Pope Gelasius I
|Papacy began||1 March 492|
|Papacy ended||19 November 496|
Roman Africa or Rome
|Died||19 November 496
Rome, Ostrogothic Kingdom
|Feast day||21 November|
|Other popes named Gelasius|
|Papal styles of
Pope Gelasius I
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
Pope Gelasius I (died 19 November 496) was Pope from 1 March 492 to his death in 496. He was probably the third and last Bishop of Rome of North African berber origin in the Catholic Church. Gelasius was a prolific writer whose style placed him on the cusp between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Gelasius had been closely employed by his predecessor Felix III, especially in drafting papal documents. His ministry was characterized by a call for strict orthodoxy, a more assertive push for papal authority, and increasing tension between the churches in the West and the East.
Place of birth
There is some dispute regarding where Gelasius was born: according to the Liber Pontificalis he was born in Africa (natione Afer), while in a letter addressed to the Roman Emperor Anastasius he called himself "born a Roman" (Romanus natus). That said, the latter assertion probably just means that he was born in Roman Africa before it was overrun by the Vandals. Most academics agree that Gelasius was a Berber born in what is now Kabylia, and successfully converted to Christianity around 492 AD all the Berbers of the Aures (who were the last to defend romanized north western-Africa with Kahina, the queen of the Romano-Berber kingdom of Aures, when the Arabs conquered the Maghreb).
Gelasius' election on 1 March 492 was a gesture for continuity: Gelasius inherited Felix's struggles with Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius and the patriarch of Constantinople and exacerbated them by insisting on the removal of the name of the late Acacius, patriarch of Constantinople, from the diptychs, in spite of every ecumenical gesture by the current, otherwise quite orthodox patriarch Euphemius (q.v. for details of the Acacian schism).
The split with the emperor and the patriarch of Constantinople was inevitable, from the western point of view, because they had embraced a view of a single, Divine ("Monophysite") nature of Christ, which was a Christian heresy according to the western church of Rome, but not to the eastern church of Constantinople. Gelasius' book De duabus in Christo naturis ("On the dual nature of Christ") delineated the Western view. Thus Gelasius, for all the conservative Latinity of his writing style, stood on the cusp of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.
During the Acacian schism, Gelasius affirmed the primacy of Rome over the entire Church, East and West, and he presented this doctrine in terms that set the model for subsequent popes asserting the claims of papal supremacy, due to the succession of the Roman Popes from the Apostle Peter.
Suppression of pagan rites and heretics
Closer to home, Gelasius finally suppressed the ancient Roman festival of the Lupercalia after a long contest. Gelasius' letter to Andromachus, the senator, covers the main lines of the controversy and incidentally offers some details of this festival combining fertility and purification that might have been lost otherwise. Significantly, this festival of purification, which had given its name— dies februatus, from februare, "to purify"— to the month of February, was replaced with a Christian festival celebrating the purification of the Virgin Mary instead: Candlemas, observed forty days after Christmas, on 2 February.
Gelasius was the most prolific writer of the early Roman bishops. A great mass of correspondence of Gelasius has survived: forty-two letters according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, thirty-seven according to Father Bagan and fragments of forty-nine others, carefully archived in the Vatican, expounding to Eastern bishops the primacy of the see of Rome. There are extant besides six treatises that carry the name of Gelasius. According to Cassiodorus, the reputation of Gelasius attracted to his name other works not by him.
The most famous of pseudo-Gelasian works is the list de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis ("books to be received and not to be received"), the so-called Decretum Gelasianum, which is believed to be connected to the pressures for orthodoxy during his pontificate and intended to be read as a decretal by Gelasius on the canonical and apocryphal books, which internal evidence reveals to be of later date. Thus the fixing of the canon of scripture has traditionally been attributed to Gelasius.
In the Catholic tradition, the so-called Gelasian Sacramentary, actually the Liber sacramentorum Romanae ecclesiae ("Book of Sacraments of the Church of Rome") is a book of liturgy that was actually composed in Merovingian times. An old tradition linked the book to Pope Gelasius, apparently based on Walafrid Strabo's ascription to him of what is evidently this book. Most of its liturgy reflects the mix of Roman and Gallican practice inherited from the Merovingian church.
- Browne, M. (1998). "The Three African Popes.". The Western Journal of Black Studies 22 (1): 57–58. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
- "Pope St. Gelasius I". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- The title of his biography by Walter Ullmann expresses this:Gelasius I. (492–496): Das Papsttum an der Wende der Spätantike zum Mittelalter (Stuttgart) 1981.
- J. Chapin, "Gelasius I, Pope, St.", pp. 121-123, in New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, vol. 6, Gale, 2002.
- J.Conant, Staying Roman: Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439–700, CUP, 2012, p. 83.
- Medieval Sourcebook: Gelasius I on Spiritual and Temporal Power
- Rev. Philip V. Bagan, The Syntax of the Letters of Pope Gelasius I (Catholic University Press) 1945.
- F.C.Burkitt, Review of The decretum Gelasianum", Journal of Theological Studies, 14 (1913) pp. 469–471 (Online copy at Tertullian.com)
- Norman F. Cantor, Civilization of the Middle Ages.
- Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gelasius I.|
- Duo sunt: introduction and text in English
- Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia latina with analytical indexes
- Fontes Latinae de papis usque ad annum 530 (Papa Felix IV)
- Liber pontificalis
- Decretum Gelasianum: De Libris Recipiendis et Non Recipiendis
|Catholic Church titles|
1 March 492 – 19 November 496