Saint Fabian (c. 190-250)

Saint Fabian

Saint Fabian, [fā′bē-ən] Pope and martyr, (c. 190-250). He was a layman and farmer. He came into Rome on a day when a new pope was to be elected. He became a commanding figure in the early history of the papacy, elected Bishop of Rome in 236 by acclamation, the alighting of a dove on his head during the conduct of the papal election being taken as a divine omen.

The martyr Pope Fabian is mentioned in Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, (263 - 339)
Eusebius writes:

"1. Gordianus succeeded Maximinus as Roman emperor and Pontianus, who had been bishop of the church at Rome for six years, was succeeded by Anteros. After he had held the office for a month, Fabianus succeeded him.

2. They say that Fabianus having come, after the death of Anteros, with others from the country, was staying at Rome, and that while there he was chosen to the office through a most wonderful manifestation of divine and heavenly grace.

3. For when all the brethren had assembled to select by vote him who should succeed to the episcopate of the church, several renowned and honorable men were in the minds of many, but Fabianus, although present, was in the mind of none. But they relate that suddenly a dove flying down lighted on his head, resembling the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Saviour in the form of a dove.

4. Thereupon all the people, as if moved by one Divine Spirit, with all eagerness and unanimity cried out that he was worthy, and without delay they took him and placed him upon the episcopal seat."

He was successor to St. Anteros. Although the truth of his life is obscured by legends. Fabian's pontificate (236-250) fell in the peaceful days under the Emperors Gordian and Philip the Arabian. In order to insure efficient spiritual administration it is said Fabian divided Rome into seven regions which were entrusted to the seven deacons, and founded several churches in France. He also reorganized the Christian cemeteries in Rome, by enlarging and beautifying the Cemetery of Calixtus, and making repairs in the catacombs of Rome. His appointment of notaries to register the deeds of the martyrs reflected the increasing precision with which the Roman Church began to keep records during the time. Reportedly he also baptised the Roman emperor Philip the Arabian.

Saint Fabian guided the church through fierce persecution and was martyred under the rule of the emperor of Rome, Decius. He was one of the first victims of the savage persecution. He was put to death on January 20, 250 in Rome and buried in San Callisto in the catacomb of St. Calixtus. His body was later moved to St. Sebastian's where his tomb was discovered in the year 1915.

His feast day falls on January 20.


  • Colliers Encyclopedia, © 1960
  • Encyclopedia International, ©1966 (Grolier Inc.)
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Micropedia, ©1984
  • Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, © 1950
  • Martyrdom of Pope Fabian
  • The Martyrdom of Pope St. Fabian
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