Hippolytus of Rome

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
St. Hippolytus, statue from a workshop in Altenberg, Saxony, around 1515 ( Schlossbergmuseum Chemnitz )

Hippolytus ( ancient Greek Ἱππόλυτος Hippólytos , Latinized Hippolytus ; * around 170 probably in the east of the Roman Empire ; † 235 in Sardinia ) probably worked as a presbyter in Rome from around 192 . The pupil of the church father Irenaeus is himself an important early Christian author. From 217 he lived in Rome and was a contemporary and adversary of the more liberal Bishop Calixt I.

Hippolyt is the namesake of the city of St. Pölten and of Saint-Hippolyte (Sankt Pilt) in Alsace; he is revered as the patron saint of the cities of Delft and Zell am See ( here also in the coat of arms), the prison guard and the horses, as the name Hippolytos means "horse-freeer". The saint is also invoked when the body is weak.


Hippolyt's literary activities are documented by a wealth of lists of works that can be found in other church fathers. His biographical data, however, especially his ecclesiastical office and his seat, have been controversial for many decades. The reason for this is the partially contradicting sources. Some sources suggest that Hippolytus worked in Rome. The chronograph from 354 , a collection of even older official Roman documents. For example, in the list of the burial places of the martyrs for the Ides of August 235, Hippolytus was buried in a catacomb on the Via Tiburtina in Rome.

An early testimony comes from Eusebius of Caesarea (around 260 - around 340). In his church history he lists a number of the works of Hippolyte and describes him as a bishop, but without specifying the place. In the following chapter he calls him a contemporary of Pope Zephyrin († 217). The title of bishop is confirmed somewhat later by Apollinaris of Laodicea (around 315 - around 390), who, however, expressly calls Hippolytus “Bishop of Rome”.

Something similar can be found in the works of Jerome (347-420). Beyond Eusebius, he knows other texts by Hippolyte. It is noticeable that in the question of the episcopal see he does not follow the assignment of his teacher Apollinaris, who called Hippolytus “Bishop of Rome”, but expressly emphasizes that he does not know the place of Hippolyte's episcopate. Jerome also notes that Hippolytus died a martyr . This double designation as "bishop and martyr" can be found in the following by numerous writers, u. a. in Theodoret (393-460).

Another, later tradition, on the other hand, describes Hippolytus as the bishop of the Roman port of Porto , according to the Chronicon Paschale of 629. The assignment of this city to Hippolytus is particularly widespread in the Eastern Church . A comparison of the works listed in these sources (e.g. in Georgios Synkellos († around 810)) makes it clear that the person in question is the same as Hieronymus. Archaeological evidence proves the connection between Hippolytus and Porto: on the Isola Sacra , an island in the Tiber immediately south of Porto, the remains of an early Christian basilica were excavated from 1970 . It was built at the end of the 4th century under Bishop Heraclida. A dedicatory inscription that was found proves that this church was consecrated to Hippolytus:


An empty sarcophagus from the third century was found under the altar , which an inscription, although not from the 9th century, refers to the burial place of Hippolytus.

The sources seem to suggest that there may have been two people named Hippolytus in the 3rd century, one of whom worked in Rome and the other in Porto, and whose biographies were mixed up in later times.


The surviving works of Hippolyte show that he belonged to the conservative wing of the church and that he took a very tough stance on many issues. Many authors argue that the differences of opinion led to the break with the official Church (Hippolytic Schism ) , the first major schism of the Church.

The sources are poor. A split in the church usually resulted in an extensive exchange of letters, as both sides tried to find allies to strengthen their own position. So only a few years later (251-258) a large number of such letters from the time of the schism of Novatian (counter-bishop to Cornelius ) were received. There is, however, not a single such testimony of Hippolytus's schism.

