Old St. Peter's Basilica
Old St. Peter's Basilica was the building that stood, from the 4th to 16th centuries, where the new St. Peter's Basilica stands today in Vatican City. Construction of the basilica, built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero, began during the reign of Emperor Constantine I; the name "old St. Peter's Basilica" has been used since the construction of the current basilica to distinguish the two buildings. Construction began by orders of the Roman Emperor Constantine I between 318 and 322, took about 40 years to complete. Over the next twelve centuries, the church gained importance becoming a major place of pilgrimage in Rome. Papal coronations were held at the basilica, in 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire there. In 846, Saracens damaged the basilica; the raiders seem to have known about Rome's extraordinary treasures. Some holy – and impressive – basilicas, such as St. Peter's Basilica, were outside the Aurelian walls, thus easy targets, they were "filled to overflowing with rich liturgical vessels and with jeweled reliquaries housing all of the relics amassed".
As a result, the raiders pillaged the holy shrine. In response Pope Leo IV built the Leonine wall and rebuilt the parts of St. Peter's, damaged. In 1099, Urban II convened a council including St Anselm. Among other topics, it repeated the bans on lay investiture and on clergy's paying homage to secular lords. By the 15th century the church was falling into ruin. Discussions on repairing parts of the structure commenced upon the pope's return from Avignon. Two people involved in this reconstruction were Leon Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellino, who improved the apse and added a multi-story benediction loggia to the atrium facade, on which construction continued intermittently until the new basilica was begun. Alberti pronounced the basilica a structural abomination: I have noticed in the basilica of St. Peter's in Rome a crass feature: an long and high wall has been constructed over a continuous series of openings, with no curves to give it strength, no buttresses to lend it support... The whole stretch of wall has been pierced by too many openings and built too high...
As a result, the continual force of the wind has displaced the wall more than six feet from the vertical. At first Pope Julius II had every intention of preserving the old building, but his attention soon turned toward tearing it down and building a new structure. Many people of the time were shocked by the proposal, as the building represented papal continuity going back to Peter; the original altar was to be preserved in the new structure. The design was a typical basilica form with the plan and elevation resembling those of Roman basilicas and audience halls, such as the Basilica Ulpia in Trajan's Forum and Constantine's own Aula Palatina at Trier, rather than the design of any Greco-Roman temple. Constantine went to great pains to build the basilica on the site of Saint Peter's grave, this fact influenced the layout of the building; the Vatican Hill, on the west bank of the Tiber River, was leveled. Notably, since the site was outside the boundaries of the ancient city, the apse with the altar was located in the west so that the basilica's façade could be approached from Rome itself to the east.
The exterior however, unlike earlier pagan temples, was not lavishly decorated. The church was capable of housing from 3,000 to 4,000 worshipers at one time, it consisted of five aisles, a wide central nave and two smaller aisles to each side, which were each divided by 21 marble columns, taken from earlier pagan buildings. It was over 350 feet long, built in the shape of a Latin cross, had a gabled roof, timbered on the interior and which stood at over 100 feet at the center. An atrium, known as the "Garden of Paradise", stood at the entrance and had five doors which led to the body of the church; the altar of Old St. Peter's Basilica used several Solomonic columns. According to tradition, Constantine took these columns from the Temple of Solomon and gave them to the church; when Gian Lorenzo Bernini built his baldacchino to cover the new St. Peter's altar, he drew from the twisted design of the old columns. Eight of the original columns were moved to the piers of the new St. Peter's; the great Navicella mosaic in the atrium is attributed to Giotto di Bondone.
