Pope Urban I

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Pope Saint Urban I was pope from 14 October 222 to 230. He was born in Rome, Roman Empire and succeeded St. Callixtus I who had been martyred. For centuries it was believed that Urban too was martyred. However, recent historical discoveries now lead scholars to believe that he died of natural causes.

Much of Urban's life is shrouded in mystery, leading to many myths and misconceptions. Despite the lack of sources he is the first Pope whose reign can be definitely dated.[1] Two prominent sources do exist for Urban's pontificate: Eusebius' history of the early Church and also an inscription in the Coemeterium Callisti which names the Pope.

Urban ascended to the Chair of Saint Peter in the year of the Roman Emperor Elagabalus' assassination and served during the reign of Alexander Severus. It is believed that Urban's pontificate was during a peaceful time for Christians in the Empire as Severus did not promote the persecution of Christianity.

Urban is a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.



It is believed that the schismatic Hippolytus was still leading a rival Christian Congregation in Rome, and that he published the Philosophumena, an attack on Pope Urban's predecessor Callixtus.[2] Urban is said to have maintained the hostile policy of Callixtus when dealing with the schismatic party.

Due to the relative freedoms the Christian community had during Severus' reign the Church in Rome grew, leading to the belief that Urban was a skilled Converter.[2] A Papal decree concerning the donations of the faithful at Mass is attributed to Pope Urban:

"The gifts of the faithful that are offered to the Lord can only be used for ecclesiastical purposes, for the common good of the Christian community, and for the poor; for they are the consecrated gifts of the faithful, the atonement offering of sinners, and the patrimony of the needy."[3]

Pope Urban I's feast day is on 25 May [4] and he is invoked against storm and lightning and represented by: Vine and grapes; a fallen idol beneath broken column; a scourge; a stake and his severed head.


It had been believed that he was buried in the Coemetarium Praetextati where a tomb was inscribed with his name. However when excavating the Catacomb of Callixtus Italian archaeologist Giovanni de Rossi uncovered the lid of a sarcophagus which suggested that Pope Urban was in fact buried there. De Rossi also found a list of martyrs and confessors who were buried St. Callistus', which contained Urban's name. De Rossi therefore concluded that the Urban buried in the Coemetarium Praetextati was another bishop and Pope Urban was located in St. Callistus' Catacomb. While many historians accept this belief doubt remains. The basis for this is because Pope Sixtus III's list of saints buried in St. Callistus' Catacomb does not include Urban in the succession of Popes but rather in a list of foreign bishops. Therefore it is possible that Pope Urban is indeed buried in the Coemetarium Praetextati.[2][5]

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