Evidence can only be found indirectly. The clearest reference is in a work that Eusebius had already ascribed to Hippolytus: The Refutatio omnium haeresium ('Refutation of all heresies'), a pamphlet in which he listed 32 heretical sects, but which were primarily directed against the Gnostics . In this work, the author reported a violent dispute with the Bishop of Rome, Calixt I (217–222), when in a decree in 217 he allowed a second penance for sins of a sexual nature - after baptism - although until then Fornication, murder and apostasy were considered unforgivable deadly sins . A fierce theological dispute also broke out over the divine Trinity . The author accused Bishop Callistus (other spelling of Calixt) to  inadequately combat the teachings of Sabellius - monarchianism - which he countered with the accusation of ditheism . He also accused Calixt of misappropriating funds and other criminal activities.

At the end of this chapter you come across a meaningful passage: “And in response to all this, these embarrassed people start calling themselves 'Catholic Church' and some come to them thinking they are doing the right thing. [...] They got their nickname from Kallistus and are called Kallistianer after their founder. "This designation of the church as" sect of the Kallistianer "is seen as proof that despite the lack of other evidence there was a schism at the time of Calixt, because the author himself was elected as the (counter) bishop of Rome and headed a smaller group until his death. “Hippolytus asserted himself as an opposing bishop to his successors until the dispute took on such forms that the government intervened. Hippolytus and his opponent Pontianus were both exiled to Sardinia and seem to have died here or to have abdicated. "

A quote from the preface shows that the author of the text came up with this self-understanding: “They [the false teachers] but no one else will convict them of error than the Holy Spirit donated in the church, who was first received by the apostles […] There We as their successors share in the same grace, high priesthood and doctrine and belong to the guardians of the church, we keep our eyes open and preach the true doctrine. ”Quite a few researchers deduce from these words that the author himself is the successor of the apostles and thus felt as a legitimate bishop.

Two other sources support this thesis. In the chronograph of 354, the chapter about the Roman bishop Pontianus reports that he was banished to Sardinia in 235 during the persecution of Christians under Maximinus Thrax . The same fate met Hippolytus, who is mentioned in the same breath as the bishop who is legitimate according to the Catholic view: "Eo tempore Pontianus episcopus et Yppolitus presbiter exoles sunt deportati in Sardinia." This equal juxtaposition of the bishop of Rome and a priest remains in the chronograph without parallel, which is taken as evidence of Hippolyta's outstanding position at the time. The common martyrdom and the common feast day on August 13th seem to indicate that there was reconciliation between the two community leaders - one reason why Hippolytus is venerated as a saint in the church .

Another reference comes from Pope Damasus I (305–384). In an inscription that he had placed in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher of Hippolytus, he described the priest Hippolytus (incorrectly) as a follower of the schismatic Novatian, who later not only reconciled himself with the church, but also urged his followers to do so. In the inscription he admits that he does not know for sure (“haec audita”) and that the truth will only be revealed in the hereafter (“Probat omnia Christ”). Many researchers consider this to be indirect evidence for the schism of Hippolytus: Damasus confused the schism of Hippolytus with that of Novatian only over 100 years after the events. It is interesting in this context that Damasus had very close contact with Hieronymus, but does not take up his reference to a bishopric in an unknown location.

The violent attacks against the church in the aforementioned Refutatio omnium haeresium , also called Philosophumena , prove that there was at least a temporary schism during the episcopate of Calixt. Whether Hippolytus was the leader of this group depends essentially on whether he can be proven to be the author of this work.


Hippolytus wrote, among other things, a world chronicle in Greek that extends to 234/235, exegetical commentaries on the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse , dogmatic and canonical treatises as well as a pamphlet against the Gnostics ( Refutatio omnium haeresium , "Refutation of all heresies") in the he listed 32 heretical sects. The tricks of ancient magicians described in the latter work (Adv. Häres. IV 28 ff.) Are of cultural historical interest . Most of his writings have only survived in Old Slavonic translations. Hippolytus also made calculations for the date of Easter .

