Saint Linus, the Pope after Saint Peter
The following is excerpted from Taylor Marshall's forthcoming book The Eternal City - Rome and the Origins of Catholic Christianity:
Saint Linus is listed by all ancient documents as direct successor of Saint Peter in Rome. Saint Irenaeus, writing about the year AD 180, recorded that: “The blessed Apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of of the episcopate.” Saint Jerome wrote that Linus “was the first after Peter to be in charge of the Roman Church.” Moreover, the historian Eusebius tells us that Linus “was the first to receive the episcopate of the Church at Rome after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter.” The Liberian Catalogue and the Liber Pontificalis confirm the same order of succession.
The Liber Pontificalis preserves an interesting detail. It describes how Saint Peter consecrated two bishops—Linus and Anacletus—to assist him in the governing of the Church in Rome. Peter did this, says the Liber Pontificalis, so as to be free to pray and preach. The same source states that Peter appointed Clement to oversee the universal needs of the Church throughout the world. The governing structure of the Church in Rome before the martyrdom of Saint Peter looked like this:
Linus & Anacletus
(Auxiliary Bishops in Rome)
(Papal Secretary, Bishop?)
It would be natural that the three men trusted and directly appointed by Saint Peter (Linus, Anacletus, and Clement) would succeed Saint Peter as the chief bishops of Rome in succession. This governing structure of Saint Peter’s might also explain a statement of Saint Jerome which reads that Clement “was the fourth bishop of Rome,” but that “most the Latins think that Clement was second after the Apostle.”
Linus, it would seem, was chief among these men and the most well known. That Linus was a prominent Christian in Rome is clear from the testimony of Sacred Scripture. Saint Paul mentioned Saint Linus as being in Rome in the late 60s just before the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. The Apostle wrote to Saint Timothy saying: “Make haste to come before winter. Eubulus and Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren, salute thee” (2 Tim 4:21). In this final epistle of Saint Paul before martyrdom, the apostle includes the names of those prominent in the Roman Church—Linus being one of them. Why would Linus be well known?
There are only two things that we know about Pope Saint Linus. First, there is an immemorial tradition that Pope Linus decreed that all Christian women should veil their heads when inside a church.
Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man: and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head: because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman for the man. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels. But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.” (1 Corinthians 11:2–15)
No doubt, Pope Saint Linus was merely reiterating what Saint Paul had taught before him about chapel veils.
The second thing we know about Pope Saint Linus was that he was a martyr like Peter before him.
He is commemorated in the Roman Canon of the Mass as a martyr of the primitive Church along with Pope Saint Anacletus (Cletus) and Pope Saint Clement:
Having communion with and venerating the memory, first, of the glorious Mary ever virgin Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, likewise of Thy blessed Apostles and Martyrs: Peter and Paul, Andrew James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, and Thaddeus, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and of all Thy saints, for the sake of whose merits and prayers do Thou grant that in all things we may be defended by the help of Thy protection. Through the same Christ our Lord.
The Roman Martyrology marks martyrdom of Pope Saint Linus as having occurred on September 23rd:
At Rome, St. Linus, pope and martyr, who governed the Roman Church next after the blessed apostle Peter. He was crowned with martyrdom and was buried on the Vatican Hill beside the same Apostle.
A sarcophagus discovered in Saint Peter's Basilica in 1615 inscribed with the letters LINVS, and was once believed be Linus’s tomb. However, some archeologists doubt whether the tomb is that of Linus, since the inscription might merely be the last five letters of a longer Roman name such as Marcellinus or Aquilinus. Nevertheless, it is perfectly reasonable to hold that a body buried next to Saint Peter with the inscription LINVS is in fact be the historical Pope Saint Linus.