« Marcellinus, Flavius Marcellus, bp. of Rome Marcellus, bp. of Ancyra »

Marcellus, bp. of Rome

Marcellus (3), bp. of Rome probably from May 24, 307, to Jan. 15, 309, the see having been vacant after the death of Marcellinus, 2 years, 6 months, and 27 days (Lipsius, Chronologie der röm. Bischöf.).

This pope appears as a martyr in the Roman Martyrology, and in the later recensions of the Liber Pontificalis, a story being told that he was beaten, and afterwards condemned to tend the imperial horses as a slave. No trace of this legend, or indeed of his being a martyr at all, appears in the earlier recensions of the Pontifical, including the Felician. But a light is thrown on the circumstances which probably led to his title of "Confessor" by the monumental inscriptions to him and his successor Eusebius, placed on their tombs by pope Damasus. That to Marcellus (Pagi, Critic. in Baron. ad ann. 309; in Actis S. Januar.; De Rossi, Rom. Sotter. vi. p. 204) reads:

"Veridicus rector lapsis quia crimina flere

Praedixit, miseris fuit omnibus hostis amarus.

Hinc furor, hinc odium sequitur, discordia lites,

Seditio, caedes; solvuntur foedera pacis.

Crimen ob alterius, Christum qui in pace negavit,

Finibus expulsus patriae est feritate tyranni.

Haec breviter Damasus voluit comperta referre

Marcelli ut populus meritum cognoscere posset.

It would appear from these lines, together with those on Eusebius [EUSEBIUS (1)], that when persecution ceased at Rome conflicts arose in the Christian community as to the terms of readmission of the lapsi to communion; that Marcellus after his election had required a period of penance before absolution; that this stern discipline evoked violent opposition, the subjects of it being doubtless numerous anal influential; that the church had been split into parties in consequence, and riots, anarchy, and even bloodshed, had ensued; that "the tyrant" Maxentius had interposed in the interests of peace and banished the pope as the author of the discord. He was not really so, the inscription implies, but "another," for whose "crime" he suffered, i.e. the leader and instigator of the opposition, who had "denied Christ in time of peace" by condoning apostasy and subverting discipline after persecution had ceased. But Marcellus was made the victim, and thus was a "confessor" (or, in the wider sense of the word, a "martyr"), if not strictly for the faith, at any rate for canonical discipline and the honour of Christ. The "other" referred to was probably the Heraclius spoken of in the inscription on Eusebius as having "forbidden the lapsi to mourn for their sins," and who was banished in the next episcopate by "the tyrant" as well as the pope—"Extemplo pariter pulsi feritate tyranni." As Marcellus, unlike Eusebius, is not said in the Damasine inscription to have died in exile, and as he was certainly buried at Rome, like his predecessor in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way (Catal. Felic.), he may have been allowed to return to his see.


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