Traditio Apostolica

The best-known work by Hippolytus today is the "Apostolic Tradition" ( Traditio Apostolica ) from the years 210-235, which is attributed to him with controversial justification, and which gives an insight into the church of that time and provides examples of early Christian prayer literature. While the Greek original has largely been lost, there are versions in Latin, Arabic, Coptic and Ethiopian. The translations are partly incomplete and differ from one another. Among other things, the scriptures contain the oldest known prayer of Holy Mass (Eucharist):

“In the same way he also took the cup and said, This is my blood, which is shed for you. When you do this, you do it in my memory. Remembering his death and resurrection, we offer you the bread and the chalice. We thank you that you have considered us worthy to stand before you and serve you as priests. We also ask you to send down your Holy Spirit on the gift of the Holy Church. You gather them into unity, and give all the saints who receive them a filling of the Holy Spirit to strengthen faith in the truth that we may praise and glorify you through your servant Jesus Christ, through whom glory and honor is to the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit in your holy church now and forever and ever. Amen."

- Excerpt from the Eucharistic Prayer of the Traditio Apostolica

It has long been in use in the Ethiopian Church as the “Anaphora of the Apostles”. It forms the basis of the 2nd Prayer of today's Roman Missal and was also included in the liturgical books of the Christian Catholic Church in Switzerland .

The prayer for episcopal ordination from the "Traditio Apostolica" was taken over after the Second Vatican in the Pontificale Romanum for the ordination of a bishop .


The Vicolo dei Canneti in Rome is the only entrance to the Hippolytus Catacomb , which extends over five floors. It used to be in the middle of a burial ground on a side street of the Via Tiburtina . The tomb of Hippolytus is believed to be here. In the course of the fourth century, this burial space and the surrounding passages were converted into an elongated, underground basilica. In the 5th century, an above-ground, three-aisled church was also mentioned, but no remains of it have survived. Two inscriptions found in the Hippolytus crypt around 1882 tell of the destruction and later reconstruction of this church under Pope Vigilius († 555):

"Destroyed again, lost - after the people of worshipers were driven out - the holy grottoes lost their old ornamentation."
"Let the holy people happily sing songs to God because the walls are growing and the house of the martyr Hippolytus has been renewed."

The Hippolytus catacomb is first mentioned in the 11th book of Peristephanon by the Spanish poet Prudentius (* 348; † after 405), who described the graves of various saints when he visited Rome. There is also a hint in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum : It mentions two other saints, Concordia (February 22) and Genesius (August 24), who are buried there. In addition, the Notitia Ecclesiarum Urbis Romae (guide for the pilgrims of the seventh century) names two other, less well-known martyrs: Trifonia and Cyrilla.

The Italian archaeologist Antonio Bosio was the first to research the catacomb at the end of the 16th century. However, he was convinced that he was looking at an extension of the nearby catacomb of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura . It was only Marcantonio Boldetti who identified the tomb as the Hippolyt catacomb. He was helped by notarial deeds from the 12th and 13th centuries, in which the area was called "mons sancti Ypoliti". Further scientific research was carried out by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in the 19th century .

Hippolytus statue from the ager indus

In this area - in ager Induus off the Via Tiburtina - in 1551 Pirro Ligorio found a damaged marble statue (the upper body was missing) very close to the catacomb . The remaining lower part, which represents a person sitting on a throne, was restored as a statue of Hippolytus. In fact, the statue shows close ties to Hippolytus: important works that can be ascribed to him are engraved on the side walls of the throne in the form of a bibliography . There is also his calendar-like calculation of the Easter dates of the third century.

It is controversial whether the statue should represent Hippolytus from the beginning or whether a damaged, ancient statue was provided with his works and erected in his honor. It stood for a long time in the Museum of the Lateran . Today it is at the entrance to the Vatican Library .

The cemetery was damaged during World War II because it was used as an air raid shelter.

Transfer of relics

Inscription in San Silvestro in Capite [21]

Since the graves of Hippolyte and the other saints were located outside the city walls, following Roman burial customs, after the fall of the Roman Empire they were defenseless against hostile looting, including by the Lombards . For this reason, the popes began to move the endangered relics of the saints to the inner-city churches. So transferred Paul I the remains of Hippolytus in the recently completed Church of San Silvestro in Capite , like a marble plaque in the atrium of the church shows.

