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Caesarea Palaestinae

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(Caesarea Maritima.) A titular see of Palestine. In Greek antiquity the city was called Pyrgos Stratonos (Straton's Tower), after a Greek adventurer or a Sidonian King; under this name it antedates, perhaps, Alexander the Great. King Herod named it Caesarea in honour of Augustus, and built there temples, palaces, a theatre, an amphitheatre, a port, and numerous monuments, with colonnades and colossal statues. The civil life of the new city began in 13 B.C., from which time Caesarea was the civil and military capital of Judaea, and as such was the official residence of the Roman procurators, e.g. Pilate and Felix. Vespasian and Titus made it a Roman colony, Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta Caesarea. Under Alexander Severus it became the civil metropolis of Palestine, and later, when Palestine had been divided into three provinces, it remained the metropolis of Palaestina Prima. St. Peter established the church there when he baptized the centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:11); St. Paul often sojourned there (ix, 30, xviii, 22, xxi, 8), and was imprisoned there for two years before being taken to Rome (xxiii, 23, xxv, 1-13). However, there is no record of any bishops of Caesarea until the second century. At the end of this century a council was held there to regulate the celebration of Easter. In the third century Origen took refuge at Caesarea, and wrote there many of his exegetic and theological works, among others the famous "Hexapla", the manuscript of which was for a long time preserved in the episcopal library of that city. Through Origen and the scholarly priest, St. Pamphilus, the theological school of Caesarea won a universal reputation. St. Gregory the Wonder-Worker, St. Basil the Great, and others came from afar to study there. its ecclesiastical library passed for the richest in antiquity; it was there that St. Jerome performed much of his Scriptural labours. The library was probably destroyed either in 614 by the Persians, or about 637 by the Saracens. As ecclesiastical metropolis of Palaestina Prima, subject to the Patriarchate of Antioch, Caesarea had the Bishop of Jerusalem among its suffragans till 451, when Juvenalis succeeded in establishing the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Caesarea had then thirty-two suffragen sees (Revue de l'Orient chrét., 1899, 56). Lequien (III, 533-74) mentions thirty-two Greek bishops of Caesarea, but his list is very incomplete. Among the more celebrated are Theotecnus, a disciple of Origen; the famous church historian Eusebius, a disciple of St. Pamphilus; Acacius, the leader of an Arian group; the historian Gelasius of Cyzicus; St. John the Khozibite in the sixth century; and Anastasius, a writer of the eleventh century. During the persecution of Diocletian, Caesarea had many martyrs to whom Eusebius has consecrated an entire work (De martyribus Palaestinae). Among them were St. Hadrian, whose church has just been discovered; Sts. Valens, Paul, Prophyrius, and others. Another illustrious personage of Caesarea is the sixth-century Byzantine historian Procopius. When King Baldwin I took the city in 1101, it was still very rich. There was found the famous chalice known as the Holy Grail, believed to have been used at the Last Supper, preserved now at Paris, and often mentioned in medieval poems. The city was rebuilt by the crusaders, but on a smaller scale. A list of thirty-six Latin bishops, from 1101 to 1496; is given by Lequien (III, 1285-1290) and Eubel (I, 159; II, 126). During the Frankish occupation the Latin metropolis had ten suffragen sees. The metropolitan See of Caesarea is still preserved by the Greeks of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, as it is by the Latins merely as a titular see. The present name of the city is Kaisariyeh. Since 1884 a colony of Mussulman Bosnians has occupied the medieval city, which covers a space of about 1800 feet, north to south, and 7500 feet, east to west. The ancient walls, bastions, and ditches are well preserved. The ruins of the Roman city extend to a distance of about four miles; they are the largest in Palestine, and are used as a stone-quarry for Jaffa and Gaza, and even for Jerusalem. One sees there, crowded together, the haven of Herod, restored by the crusaders, the amphitheatre large enough to contain 20,000 spectators, remains of canals and aqueducts, a hippodrome with a splendid obelisk of rose granite, colonnades, ruins of temples and of at least two churches, and other stupendous relics of past greatness.


WILSON, Lands of the Bible, II, 250-53; Discoveries of Caesarea in Palestine Expoloration Fund, Quart. Statement (1888), 134 sq.; The Survey of Western Palestine, Memoirs, II, 13-19; GU=90RIN, Samarie, II, 321-39.

About this page

APA citation. Vailhé, S. (1908). Caesarea Palaestinae. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Vailhé, Siméon. "Caesarea Palaestinae." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Matthew Reak.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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