Apollinaris of Ravenna

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Saint Apollinaris
Saint Apollenaris.jpg
Portrait Mosaic of Saint Apollinaris at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna
BornAntioch, Syria (now Antakya, modern-day Turkey)
DiedRavenna, Italy
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
FeastJuly 20 (Roman Catholic Church)
July 23 (pre-1969 General Roman Calendars, Eastern Orthodox Church)
Patronageepilepsy; gout;
Emilia-Romagna region (Italy)
Aachen, Burtscheid, Düsseldorf, Ravenna, Remagen

Apollinaris of Ravenna (Italian: Apollinare; Greek: Απολλινάριος, Apollinarios) is a Syrian saint, whom the Roman Martyrology describes as "a bishop who, according to tradition, while spreading among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ, led his flock as a good shepherd and honoured the Church of Classis near Ravenna by a glorious martyrdom."[1]


According to tradition, he was a native of Antioch in Roman Province of Syria. As the first Bishop of Ravenna, he faced nearly constant persecution. He and his flock were exiled from Ravenna during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source). On his way out of the city he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred by being run through with a sword. Centuries after his death, he appeared in a vision to Saint Romuald.

Other legends have him martyred under the Emperor Valens.

The early 20th-century Catholic Encyclopaedia rendered the traditional version as follows:

He was made Bishop of Ravenna, Italy, by Saint Peter himself. The miracles he wrought there soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the Faith, while at the same time bringing upon him the fury of the idolaters, who beat him cruelly and drove him from the city. He was found half-dead on the seashore, and kept in concealment by the Christians, but was captured again and compelled to walk on burning coals and a second time expelled. But he remained in the vicinity, and continued his work of evangelization. We find him then journeying in the Roman province of Aemilia [in Italy]. A third time he returned to Ravenna. Again he was captured, hacked with knives, had scalding water poured over his wounds, was beaten in the mouth with stones because he persisted in preaching, and was flung into a horrible dungeon, loaded with chains, to starve to death; but after four days he was put on board a ship and sent to Greece. There the same course of preachings, miracles and sufferings continued; and when his very presence caused the oracles to be silent, he was, after a cruel beating, sent back to Italy. All this continued for three years, and a fourth time he returned to Ravenna. By this time Vespasian was Emperor, and he, in answer to the complaints of the pagans, issued a decree of banishment against the Christians. Apollinaris was kept concealed for some time, but as he was passing out of the gates of the city, was set upon and savagely beaten, probably at Classis, a suburb, but he lived for seven days, foretelling meantime that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph. It is not certain what was his native place, though it was probably Antioch. Nor is it sure that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of Christ, as has been suggested. The precise date of his consecration cannot be ascertained, but he was Bishop of Ravenna for twenty-six years.[2]

However, the acts of the martyrdom of Saint Apollinaris have scarcely any historical value[citation needed]; they were probably written by Archbishop Maurus of Ravenna (642-671), who presumably wanted to publicize the alleged apostolic origin of the See of Ravenna, and also to abet his political aspirations against the influence of both Rome and Constantinople[citation needed]. However, Christian inscriptions dating from the 2nd century have been discovered near Classe, confirming the presence of Christianity in Ravenna at a very early date. According to the list of the bishops of Ravenna compiled by Bishop Marianus (546-556), the 12th Bishop of Ravenna was named Severus; and he is among those who signed at the Council of Sardica in 343. Thus, the epoch of Saint Apollinaris may be estimated as possibly to the last decades of the 2nd century, placing his martyrdom possibly under Emperor Septimius Severus.


A noted miracle worker, Saint Apollinaris is considered especially effective against gout, venereal disease[3] and epilepsy. His relics are at the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo (which housed his relics from the 9th century until the 1748 reconsecration of Sant'Apollinare in Classe) and the 6th century Benedictine Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe (on the traditional site of his martyrdom), both in Ravenna and in Saint Lambert's church, Düsseldorf, Germany. There are also churches dedicated to him in Aachen, Burtscheid and Remagen in Germany, where his veneration was probably spread by Benedictine monks. The Frankish king Clovis built a church dedicated to him in Dijon, and another dedicated to Saint Apollinaris also existed in Bologna, but was destroyed in 1250. Bořivoj II, Duke of Bohemia, founded a church with a collegiate chapter dedicated to Saint Apollinaris in Sadská (then an important centre of the Czech state) in 1117/1118. On behalf of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, the chapter was later transferred from Sadská to recently founded New Town of Prague in 1362 and another church of St Apollinaris built there. Both of these churches in Bohemia stand to the present time. In 1957, a church venerating St. Apollinaris was founded in Napa, California.

In the Tridentine Calendar his feast day is July 23, the day he is alleged to have been martyred.[1] The present General Roman Calendar devotes this day to Saint Bridget of Sweden, since it is also the day she is alleged to have died as a martyr and she is now better known in the West than Saint Apollinaris, being one of the patron saints of Europe. Owing to the limited importance of Saint Apollinaris' feast worldwide, his liturgical celebration was in 1969 removed from the General Roman Calendar, but not from the Roman Martyrology, the official list of saints.[4] His memorial was restored to the General Roman Calendar in the 2002 edition of the Roman Missal, with the date of celebration changed to July 20, the nearest day not taken up with other celebrations. The Roman Martyrology mentions Saint Apollinaris both on July 20 (with the above-quoted text) and also more briefly[5] on July 23.[1]


  • Santi Beati: Sant'Apollinare di Ravenna, Vescovo e martire (in Italian)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCampbell, Thomas Joseph (1907). "St. Apollinaris (1)". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Nicholas Everett, Patron Saints of Early Medieval Italy AD c.350-800 (PIMS/Durham University Press, 2016), pp139-170.


  1. ^ a b c Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  2. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: St Apollinaris
  3. ^ https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1486,
  4. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 131
  5. ^ "At Classis, near Ravenna in Flaminia, the martyrdom of Saint Apollinaris, bishop, whose memorial is celebrated on 20 July."

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