In the second half of the 8th century the influential Abbot Fulrad of Saint-Denis stayed several times in Rome on behalf of the Frankish King Pippins the Younger . There he received the relics of Hippolytus from Paul I for an unknown reason and transferred them to Saint-Denis. The abbey church there was replaced by today's cathedral from 1137 . In this church there was a Hippolyte Chapel where the relics were kept.

The (originally colored aggregate) Altar of limestone (dimensions: 0.65 m × 1.95 m × 0.2 m) in this chapel dates back to the second quarter of the 13th century and depicts scenes from the martyrdom represents the Holy: On he is beaten with rods on the left side of the relief and tortured by throwing stones on the right. The central picture shows the tearing of his body by horses and the simultaneous absorption of his soul into heaven.

Above this altar, in a gilded copper shrine adorned with enamel , were the relics of Hippolyte - together with those of his nurse Concordia , who, according to legend, had been martyred with him.


The chapel was decorated with numerous statues and murals on the pillars and walls. One of these pictures shows King Louis the Holy († 1270) together with the queens Blanka of Navarra († 1398) and Johanna von Boulogne († 1360), who were buried in the Hippolytchapel. Their remains - like the relics of Hippolyte - were lost in the turmoil of the French Revolution .

Abbot Fulrad had given parts of the relics to the Fulradovillare monastery , which he founded in his birthplace, today Saint-Hippolyte (formerly St. Pilt) in Alsace . In the local parish church, these remains are exhibited in a glass shrine to this day.

Hippolytus relics have also been venerated in St. Pölten in Lower Austria for many centuries . Although documents about a corresponding translation are missing, reasoned assumptions can be made. Fulrad, whose contacts in what is now southern Germany are documented several times, was also in contact with the noble brothers Adalbert and Oatkar, the founders of the Tegernsee monastery (presumably 765). According to an old tradition, they received parts of the Alsatian Hippolyte relics from Fulrad and transferred them to Tegernsee. The Hippolytic cult can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

Probably the monastery Tegernsee has 791 on Awarenfeldzug the Great Charles involved and therefore got shipments in the newly conquered land awarded. A daughter monastery was built on one of these properties in the former Roman town of Aelium Cetium , today's St. Pölten. Hippolytus became the patron saint of the monastery and the monastery church. It is obvious that in this context there was a transfer of relics from Tegernsee to St. Pölten, where they can be seen to this day.

Shrine with the Hippolyte relics in St Hippolyte, Alsace

In summary, it can be assumed that the Hippolyte relics in the 8th century first traveled from the catacombs to San Silvestro in Capite in Rome, from there on the way back to Saint-Denis to St. Hippolyte in Alsace and from there on via Tegernsee to St. Pölten.

This contrasts with the fact that in later centuries further transfers of hippolytrelics are documented within Rome: in the 9th century under Leo IV (790–855) to Santi Quattro Coronati and, according to an inscription from the 13th century, to San Lorenzo fuori le mura . It can no longer be reconstructed in which of the three Roman transmissions the real bones of Hippolyte changed place; the first translation has the law of probability for itself. In the other cases, it is possible that it is a question of “touch relics”, that is, the bones of the deceased who were buried near Hippolyte.

Since the 10th century, relics of Hippolytus can also be traced in Gerresheim on the Lower Rhine . Even the oldest document of the Gerresheimer Frauenstift dated February 4th, 905 or 906 mentions a duty to pay wax interest to the “Church of St. Hippolytus, which is in Gerresheim.” It is unclear how - and which - relics got to Gerresheim. Some authors mention Aachen as a stopover. It is likely that the founder of the women's foundation , the nobleman Gerrich ( Gerricus ), acquired these Hippolyte relics and equipped his foundation with them. Possibly these were the bones that had only aroused public interest in the above-mentioned second or third transmission within Rome (i.e. probably relics of contact). It is rather unlikely that the human remains, as in the previous century, also come from Fulrad's monastery in Elsas - the amount of bones present is likely to be in four places (St. Hippolyte, Saint-Denis, St. Pölten, Gerresheim) have hardly been enough.

