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June 20


Saint of the day:

Saint Pope Silverius

Patron Saint of Island of Ponza

Saint Pope Silverius' Story

The son of Hormisdas, St. Silverius was nominated to succeed Agapetus I in 536 by King Theodahad of the Goths and was elected through his influence. Empress Theodora had wanted a pope more open to monothelitism and sent Belisarius to depose Silverius. Accused of conspiring with the Goths, Silverius was made a monk and exiled to Patara in early 537. When Silverius appealed his case to Justinian, he was allowed to return to Rome. Vigilius, who had become pope through Theodora's influence, sent Silverius to the island of Palmaria, where he was persuaded to abdicate. Silverius died shortly thereafter. He may have starved, or he may have been murdered.

Pope Silverius (died 2 December 537) ruled the Holy See from 8 June 536 to his deposition in 537, a few months before his death. His rapid rise to prominence from a deacon to the papacy coincided with the efforts of Ostrogothic king Theodahad (nephew to Theodoric the Great), who intended to install a pro-Gothic candidate just before the Gothic War. Later deposed by Byzantine general Belisarius, he was tried and sent to exile on the desolated island of Palmarola, where he starved to death in 537.


He was a legitimate son of Pope Hormisdas, born in Frosinone, Lazio, some time before his father entered the priesthood. Silverius was probably consecrated 8 June 536. He was a subdeacon when king Theodahad of the Ostrogoths forced his election and consecration. Historian Jeffrey Richards interprets his low rank prior to becoming pope as an indication that Theodahad was eager to put a pro-Gothic candidate on the throne on the eve of the Gothic War and "had passed over the entire diaconate as untrustworthy". The Liber Pontificalis alleges that Silverius had purchased his elevation from King Theodahad.

On 9 December 536, the Byzantine general Belisarius entered Rome with the approval of Pope Silverius. Theodahad's successor Witiges gathered together an army and besieged Rome for several months, subjecting the city to privation and starvation. In the words of Richards, "What followed is as tangled a web of treachery and double-dealing as can be found anywhere in the papal annals. Several different versions of the course of events following the elevation of Silverius exist." In outline, all accounts agree: Silverius was deposed by Belisarius in March 537 and sent into exile after being judged by the wife of Belisarius, Antonina, who accused him of conspiring with the Goths. Not only did Belisarius exile Silverius, he also banished a number of distinguished senators, Flavius Maximus—a descendant of a previous emperor—among them. Vigilius, who was in Constantinople as apocrisiarius or papal legate, was brought to Rome to replace Silverius as the pontiff.

The fullest account is in the Breviarium of Liberatus of Carthage, who portrays Vigilius "as a greedy and treacherous pro-Monophysite who ousted and virtually murdered his predecessor." In exchange for being made Pope, Liberatus claims he promised Empress Theodora to restore the former patriarch of Constantinople, Anthimus, to his position. Silverius was sent into exile at Patara in Lycia, whose bishop petitioned the emperor for a fair trial for Silverius. Rattled by this, Justinian ordered Silverius returned to Rome to be tried accordingly. However, when Silverius returned to Italy, instead of holding a trial Belisarius handed him over to Vigilius, who according to The Liber Pontificalis banished Silverius to the desolate island Palmarola (part of the Pontine Islands), where he starved to death a few months later.

The account in the Liber Pontificalis is hardly more favorable to Vigilius. That work agrees with Liberatus that the restoration of Anthimus to the Patriarchate was the cause of Silverius' deposition, but Vigilius was initially sent to persuade Silverius to agree to this, not replace him. Silverius refused and Vigilius then claimed to Belisarius that Pope Silverius had written to Witiges offering to betray the city. Belisarius did not believe this accusation, but Vigilius produced false witnesses to testify to this, and through persistence overcame his scruples. Silverius was summoned to the Pincian palace, where he was stripped of his vestments and handed over to Vigilius, who dispatched him into exile. Procopius omits all mention of religious controversy in Vigilius' actions. He writes that Silverius was accused of offering to betray Rome to the Goths. Upon learning of this, Belisarius had him deposed, put in a monk's habit and exiled to Greece. Several other senators were also banished from Rome at the same time on similar charges. Belisarius then appointed Vigilius. Deprived of sufficient sustenance, Silverius starved to death on the island of Palmarola.

