Feast Day : October 14
Also known as: Callixtus
Callistus, the son of Domitius, was a Roman. As a young Christian slave, he was put in charge of a bank by his master, Carpophorus, but somehow lost the money that had been entrusted to him. He fled Rome but was discovered on a ship off Portus (Proto); he jumped overboard but was caught and carried back to Carpophorus. Later he was arrested for fighting in a synagogue when he tried to borrow (or collect debts) from some Jews. Denounced as a Christian, he was sentenced to work in the mines of Sardinia. He was released after the intercession of Emperor Commodus’s mistress, Marcia, but was in such poor health that he was sent to Antium to recuperate. Callistus lived in Antium with the help of a pension from Pope St. Victor I (r. 189–199). About the year 199 he was called back to Rome and made a deacon by Pope St. Zephyrinus (r. 199–217), who put him in charge of a cemetery (later named the San Callistus in his honor) on the Via Appia. He was well known for his kindness, and when Zephyrinus died about 217, was elected his successor by popular vote of the Roman people and clergy. He was not without enemies, however. Critics denounced him for admitting to Communion people who had repented of fornication, adultery, and murder. They were upset also with his teachings that the commission of a mortal sin was not enough to depose a bishop; that men who had been married more than once could be admitted to the clergy; and that marriages between free women and Christian slaves were legitimate. One of the biggest critics was St. Hippolytus, his rival for the papal seat. Hippolytus was an opponent also of the Monarchianists, who denied the Trinity and held that Jesus was no more than a man who had received supernatural abilities at his baptism. Callistus excommunicated Sabellius, then the leader of the Monarchianists, but this was not enough for Hippolytus, who withdrew from the Church of Rome and had himself consecrated bishop (and antipope), producing a schism that was to last for decades. Callistus died about October 14, 222, perhaps during a popular uprising, although the legend that he was thrown down a well has no basis in fact. He was buried on the Via Aurelia rather than in the cemetery on the Via Appia, where most other popes of his time were interred. In art, Callistus is shown wearing a red robe with a tiara (the sign of a pope); as being thrown into a well with a millstone around his neck; or simply with a millstone around his neck. Often there is a fountain near him.