The relics did not stay long in Gerresheim. In the devastating Hungarian invasions of around 919, the monastery buildings were completely destroyed. The canons sought protection in Cologne and took the bones of their patron with them. In Cologne they stayed with the women's community of St. Ursula for the next few centuries . Hippolytus thus became one of the many “Cologne” saints without interrupting the Hippolytus veneration in Gerresheim. It was not until 1953 that the Hippolyte relics came back to Gerresheim. From 1992 they were in a newly made reliquary on the high altar of the Margaret Church there . They were later transferred to the neo-Gothic Hippolytus shrine. This was made in 1871 by the Cologne artists Heinrich and Johann Bong and is located on the side altar below the organ.

Other relics are venerated in the current cathedral of the diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria in La Storta. Possibly it is a second saint of the same name who worked in the Roman port city.


Martyrdom of Hippolytus of Rome in a depiction from the 14th century
Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus, Dieric Bouts , 1470–1475, Brugge , Museum of St. Salvator's Cathedral .

The close proximity of the Hippolyte catacomb to the grave of the famous martyr Laurentius in San Lorenzo fuori le mura on the Via Tiburtina led to the mixing of the legends of the two saints early on. As early as the 5th century, they were depicted together in some early Christian churches (such as in San Lorenzo or in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna ).

In this legend, Hippolytus, who was a Roman officer as the guardian of the imprisoned Laurentius, converts himself to Christianity and dies a martyr's death for it by being torn alive by horses. This representation of the way of death can be found in numerous medieval pictures; This legend is also represented in the coat of arms of the Alsatian Saint-Hippolyte. Hippolytus also became the patron saint of horses.

The origins of this "officer legend" are in the dark. A first hint can be found in the work of Prudentius mentioned above. There he mentions a picture near the tomb of Hippolyte depicting the martyrdom of the priest who was dragged to death by horses. The extent to which this illustration actually refers to the priest Hippolytus or to the legend of the mythological figure of the same name, Hippolytos , which is also very popular in Rome , who was also dragged to death by horses, can no longer be reconstructed. Remnants of the picture have not been found to this day.

So it remains a theory that a picture of the death of the mythological Hippolytus near the grave of the priest Hippolytus led later generations to believe that the picture relates to the priest and describes the manner in which he died. But how the priest was supposed to have become an officer and guardian of Laurentius is not clear. It is possible that not only the mentioned proximity of the graves but also the succession of the festive days (Laurentius on August 10th, Hippolytus on August 13th) led to the creation of a common legend.

Memorial days

See also

Text editions and translations

  • Traditio Apostolica (Latin-Greek-German), in: Fontes Christiani, Volume 1, Freiburg i. Br. 1991 (translated and introduced by Wilhelm Geerlings ).


Overview representations


  • John A. Cerrato: Hippolytus Between East and West: The Commentaries and the Provenance of the Corpus. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2002 ( excerpts online )

