Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. Put in charge of the bank by his master, he lost the money deposited, fled, and was caught. After serving time for a while, he was released to make some attempt to recover the money. Apparently he carried his zeal too far, being arrested for brawling in a Jewish synagogue. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia. He was released through the influence of the emperor’s mistress and lived at Anzio.
After winning his freedom, Callistus was made superintendent of the public Christian burial ground in Rome (still called the cemetery of Saint Callistus), probably the first land owned by the Church. The pope ordained him a deacon and made him his friend and adviser.
He was elected pope by a majority vote of the clergy and laity of Rome, and thereafter was bitterly attacked by the losing candidate, Saint Hippolytus, who let himself be set up as the first antipope in the history of the Church. The schism lasted about 18 years.
Callistus was martyred during a local disturbance in Trastevere, Rome, and is the first pope (except for Peter) to be commemorated as a martyr in the earliest martyrology of the Church.Saint of the Day