April 24, 2013


Celebrated 6th-century canonist who is considered the inventor of the Christian calendar, the use of which spread through the employment of his new Easter tables.

The 6th-century historian Cassiodorus calls him a monk but tradition refers to him as an abbot.

He arrived in Rome after the death in 496 of Pope St. Gelasius I, who had summoned him to organize the pontifical archives. Thereafter, Dionysius flourished as a scholar at Rome. In 525 at the request of Pope St. John I he prepared the chronology still current; it was a modified Alexandrian computation (95-year tables envolved by the patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria) based on Victorius of Aquitaine´s 532-year cycle. He wrongly dated the birth of Christ according to the Roman system (i.e. 754 years after the founding of Rome) as Dec. 25, 753.

Highly reputed as a theologian and as an accomplished mathematician and astronomer, Dionysius was well versed in the Holy Scriptures and in canon law. Credited to him are a collection of 401 ecclesiastical canons -including the apostolic canons and the decrees of the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon and Sardis- and a collection of the decretals of the popes from St. Siricius (384-399) to Anastasius II (496-498).

Dionysius also translated many Greek works now lost, including a life of St. Pachomius and an instruction of St. Proclus of Constantinople.


In calendars a period of 532 years covering a complete cycle of New Moons (19 years between occurrences on the same date) and of dominical letters -i.e., correspondences between days of the week and of the month which recur every 28 years in the same order. The product of 19 and 28 is the interval in years (532) between recurrences of a given phase of the Moon on the same day of the week and month. THIS PERIOD is called VICTORIAN for the astronomer Victorius of Acquitaine, its first calculator (in 465); DIONYSIAN for Dionysius Exiguus, who revised Victorius figures in the 6th century; and GREAT PASCHAL because of its use in determining the date of Easter.

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