The giant mosaic, commissioned by Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi, occupied the whole wall above the entrance arcade facing the courtyard. It depicted St. Peter walking on the waters; this extraordinary work was destroyed during the construction of the new St. Peter's in the 16th century, but fragments were preserved. Navicella means "little ship" referring to the large boat which dominated the scene, whose sail, filled by the storm, loomed over the horizon; such a natural representation of a seascape was known only from ancient works of art. The nave ended with an arch, which held a mosaic of Constantine and Saint Peter, who presented a model of the church to Christ. On the walls, each having 11 windows, were frescoes of various people and scenes from both the Old and New Testament; the fragment of an eighth-century mosaic, the Epiphany, is one of the rare remaining bits of the medieval decoration of Old St. Peter's Basilica; the precious fragment is kept in the sacristy of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
It proves the high artistic quality of the destroyed mosaics. Another one, a standing madonna, is on a side altar in the Basilica of San Marco in Florence. Since the crucifixion and burial of Saint Peter in
Pope Gregory II
Pope Gregory II was Pope from 19 May 715 to his death in 731. His defiance of the Byzantine emperor Leo III the Isaurian as a result of the iconoclastic controversy in the Eastern Empire prepared the way for a long series of revolts and civil wars that led to the establishment of the temporal power of the popes. Born into a noble Roman family in the year 669, Gregory was the son of Honesta; as a young man, he was placed in the papal court, was made a subdeacon and sacellarius of the Roman See during the pontificate of Pope Sergius I. He was made a deacon and placed in charge of the Vatican Library. During the pontificate of Pope Constantine, Gregory was made a papal secretary, accompanied him to Constantinople in 711 to deal with the issues raised by Rome’s rejection of the canons of the Quinisext Council; the actual negotiations on the contentious articles were handled by Gregory, with the result that the emperor Justinian II agreed that the Papacy could disregard whichever of the council’s decisions it wished to.
After Constantine’s death on 9 April 715, Gregory was elected pope, was consecrated as Bishop of Rome on 19 May 715. Gregory began the task of repairing the Walls of Rome, beginning at the Porta Tiburtina. Work on this task was delayed in October 716 when the Tiber river burst its banks and flooded Rome, causing immense damage and only receding after eight days. Gregory ordered a number of litanies to be said to stem the floods, which spread over the Campus Martius and the so-called Plains of Nero, reaching the foot of the Capitoline Hill; the first year of his pontificate saw a letter arrive from Patriarch John VI of Constantinople, who attempted to justify his support of Monothelitism, while at the same time seeking sympathy from the pope over the position he was in, with respect to the emperor. Gregory responded by sending a letter outlining the traditional Roman position against Monothelitism. In 716, Gregory received an official visit from Theodo, the Duke of Bavaria, to discuss the continuing conversion of his lands to Christianity.
As a result of this meeting, Gregory gave specific instructions to his delegates who were to travel to Bavaria, coordinate with the duke, establish a local church hierarchy, overseen by an archbishop. Gregory maintained an interest in Bavaria. Gregory next turned his attention to Germany. In 718, he was approached by an Anglo-Saxon missionary, who proposed undertaking missionary work in Germany. Gregory agreed, after changing his name to Boniface, commissioned him in May 719 to preach in Germany. After hearing of the work, done so far, in 722 Gregory summoned Boniface back to Rome to answer rumours concerning Boniface’s doctrinal purity. At this face to face meeting, Boniface complained that he found Gregory’s Latin difficult to understand, a clear indication that Vulgar Latin had started to evolve into the Romance languages. After examining Boniface’s written profession of faith, Gregory was satisfied enough that he made Boniface a bishop in November 722, returned him to Germany to continue his mission.
Continued successes saw Gregory write to Boniface in December 724 to offer his congratulations, followed in November 726 by a response to Boniface’s questions about how to structure the newly emergent churches in Germany. Gregory strengthened papal authority in the churches of Britain and Ireland. In 726 Gregory had a royal visit from Ine, the former King of Wessex, who had abdicated the throne in order to undertake a pilgrimage to Rome and end his life there. Gregory concerned himself with establishing or restoring monasteries, he turned his family mansion in Rome into a monastery, St. Agatha in Suburra, endowing it with expensive and precious vessels for use at the altar, established a new church, dedicated to Sant'Eustachio. In 718 he restored Monte Cassino, which had not recovered from an attack by the Lombards in 584, he intervened in a dispute at the Monastery of St. Vincent on the Volturno over the deposition of the abbot. In 721, Gregory held a synod in Rome, for the purpose of fixing issues around illegitimate marriages.
