Cause of Death:
125 to 136
Pope #8
St. Sixtus I (115-125)
St. Hyginus (136-140)

in Greece

Pope Telesphorus


Started Midnight Mass

According to the Liber Pontificas, the tradition of Christmas Midnight Mass was started by Telesphorus, as well as the singing of Gloria in Excelsis Deo at it. Most scholars today however believe the tradition didn't start till centuries later.


Like his predecessor Pope Sixtus I (115-125), Telesphorus also observed the Last Supper on the Roman Easter day instead of the traditional Jewish Passover day (14th of Nissan).


The Liber Pontificalis also credits him with starting the first "Lent", by ordering a 7 week fast before Easter day. Public fasting was actually condemned by Jesus (Mat 6:16-18), and most scholars believe the practice was adopted from one of the pagan fastings of that time.

Roman Persecution

Coin from Bar Kokbha Era (135 AD) depicting the Temple in Jerusalem with the Arc of the Covenant inside.
Coin from Bar Kokbha Era (135 AD)
He lived during the reign of emperor Hadrian, the time of the greatest persecution of Jews and Christians. The hatred between Romans and Jews led to the Bar-Kochba Jewish revolt in 132 AD, which resulted in over 500'000 Jews dead. Simeon ben Kosiba led the revolt that massacred the famous 12th legion of the Roman army, and liberated Jerusalem. Rabbi Akiva publicly proclaimed Simon as the true Messiah. The Rabbis renamed him "Simeon Bar Kochba" ("Son of the star").

6th century mosaiac of Aelia Capitolina
Aelia Capitolina
Emperor Hadrian responded furiously, ordering the mass murder of every Jew in Judaea, and the complete destruction of Jerusalem to the ground. In an attempt to wipe out all record of the Jews, he had Judea and Jerusalem erased from maps, and ordered the whole region renamed to Palestina (Palestine), after the Jews most despised former enemy, the Phillistines. Jerusalem was rebuilt as Aelia Capitolina, and settled by Romans. Most of the remaining Jews were sent into slavery and scattered throughout the Empire.

Hadrian's hatred for the Jews led to the forbidding of any Jewish observance, ceremony, or tradition. Christianity was under deep suspicion as being tied to the Jews, and many died for it. To gain favour with the Emperor during this intolerant time, was to denounce the Jews and their religious traditions and practices.


Of the 14 bishops of Rome after Peter, historical verification for martyrs, exists only for Telesphorus; however, there are few details. Eusebius (Hist of the Church, IV, x) placed his death in the first year of Antoninus Pius' (138-161) reign. The apologist Irenaeus, wrote that his "death was made glorious by martyrdom". His remains are believed to be buried at the Vatican. His Feast Day is celebrated on Jan 5th, however in the Greek Church it is celebrated on Feb 22nd.

Rulers & Events:

117-138: Roman Emperor, Hadrian
132-135: Simeon Bar-Kochba revolt, over 500'000 killed
135: Jerusalem captured and razed by Emperor Hadrian
Israel renamed Palestine (by Hadrian)