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Papacy began 199
Papacy ended December 20, 217
Predecessor Victor I
Successor Callixtus I
Personal details
Birth name Zephyrinus
Born ???
Rome, Roman Empire
Died December 20, 217
Rome, Roman Empire
Styles of
Pope Zephyrinus
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Saint

Pope Saint Zephyrinus, born in Rome, was bishop of Rome from 199 to 217. His predecessor was bishop Victor I. Upon his death on December 20, 217, he was succeeded by his principal advisor, bishop Callixtus I.


Despite his long pontificate relatively little is known of him. His critic, Saint Hippolytus, described him as a simple man without education, a weak man "unskilled in the church's rule" and dominated by his deacon Callixtus, who succeeded him as Pope. Hippolytus charged him with laxity in enforcing discipline and failure to assert his authority sufficiently in repressing the heresies (especially Sabellianism) then prevalent in Rome.[1][2]


Under Zephyrinus, the position of the Christians, which had remained favourable in the first years of the government of Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211), grew constantly worse, and in 202 or 203 the edict of persecution appeared which forbade conversion to Christianity under the severest penalties.[3]

Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that a certain Natalius who had at first accepted to be made bishop of a group that held that Christ, though conceived by the Holy Ghost, was a mere man, and even inferior to Melchizedek, then repented and begged Zephyrinus to receive him back into the communion of the Church.[3][4]

The Roman priest Hippolytus was a vigorous proponent of a Logos doctrine that emphasized the distinction of the Persons of the Trinity. He taught that the Divine Logos that became man in Christ differs in everything from God and is the mediary between God and the world of creatures. This doctrine in the form in which Hippolytus set it forth aroused many doubts, and another theological school appeared in opposition to it, emphasizing the absolute unity of God. This doctrine, known as Monarchianism, affirmed the sole deity of God the Father and considered Christ to be a manifestation of God in the manner (modus) of union with human nature. Consequently, they were called Modalists or Patripassians, as according to them it was not the Son of God but the Father who had been crucified. Pope Zephyrinus did not interpose authoritatively in the dispute between the two schools. The heresy of the Modalists was not at first clearly evident, and the doctrine of Hippolytus offered many difficulties as regards the tradition of the Church. Unable to respond adequately to the learned arguments of Hippolytus, Zephyrinus said simply that he acknowledged only one God, and this was the Lord Jesus Christ, but it was the Son, not the Father, who had died.[3]

In his opposition to Zephyrinus, Hippolytus started the first schism in the history of the Christian Church.[2] When Callixtus, whom Hippolytus blamed for the inaction of Zephyrinus, succeeded Zephyrinus as Pope, Hippolytus and a number of his scholars left the Church, and for over ten years Hippolytus stood at the head of a separate congregation, possibly as bishop, and is sometimes considered the first Antipope.[3]

Feast day

The feast of "St Zephyrinus, Pope and Martyr," formerly held on August 26,[5] is now celebrated on December 20, the day of his death.[6] Traditional Roman Catholics continue to celebrate his feast day on August 26.[7]


Gloriole.svg Saints portal
  1. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Encyclopaedia Britannica Online
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope St. Zephyrinus
  4. Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature: Zephyrinus
  5. "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 136
  6. "Martyrologium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  7. see the General Roman Calendar as in 1954 and the General Roman Calendar of 1962


  • Rendina, Claudio, The Popes' Histories and Secrets (2002)
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Victor I
Bishop of Rome

Succeeded by
Callixtus I

Popes of the Roman Catholic Church
PeterLinusAnacletusClement IEvaristusAlexander ISixtus ITelesphorusHyginusPius IAnicetusSoterEleuterusVictor IZephyrinusCallixtus IUrban IPontianAnterusFabianCorneliusLucius IStephen ISixtus IIDionysiusFelix IEutychianCaiusMarcellinusMarcellus IEusebiusMiltiadesSilvester IMarkJulius ILiberiusDamasus ISiriciusAnastasius IInnocent IZosimusBoniface ICelestine ISixtus IIILeo IHilariusSimpliciusFelix IIIGelasius IAnastasius IISymmachusHormisdasJohn IFelix IVBoniface IIJohn IIAgapetus ISilveriusVigiliusPelagius IJohn IIIBenedict IPelagius IIGregory ISabinianBoniface IIIBoniface IVAdeodatus IBoniface VHonorius ISeverinusJohn IVTheodore IMartin IEugene IVitalianAdeodatus IIDonusAgathoLeo IIBenedict IIJohn VCononSergius IJohn VIJohn VIISisinniusConstantineGregory IIGregory IIIZacharyStephen IIPaul IStephen IIIAdrian ILeo IIIStephen IVPaschal IEugene IIValentineGregory IVSergius IILeo IVBenedict IIINicholas IAdrian IIJohn VIIIMarinus IAdrian IIIStephen VFormosusBoniface VIStephen VIRomanusTheodore IIJohn IXBenedict IVLeo VSergius IIIAnastasius IIILandoJohn XLeo VIStephen VIIJohn XILeo VIIStephen VIIIMarinus IIAgapetus IIJohn XIILeo VIIIBenedict VJohn XIIIBenedict VIBenedict VIIJohn XIVJohn XVGregory VSilvester IIJohn XVIIJohn XVIIISergius IVBenedict VIIIJohn XIXBenedict IXSilvester IIIBenedict IXGregory VIClement IIBenedict IXDamasus IILeo IXVictor IIStephen IXNicholas IIAlexander IIGregory VIIVictor IIIUrban IIPaschal IIGelasius IICallixtus IIHonorius IIInnocent IICelestine IILucius IIEugene IIIAnastasius IVAdrian IVAlexander IIILucius IIIUrban IIIGregory VIIIClement IIICelestine IIIInnocent IIIHonorius IIIGregory IXCelestine IVInnocent IVAlexander IVUrban IVClement IVGregory XInnocent VAdrian VJohn XXINicholas IIIMartin IVHonorius IVNicholas IVCelestine VBoniface VIIIBenedict XIClement VJohn XXIIBenedict XIIClement VIInnocent VIUrban VGregory XIUrban VIBoniface IXInnocent VIIGregory XIIMartin VEugene IVNicholas VCallixtus IIIPius IIPaul IISixtus IVInnocent VIIIAlexander VIPius IIIJulius IILeo XAdrian VIClement VIIPaul IIIJulius IIIMarcellus IIPaul IVPius IVPius VGregory XIIISixtus VUrban VIIGregory XIVInnocent IXClement VIIILeo XIPaul VGregory XVUrban VIIIInnocent XAlexander VIIClement IXClement XInnocent XIAlexander VIIIInnocent XIIClement XIInnocent XIIIBenedict XIIIClement XIIBenedict XIVClement XIIIClement XIVPius VIPius VIILeo XIIPius VIIIGregory XVIPius IXLeo XIIIPius XBenedict XVPius XIPius XIIJohn XXIIIPaul VIJohn Paul IJohn Paul IIBenedict XVIFrancis

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