Caesarea in Palaestina

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The archiepiscopal see of Caesarea in Palaestina, also known as Caesarea Maritima, a port city in Palestine, is now a titular see of the Catholic Church.[1] It was one of the earliest Christian bishoprics, and was a metropolitan see at the time of the First Council of Nicaea, but was later subjected to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The city remained largely Christian until the Crusades, its bishop maintaining close ties to the Byzantine Empire. After the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, the see was transformed into a Latin archdiocese, subordinate to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Early history[edit]

The diocese was an ancient one, established in one of the first Christian communities ever created: it was due to the work of St Peter and St Paul. Records of the community are dated as far back as the 2nd century. According to the Apostolic Constitutions (7.46), the first Bishop of Caesarea was Zacchaeus the Publican. Caesarea Maritima was the capital of Roman Iudaea province and after the Bar Kokhba revolt it was the metropolis of the diocese of Palaestina Prima. Until the establishment of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, it was subject to the Patriarch of Antioch. The most notable Bishop of Caesarea was Eusebius of Caesarea, also known as Eusebius Pamphili. The notable theological library established by Pamphilus of Caesarea remained in existence until the Arabs invaded Palestine in the 7th century.

The diocese suffered a troubled history following the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 7th century. The city was raided by the Sassanid Persians in the early 7th century, and following the conquest of the Holy Land by the Islamic armies in the 630s, the diocese and city suffered tremendously and steadily declined in size and importance. Nonetheless, it remained overwhelmingly Christian, and in the absence of imperial oversight, its independence increased and the archbishop became the effective ruler of the area. By the 9th century there was a substantial colony of Frankish settlers established by Emperor Charlemagne to facilitate Latin pilgrimages. However, by the 10th century, as periodic Islamic persecution continued and the aura of Byzantine Imperial authority made a resurgence, the diocese fell under the influence of the Patriarch of Constantinople for protection and supervision and increasingly fell under Byzantine authority.

Following the schism between Constantinople and Rome in 1054, the community was a Greek Orthodox diocese, with only a marginal Roman Catholic community.


During the crusader period, the community became a Catholic community and remained as one until the Mamluks destroyed it.

When Caesarea was captured by the crusaders from the Muslims in 1101, the Frankish community vastly increased in size and a Latin archbishop was established. Under the crusaders, the diocese increased over time to having ten suffragan bishops, including the bishop of Sebastea. During the remainder of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem often served first as archbishop of Caesarea, or of Tyre.

There was a legend that the Holy Grail had been discovered in Caesarea; the ancient chalice found there in 1101 was later taken to Paris.[2]

Bishops of Caesarea[edit]

Latin Archbishops of Caesarea[edit]


The Theological Library at Caesarea[edit]

St Pamphilus of Caesarea devoted his life to searching out and obtaining ancient texts which he collected in the famous library that Jerome was later to use, and established a school for theological study.[5] In the scriptorium, a necessary adjunct to all libraries of antiquity, he oversaw the production of accurate edited copies of Scripture. Testimonies to his zeal and care in this work are to be found in the colophons of biblical manuscripts. Jerome's "De Viris Illustribus" (75) says that Pamphilus "transcribed the greater part of the works of Origen of Alexandria with his own hand," and that "these are still preserved in the library of Cæsarea."

Among other priceless lost treasures in the library, was the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Jerome knew of this copy of the so-called "Hebrew" or Aramaic text of the Gospel of Matthew and Eusebius[6] refers to the catalogue of the library that he appended to his life of Pamphilus. A passage from the lost life, quoted by Jerome,[7] describes how Pamphilus supplied poor scholars with the necessaries of life, and, not merely lent, but gave them copies of the Scriptures, of which he kept a large supply. He likewise bestowed copies on women devoted to study. The great treasure of the library at Caesarea was Origen's own copy of the "Hexapla," probably the only complete copy ever made. It was consulted by Jerome.[8] St Pamphilus was martyred in February, 309.[9]

The collections of the library suffered during the persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian, but were repaired subsequently by bishops of Caesarea.[10] It was noted in the 6th century, but Henry Barclay Swete[11] was of the opinion that it probably did not long survive the capture of Caesarea by the Saracens in 638, though a modern historian would attribute more destruction to its previous capture by the Sassanid Persians.


  1. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), "Sedi titolari", p. 867
  2. ^ Cross, F. L. (1957) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press; p. 214
  3. ^'s Apostolic Constitutions Book VII: "Of Cæsarea of Palestine, the first was Zacchæus, who was once a publican; after whom was Cornelius, and the third Theophilus."
  4. ^ Encyclopédie Franciscaine
  5. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, "Ecclesiastical History," VII.xxxii.25.
  6. ^ VI.xxxii
  7. ^ "Adversus Rufinum" I.ix
  8. ^ "In Psalmos comm.", ed. Morin, pp. 5, 21; "In Epist. ad Tit.".
  9. ^ "Lives of the Saints, for Every Day of the Year," p. 212
  10. ^ Jerome, "Epistles" xxxiv
  11. ^ Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, pp 74-75.

External links[edit]