Invented, interwoven and interplayed: the evolution of the bishop-martyr Calixtus’ cult in late-antique Rome

Bishop Calixtus I. of Rome (217?-222?) and his reception in the Refutatio omnium haeresium, an anonymous heresiography from the 3rd century, was the subject of my doctoral thesis. For this presentation, I shifted the focus from the actual life of Calixtus to his “afterlife”, memory and the development of his cultic veneration in Rome. The presentation was hold at “The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity” Conference, in the session “Specific saints”, 28 September 2018, at the Institute of History, University of Warsaw.


The evolution of the confessor-bishop Calixtus I. of Rome’s (217?-222?; S00145) cult is particularly intriguing due to three factors: (1) A fascinating interplay between tomb/relics, political/theological interests, acta and pilgrimage; (2) The invention of a genuine narration, the Acta Martirii Sancti Calixti (BHL 1523) by merging topographic information (catacomb at the via Aurelia), local traditions (Trastevere, domus Pontiani, ect.) and dramatising the story by adding alleged (Calepodius; S01411) and probable (Asterius of Ostia; S01550) martyrs; (3) And finally a contemporary, toxic but surprisingly accurate account of his life (Refutatio omnium haeresium, short after 222 AD). This contribution aims to illuminate the rich interplay of various factors (1-2) on the critical backdrop of a proof text (3), leading to the revival of Calixtus’ cult.