In 723, the longstanding dispute between the patriarchs of Aquileia and Grado flared up again. Upon the request of the Lombard king, Gregory had given the pallium to Bishop Serenus, granting him the patriarchate of Aquileia. Soon afterwards, Gregory received a letter from Donatus, Patriarch of Grado, complaining that Serenus had overstepped his authority, was interfering within what was Grado’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction. At the same time, Gregory reprimanded Donatus for complaining about Gregory’s decision to grant the pallium to Serenus in the first place. In 725, upon Donatus’ death, the Grado patriarchate was usurped by Peter, the Bishop of Pola. Gregory responded by depriving Peter of both sees, he wrote to the people of the diocese, reminding them to only elect bishops in accordance with church law, whereupon they elected Antoninus, with Gregory’s approval. Gregory mandated a number of practices within the Church, he decreed that in Lent, on the Thursdays, people should fast, just as they were required to do during the other days of the week.
The practice had been frowned upon by popes of previous centuries, as pagans had fasted on Thursday as part of their worship of Jupiter. He prescribed the offices to be said during church services on Thursdays in Lent, as prior to this, the Mass of the preceding Sunday was said on those Thursdays. Gregory attempted to remain on good diplomat
Pope Anicetus was the Bishop of Rome from c. 157 to his death in 168. According to the Annuario Pontificio, the start of his papacy may have been 153. Anicetus opposed Gnosticism and Marcionism, he welcomed Polycarp of Smyrna to Rome, to discuss the controversy over the date for the celebration of Easter. His name is Greek for unconquered. According to the Liber Pontificalis, Anicetus was a Syrian from the city of Emesa. According to St. Irenaeus, it was during his pontificate that the aged Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, visited Rome to discuss the celebration of Passover with Anicetus. Polycarp and his Church of Smyrna celebrated the crucifixion on the fourteenth day of Nisan, which coincides with Pesach regardless of which day of the week upon this date fell, while the Roman Church celebrated the Pasch on Sunday—the weekday of Jesus's resurrection; the two did not agree on a common date, but St. Anicetus conceded to St. Polycarp and the Church of Smyrna the ability to retain the date to which they were accustomed.
The controversy was to grow heated in the following centuries. The Christian historian Hegesippus visited Rome during Anicetus's pontificate; this visit is cited as a sign of the early importance of the Roman See. St. Anicetus opposed the Gnostics and Marcionism; the Liber Pontificalis records that St. Anicetus decreed that priests are not allowed to have long hair. According to Church Tradition, St. Anicetus suffered martyrdom during the reign of the Roman Co-Emperor Lucius Verus, but there are no historical grounds for this account. 16, 17 and 20 April are all cited as the date of his death, but 20 April is celebrated as his feast day. Before 1970, the date chosen was 17 April; the Liber Pontificalis states. List of popes Quartodeciman Campbell, Thomas Joseph. "Pope St. Anicetus". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Duff, Eamon. Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, Yale University Press, 2001, p. 13. ISBN 0-300-09165-6 Maxwell-Stuart, P. G. Chronicle of the Popes: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Papacy from St. Peter to the Present, Thames & Hudson, 2002, p. 19.
