Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Apollinaris, Bishop of Ravenna, Martyr

[Saint Apollinaris of Ravenna]Article

Saint Apollinaris was the first bishop of Ravenna. Bede, in his true Martyrology, says that he sat twenty years, and was crowned with Martyrdom in the reign of Vespasian. His acts say that he was a disciple of Saint Peter, and made by him bishop of Ravenna. Though their authority deserves little regard, this circumstance must be allowed, being agreeable to the time, and supported by other authorities. Saint Peter Chrysologus, the most illustrious among his successors, has left us a sermon in honour of our saint, in which he often styles him a martyr; but adds, that though he frequently spilt portions of his blood for the faith, and ardently desired to lay down his life for Christ, yet God preserved him a long time to his church, and did not suffer the persecutors to take away his life. So he seems to have only been a martyr by the torments he endured for Christ, which he survived at least some days. His body lay first at Classis, four miles from Ravenna, still a kind of suburb to that city, and its sea-port, till it was choked up by the sands. In the year 549 his relics were removed into a more secret vault in the same church, as an inscription still extant there testifies. See Mabillon. Saint Fortunatus exhorted his friends to make pilgrimages to his tomb, and Saint Gregory the Great ordered parties in doubtful suits at law to be sworn before it. Pope Honorius built a church under his name in Rome about the year 630. It occurs in all Martyrologies, and the high veneration which the church paid early to his memory is a sufficient testimony of his eminent sanctity and apostolic spirit.

The virtue of the saints was true and heroic, because humble, and proof against all trials. That of the heathen philosophers was lame, and generally false and counterfeit, whence Tertullian calls the latter, Traders in fame. “Where is now the similitude,” says he, “between a philosopher and a Christian? a disciple of Greece and of heaven? a trader in fame, and a saver of souls? between a man of words and a man of works?” And Saint Jerom writes: “A philosopher is an animal of fame, one who basely drudges for the breath of the people.” Lactantius severely rallies Cicero, because, though he was very sensible of the vanity of the worship then established, yet he would not have that truth told the people for fear of unhinging the religion of the state. “Now what is to be done with a man,” says our Christian philosopher, “who knows himself in an error, yet wilfully dashes upon a rock, that the people may do so too? who makes no use of his wisdom for the regulation of his life, but entangles himself to ensnare others, whom, as the wiser person, he was obliged to rescue from error. But O, Cicero, if you have any regard for virtue, attempt rather to deliver the people out of ignorance. It is a noble enterprise, and worthy all your powers of eloquence. Never fear but your oratory will hold out in so good a cause, which never failed you in the defence of so many bad ones. But Socrates’ prison is the thing you dread; and therefore truth must want a patron; but certainly, as a wise man, you ought to despise death in competition with truth; and you had fallen much more honourably by speaking well of truth, than for speaking ill of Antony; nor will you ever rise to that height of glory by your Philippics, as you would have done by labouring to undeceive the world, and dispute the people into their senses.” The philosophers did not love truth well enough to suffer for it. Plato dissembled for fear of Socrates’ hemlock; but the Christian religion raised its professors above all considerations present, for the joy that was set before them.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Apollinaris, Bishop of Ravenna, Martyr”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 21 July 2013. Web. 30 September 2014. <>