The First 10 Popes of the Catholic Church

Crucifixion of St. Peter - Masaccio, AD 1426

Listers, we’ve catalogued the first ten Vicars of Christ for the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Save the information on our first pope – St. Peter – all the information presented is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia and links for further reading are provided.


Painting of Saint Peter by Peter Paul Rubens depicting the saint as Pope (1611-1612) – Wikipedia

1. Pope St. Peter (32-67)

St. Peter held a primacy amongst the twelve disciples that earned him the title “Prince of the Apostles.” This primacy of St. Peter was solidified when he was appointed by Jesus to the Office of the Vicar – demonstrated by Christ giving St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom. To understand St. Peter, one must first understand Christ and the Church Christ came to establish. Jesus is the “Son of David” and his life and ministry fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the New Davidic Kingdom and New Jerusalem; hence, we look to the historic kingdom of King David as a guide to the New Davidic Kingdom. King David had a vicar that ruled his kingdom when David was absent  and the sign of authority for this vicar was the keys of the kingdom. In the New Davidic Kingdom, Christ the Son of David gave the keys to his Vicar to guide the Kingdom until the return of Christ – we now refer to this vicar as “the pope.”  SPL has written extensively on these issue in 10 Biblical Reasons Christ Founded the Papacy and 13 Reasons St. Peter Was the Prince of the Apostles.

2. Pope St. Linus (67-76)

All the ancient records of the Roman bishops which have been handed down to us by St. Irenaeus, Julius Africanus, St. Hippolytus, Eusebius, also the Liberian catalogue of 354, place the name of Linus directly after that of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter. These records are traced back to a list of the Roman bishops which existed in the time of Pope Eleutherus (about 174-189), when Irenaeus wrote his book “Adversus haereses”. As opposed to this testimony, we cannot accept as more reliable Tertullian’s assertion, which unquestionably places St. Clement (De praescriptione, xxii) after the Apostle Peter, as was also done later by other Latin scholars (Jerome, Illustrious Men 15). The Roman list in Irenaeus has undoubtedly greater claims to historical authority. This author claims that Pope Linus is the Linus mentioned by St. Paul in his 2 Timothy 4:21. The passage by Irenaeus (Against Heresies III.3.3) reads:

After the Holy Apostles (Peter and Paul) had founded and set the Church in order (in Rome) they gave over the exercise of the episcopal office to Linus. The same Linus is mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy. His successor was Anacletus.

We cannot be positive whether this identification of the pope as being the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21 goes back to an ancient and reliable source, or originated later on account of the similarity of the name. [Read More]

3. Pope St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)

The second successor of St. Peter. Whether he was the same as Cletus, who is also called Anencletus as well as Anacletus, has been the subject of endless discussion. Irenaeus, Eusebius, Augustine, Optatus, use both names indifferently as of one person. Tertullian omits him altogether. To add to the confusion, the order is different. Thus Irenaeus has Linus, Anacletus, Clement; whereas Augustine and Optatus put Clement before Anacletus. On the other hand, the “Catalogus Liberianus”, the “Carmen contra Marcionem” and the “Liber Pontificalis”, all most respectable for their antiquity, make Cletus and Anacletus distinct from each other; while the “Catalogus Felicianus” even sets the latter down as a Greek, the former as a Roman. [Read More]

4. Pope St. Clement I (88-97)

Pope Clement I (called CLEMENS ROMANUS to distinguish him from the Alexandrian), is the first of the successors of St. Peter of whom anything definite is known, and he is the first of the “Apostolic Fathers”. His feast is celebrated 23 November. He has left one genuine writing, a letter to the Church of Corinth, and many others have been attributed to him.

According to Tertullian, writing c. 199, the Roman Church claimed that Clement was ordained by St. Peter (De Praescript., xxxii), and St. Jerome tells us that in his time “most of the Latins” held that Clement was the immediate successor of the Apostle (Illustrious Men 15). St. Jerome himself in several other places follows this opinion, but here he correctly states that Clement was the fourth pope. [Read More]

In defense of the historical fact that the “Early Church” was also the Catholic Church, SPL composed a list entitled The Apostles Appointed Bishops: 9 Teachings from St. Clement AD 97. The list shows a very early snapshot of the Early Church and its Catholicity.