ISBN 0-500-01798-0. Anicetus in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints Collected works of Migne Patrologia Latina
Syria the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Armenians, Kurds, Circassians and Turks. Religious groups include Sunnis, Alawites, Isma'ilis, Shiites, Salafis and Jews. Sunni make up the largest religious group in Syria. Syria is a unitary republic consisting of 14 governorates and is the only country that politically espouses Ba'athism, it is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement. In English, the name "Syria" was synonymous with the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the 3rd millennium BC. Aleppo and the capital city Damascus are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
In the Islamic era, Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt. The modern Syrian state was established in mid-20th century after centuries of Ottoman and a brief period French mandate, represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the Ottoman-ruled Syrian provinces, it gained de-jure independence as a parliamentary republic on 24 October 1945, when Republic of Syria became a founding member of the United Nations, an act which ended the former French Mandate – although French troops did not leave the country until April 1946. The post-independence period was tumultuous, a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949–71. In 1958, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt called the United Arab Republic, terminated by the 1961 Syrian coup d'état; the republic was renamed into the Arab Republic of Syria in late 1961 after December 1 constitutional referendum, was unstable until the 1963 Ba'athist coup d'état, since which the Ba'ath Party has maintained its power.
Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011 suspending most constitutional protections for citizens. Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000 and was preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, in office from 1971 to 2000. Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in an armed conflict, with a number of countries in the region and beyond involved militarily or otherwise; as a result, a number of self-proclaimed political entities have emerged on Syrian territory, including the Syrian opposition, Tahrir al-Sham and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Syria is ranked last on the Global Peace Index, making it the most violent country in the world due to the war, although life continues for most of its citizens as of December 2017; the war caused more than 470,000 deaths, 7.6 million internally displaced people and over 5 million refugees, making population assessment difficult in recent years. Several sources indicate that the name Syria is derived from the 8th century BC Luwian term "Sura/i", the derivative ancient Greek name: Σύριοι, Sýrioi, or Σύροι, Sýroi, both of which derived from Aššūrāyu in northern Mesopotamia.
However, from the Seleucid Empire, this term was applied to The Levant, from this point the Greeks applied the term without distinction between the Assyrians of Mesopotamia and Arameans of the Levant. Mainstream modern academic opinion favours the argument that the Greek word is related to the cognate Ἀσσυρία, Assyria derived from the Akkadian Aššur; the Greek name appears to correspond to Phoenician ʾšr "Assur", ʾšrym "Assyrians", recorded in the 8th century BC Çineköy inscription. The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Arabia to the south and Asia Minor to the north, stretching inland to include parts of Iraq, having an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including, from west to east, Commagene and Adiabene. By Pliny's time, this larger Syria had been divided into a number of provinces under the Roman Empire: Judaea renamed Palaestina in AD 135 in the extreme southwest.
Since 10,000 BC, Syria was one of the centers of Neolithic culture where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. The following Neolithic period is represented by rectangular houses of Mureybet culture. At the time of the pre-pottery Neolithic, people used vessels made of stone and burnt lime. Finds of obsidian tools from Anatolia are evidences of early trade relations. Cities of Hamoukar and Emar played an important role during Bronze Age. Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth preceded by only those of Mesopotamia; the earliest recorded in
Pope Sixtus I
Pope Sixtus I, a Roman of Greek descent, was the Bishop of Rome from c. 115 to his death c. 124. He was in turn succeeded by Pope Telesphorus, his feast is celebrated on 6 April. The Holy See's Annuario Pontificio identifies him as a Roman who served from 117 or 119 to 126 or 128. According to the Liberian Catalogue of popes, he served the Church during the reign of Hadrian "from the consulate of Niger and Apronianus until that of Verus III and Ambibulus", that is, from 117 to 126. Eusebius states in his Chronicon that Sixtus I was pope from 114 to 124, while his Historia Ecclesiastica, using a different catalogue of popes, claims his rule from 114 to 128. All authorities agree. Sixtus I instituted several Catholic administrative traditions. Like most of his predecessors, Sixtus I was believed to have been buried near Saint Peter's grave on Vatican Hill, although there are differing traditions concerning where his body lies today. In Alife, there is a Romanesque crypt, which houses the relics of Pope Sixtus I, brought there by Rainulf III.
