236 AD to 250
Pope (236-250), the extraordinary
circumstances of whose election is related by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl.,
VI, 29). After the death of Anterus he had come to Rome, with some
others, from his farm and was in the city when the new election
began. While the names of several illustrious and noble persons were
being considered, a dove suddenly descended upon the head of Fabian,
of whom no one had even thought. To the assembled brethren the sight
recalled the Gospel scene of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the
Saviour of mankind, and so, divinely inspired, as it were, they
chose Fabian with joyous unanimity and placed him in the Chair of
Peter. During his reign of fourteen years there was a lull in the
storm of persecution. Little is known of his pontificate. The "Liber
Pontificalis" says that he divided Rome into seven districts, each
supervised by a deacon, and appointed seven subdeacons, to collect,
in conjunction with other notaries, the "acta" of the martyrs, i.e.
the reports of the court-proceedings on the occasion of their trials
(cf. Eus., VI, 43). There is a tradition that he instituted the four
minor orders. Under him considerable work was done in the catacombs.
He caused the body of Pope St. Pontianus to be exhumed, in Sardinia,
and transferred to the catacomb of St. Callistus at Rome. Later
accounts, more or less trustworthy, attribute to him the
consecration (245) of seven bishops as missionaries to Gaul, among
them St. Denys of Paris (Greg. of Tours, Hist. Francor., I, 28, 31).
St. Cyprian mentions (Ep., 59) the condemnation by Fabian for heresy
of a certain Privatus (Bishop of Lambaesa) in Africa. The famous
Origen did not hesitate to defend, before Fabian, the orthodoxy of
his teaching (Eus. Hist. Eccl., VI, 34). Fabian died a martyr (20
Jan., 250) at the beginning of the Decian persecution, and was
buried in the Crypt of the Popes in the catacomb of St. Callistus,
where in recent times (1850) De Rossi discovered his Greek epitaph
(Roma Sotterranea II, 59): "Fabian, bishop and martyr." The
decretals ascribed to him in Pseudo-Isidore are apocryphal.