5. Pope St. Evaristus (97-105)

Date of birth unknown; died about 107. In the Liberian Catalogue his name is given as Aristus. In papal catalogues of the second century used by Irenaeus and Hippolytus, he appears as the fourth successor of St. Peter, immediately after St Clement. The same lists allow him eight years of reign, covering the end of the first and the beginning of the second century (from about 98 or 99 to about 106 or 107). The earliest historical sources offer no authentic data about him. In his “Ecclesiastical History” Eusebius says merely that he succeeded Clement in the episcopate of the Roman Church which fact was already known from St. Irenæus. This order of succession is undoubtedly correct. [Read More]

6. Pope St. Alexander I (105-115)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, writing in the latter quarter of the second century, reckons him as the fifth pope in succession from the Apostles, though he says nothing of his martyrdom.

His pontificate is variously dated by critics, e.g. 106-115 (Duchesne) or 109-116 (Lightfoot). In Christian antiquity he was credited with a pontificate of about ten years (Eusebius, Church History IV.1) and there is no reason to doubt that he was on the “catalogue of bishops” drawn up at Rome by Hegesippus (Eusebius, IV, xxii, 3) before the death of Pope Eleutherius (c. 189). According to a tradition extant in the Roman Church at the end of the fifth century, and recorded in the Liber Pontificalis he suffered a martyr’s death by decapitation on the Via Nomentana in Rome, 3 May. [Read More]

Detail of Saint Sixtus from Sistine Madonna, painting by Raphael c.1513.

7. Pope St. Sixtus I (115-125)

Pope St. Sixtus I (in the oldest documents, Xystus is the spelling used for the first three popes of that name), succeeded St. Alexander and was followed by St. Telesphorus. According to the “Liberian Catalogue” of popes, he ruled the Church during the reign of Adrian “a conulatu Nigri et Aproniani usque Vero III et Ambibulo”, that is, from 117 to 126. Eusebius, who in his “Chronicon” made use of a catalogue of popes different from the one he used in his “Historia ecclesiastica”, states in his “Chronicon” that Sixtus I was pope from 114 to 124, while in his “History” he makes him rule from 114 to 128. All authorities agree that he reigned about ten years. He was a Roman by birth, and his father’s name was Pastor. [Read More]

8. Pope St. Telesphorus (125-136)

St. Telesphorus was the seventh Roman bishop in succession from the Apostles, and, according to the testimony of St. Irenæus (Against Heresies III.3.3), suffered a glorious martyrdom. Eusebius (Church History IV.7, IV.14) places the beginning of his pontificate in the twelfth of Hadrian’s reign (128-129), his death in the first year of the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-139). [Read More]

9. Pope St. Hyginus (136-140)

Reigned about 138-142; succeeded Pope Telesphorus, who, according to Eusebius (Church History IV.15), died during the first year of the reign of the Emperor Antonius Pius — in 138 or 139, therefore. But the chronology of these bishops of Rome cannot be determined with any degree of exactitude by the help of the authorities at our disposal today. According to the “Liber Pontificalis”, Hyginus was a Greek by birth. The further statement that he was previously a philosopher is probably founded on the similarity of his name with that of two Latin authors. [Read More]

10. Pope St. Pius I (140-155)

Date of birth unknown; pope from about 140 to about 154. According to the earliest list of the popes, given by Irenaeus (Against Heresies II.31; cf. Eusebius, Church History V.6), Pius was the ninth successor of St. Peter. The dates given in the Liberian Catalogue for his pontificate (146-61) rest on a false calculation of earlier chroniclers, and cannot be accepted. The only chronological datum we possess is supplied by the year of St. Polycarp of Smyrna’s death, which may be referred with great certainty to 155-6.

