Arius, the Heretic Who Died of a Wretched Bowel Problem
There heretic Arius is one of the most interesting characters on the stage of history. Every December I write a tribute post to Saint Nicholas about the tradition of Saint Nicholas h-slapping (heretic slapping) Arius at the Council of Nicea in AD 325.
Joseph Reidy, professor of history at Fisher More College, recently turned me on to another great story about Arius the heretic. (By the way, Fisher More College is turning into a fantastic college. If you know of any 18 year olds looking for a traditional Catholic college, please send them our way.) As you know, Arius divided the Church and Empire of the fourth and fifth century by claiming that the Divine Logos, Jesus Christ, was not of the same substance of the Father and not co-eternal with the Father.
Arius was condemned as a heretic but over time, he was able to regain imperial favor. The orthodox enemy of Arius, Saint Athanasius was exiled by the bogus Synod of Tyre in 335, and the Synod of Jerusalem in 336 had the audacity to restore Arius to full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Byzantine emperor then directed Patriarch Alexander of Constantinople to receive Arius and give him Holy Communion in the city's cathedral. Patriarch Alexander objected and was put between a rock and hard place. So Alexander prayed that Arius might die before the appointed day on which Arius would present himself for Holy Communion and thereby commit sacrilege with the Body of Christ.
The historian Socrates Scholasticus then tells us how on that weekend Arius experienced loose bowels and had to run to a nearby bathroom. There, there heretic's bowels came loose and he died in a most dishonorable way. Here's the account:
It was then Saturday, and Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following: but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities. For going out of the imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like guards, he paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting the notice of all the people. As he approached the place called Constantine’s Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired whether there was a convenient bathroom nearby, and being directed to the back of Constantine’s Forum, he hastened thither. Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade: and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death.
The Ecclesiastical Histories of Socrates Scholasticus
Professor Reidy tells me that this bathroom in Constantinople was constantly the butt of jokes who saw the terrible death of Arius as divine retribution. Finally, an Arian supporter, purchased the bathroom and destroyed it.
The moral of the story - don't be a heretic.
Holy Fathers and Saints, pray for us.