Demetrius of Alexandria

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Demetrius of Alexandria was the Bishop of Alexandria from the year 189 to 232. Bp. Demetrius is the first bishop of Alexandria about whom anything is known. It was during his time as bishop that the Catechetical School of Alexandria came into existence.

Demetrius was probably born about the year 126. He apparently was a rustic countryman of limited education who, according to St. Jerome, became the bishop of Alexandria through the fulfillment of a vision of his predecessor, Ioulianus: that the man chosen by heaven as the next bishop would appear the next day carrying a present of grapes. The next day, as in the vision of Ioulianus, an unsuspecting Demetrius appeared carrying a load of grapes from his farm. Demetrius was immediately taken forcefully, ordained, and placed on the throne of St. Mark. [1]

During Demetrius' episcopate of forty two years, the Catechetical School of Alexandria grew first under the leadership of Pantaenus, who was followed by two great Christian teachers, Clement of Alexandria and Origen. St. Jerome noted that Demetrius sent Pantaenus on a mission to India to the small community of Christians he found there that used the Gospel of Matthew. As the fame of the school grew so did the church in Egypt. At the beginning of his episcopate there was only one, his, bishopric in Egypt, to which Demetrius added three more.

After Clement left the school, apparently driven out by persecutions about 203-204, Demetrius appointed the eighteen year old Origen, whom he held in great favor, to head the Catechetical School. When Origen took refuge in Caesarea about 215, he preached at the request of Bishop Alexander of Jerusalem, bringing a rebuke from Bp. Demetrius for the presumption of a layman preaching. But, after Alexander and Theoctistus of Caesarea came to his defense, Demetrius relented and recalled Origen.

In 230, without authority from Bp. Demetrius, Origen was ordained a priest in Palestine by Bp. Alexander, for which Demetrius and a synod of bishops expelled him from Alexandria. With Origen's departure to Caesarea, Demetrius appointed Origen's first pupil, Heraklas, to head the Catechetical School. Shortly there after, in 232, Bp. Demetrius died and was succeeded by Heraklas.


  1. A History of Christianity in Asia, Vol. l., Samuel Hugh Moffett, Orbis
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Demetrius of Alexandria
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