Dispersion of the Apostles

In the Christian Gospel of Mark, Mark 16 verses 19 and 20,[1] the Apostles of Jesus dispersed from Jerusalem after the Ascension of Jesus. According to tradition they founded the Apostolic Sees. This Apostolic Age event was celebrated by a liturgical feast in some places in commemoration of the missionary work of the Christian Apostles credited with having established the Apostolic Sees. In those places it was celebrated as a major double on 15 July.

The Dispersion of the Apostles

According to Book 3 of the Church History of Eusebius:

Meanwhile the holy apostles and disciples of our Saviour were dispersed throughout the world. Parthia, according to tradition, was allotted to Thomas as his field of labor, Scythia to Andrew, and Asia to John, who, after he had lived some time there, died at Ephesus. Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews of the dispersion. And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way. What do we need to say concerning Paul, who preached the Gospel of Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and afterwards suffered martyrdom in Rome under Nero? These facts are related by Origen in the third volume of his Commentary on Genesis.

The Feast of the Dispersion of the Apostles

The first vestige of this feast appears in the undoubtedly authentic sequence composed for it by a certain Godescalc (d. 1098) while a monk of Limburg on the Haardt; he also introduced this feast at Aachen, when provost of the Church of Our Lady. Godescalc was a follower of Henry IV and it is probable that he introduced this feast in the Church of Our Lady as a means of propaganda against Pope Gregory VII, with whom Henry stood in direct rivalry during the Investiture Controversy.[2]

It is next mentioned by William Durandus, Bishop of Mende (Rationale Div. Off. 7.15) in the second half of the 13th century. Under the title, "Dimissio", "Dispersio", or "Divisio Apostolorum" it was celebrated during the Middle Ages in Spain and Italy. The object of the feast (so Godescalcus) was to commemorate the departure (dispersion) of the Apostles from Jerusalem to various parts of the world, perhaps some fourteen years after the Ascension of Jesus, presumably following the Great Commission (Mark 16:14-20, Matthew 28:18-20). According to Durandus, some of his contemporaries honoured on this feast of the "Divisio Apostolorum" the (apocryphal) division of the relics (bodies) of St. Peter and St. Paul by St. Sylvester.

In 1909, according to the article by Frederick Holweck published in that year in volume 5 of the Catholic Encyclopedia, the feast was still kept with solemnity by some missionary societies, in Germany and Poland, also in some English and French dioceses and in the United States by the ecclesiastical provinces of St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Dubuque, and Santa Fé.

The feast was not included in the Tridentine Calendar or in any later revision of the General Roman Calendar.

See also


  1. Mark 16:19-20
  2. McGrade, Michael (1996). "Gottschalk of Aachen, the Investiture Controversy, and Music for the Feast of the "Divisio apostolorum"". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 49 (3): 351–408. doi:10.1525/jams.1996.49.3.03a00020.
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