Richards attempts to reconcile these divergent accounts into a unified account. He points out that Liberatus wrote his Breviarium at the height of the Three-Chapter Controversy, "when Vigilius was being regarded by his opponents as anti-Christ and Liberatus was prominent among these opponents", and the Liber Pontificalis drew from an account written at the same time. Once these religious elements are removed, Richards argues that it is clear "the whole episode was political in nature." He points out for Justinian's plans to recover Rome and Italy, "that there should be a pro-Eastern pope substituted as soon as possible. The ideal candidate was at hand in Constantinople. The deacon Vigilius' principal motivation throughout his career, as far as can be ascertained, was the desire to be pope and he was not really concerned about which faction put him there."



Silverius was later recognized as a saint by popular acclamation, and is now the patron saint of the island of Ponza, Italy. The first mention of his name in a list of saints dates to the 11th century. He is also called Saint Silverius (San Silverio). While Pope Silverius perished without fanfare and largely unlamented during the 6th century, the people from the neighboring island of Ponza have honored the virtuous St. Silverio, a heritage that reaches from the island to the United States, where many settlers from the island have settled in the Morisania section of the Bronx. From there, they celebrate the Festival of San Silverio at Our Lady of Pity Church on 151st Street and Morris Avenue, just as they have for centuries, calling on him for help. After the Church of Our Lady of Pity closed, the statue of San Silverio found a home at St. Ann's Church at 31 College Place, Yonkers, New York. The feast of San Silverio is observed here every year on June 20 with a special Mass and procession of the Statue of San Silverio. The statue is on permanent display for veneration by the faithful. According to Ponza Islands legend, fishermen were in a small boat in a storm off Palmarola and they called on Saint Silverius for help. An apparition of Saint Silverius called them to Palmarola, where they survived. This miracle made him venerated as a saint.







Pizza al Taglio With Onion and Provolone


  • Makes two 18x13" pies

  • 5 tsp. kosher salt, plus more

  • 6½ cups bread flour

  • ¾ cup spelt or whole wheat flour

  • 1 ¼-oz. envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more

  • All-purpose flour (for dusting)

  • 10oz. aged provolone cheese, thinly sliced

  • 2 large onions, diced into ½" pieces

  • 10 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, grated

  • Flaky sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine 5 tsp. kosher salt and 3 Tbsp. water in a small bowl and stir to dissolve salt; set aside.

  2. Whisk bread and spelt flours and yeast in a large bowl to combine. Add 3 Tbsp. oil and 3 cups room-temperature water; mix with a rubber spatula until a large shaggy mass forms. Knead in bowl until dough forms a rough ball, about 4 minutes. Let rest, uncovered, 10 minutes.

  3. Add reserved salt water to dough and knead until water is incorporated (dough will be very wet and shaggy), 5–10 minutes. Generously oil a bowl that is at least twice as big as dough and place dough in bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature 30 minutes.

  4. Transfer dough to a clean work surface and fold in half over itself 3 times, turning 90° after each fold. Return to oiled bowl, arranging seam side down. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill dough overnight (it should double in size).

  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Lightly flour tops of dough. Working with 1 piece at a time, fold each corner into center of dough. Rotate 90° and repeat process until you have a neat ball. Turn dough, seam side down. Generously flour two 18x13" rimmed baking sheets and place a ball on each baking sheet. Cover each with a damp kitchen towel. Set in a warm spot; let rise until dough is very relaxed, supple, and doubled in size, 2–3 hours.

  6. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 500°. Transfer dough balls to a work surface and lightly oil baking sheets. Lightly flour work surface and set 1 ball of dough on top, seam side up. Release some air by pressing down into dough with your fingers. Stretch dough; continue working with your fingers until it is about the same size as baking sheets. Transfer to a baking sheet and stretch to fit, pressing into corners. Repeat with remaining ball of dough.

  7. Scatter provolone over dough. Top with onions, then mozzarella. Drizzle with oil; season with kosher salt. Bake pizzas, rotating top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until crust is golden brown and onions are charred in spots, 12–15 minutes.

  8. To serve, drizzle pizzas with more oil and season with sea salt and pepper; cut into squares.

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