1902 Encyclopedia > Pope Silvester I

Pope Silvester I
(also known as: St Sylvester I)
(Pope from 314 till 335)




SILVESTER I., bishop of Rome from January 314 to December 335, succeeded Melchiades and was followed by Marcus. The accounts of his papacy preserved in the Liber Pontificalis (7th or 8th century) and in Anastasius are little else than a record of the gifts said to have been conferred on the Roman Church by Constantine the Great. He was represented at the council of Nice, and is said to have held a council at Rome to condemn the heresies of Arius and others. The story of his having baptized Constantine is pure fiction, as almost contemporary evidence shows the emperor to have received this rite near Nicomedia at the hands of Eusebius, bishop of that city. According to Dollinger, the entire legend, with all its details of the leprosy and the proposed bath of blood, cannot have been composed later than the close of the 5th century, while it is certainly alluded to by Gregory of Tours (ob. 594) and Bede. The so-called Donation of Constantine was long ago shown to be spurious, but the document is of very considerable antiquity and, in Dollinger's opinion, was forged in Borne between 752 and 777. It was certainly known to Pope Hadrian in 778, and was inserted in the false decretals towards the middle of the next century.






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