He was a Roman by birth, his father's name was Pastor. According to the Liber Pontificalis, he passed the following three ordinances: that none but sacred ministers are allowed to touch the sacred vessels. Alban Butler states that Clement X gave some of his relics to Cardinal de Retz, who placed them in the Abbey of St. Michael in Lorraine; the Xystus, commemorated in the Catholic Canon of the Mass is Xystus II, not Xystus I. In the oldest documents, Xystus is the spelling used for the first three popes of that name. Pope Sixtus I is the sixth Pope after Peter, leading to questions as to whether the name "Sixtus" might be fictitious. List of Catholic saints List of popes Image of Pope Saint Sixtus as seen on a fresco at Chalivoy-Milon in the Berry. Pope St. Sixtus I Sixtus I. in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints Collected works in Migne Patrologia Latina
Pope Alexander I
Pope Alexander I was the Bishop of Rome from c. 107 to his death c. 115. The Holy See's Annuario Pontificio identifies him as a Roman who reigned from 108 or 109 to 116 or 119; some believe he suffered martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Trajan or Hadrian, but this is improbable. According to the Liber Pontificalis, it was Alexander I who inserted the narration of the Last Supper into the liturgy of the Mass. However, the article on Saint Alexander I in the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia, written by Thomas Shahan, judges this tradition to be inaccurate, a view shared by both Catholic and non-Catholic experts, it is viewed as a product of the agenda of Liber Pontificalis—this section of the book was written in the late 5th century—to show an ancient pattern of the earliest bishops of Rome ruling the church by papal decree. The introduction of the customs of using blessed water mixed with salt for the purification of Christian homes from evil influences, as well as that of mixing water with the sacramental wine, are attributed to Pope Alexander I.
Some sources consider these attributions unlikely. It is possible, that Alexander played an important part in the early development of the Church of Rome's emerging liturgical and administrative traditions. A tradition holds that in the reign of Emperor Hadrian, Alexander I converted the Roman governor Hermes by miraculous means, together with his entire household of 1,500 people. Saint Quirinus of Neuss, Alexander's supposed jailer, Quirinus' daughter Saint Balbina were among his converts. Alexander is said to have seen a vision of the infant Jesus, his remains are said to have been transferred to Freising in Bavaria, Germany in AD 834. Some editions of the Roman Missal identified with Pope Alexander I the Saint Alexander that they give as commemorated, together with Saints Eventius and Theodulus, on 3 May. See, for instance, the General Roman Calendar of 1954, but nothing is known of these three saints other than their names, together with the fact that they were martyred and were buried at the seventh milestone of the Via Nomentana on 3 May of some year.
For this reason, the Pope John XXIII's 1960 revision of the calendar returned to the presentation, in the 1570 Tridentine Calendar of the three saints as "Saints Alexander and Theodulus Martyrs" with no suggestion that any of them was a pope. The Roman Martyrology lists them as Eventius and Theodulus, the order in which their names are given in historical documents. List of Catholic saints List of popes Benedict XIV; the Roman Martyrology. Gardners Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-548-13374-3. Chapman, John. Studies on the Early Papacy. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1971. ISBN 978-1-901157-60-4. Fortescue and Scott M. P. Reid; the Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451. Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997. ISBN 978-1-901157-60-4. Jowett, George F; the Drama of the Lost Disciples. London: Covenant Pub. Co, 1968. OCLC 7181392 Loomis, Louise Ropes; the Book of Popes. Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. ISBN 1-889758-86-8Pope St. Alexander IEncyclopædia Britannica: Saint Alexander I
