Today is the feast day of Saint Urban I. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Urban I date of birth unknown. He died 23 May, 230. According to the “Liber Pontificalis,” Urban was a Roman and his father’s name was Pontianus. After the death of Callistus I (14 October, 222) Urban was elected Bishop of Rome, of which Church he was the head for eight years, according to Eusebius (Church History VI.23). (2)
The dissension produced in the Roman Church by Hippolytus continued to exist during Urban’s pontificate. Hippolytus and his adherents persisted in schism; it was probably during the reign of Urban that Hippolytus wrote his “Philosophumena”, in which he attacked Pope Callistus severely. Urban maintained the same attitude towards the schismatical party and its leader that his predecessor had adopted. (2)
Nothing is known concerning the personal labours of Pope Urban. (1)
The increase in extent of various Roman Catacombs in the first half of the third century proves that Christians grew largely in numbers during this period. The legendary Acts of St. Cecilia connect the saint, as well as her husband and brother-in-law, with Urban, who is said to have baptized her husband and her brother-in-law. This narrative, however, is purely legendary, and has no historical value whatever; the same is true of the Acts of the martyrdom of Urban himself, which are of still later date than the legend of St. Cecilia. (2)
The statement of the “Liber Pontificalis”that Urban converted many by his sermons, rests on the Acts of St. Cecilia. Another statement on the same authority, that Urban had ordered the making of silver liturgical vessels, is only an invention of the later editor of the biography early in the sixth century, who arbitrarily attributed to Urban the making of certain vessels, including the patens for twenty-five titular churches of his own time. The particulars of the death of Urban are unknown, but, judging from the peace of his era, he must have died a natural death. The “Liber Pontificalis” states that he became a confessor in the reign of Diocletian; the date added is without authority. His name does not appear in the “Depositio Episcopoirum” of the fourth century in the “Kalendarium Philocalianum”. (2)
Image: This illustration is from The Lives and Times of the Popes by Chevalier Artaud de Montor, New York: The Catholic Publication Society of America, 1911. It was originally published in 1842. (3)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff