Feast Day : August 13
Little was known about Hippolytus until the 19th century, when Philosophumena, a manuscript apparently written by the saint, was discovered. Hippolytus was a Christian priest in Rome at the beginning of the third century. (SS. Eusebius and Jerome referred to him as a bishop, but his name was not on any of the lists of bishops.) He may have been a disciple of St. Irenaeus. During the reign of Pope Zephyrinus (198–217), Hippolytus became embroiled in controversies over heresies. When the pope declined to rule on whether or not the Modalists were heretics, the incensed Hippolytus castigated him as unfit for his office. Pope Zephyrinus died in 217 and was succeeded by Callistus (r. 217–222), of whom Hippolytus disapproved and called a heretic. Hippolytus left the Church and had himself elected antipope by a small group of followers. He remained antipope during the reigns of two more popes, Urban (r. 222–230) and Pontian (r. 230–235). It may have been during this period that he wrote Philosophumena. Pontian resigned in 235 in the face of persecutions from Emperor Maximus the Thracian. Both he and Hippolytus were banished to the island of Sardinia. Both of them died there, probably in 236. Prior to death, Hippolytus reconciled with the Church and ended the schism. Their remains were returned together to Rome during the reign of Pope Fabian (236–250). Pontian was buried in the papal vault in the Catacomb of Callistus, and Hippolytus was interred on the Via Tiburtina. Hippolytus was considered an important theologian of his day, and he was a prolific writer. Sadly, most of his work has been lost. He wrote in Greek rather than Latin and thus became better known in the Eastern Church. He wrote numerous commentaries on books of the Bible, some of which survive in fragments, and numerous treatises against heresies. According to legend, Hippolytus did not die in exile but had himself secretly consecrated bishop after leaving the Church. He was arrested and executed by being dragged to death by wild horses. His relics were returned to Rome.