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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Eulalius, an Antipope

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Eulalius (1) , an antipope, elected and ordained as bp. of Rome after the death of Zosimus at the close of 418, in opposition to Boniface I., who was finally established in the see, Eulalius being expelled from Rome by the emperor Honorius in April 419. The official letters which passed have been preserved in the Vatican, and are quoted at length by Baronius (A. E. ann. 418, lxxix. 419, ii.–xxxii.). They throw light on the conflicts attending the election of bishops, and on the powers exercised by the emperors in connexion therewith. First we have a letter (Dec. 29, 418) to Honorius at Ravenna from Symmachus the Praefectus Urbis, stating that, after he had warned the people to proceed to a new election without disturbance, Eulalius the archdeacon had been taken to the Lateran church by the clergy and people, duly elected, and ordained; while certain presbyters, accompanied by a crowd, had gone with Bonifacius, a presbyter, to the church of Theodora, and, though warned to do nothing rashly, had ordained him in the church of St. Marcellus, and thence took him to St. Peter's basilica. He requests the instructions of the emperor, with whom, he says, it rests to give judgment in such a case. Honorius replies (Jan. 3, 419) by ordering Boniface to be expelled from the city, and the authors of the sedition in his favour punished, Eulalius having been duly appointed according to the rule of Catholic discipline (competens numerus ordinantium, solemnitas temporis, locique qualitas) and the rival election being deficient in these respects. Symmachus replies (Jan. 8) that he has carried out the emperor's order, not without resistance on the part of Boniface, who had caused a messenger sent to forbid a procession to be beaten by the people; had held the procession; and had forcibly entered the city, but had been expelled by an opposing mob; while Eulalius had celebrated service in the basilica of St. Peter amid the acclamations of almost the whole city.

Meantime the presbyters who supported Boniface had sent a different account. They had been unable, they say, to assemble in the customary place, the Lateran church, because of its being occupied by Eulalius with a very small number of presbyters and an excited mob; they were the great majority of the clergy, supported by the better part of the laity; amid general acclamation they had elected Boniface, in whose ordination 70 priests and 9 bishops of divers provinces had concurred; whereas the bp. of Ostia, a sick old man almost at the point of death, had been brought against his will to assist in the ordination of Boniface's rival.

Having received this counter-statement, Honorius writes to Symmachus (Jan. 15), revoking his former edict; commanding the attendance at Ravenna (Feb. 8) of Boniface and Eulalius, with their respective supporters, before a synod.

The documents shew that the members of this synod were divided, and unable to come to a decision before Easter (Mar 30), when custom required a bishop to celebrate in Rome. Honorius therefore decided to refer the case after Easter to a fuller synod, and commissioned Achilleus bp. of Spoleto to celebrate Easter in Rome, forbidding both claimants to be present there. He exacts obedience in a high tone of authority, and threatens with summary punishment all disturbers of the peace. The synod was to be held at Spoletum on June 13. Honorius sent private letters to several of the more important prelates, e.g. Paulinus of Nola, Augustine, and Aurelius of Carthage, and circular letters to the bishops of Africa and Gaul. The proposed assembly, however, never took place. Eulalius and his party, disregarding the imperial orders, entered Rome at mid-day, Mar 18, and came into violent collision with Achilleus and his supporters, Symmachus and the Vicarius Urbis narrowly escaping with their lives. Thereupon the emperor ordered (Mar 25) Eulalius to be immediately expelled from the city. Eulalius refused to comply, and took violent possession of the Lateran church, but was eventually dislodged thence and expelled from Rome, an imperial edict (Apr. 3) excluding him from the see and confirming Boniface as bp. of Rome. The latter was welcomed as bishop by the whole population with joy and gratitude to the emperor.

Eulalius retired to Antium, near Rome, expecting the death of Boniface, who fell sick after his accession, but this hope failing, he made no further attempt to recover the see, though invited to do so by his partisans in Rome on the death of Boniface in 423. According to the Liber Pontificalis , he afterwards became bp. of Nepete.

From this account, extracted from contemporary documents, the following facts are evident. First, that with the ancient custom of election of a new bishop by the clergy, with the assent of the laity, and confirmation by provincial bishops, there was no desire on the part of the civil power to interfere. Secondly, that elections had come to be conducted in an irregular and tumultuous manner, giving rise [See Damasus] to violent conflicts, with bloodshed even in the churches. Thirdly, that it was the necessity of restoring order, and adjudicating between rival claims, that led to the interposition of the emperor. Fourthly, that in this case the emperor did not insist on a right to decide on the validity of either election without first submitting the question to an episcopal synod. Fifthly, eventually, serious provocation being given, he settled the question on his own authority, without the sanction of a synod or regard to the canonicity of the original election. A statement in the Liber Pontificalis that Eulalius was deposed by a synod of 252 bishops is inconsistent with the contemporary evidence given above, and, as such, Baronius rejects it.

[J.B—Y.]


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Eulalius, an Antipope'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hwd/e/eulalius-an-antipope.html. 1911.

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Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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