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is located southeast of the French mainland and west of the Italian Peninsula, with the nearest land mass being the Italian island of Sardinia to the immediate south. A single chain of mountains makes up two-thirds of the island. While being part of Metropolitan France, Corsica is designated as a territorial collectivity by law; as a territorial collectivity, Corsica enjoys a greater degree of autonomy than other French regions. The island formed a single department until it was split in 1975 into two historical departments: Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud, with its regional capital in Ajaccio, the prefecture city of Corse-du-Sud. Bastia, the prefecture city of Haute-Corse, is the second largest settlement in Corsica; the two departments, the region of Corsica, merged again into a single territorial collectivity in 2018. After being ruled by the Republic of Genoa since 1284, Corsica was an Italian-speaking independent republic from 1755, until it was ceded by the Republic of Genoa to Louis XV as part of a pledge for debts and conquered in 1769.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born the same year in Ajaccio, his ancestral home, Maison Bonaparte, is today a significant visitor attraction and museum. Due to Corsica's historical ties with the Italian peninsula, the island retains to this day many Italian cultural elements: the native tongue is recognized as a regional language by the French government; the origin of the name Corsica remains a mystery. To the Ancient Greeks it was known as Kalliste, Cyrnos, Cernealis, or Cirné. Of these Cyrnos, Cernealis, or Cirné derive from the most ancient Greek name of the island, "Σειρηνούσσαι", the same Sirens mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. Corsica has been occupied continuously since the Mesolithic era, it acquired an indigenous population, influential in the Mediterranean during its long prehistory. After a brief occupation by the Carthaginians, colonization by the ancient Greeks, an only longer occupation by the Etruscans, it was incorporated by the Roman Republic at the end of the First Punic War and, with Sardinia, in 238 BC became a province of the Roman Republic.
The Romans, who built a colony in Aléria, considered Corsica as one of the most backward regions of the Roman world. The island produced sheep, honey and wax, exported many slaves, not well considered because of their fierce and rebellious character. Moreover, it was known for its cheap wines, exported to Rome, was used as a place of relegation, one of the most famous exiles being the Roman philosopher Seneca. Administratively, the island was divided in pagi, which in the Middle Ages became the pievi, the basic administrative units of the island until 1768. During the diffusion of Christianity, which arrived quite early from Rome and the Tuscan harbors, Corsica was home to many martyrs and saints: among them, the most important are Saint Devota and Saint Julia, both patrons of the island. Corsica was integrated into Roman Italy by Emperor Diocletian. In the 5th century, the western half of the Roman Empire collapsed, the island was invaded by the Vandals and the Ostrogoths. Recovered by the Byzantines, it soon became part of the Kingdom of the Lombards.
This made it a dependency of the March of Tuscany. Pepin the Short, king of the Franks and Charlemagne's father, expelled the Lombards and nominally granted Corsica to Pope Stephen II. In the first quarter of the 11th century and Genoa together freed the island from the threat of Arab invasion. After that, the island came under the influence of the republic of Pisa. To this period belong the many polychrome churches which adorn the island, Corsica experienced a massive immigration from Tuscany, which gave to the island its present toponymy and rendered the language spoken in the northern two-thirds of the island close to the Tuscan dialect. Due to that began the traditional division of Corsica in two parts, along the main chain of mountains going from Calvi to Porto-Vecchio: the eastern Banda di dentro, or Cismonte, more populated and open to the commerce with Italy, the western Banda di fuori, or Pomonte deserted and remote; the crushing defeat experienced by Pisa in 1284 in the Battle of Meloria against Genoa had among its consequences the end of the Pisan rule and the beginning of the Genoese influence in Corsica: this was contested by the King of Aragon, who in 1296 had received from the Pope the investiture over Sardinia and Corsica.
A popular revolution against this and the feudal lords, led by Sambucuccio d'Alando, got the aid of Genoa. After that, the Cismonte was ruled after the Italian experience; the following 150 years were a period of conflict, when the Genoese rule was contested by Aragon, the local lords, the comuni and the Pope: in 1450 Genoa ceded the administration of the island to its main bank, the Bank of Saint George, which brought peace. In the 16th century, the island entered into the fight between Spain and France for the supremacy in Italy. In 1553, a Franco-Ottoman fleet occupied Corsica, but the reaction of Spain and Genoa, led by Andrea Doria, reestablished the Genoese supremacy on the island, confirmed by the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis; the unlucky protagonist of this episode was Sampiero di Bastelica, who would come to be considered a hero of t