Following the crucifixion of Peter, Linus, who had served as an assistant to the apostle, continued the leadership of the Church, for once the Christian faith had been firmly established in Rome, Peter and Paul had commended Linus to this responsibility.
However, because the one-man episcopate had not yet emerged in Rome, we have no way of knowing exactly what duties were expected of Linus. In a letter directed to the Oriental churches, Linus told how Peter's body was taken from the cross by Marcellus, bathed in milk and wine, and embalmed with precious spices.
Linus, believed to be the son of Herculanus, was an Italian from the region of Tuscany. He has been identified by the early writer, Eusebius, as the same Linus who is mentioned by St. Paul in his letter of salutation from Rome to Timothy in Ephesus.
His episcopate is said to have been approximately twelve years. A brief respite from persecution for the brethren is said to have existed at this time, for legend has it that Nero, in a frightening vision, was so chastised by Peter that he abandoned the wrath which he had once so fiercely set upon the Christians.
Much is unknown of Linus, to be sure, but it is said that he, at Peter's direction, decreed that all women would now cover their heads when entering a church. In the ancient canon of the Mass, his name is cited after those of Peter and Paul.
According to legend, Linus was martyred and buried on the Vatican Hill alongside his beloved Peter.
Saint Linus (d. ca.76) was the second Bishop of Rome, according to Irenaeus, Jerome, Eusebius, John Chrysostom, the Liberian Catalogue and the Liber Pontificalis; he was succeeded by Anacletus. The Roman Catholic Church considers Saint Linus to be the second Pope, succeeding St. Peter as Bishop of Rome after the latter's martyrdom.
Irenaeus identifies him with the Linus mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21, an identification that is not certain, saying,
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric.
The Liberian Catalogue and the Liber Pontificalis both date his Episcopate to 56–67 during the reign of Nero, but Jerome dates it to 67–78, and Eusebius dates the end of his Episcopate to the second year of the reign of Titus (80).
Other sources disagree on Linus's place in the succession of Popes. Tertullian says that Peter appointed Clement I. The Apostolic Constitutions say on the other hand that Linus was the first Bishop of Rome, ordained by Paul, and was succeeded by Clement, who was ordained by Peter.
According to the Liber Pontificalis, Linus was an Italian from Tuscany (though his name is Greek), and his father's name was Herculanus. The Apostolic Constitutions names his mother as Claudia. The Liber Pontificalis also says that he issued a decree that women should cover their heads in church, and that he died a martyr and was buried on the Vatican Hill next to Peter. It gives the date of his death as 23 September, the date on which his feast is still celebrated. His name is included in the Roman Canon of the Mass.
On the statement about a decree requiring women to cover their heads, J.P. Kirsch comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Linus: "Without doubt this decree is apocryphal, and copied by the author of the 'Liber Pontificalis' from the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (11:5) and arbitrarily attributed to the first successor of the Apostle in Rome. The statement made in the same source, that Linus suffered martyrdom, cannot be proved and is improbable. For between Nero and Domitian there is no mention of any persecution of the Roman Church; and Irenaeus (1. c., III, iv, 3) from among the early Roman bishops designates only Telesphorus as a glorious martyr."
In the Roman Martyrology, Linus is in fact not called a martyr. The entry about him is as follows: "At Rome, commemoration of Saint Linus, Pope, who, according to Irenaeus, was the person to whom the blessed Apostles entrusted the episcopal care of the Church founded in the City and whom blessed Paul the Apostle mentions as associated with him."
A tomb found in St. Peter's Basilica in 1615 by Torrigio was inscribed with the letters LINUS, and was once taken to be Linus's tomb. However a note by Torrigio shows that these were merely the last five letters of a longer name (e.g. Aquilinus or Anullinus). A letter on the martyrdom of Peter and Paul was once attributed to him, but in fact dates to the 6th century.
In what appears to be a relatively recent British Israelite legend, Claudia, identified as the historical Claudia Rufina, is given as Linus's sister, and both are said to have been children of the Iron Age Brythonic chieftain, Caratacus.
Pope St. Linus:
(Reigned about A.D. 64 or 67 to 76 or 79)
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.
Linus's term of office, according to the papal lists handed down to us, lasted only twelve years. The Liberian Catalogue shows that it lasted twelve years, four months, and twelve days. The dates given in this catalogue, A.D. 56 until A.D. 67, are incorrect. Perhaps it was on account of these dates that the writers of the fourth century gave their opinion that Linus had held the position of head of the Roman community during the life of the Apostle; e.g., Rufinus in the preface to his translation of the pseudo-Clementine "Recognitiones". But this hypothesis has no historical foundation.
It cannot be doubted that according to the accounts of Irenaeus concerning the Roman Church in the second century, Linus was chosen to be head of the community of Christians in Rome, after the death of the Apostle. For this reason his pontificate dates from the year of the death of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which, however, is not known for certain.
The "Liber Pontificalis" asserts that Linus's home was in Tuscany, and that his father's name was Herculanus; but we cannot discover the origin of this assertion. According to the same work on the popes, Linus is supposed to have issued a decree "in conformity with the ordinance of St. Peter", that women should have their heads covered in church. Without doubt this decree is apocryphal, and copied by the author of the "Liber Pontificalis" from the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (11:5) and arbitrarily attributed to the first successor of the Apostle in Rome.
The statement made in the same source, that Linus suffered martyrdom, cannot be proved and is improbable. For between Nero and Domitian there is no mention of any persecution of the Roman Church; and Irenaeus (1. c., III, iv, 3) from among the early Roman bishops designates only Telesphorus as a glorious martyr.
Finally this book asserts that Linus after his death, was buried in the Vatican beside St. Peter. We do not know whether the author had any decisive reason for this assertion. As St. Peter was certainly buried at the foot of the Vatican Hill, it is quite possible that the earliest bishops of the Roman Church also were interred there. There was nothing in the liturgical tradition of the fourth-century Roman Church to prove this, because it was only at the end of the second century that any special feast of martyrs was instituted and consequently Linus does not appear in the fourth-century lists of the feasts of the Roman saints.
According to Torrigio ("Le sacre grotte Vaticane", Viterbo, 1618, 53) when the present confession was constructed in St. Peter's (1615), sarcophagi were found, and among them was one which bore the word Linus. The explanation given by Severano of this discovery ("Memorie delle sette chiese di Roma", Rome, 1630, 120) is that probably these sarcophagi contained the remains of the first Roman bishops, and that the one bearing that inscription was Linus's burial place. This assertion was repeated later on by different writers.
But from a manuscript of Torrigio's we see that on the sarcophagus in question there were other letters beside the word Linus, so that they rather belonged to some other name (such as Aquilinus, Anullinus). The place of the discovery of the tomb is a proof that it could not be the tomb of Linus (De Rossi, "Inscriptiones christianae urbis Romae", II, 23-7).
The feast of St. Linus is now celebrated on 23 September. This is also the date given in the "Liber Pontificalis". An epistle on the martyrdom of the Apostles St. Peter and Paul was at a later period attributed to St. Linus, and supposedly was sent by him to the Eastern Churches. It is apocryphal and of later date than the history of the martyrdom of the two Apostles, by some attributed to Marcellus, which is also apocryphal ("Acta Apostolorum apocrypha", ed. Lipsius and Bonnet, I, ed; Leipzig, 1891, XIV sqq., 1 sqq.).