Alexander of Jerusalem

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The hieromartyr Alexander of Jerusalem was a bishop, martyr and saint at the turn of the second to third century. He died in the mid-third century during the persecutions of Emperor Decius. St. Alexander is remembered on May 16 and on December 12 as a hieromartyr.

Alexander was a disciple of the great teacher and writer of the Church, Clement of Alexandria. He was the first Bishop of Flavia in Cappadocia and was afterwards associated, as co-administrator, with the Bishop of Jerusalem, Narcissus, who was then 116 years old.

Alexander was imprisoned for his faith early in the reign of Roman Emperor Alexander Severus. After being released from prison he traveled to Jerusalem to venerate at the holy places. While in Jerusalem he was asked by the aged Bp. Narcissus to remain and assist him in the government of the see. This arrangement was an unusually rare occurrence in the ancient Church and was entered into with the consent of all the Palestinian bishops. Following the death, in 212, of Bp. Narcissus, Bp. Alexander succeeded him and governed the Church of Jerusalem for thirty-eight years. During these years he established the first library of Christian theological works at Jerusalem.

Alexander permitted Origen, although only a layman, to speak in the churches. For this concession he was taken to task, but he defended himself by examples of other permissions of the same kind given elsewhere even to Origen himself, although he was then quite young. Alexander and Origen were said to have studied together in the great Catechetical School of Alexandria. Alexander ordained him a priest in 230.

In spite of his advancing years, Alexander, with several other bishops, was arrested during the 249-251 persecutions of the Church under emperor Decius and was carried off to Cappadocia. Of his imprisonment, it has been said, "The glory of his white hairs and great sanctity formed a double crown for him in captivity". His vita states that he suffered many tortures, but survived them all. When, in the arena, the wild beasts were brought to devour him, some licked his feet, and others laid on the sand of the arena. Worn out by his sufferings, he died in prison in the year 251.

Eusebius has preserved fragments of a letter written by him to the Antinoïtes; of another to the Antiochenes;[1] of a third to Origen;[2] and of another, written in conjunction with Theoctistus of Caesarea, to Demetrius of Alexandria.[3]


  1. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, vi. 11.
  2. Eusebius, "Ecclesiastical History, vi. 14"
  3. Eusebius, "Ecclesiastical History, vi. 19"
Succession box:
Alexander of Jerusalem
Preceded by:
Bishop of Cappadocia
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Bishop of Jerusalem
Succeeded by:
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