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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 116-118.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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SYMMACHUS  I. A.D. 498-514.

SYMMACHUS, a Sardinian, son of Fortunatus, succeeded Anastasius, though not without great controversy, and after a long bandying of two contrary factions. For, while one part of the clergy choose Symmachus in the Church of St John Lateran, another part of them in St Maria Maggiore made choice of one Laurence; whereupon the senate and people of Rome, being divided into two parties, the dissension 117 rose to such a height that, to compromise the business, a council was by mutual consent called at Ravenna, where the whole matter being discussed in the presence of Theodoric, he at length determined on the side of Symmachus, and confirmed him in the pontificate, who by a singular act of grace made his very competitor, Laurence, Bishop of Nocera. Yet, about four years after, some busy and factious clergymen, being countenanced and assisted by Festus and Probinus, two of the senatorian order, set up for Laurence again; upon which King Theodoric was so highly displeased, that he sends Peter, Bishop of Altino, to Rome, to depose them both and possess himself of the chair. But Symmachus called a synod of a hundred and twenty bishops, wherein, with great presence of mind, he purged himself of all things laid to his charge, and by a general suffrage obtained the banishment of Laurence and Peter, who had occasioned all this mischief. Hereupon, so great a sedition arose in the city that multitudes both of the clergy and laity were slain in all parts, not so much as the monastic virgins escaping. In this tumult Gordianus, a presbyter, and a very good man, was killed in the Church of St Peter ad Vincula; nor had an end been put to slaughter here, had not Faustus, the consul, in compassion to the clergy, appeared in arms against Probinus, the author of so great a calamity.

After this, the Christians having some small respite, Clodoveus, banishing the Arian heretics, restores the orthodox, and constitutes Paris the capital of his kingdom.

Symmachus at this time expelled the Manichees out of the city, and caused their books to be burned before the gates of St John Lateran. Several churches he built from the ground, and several others he repaired and beautified. That of St Andrew the apostle, near St Peter’s, he entirely built, enriching it with divers ornaments of silver and gold; and he adorned St Peter’s itself and its portico, with chequered marble, making the steps of ascent into it more and larger than they were before. Moreover, he erected Episcopal palaces. He built also the church of St Agatha, the martyr, in the Via Aurelia, and that of St Pancras. He repaired and adorned with painting the cupola of St Paul’s, and built from the foundations the church of St Sylvester and St Martin, the altars of which he very richly adorned. He made also the steps that lead into the church of St John and St Paul, and 118 enlarged St Michael’s. He built from the ground the oratories of Cosmus and Damianus, being assisted in that work by Albinus and Glaphyras, two men of principal note. Besides this, near the churches of St Peter and St Paul, he built two hospitals, making provision of all things necessary for the poor who should dwell in them. For he was in all respects very charitable, and sent supplies of money and clothes to the bishops and other clergy in Africa and Sardinia, who had suffered banishment for the profession of the true religion. He repaired the church of St Felicitas, and the cupola of that of St Agnes, which was decayed and almost ready to fall. He also at his own charge redeemed multitudes of captives in several provinces. He ordained that on Sundays, and the birthdays1 of the martyrs, the hymn, “Glory be to God on high,” should be sung, and, indeed, left nothing undone which he thought might tend to the glory of Almighty God. In his time, Gennadius, Bishop of Marseilles, a great imitator of St Augustine, did good service to the Church. He wrote one book against heresies, wherein he shows what is necessary to every man in order to his salvation, and another de viris illustribus, in imitation of St Hierom. As for Symmachus, having at several ordinations made ninety presbyters, sixteen deacons, one hundred and twenty-two bishops, he died, and was buried in St Peter’s Church, July the 19th. He sat in the chair fifteen years, six months, twenty-two days; and by his death the see was vacant seven days.


 1  The days on which they suffered were anciently so called. — ED.

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Previous Pope:  5. Anastasius II. 53. Symmachus I. Next Pope: 54. Hormisda I.

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