Pope Alexander I

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Pope Alexander I
Papacy Began:
A.D. 105 or 107
Papacy Ended:

Saint Evaristus Successor:
Saint Sixtus I

Saint Alexander was the first of many with the name of Alexander who succeeded Saint Peter in the line of apostolic succession.[1]

Saint Alexander I was a Roman. He is said to have been a student of Pliny the Younger, and a disciple of Plutarch. He was elected in 105, the sixth Pope and Bishop of Rome, fifth successor to Saint Peter, and immediate successor to Saint Evaristus.

Pope Saint Alexander I was the bishop of Rome for seven to ten years in the early second century from c. 107 to c. 115. According to Catholic tradition, the dates of his episcopacy are estimated from as early as 106-115 and as late as 109-119 C.E. The Holy See's Annuario Pontificio (2012) identifies him as a Roman who reigned from 108 or 109 to 116 or 119. His years of service can only be approximated to be ca. 109-116 C.E. Little is known about Alexander’s rule, which is attested by Pope St. Eusebius (309/310).

Pope Alexander is regarded as having done much to develop the administrative and liturgical traditions of the Church in its early years. Tradition holds that he converted the Roman governor Hermes and 1,500 members of his family, servants, and government officials to Christianity.

Early sixth-century writings (501-600) attribute Alexander with inserting the Scripturally-based, Last Supper narrative words of the Consecration now used in the Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion of the Catholic Mass, and the prescription that hosts to be consecrated be made from unleavened bread of wheat flour and water only, a practice condemned by Byzantine Orthodoxy as a heresy.

To him are attributed the institution of holy water in Churches and houses. Legend has it that he was the one who introduced the practice of using only holy water blessed by the pope and any other priest as a sacramental and the blessing of holy water and salt on a house to ward off evil influences, but much of this is now doubted by secular and Catholic scholars alike.

Little is known about Alexander, although legends say that he converted his jailer, St. Quirinus, and his daughter, St. Balbina by miraculous means. Some believe he suffered martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Trajan or Hadrian, but this is now considered improbable. Pope Alexander I was the Bishop of Rome from c. 107 to his death c. 115 or 119. There is no certainty underlying the assertion that he probably died in Rome.

The tomb of three Christian martyrs, Alexander, Eventulus, and Theodulus buried along the Via Nomentana was discovered near Rome, at the spot where the above mentioned tradition declares the Pope to have been martyred. According to some archaeologists, this Alexander is identical with the Pope, and thus this ancient and important tomb marks the actual site of the Pope's martyrdom; but it is now thought that Alexander I was a different Alexander, based on the speculation that he was probably mistakenly identified as one of the martyrs by the writer of Liber Pontificalis ("Book of Popes") or his source. His remains are said to have been transferred to Freising in Bavaria, Germany in 834 C.E.

Alexander's feast day is celebrated on May 3. However, from 1960, the Roman Calendar no longer lists him as a martyr, as the actual cause of his death cannot be historically confirmed.

Eusebius in his work Ecclesiastical History mentions Alexander as bishop of Rome and fifth in the succession from Peter and Paul:
Book IV, Chapter I The Bishops of Rome and Alexandria, in the reign of Trajan

ABOUT the twelfth year of the reign of Trajan, the bishop of the church of Alexandria, who was mentioned by us a little before, departed this life. Primus was the fourth from the apostles to whom the functions of the office were there allotted. At the same time also, after Euaristus had completed the eighth year as bishop of Rome, he was succeeded in the episcopal office by Alexander, the fifth in the succession from Peter and Paul.

Book IV, Chapter IV The Bishops of Alexandria and Rome, under the Same Emperor

BUT in the third year of the same reign, Alexander, bishop of Rome, died, having completed the tenth year of his ministration. Xystus was his successor ; and about the same time Primus dying, in the twelfth year of the episcopate, was succeeded by Justus.

Book V, Chapter VI Catalog of the Bishops of Rome

THE blessed apostles having founded and established the church, transmitted the office of the episcopate to Linus. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in his Epistles to Timothy. He was succeeded by Anencletus, and after him Clement held the episcopate, the third from the apostles. Who, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been connected with them, might be said to have the doctrine of the apostles still sounding in his ears, and what they delivered before his eyes. And not only he, but many others were still left, who had been taught by the apostles. In the times of this Clement, there was no little dissension among the brethren at Corinth, on occasion of which the church at Rome wrote a considerable epistle to the Corinthians, confirming them in peace, and renewing their faith and the doctrine they had lately received from the apostles. After a little, he subjoins : “ But this Clement was succeeded by Euarestus, and Euarestus by Alexander. Xystus followed as the sixth from the apostles, after whom was Telesphorus, who also illustriously suffered martyrdom; then came Hyginus, and after him Pius. He was followed by Anicetus, and as he was succeeded by Soter, the twelfth from the apostles in the episcopate now is Pope Eleutherus, in the same order and the same doctrine (or succession1 [2]) in which the tradition of the apostles in the church and the promulgation of the truth has descended to us.”

quotations verbatim of Book IV, Chapter I The Bishops of Rome and Alexandria, in the reign of Trajan (p. 116)), Book IV, Chapter IV The Bishops of Alexandria and Rome, under the Same Emperor (pp. 118-119), Book V, Chapter VI Catalog of the Bishops of Rome (pp. 173-174), The Ecclesiastical History Of Eusebius Pamphilus: Bishop Of Caesarea, In Palestine, Translated from the Greek, by The Rev. C. F. Crusé, Assistant Professor in the University of Pennsylvania. With notes from the Edition of Valesius. Published London: George Bell and Sons, York Street. Covent Garden 1874. London: Printed by William Clowes and Sons, Stamford Street and Charing Cross. —In the public domain (boldface highlight added.)

See also

Harmony of the Gospel (Conservative Version) longer form Chapters 57-63

regarding the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist see

Harmony of the Gospel (Conservative Version) longer form Chapters 22-28, Chapter Twenty-seven and marginal notes with external links

Harmony of the Gospel (Conservative Version) longer form Chapters 22-28, Chapter Twenty-eight and marginal notes with external links


  1. To date there have been eight popes and antipopes named Alexander.
  2. Crusé: Valesius footnote 1 Book V, Chapter VI (p. 174)—
    " 1 The word succession, in the parenthesis, is adopted by Valesius as the correct reading. "

External links

Pope Alexander I - New World Encyclopedia (newworldencyclopedia.org)

Saint Alexander I | pope | Britannica (britannica.com)

Pope Alexander I - Catholic365.com

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Pope St. Alexander I (newadvent.org)

Pope Alexander I - Wikipedia

Pope Alexander I - Simple English Wikipedia (simple.wikipedia.org)

Pope Alexander I - WikiVisually (wikivisually.com)

St. Alexander I - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online (catholic.org)