Lapsi (Christianity)

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Lapsi was the name given to apostates in the early Christian Church, when Christians were persecuted by the Roman authorities to renounce their faith. It also means those who have lapsed or fallen away from their faith and decide later in life to come back to it.


Lapsi were classified into several groups.

  • Sacrificati: Those who had actually offered a sacrifice to the idols. Christians that made sacrifices, especially to Roman gods, were only offered absolution on their deathbeds.
  • Thurificati: Those who had burnt incense on the altar before the statues of the gods. From Latin thurificare – "burn incense"
  • Libellatici: Those who had drawn up attestation (libellus), or had, by bribing the authorities, caused such certificates to be drawn up for them, representing them as having offered sacrifice, without, however, having actually done so. A two-year sanction was imposed as penance. From Latin libellus – "little book; letter; certificate"
  • Acta facientes: Those that made false statements or other acts to save their lives. From Latin – "those doing the acts"
  • Traditores: Those who gave up sacred scriptures, artifacts and/or revealed names of fellow Christians. From Latin tradere - "hand over; deliver; betray”

See also[edit]


  • Cyprian of Carthage: De lapsis and De Ecclesiae Catholicae unitate. Text and translation by Maurice Bévenot. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971