISBN 978-88-209-8021-4), p. 8*
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article "Sylvester I, St"
- 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica
- "Pope St. Sylvester I" Catholic Encyclopaedia
- Helen Dietz: "The Eschatological Dimension of Church Architecture". The Biblical Roots of Church Orientation. 2005
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Donation of Constantine
- Pitrè, Giuseppe, Fiabe, novelle e racconti popolari siciliani, Volume terzo, Palermo 1875. pp. 39 - 42
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sylvester I|
- Opera Omnia by Migne
- "The Evil Sylvester, Great Persecutor of the Jews" (in Hebrew, an Israeli religious website)
|Catholic Church titles|
|Bishop of Rome
|Popes of the Roman Catholic Church|
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