Raised in a pious family; his father was a priest in Rome, Italy and Damasus served for a time as deacon in his father‘s church, Saint Laurence. Priest. Assistant to Pope Liberius. Chosen 37th pope in a disputed election in which a minority chose the anti-pope Ursinus. The two reigned simultaneously in Rome which eventually led to violence between their supporters and false accusations of Damasus having committed a crime.
His pontificate suffered from the rise of Arianism, and from several schisms including break-away groups in Antioch, Constantinople, Sardinia, and Rome. However, it was during Damasus’s reign that Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman state. He enforced the 370 edict of Emperor Valentinian controlling gifts to prelates, and opposed Arianism and Apollinarianism. He supported the 374 council of Rome which decreed the valid books of the Bible, and the Grand Council of Constantinople in 381 which condemned Arianism.
Economic patron of his secretary, Saint Jerome, commissioning him to make the translation of scripture now known as the Vulgate. Damasus restored catacombs, shrines, and the tombs of martyrs, and wrote poetry and metrical inscriptions about and dedicated to martyrs. They state that he would like to be buried in the catacombs with the early martyrs, but that the presence of one of his lowly status would profane such an august place. Ten of his letters, personal and pontifical, have survived.
- 11 December 384 in Rome, Italy of natural causes
- buried in the Mark and Marcellianus catacombs in Rome
- bones re-buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Damaso
He who walking on the sea could calm the bitter waves, who gives life to the dying seeds of the earth; he who was able to loose the mortal chains of death, and after three days’ darkness could bring again to the upper world the brother for his sister Martha: he, I believe, will make Damasus rise again from the dust. - epitaph Damasus wrote for himself
The arrangement of the names of Christ, however, is manifold: Lord, because He is Spirit; Word, because He is God; Son, because He is the only-begotten son of the Father; Man, because He was born of the Virgin; Priest, because He offered Himself as a sacrifice; Shepherd, because He is a guardian; Worm, because He rose again; Mountain, because He is strong; Way, because there is a straight path through Him to life; Lamb, because He suffered; Corner-Stone, because instruction is His; Teacher, because He demonstrates how to live; Sun, because He is the illuminator; Truth, because He is from the Father; Life, because He is the creator; Bread because He is flesh; Samaritan, because He is the merciful protector; Christ, because He is anointed; Jesus, because He is a mediator; Vine, because we are redeemed by His blood; Lion, because he is king; Rock, because He is firm; Flower, because He is the chosen one; Prophet, because He has revealed what is to come. - from the (attributed to Damasus); from , by William A Jurgens, copyright 1970, the Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota
- “Pope Saint Damasus I“. Saints.SQPN.com. 30 April 2014. Web. 13 July 2014. <>