Pope Lucius I
|Papacy began||25 June 253|
|Papacy ended||5 March 254|
Rome, Roman Empire
|Died||5 March 254|
Rome, Roman Empire
|Feast day||5 March|
|Other popes named Lucius|
Pope Lucius I (c. 200 – 5 March 254) was the Bishop of Rome from 25 June 253 to his death in 254. He was banished soon after his consecration, but gained permission to return. He was mistakenly classified as a martyr in the persecution of Valerian, which did not begin until after Lucius' death.
A Danish legend held that the demons of Isefjord feared nothing but the skull of Lucius I, and when this skull was taken to Denmark, it brought peace, and Lucius was declared patron of Zealand. The skull was then preserved as a national relic until carbon dating proved that it did not date back as far as his time.
St. Lucius was born in Rome at an unknown date; nothing is known about his family except his father's name, Porphyrianus. He was elected probably on 25 June 253 and died on 5 March 254. His election took place during the persecution which caused the banishment of his predecessor Pope Cornelius, and he also was banished soon after his consecration, but succeeded in gaining permission to return.
He is praised in several letters of St. Cyprian (see Epist. lxviii. 5) for condemning the Novationists for their refusal to readmit to communion Christians who repented for having lapsed under persecution.
His feast day is 5 March, on which date he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology in the following terms: "In the cemetery of Callistus on the Via Appia, Rome, burial of Saint Lucius, Pope, successor of Saint Cornelius. For his faith in Christ he suffered exile and acted as an outstanding confessor of the faith, with moderation and prudence, in the difficult times that were his."
His feast did not appear in the Tridentine Calendar of Pope Saint Pius V. In 1602, it was inserted under the date of 4 March, into the General Roman Calendar. With the insertion in 1621 on the same date of the feast of Saint Casimir, the celebration of Pope Lucius was reduced to a commemoration within Saint Casimir's Mass. In the 1969 revision Pope Lucius's feast was omitted from the General Roman Calendar, partly because of the baselessness of the title of "martyr" with which he had previously been honoured, and was moved in the Roman Martyrology to the day of his death.
In spite of what is mistakenly stated in the Liber Pontificalis, he did not in fact suffer martyrdom. The persecution of Valerian in which he was said to have been martyred is known to have started later than March 254, when Pope Lucius died.
His tombstone is still extant in the catacomb of Callixtus. His relics were later brought to the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, along with the relics of St. Cecilia and others. His head is preserved in a reliquary in St. Ansgar's Cathedral in Copenhagen, Denmark. This relic was brought to Roskilde around the year 1100, after St. Lucius had been declared patron of the Danish region Zealand. There had been demons at large at the Isefjord at Roskilde city, and as they declared that they feared nothing but Lucius' skull, this had to be brought to Denmark, whereupon peace took reign of the fjord again. After the Reformation, the skull was taken to the exhibition rooms of king Frederik III in Copenhagen, where it was on exhibit along with the petrified embryo a woman had carried inside her for 28 years, as well as other monstrosities the king had collected. The skull remained in Roskilde Cathedral until 1908, when it was moved to Saint Ansgar's Cathedral while the property of Copenhagen's National museum.
Pope St. Lucius' head is among the few relics to have survived the Reformation in Denmark. However the Norwegian researcher Øystein Morten started wondering if St. Lucius' skull might have been mixed up with the skull of the Norwegian king Sigurd Jorsalfar (1090–1130). This skull had also been kept in the Danish National Museum collection in the 1800s until it was donated to Oslo University in 1867. Danish experts from the National Museum then studied the skull, using carbon dating which concluded that the skull belonged to a man who lived between AD340 and 431, nearly 100 years after the death of St Lucius in 254. So the skull in question never belonged to St. Lucius, who died around AD 254. The results also rule out that it may have belonged to the crusader king Sigurd.
- Kirsch, Johann Peter (1910). "Pope St. Lucius I" in The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- Romae via Appia in coemeterio Callisti, depositio sancti Lucii, papae, qui, sancti Cornelii successor, pro Christi fide exsilium passus est et, fidei confessor eximius, in angustiis tempestatibus suis moderatione ac prudentia se gessit [Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 978-88-209-7210-3), die 5 martii].
- Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), pp. 88 and 118
- St. Lucius I; "There are no grounds for counting St Lucius among the martyrs, since he is listed in the Depositio Episcoporum" [Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 118]
- "When they entered Isefjord from the Kattegat, the ship carrying the priests was attacked by a vile demon that demanded a human sacrifice in order to let them pass," quoted from: https://web.archive.org/web/20150924092105/http://www.roskildekommune.dk/webtop/site.aspx?p=21421
- R. Broby-Johansen: Det gamle København (page 164), edited by Thanning and Appel, Copenhagen 1978, ISBN 8741363477
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