Baring-Gould’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Pontius


At Rome lived a senator named Marcus and his wife Julia. One day when she was approaching her confinement, she visited the temple of Jupiter to ask an augury concerning the child that was to be born; then the priest, veiling himself and putting the sacred fillet about his head, pretended to become filled with the spirit of prophecy, and he predicted that ruin should befall the temple through the unborn child. Julia ran home in horror, and struck herself with stones in hopes of destroying the child, and when, notwithstanding, it was born shortly after, she would have exposed it, had not her husband interfered, with the sensible remark that Jupiter was the one concerned in the child’s living, and if the child was likely to be obnoxious to him he would have slain it. As the boy grew up he was sent to a tutor. One morning very early he left his bed to seek his master, when, passing a house, he heard sweet strains of music issuing from it, subdued, but swelling and falling in cadence, like the voices of many people softly chanting. He crept to a place where he could hear the words, and they were these, “Wherefore shall the heathen say; Where is now their God? As for our God, He is in heaven; He hath done whatsoever pleased Him. Their idols are silver and gold; even the work of men’s hands. They have mouths and speak not; eyes have they, and see not. They have ears, and hear not; noses have they, and smell not. They have hands, and handle not; feet have they, and walk hot; neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; and so are all such as put their trust in them. But thou house of Israel, trust thou in the Lord; He is their succour and defence.” As the boy stood listening to these solemn words before the house over which the morning star was paling, in the fresh air of day-break, the light of conviction illumined his soul. This that he now heard was so different from the miserable popular idolatry of the masses, so different also from the abstract philosophy of his master, that he struck with hand and foot at the door, eager to hear more. The doorkeeper looked out at a window, and then turning to S. Pontianus, the bishop of Rome, who was within, said, “It is only a little fellow kicking at the door.”

“Well, open and let him in,” said the pope, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” So he was admitted and led up into the chamber where the sacred mysteries were celebrated, and when the sacred rite was over, he went to Pope Pontianus and said, with boyish confidence, “Teach me that wonderful song about ‘our God who is in heaven, who hath done whatsoever pleaseth Him,’ that I heard you singing, not long ago. And,” added he, “it is all so true. You sang that they had feet and walked not. I know that they not only cannot move, but that people are afraid of their being blown over by the wind, or stolen, or knocked down by accident, and I have myself seen how they are fastened into their pedestals with melted solder or lead.”

Then the blessed Pontianus was astonished at the quickness of the boy, and he asked him, “Are your mother and father alive?”

The boy Pontius answered, “My mother died two years ago, but father and grandfather are alive.”

“Are they heathens or Christians?”

“Christians they certainly are not.”

“Well, my child,” said the bishop, “God in his own good time may enlighten thy father as He is illumining thee.” And for three hours he instructed him in the rudiments of the faith. On his return home, Pontius was far too full of what he had heard to keep it to himself, so he went to his father and told him all. The father, Marcus, a sensible man, listened with interest, and eventually became a catechumen with his son, and was baptized. After his death, which took place when Pontius was aged twenty, the young man had liberty to do what he would with his goods, and he gave much to the bishop to be distributed among the poor. He saw Pontianus suffer a martyr’s death, and he lived in close familiarity with the humane Emperor Philip, with whom and his son Philip he had many opportunities of conversing on the subject of Christianity. On the accession of Valerian and Gallienus to the throne, Pontius fled to Cimella, a city near the present Nice in the south of France, under the shelter of the Maritime Alps. There he was arrested by the governor, Claudius, who exposed him to bears in the amphitheatre, but the bears hugged to death two “venatores,” men armed with whips and goads who tried to urge them against the martyr, and then lay down on the sand in the sunshine, without attempting to injure him. Seeing this, the governor ordered him to be decapitated, and his order was promptly executed. His relics are said to be preserved in the monastery of Saint Pontius, near Nice; but his head was anciently shown at Marseilles.

MLA Citation

  • Sabine Baring-Gould. “Saint Pontius”. Lives of the Saints, 1872. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 May 2012. Web. 20 July 2018. <>