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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. 24-25.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 129-139.

TELESPHORUS, a Grecian, the son of an anchorite, lived in the time of Antoninus Pius.

This emperor was by his father’s side a Cisalpine Gaul, and together with his sons, Aurelius and Verus, he ruled twenty-two years and three months, with so much moderation and clemency that he deservedly gained the name of Pius, and Father of his country. He was never severe or rigorous towards any man in the recovery of his own private debts, or the exaction of public taxes, but would sometimes wholly remit them by burning the bonds of his debtors. What shall I need say more of this prince, who in the opinion of all good men was for religion, devotion, humanity, clemency, justice, and modesty, equal to Numa Pompilius himself. When the river Tiber had by an inundation much impaired many private and public buildings, he was at vast expense to assist the citizens in restoring the city to its former state again. Moreover, it was he who carried on those prodigious works which appear to this day, for improving the havens of Tarracina and Gaeta; and I believe that the famous winding pillar, from which the principal ward of the city is denominated, was built at his charge.


As for our Telesphorus, he ordained that a Quadragesimal Fast should be observed before Easter; and that on the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord there should be three Masses: one at midnight, at which time Christ was born in Bethlehem; another at break of day, when he was discovered to the shepherds; the third at that hour wherein the light of truth and our redemption shone in the world (i.e., when our Saviour was crucified), — whereas at other times the celebration of the Mass was forbidden till the third hour, or between the hours of nine and twelve o’clock, the time when, as St Mark tells us, he was fastened to the cross. He also appointed that the hymn “Glory be to God on High,” should be sung before the sacrifice. In his time Justinus, a philosopher of Neapolis, a city of Palestine, who laboured successfully in the defending of Christianity, presented to Antoninus and his sons a book which he had written against the heathens; and held a dialogue with Tryphon, a principal Jew. He wrote also very warmly against Marcion, who, adhering to the heresy of Cerdo, affirmed that there were two gods, the one good, the other just, as two contrary principles of creation and goodness. He opposed likewise Crescens the cynic, as a person gluttonous, fearful of death, given over to luxury and lust, and a blasphemer of Christ. But being at length by this man’s treacherous practices betrayed, he suffered in the cause of Christianity. Eusebius, writing of this cynic, allows him only to have been a vain-glorious pretender, but not a philosopher. At the same time the Valentinian heretics prevailed, who were the followers of one Valentinus, a Platonist; and held that Christ took nothing of the body of the Virgin, but passed clean through her, as through a pipe. Now also Photinus, Bishop of Lyons, a man of singular learning and piety, as Isodore tells us, suffered martyrdom with great resolution, being ninety years old. Telesphorus, having at four Decembrian ordinations made fifteen presbyters, eight deacons, thirteen bishops, died a martyr, and was buried in the Vatican near Saint Peter. He was in the chair eleven years, three months, twenty-two days. By his death the see was vacant seven days.

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Previous Pope:  8. St. Sixtus I. 9.  St. Telesphorus. Next Pope: 10. St. Hyginus.

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