During the pontificate of Pius the Roman Church was visited by various heretics, who sought to propagate their false doctrine among the faithful of the capital. The Gnostic Valentinus, who had made his appearance under Pope Hyginus, continued to sow his heresy, apparently not without success. The Gnostic Cerdon was also active in Rome at this period, during which Marcion arrived in the capital (see MARCIONITES). Excluded from communion by Pius, the latter founded his heretical body (Irenaeus, Against Heresies III.3). But Catholic teachers also visited the Roman Church, the most important being St. Justin, who expounded the Christian teachings during the pontificate of Pius and that of his successor. A great activity thus marks the Christian community in Rome, which stands clearly conspicuous as the centre of the Church. [Read More]

  • Your website is a great gift to Catholics like myself, who have had a poor and incomplete education of the Church. I really enjoy learning more about the Church. I find the early heresies very interesting. I hope to become better acquainted with the Early Church Fathers.

    Thank you for your excellent resources.

    • Steve Newark

      Dear Maryellen; don’t be too downhearted there’s a great deal to know but history isn’t the most important….spirituality is. On the other hand you can do tons of reading like I do… from time to time.

  • Thank you for sharing this list. It has sparked in me an interest to learn more about all these past faithful Vicars.

    I think as Catholics, we will all become stronger in faith in devotion if we know better about the beautiful and complex history of our church. I hope to find more inspiration in my daily walk with Christ through the lives of these early fathers of the Catholic church.

    • we love you

    • Vince

      The Roman Catholic Church wasn’t even founded until AD 300 by Constantine, who was the FIRST Pope. He was the head of Paganism and his title was Pontifus Maximus, which became his title as the head of the newly established State \ Church union called the Roman Catholic Church. Which is the 7 headed 10 horned Beast of Revelation 13-17-& 18 described perfectly in the Holy Scriptures (King James Version) which is translated directly from the Original Greek and Hebrew TEXT.
      Jesus said “Take Heed that NO MAN deceive you”. The Anti-Christ is revealed in the Bible as “one who stands in the temple of God making HIMSELF God”. ( ll Thessalonians 2:3-4). The Pope blasphemeously calls himself God. Jesus said to call NO MAN father on earth.

      • Norman Camungol

        As I understand it, Constantine never became Christian himself until he was on his deathbed. How could he be part of a Church, much less its head, if he wasn’t a member?
        There are many descriptions here of the Catholic Church as well as that of the Pope. May I ask about the documentary evidence other than KJV? I will submit that the Pope is called Pontifex (not Pontifus) Maximus. But that means high priest, even in ancient Roman times. It never meant god, not in the ancient meanings of the term nor in the contemporary version. It actually means the greatest bridge builder (Wikipedia).
        If you look at the form of the Catholic Church, you will see many Jewish influences. The Passover is emulated in the Mass, the vestments of the priests emulate that of the old Levite order, etc. The Pope becomes the high priest, emulating that of the Jewish high priest. Since the Pope is primarily the Bishop of Rome, the latin translation is apt. Therefore, we use Pontifex Maximus to address the position, never the person.
        Jesus did say not to call any man Father. He also did say not to call any man Master. Did you know that the Mister or Miss forms of address that we use nowadays are current variants of the word master? So we shouldn’t do this? What about Your Highness or Your Excellency? I apologize but I don’t mean to mock or be sarcastic. If you see that I’m in error, I welcome correction.

      • Eleana Topp

        It is very important to read history before posting so inaccurate. Constantine was never a Pope and he became Christian in his deathbed. The Popes during Emperor Constantine were Marcellus I, Eusebius, Militiades, Sylvester I, Marcus and Julius I.

  • Amado David Q. Dimal

    Well, even in the succession of Popes, it might be disappointing to know that there were a few popes, specially Alexander VI, who were really evil and led a life debauchery and venality. Catholics do not have the monopoly of saints, but also of sinners in the highest level. Its good for people to know the history of the church. One lesson to be learned is that of avoiding anachronisms about the events that happened in history. Knowing the background and dynamics of historical events gives the rational setting for understanding what had transpired rather than making judgements and conclusions base solely on the summit of events according to the reader’s contemporary thinking and situation.

