The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Gelasius I (492-496)
Ca. 496 (III)

(38) 1. SIMMACO (?-514)

Birth. (No date found), perhaps in Symaxis, Sardinia. Son of Fortunatus. He was a Pagan who converted to Christianity and was baptized in Rome. He is also listed as Celio Simmaco.

Education. (No information found).

Cardinalate. Deacon cardinalis of the Holy Roman Church. When Pope Anastasius II died in Rome on November 18, 498, a double papal election took place led by the two factions in the city. The orthodox faction which had disapproved of the conciliatory behavior of the late pope with regard to the Eastern Church, headed by Senator Faustus, elected the Sardinian Deacon cardinalis Symmachus. The other one, a minority that favored ending the schism, headed by the Consul Rufio Postumio Festo who had just returned from his mission to Constantinople, chose the Archpriest cardinalis, Lorenzo. They were consecrated on the same day. Bribery occurred in both camps.

Papacy. Consecrated Pope Symmachus on November 22, 498, in the Lateran basilica. Fighting broke out between the two factions and the dispute was referred to Ostrogothic King Theodoric of Italy. The monarch ruled that the man ordained first, or with the larger backing, should occupy the apostolic see, and assigned it to Pope Symmachus. Antipope Laurentius accepted the royal decision and submitted himself to the pope. Pope Symmachus convoked the Roman Synod of March 1, 499, in St. Peter's basilica, which issued a decree regulating the papal elections. Archpriest cardinalis Lorenzo was the first one of the presbyters subscribing the documents of the assembly. In the synod, Archpriest Lorenzo, as a token of reconciliation, was named bishop of Nocera in Campagna, where he remained until 501. After this synod, Rome experienced a period of peace and tranquillity. The following year, 500, King Theodoric made a visit to the city which provided the official approval to this state of peace. When he entered the city, the Romans gave him the honors of an emperor and greeted him with the flattering title of the "'new Trajan."' The Senate, the people and the clergy, with the pope at their head, went to meet the king outside the city and welcomed him. Prudently, the king, who was an Arian, went immediately to the basilica of St. Peter, the outside the walls, where he prayed at the tomb of the Apostle with great devotion and like a true Catholic. Finally, with triumphal pomp, he entered Rome across Hadrian's bridge. The donations the monarch made to the churches, the resumption of the circus games and the orders given for the restoration of certain monuments were decisive in gaining the hearts of the Roman people, just as the speech which he gave in the Forum, although brief, aroused a general enthusiasm. As soon as King Theodoric returned to Ravenna, the Senate faction hostile to Symmachus reappeared and sent the king a circumstantial accusation against the pope, as being guilty of having celebrated Easter in 501 without respecting the computation of the date established by Alexandrian tradition. It was simply an excuse to bring the pope before the king at Rimini. Pope Symmachus did go, but when he realized that the accusations were basically quite different and concerned illicit relations with women and the wasting of the Church's assets, he hurriedly returned to Rome secretly by night . Back in Rome, he felt abandoned by his own faithful, became frightened and sought refuge in St. Peter's basilica. Pope Symmachus' behavior appeared to King Theodoric to be an acknowledgement of guilt, so the monarch convened a synod at Rome to judge him and, as if the see of Rome were vacant, named Bishop Pietro of Altino, visitor or regent of the Church of Rome. The bishop immediately joined the faction opposed to Pope Symmachus, summoned Bishop Lorenzo from Nocera and approved the confiscation of the pontifical ecclesiastical property. The synod seemed conditioned by the attitude of King Theodoric. Nevertheless, Pope Symmachus appeared at the first session held in May 501, and declared himself ready to be tried, on condition that Bishop Pietro of Altino be sent away and the confiscated goods be returned to him. The request was submitted to King Theodoric, who rejected them. Pope Symmachus decided, notwithstanding, to appear also at the second session of the synod that began on September 1, 501. But while the pontiff was on his way from St. Peter's to the Sessorian basilica where the assembly was meeting, he was attacked by a group of armed men who killed two priests of his entourage, one of them Presbyter Giordano, father of future Pope Agapetus I, and he himself barely escaped from being stoned. After this incident, the pope wanted nothing more to do with the synod. After another period of rioting, the bishops found a way to meet again in a place called Ad palmam, probably in the vestibule of St. Peter's basilica. This time they decreed that none of them had the authority to judge the bishop of Rome, as it was universally acknowledged that the accusations against Pope Symmachus had to be left to the judgment of God, and that all the clergy, therefore, owed him obedience. Obviously, such a verdict was ignored and the anti-Symmachus faction triumphed and the city's titular churches passed into the control of Antipope Laurentius who, to prove the legitimacy of his own pontificate, had a bust of himself placed in the basilica of S. Paolo fuori le mura, next to the mosaic portraits of the bishops of Rome. Pope Symmachus barricaded himself in St. Peter's basilica and for four years the city was the scene of violence and bloody battles. Peace did not return to Rome until 505, when King Theodoric finally listened to the continued protests of Dioscorus, deacon of Alexandria, sent to him by Pope Symmachus. The monarch then ordered the supporters of Antipope Laurentius to return the Roman churches to Pope Symmachus, and Antipope Laurentius himself to leave Rome. Laurentius retired to an estate of his protector Senator Festo, where he shortly after died. The Laurentian schism ended and its followers gradually rallied to the legitimate pope.