Web links

Commons : St. Hippolytus  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Theodor Mommsen: Chronica Minora saec. IV, V, VI, VII in Auctorum antiquissimorum , t.IX, 1; Berlin 1892; P. 72.
  2. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea: Historia Ecclesiastica , VI 20: in: Sources Chrétiennes 41, Paris 1955; P. 119 f.
  3. ^ A. May: Scriptorum veterum nova collectio e vaticanis codicibus editio , tI, 2; Rome 1825; P. 173.
  4. Hieronymus: De viris illustribus , 61; in: J. Migne (Ed.): Patrologiae cursus Completus , Series latina 23; Paris 1883; P. 707.
  5. Hieronymus: Epistula XXXVI 16; in: J. Migne (Ed.): Patrologiae cursus Completus , PL 22; P. 460.
  6. ^ Chronicon Paschale, in: J. Migne (Ed.). Patrologiae cursus Completus , Series graeca 92; Turnhout n.d.; P. 80.
  7. ^ Georgius: Ekloge Chronographis , in Opera, tI, rec. W. Eindorf in: Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae , Bonn 1829, p. 674.
  8. ^ Ostia antica
  9. ^ A b Hippolytus of Rome: Refutation of all heresies (Refutatio omnium haeresium) , Book IX, 12 ; in: Library of the Church Fathers.
  10. Johannes Haller: The Papacy - Idea and Reality. Port Verlag, Urach, 1950, Vol. 1, p. 29.
  11. Hippolytus of Rome: Refutation of all heresies (Refutatio omnium haeresium) , Book I ; in: Library of the Church Fathers.
  12. So first Ignaz Döllinger: Hippolytus und Kallistus ; Regensburg 1853.
  13. Th. Mommsen, ibid. P. 74.
  14. S. Diefenbach: Roman memory spaces: saints memoria and collective identities in Rome. Berlin 2007, p. 272.
  15. Barbara Conring: Hieronymus as a letter writer. a contribution to late antique epistolography. Tübingen 2001, ISBN 3-16-147502-X , p. 215.
  16. for the translation of the following quotations cf. http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/MRFlorilegium/13August.html
  17. Devastata ITERVM SVMMOTA plebe precantum priscum PERDIDERANT ANTRA sacrata decus
  19. ^ Giovanni Battista de Rossi: Il cimitero di S. Ippolito presso la via Tiburtina e la sua principale cripta storica oggi dissepolta. In: Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana, Series IV, 1 (1882), pp. 9-76.
  20. Margherita Guarducci: San Pietro e Sant'Ippolito: storia di statue famous in Vaticano. Roma 1991.
  21. Free translation of the first line: "In the name of the Lord: This is the listing of the holidays of the saints who rest here." Below in August the holiday of Hippolytus (Yppoliti) on the 13th of the month is entered.
  22. The following descriptions of the chapel are freely translated from https://saintdenis-tombeaux.1fr1.net/t309-la-chapelle-saint-hippolyte
  23. It has belonged to the Louvre since 1881 , salle 4 bis
  24. cf. on the following Friedrich Schragl: The Holy Hippolytus. In: Bischöfliches Ordinariat St. Pölten (Ed.): "You saints of our country [...]" In the footsteps of saints and blessed in Lower Austria. St. Pölten 2000.
  25. https://sites.google.com/site/sobottamagdeburg/Home/themen/mittelalterliche-reliquientranslationen-in-mitteleuropa
  26. There is also a lack of evidence from the founding period; but in 1030 Tegernsee claimed the monastery for itself in a dispute with the diocese of Passau.
  27. This was reflected in the naming of the place: 823 the place was named after the nearby river Traisma, 976 the name "Traisima ad monasterium Sancti Yppoliti" can be found, approx. 1030 "Abbatia ad Sanctum Yppolytum", 1136 "apud Sanctum" Ypolitum ”, in 1298 finally“ Sand Pölten ”.
  28. L. Duchesne: Liber Pontificalis , II; Paris 1955; P. 115 f.
  29. ^ Inscription published in Joseph Barber Lightfoot: The Apostolic Fathers, t. I, 2nd reprint of the 2nd edition London 1890, Olms, Hildesheim / New York 1973, ISBN 3-487-04689-X , p. 351.
  30. cf. to the following Michael Buhlmann: Hippolyt, saint of the Gerresheim women's community. In: Contributions to the history of Gerresheim 4, Essen 2011, quoted from http://www.michael-buhlmann.de/PDF_Texte/mbhp_bgg04_pdf.pdf
  31. The alleged founding document of the monastery from the year 870, which Hippolytus also mentions, is according to Buhlmann (ibid. P. 9) a forgery from the 12th century.
  32. ibid. P. 6
  33. Aachen is also mentioned on the plinth of a modern statue that was erected in the former cloister of Gerresheim.
  34. (ibid. P. 19)
  35. ^ W. Pittermann, U. Raatz: After 1084 years, St. Hippolyt returned from Cologne. In: Rund um den Quadenhof 56/1 (2005), pp. 82–85.
  36. Report on the theft of the relics ( Memento of the original from October 4, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / reiseblog.blog.de