  • Thank you very much for this great information

  • Nesta Callahan

    Amado David Q. Dimal, Excuse me, do you think that everyone who is a human being, whether they be a priest, a bishop or a cardinal or even a pope, is suppose to be anything than a human being? Now if you want to look at the very first SINNER that was forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ, Look at him! He was a Thief. Now there are many thieves in this world, does that mean that they are NOT going to heaven? NO! What matters is that the thief looked at the dear Lord Crucified on the Cross, who had been through a lot more than he had for what sin had the Lord Almighty committed? The answer was NO SIN! Does that mean that any human being that takes on the priesthood, will NOT commit a sin? NO! The priests probably go to confession more than the average Great Catholic who trusts in the Lord to forgive his sins. In fact the sisters especially the ones who desire to become saints go to confession more than just once a week. Just remember our very first Pope was MARRIED and He and his wife had children!

  • afred

    Tell me more

  • I want to sincerely thank you for this great job well done for the whole catholic laity who may which to know the source of his or her faith.kindly shed more light on the life history of this first Pope,Peter,is it true he married and had children.

  • Ronk

    All we know for certain is that St Peter HAD BEEN married at some stage, as he had a mother-in-law at the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry. It is most likely that his wife had died (many women died young in those days) as there is no mention of her in the New Testament or in any other 1st century sources. Her absence is especially notable in the gospel story where St Peter’s mother-in-law is keeping house for him, and when she is gravely ill her daughter is not there (which if she had been still alive would have been a gross offence against the Fourth Commandment which our Lord and the Evangelsist would surely have remarked upon. No early source mentions any children of St Peter. A second century martyred saint called Petronella (who was born a century after St Peter was killed) was the subject of a legend which grew up much later that she was the actual daughter (and not just a spiritual descendent) of St Peter.

  • philadelphia

    I,m very greatful and empowered by your information I will pass it to my children and catecumen thank you

  • joecool

    let us search further more!


  • Terer Ezekiel

    I have understood the meaning of POPE being the holy father started by PETER the apostle .Am happy to be catholic christian .

    • joecool

      The basis of truth in Christian faith is the word of God.

      Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

      ofcourse we call our own parents in the flesh father & mother,dad,mom etc. but in spirituality we can never call anyone as Father why? it is directly against the the teachings of Lord Jesus

      • Rich

        One must be careful to quote scripture in the historicakl and cultural context in which it is written. It is not the word of God according to you or me that counts, but according to the author.

      • Norman Camungol

        Permit me to say that I believe that the basis of truth in the Christian faith is the Church (1 Timothy 3:15). I’d also like to offer my explanation with regard to the term “father”. There are several instances where the word father is applied in spiritual and emotional relationships. I’d like to refer to Genesis 45:8, where Joseph says he is father-counselor to Pharoah, Job 29:16, where Job says he is father-benefactor to the poor, Isiah 22:20-21, where Eliakim, holds primacy as the authority over Israel. In 2 Kings 2:12, Elisha calls out to Elijah as father. Also in 2 Kings 6:21, Elisha is called father by the king of Israel.

      • Ignatz

        “ofcourse we call our own parents in the flesh father & mother”

        Why are you making that distinction when Jesus said “NO MAN”?

        Right after he said that, he also said “Call no man “teacher.” So why do Protestants have people they call “Sunday School Teacher”? And why do Protestants never even NOTICE that when they read it?

        “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” – 1 Cor 4:15

        “To Timothy my true son in the faith” – 1 Tim 1:1

        “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith.” – Titus 1:1

        Jesus was obviously saying that no one was to be put in the place of God; he wasn’t quibbling about a word.

  • joecool

    Why St.Peter was not a Pope of Catholics?