The schism within the see of Rome ended, but the Acacian schism, the one with the Eastern Church, continued. Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I calling Pope Symmachus the illegally ordained pope, accused him of being a Manichaean. The pope responded in equal tones reminding the emperor of the long line of those who, from the beginnings of Christianity, had persecuted the Faith and how they had fell; and how the Church, the more it is persecuted, the more it shines forth in all its power. It was not until 514, when faced with riots in Constantinople and a serious revolt in Thrace, the Emperor Anastasius decided to seek a rapprochement with Rome and wrote to the pope inviting him to preside over a great council at Heraclea, in Thrace, which would settle the doctrinal issues underlying the schism. Pope Symmachus was dead when the invitation reached Rome. The pope exercised his ministry with vigor: he expelled the Manichaeans from Rome; sent generous gifts to orthodox victims of Arian persecution; and ransomed prisoners captured in the wars in north Italy. He restored the primatial rights of the see of Arles over Gaul in 514, extending them to Spain, and sent its bishop, Caesarius, the pallium. This was the first bestowal of a pallium on a bishop outside Italy. He introduced the Gloria in excelsis into the Masses celebrated on Sundays and in the feasts of martyrs. During his pontificate, he ordained one hundred and seventeen bishops, ninety two priests and sixteen deacons. He built the churches of S. Pancrazio on the Janiculum and S. Martino ai Monti on the ancient titulus Equitii, as well as a hostel at Porto for pilgrims coming by sea to Rome. He also restored S. Paolo fuori le mura, but it was mainly in the basilica of St. Peter that he made the greatest improvements. He covered the pavement of the atrium with slabs of marble and built over the canthams a small temple supported by columns of porphyry. A well was dug in the large square in front of the basilica, precursor of the Bernini fountains, while the staircases in the courtyard were widened and residential quarters were constructed, the first nucleus of the Vatican palaces.

Death. July 19, 514, Rome. Buried in the portico of St. Peter's basilica, Rome. His tomb was destroyed during the demolition of the old basilica and the construction of the new one in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sainthood. Inscribed in the Roman Martyrology, his feast is celebrated on July 19.

Bibliography. Alessandrini, Ada. "Teodorico e Papa Simmaco durante lo scisma Laurenziano." Archivio della Reale Deputazione Romana di Storia Patria, LXVII (1944), 153-207; Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 5; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiae usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. Alphonsi Ciaconii Ord. Praed. & aliorum opera descriptæ : cum uberrimis notis. Ab Augustino Oldoino, Soc. Jesu recognitae, et ad quatuor tomos ingenti ubique rerum accessione productae. Additis Pontificum recentiorum imaginibus, & Cardinalium insignibus, plurimisque aeneis figuris, cum indicibus locupletissimis. Romæ : P. et A. De Rubeis, 1677, I, col. 339-346; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XXXVI; Del Re, Niccolò. "Simmaco, papa, santo." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 985-986; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 139, no. 38; Ginetti, l. "Il Sinodo Palmare." Studi storici; periodico trimestrale. VII (1898), 557-567; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 50-52; Le Liber pontificalis. Paris : E. de Boccard, 1981, 1955. 3 v. : facsims. (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome). Notes: Reprint of the 1955 edition./ Includes indexes./ Vol. 3: "Additions et corrections de L. Duchesne publiées par Cyrille Vogel ... avec L'Histoire du Liber pontificalis dupuis l'édition de L. Duchesne une bibliographie et des tables générales, I, 260-268; Llewelyn, Peter A. B. "The Roman clergy during the Laurentian Schism (498-506) : a preliminary analysis." Ancient society, VIII (1977), 245-275; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 105, no. 51; Moorehead, John. "The Laurentian Schism : East and West in the Roman Church." Church History, XLVII, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), 125-136; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 42; Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab conditio Ecclesia. Ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956. 2 v. Reprint. Originally published : Lipsiae : Veit et comp., 1885-1888. Original t.p. included : Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia : ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Editionem secundam correctam et auctam edidit Philippus Jaffè ; auspiciis Gulielmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, I, 96-100; Sardella, Teresa. "Simmaco, santo." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 464-473; Sardella, Teresa. Società, chiesa e stato nell'età di Teoderico : papa Simmaco e lo scisma laurenziano. Soveria Mannelli (Catanzaro) : Rubbettino, 1996. (Armarium ; 7; Variation: Armarium (Soveria Mannelli, Italy) ; 7).

Webgraphy. Biography by Teresa Sardella, in Italian, Enciclopedia dei papi, Treccani; brief biographical entry, in Italian, Enciclopedia on line, Treccani; biography by Johann Peter Kirsch, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English, Encyclopaedia Britannica; his image and biography, in English, Wikipedia; his image and biography, in English, New World Encyclopedia; biography by Joseph Brusher, S.J., in English, Popes through the Ages; biography by J. Barmby, Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies; biography, in English, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints Compiled from Original Monuments and Authentic Records by Alban Butler; his image and biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; his image and biography, in Italian,; SIMMACO Il costruttore di chiese by Eugenio Russomanno, in Italian,, Rivista Internzionale di Liberazione e Communione; image and biography by Antonio Borrelli, Santi e Beati; biography, in Norwegian, Den katolske kirke; Perché nella Cattedrale di Venafro un'immagine di papa Simmaco, oggi ricordato dalla Chiesa by Franco Valente, in Italian; his image and biographical data, in Italian, "SANTI E BEATI VENERATI IN SARDEGNA", Facebook; his statue, Sardegna Digital Library; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; engravings, Araldica Vaticana; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, from the same source; his engraving, also from the same source; Saint of the Day: Pope St. Symmachus, Aleteia.

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