    St. Peter was obidient to the teachings of the Lord Jesus as he wrote in his epistle
    1 Peter 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

    He mentioned about “abominable idolatries:” because he knows exactly the teachings of the Lord. thats why when he met with Cornelius the centurion in
    Acts 10:25And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. 26But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
    it was the time when St. Peter was still alive that he can refuse to be worship by men because he knows that only God we worship in spirit & truth.

    What is the meaning of “abominable idolatries:”?

    Revelation 9:20And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

    Psalm 115:2Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
    3But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
    4Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
    5They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
    6They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
    7They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
    8They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

    Deuteronomy 5:8Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, 10And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

    • Rich

      Rememeber the Church exisited BEFORE the bible. It was the Bishops of the church who wrote, collected, and published the bools of the bible. The New Testament took about 150 years to be written. The first book of the New Testament was the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke, not an Apostle, 30 years after the fact. The bible is not a manual, but a loose collection of books written by the early church members. It was the Bishops of the Church who decided these books were inspried by God and nneded to be kept.


    i just want to ask this question:how do catholic respond to dilemma by using church teaching,biblical teaching,and thinking through the consequences of our relationship.

  • Marco

    Thank you very much. I always wanted to see a review on the first century popes. God bless the Catholic Church and long live and reign the papacy.

  • vince

    There is absolutely NO Scriptural bases the Peter was a Pope. The Roman Catholic Church wasn’t even established until AD 300 by the Roman Emperor Constantine, who wanted to combine the State and Religion into ONE, superior authority.
    The Pope, or the office thereof, being the Head of the 7 headed (7 hills city Rome) and the 10 horned Beast of Revelation 13-17-&-18 (which is the Roman Catholic Church, the MOTHER OF HARLOTS) is the man of sin, the son of perdition, the Anti-Christ because he sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is God… Which is the ANTI_CHRIST —
    Here are some Quotes from the Popes-
    “The Pope and God are the same, so he has all power in Heaven and earth.” (Pope Pius V, quoted in Barclay, Chapter XXVII, p. 218, “Cities Petrus Bertanous)

    “To believe that our Lord God the Pope has not the power to decree as he is decreed, is to be deemed heretical.” (the Gloss “Extravagantes” o.f Pope John XXII

    Pope Nicholas I said, “I am in all and above all, so that God himself, and I, the vicar of God, hath both one consistory…and I am able to do almost all that God can do…I then, being above all…seem by this reason, to be above all gods.” (1)

    Pope Pius V blasphemed, “The Pope and God are the same, so he has all power in Heaven and earth.” (2)

    Pope Innocent III said “We may according to the fullness of our power, dispose of the law and dispense above the law. Those whom the Pope of Rome doth separate, it is not a man that separates them but God. For the Pope holdeth place on earth, not simply of a man but of the true God.” (3)

    Pope Leo XIII declared, “We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.” (4)

    This is totally Blasphemy of the Holy Ghost (the Spirit of Truth) and according to the Lord Jesus Christ is an un-forgivable sin in this world and in the world to come…

    • Steve

      Wrong–all those statements are symbolically indicating that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth. The Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls. The Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church impart grace to the human soul, for real. Christ said, “You will be hated on account of My Name.” Which ‘church’ is hated in the world today? The Roman Catholic Church. Christ said, “the gates of hell shall not prevail over her”. The Roman Catholic Church has existed on the face of the earth for 2,000 years plus; institutions, governments, societies, false religions all die off eventually–the Roman Catholic Church remains. Peter is the keeper of the keys–the Pope holds the keys of earth and heaven. Learn to obey the teachings of the Roman Catholic Magisterium, because they are from the Holy Spirit. And if you are not Catholic, convert. Your life will be better in doing so.

  • Lee McAdams

    As a Protestant, I pray for the Catholic Church, I pray for Protestants, and I pray for any others in this world who may not know Jesus and that he died for our sins. While the Catholic Church and the Protestants may not see eye to eye on the small stuff, we both agree that Jesus was crucified, was dead and buried, and on the 3rd day after, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and sits at the Right Hand of God!

  • Leslie M.

    I am so glad to see the statement “The Bible is not to be read in a literal way.” A friend and I had that very conversation just today.