Many early Christians were martyred by the Roman Empire, including the third-century Pope St. Sixtus and several other members of the Church of Rome. Sixtus was elected Bishop of Rome (Pope) in 257; that same year the Emperor Valerian issued a decree forbidding Christians to hold assemblies (thereby making it impossible for them to celebrate Mass legally).
Twelve months after his election, Sixtus was arrested while addressing a gathering of Christians in a cemetery outside Rome (for the early Church could not yet legally possess its own buildings). Four deacons were also arrested, including St. Lawrence (August 10).
Sixtus and his companions were put to death by the sword; Roman Christians buried him in the nearby cemetery of St. Callistus (named after another Bishop of Rome who was himself martyred in 222). St. Sixtus was one of the most venerated martyrs of the early Roman Church.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Cajetan (1547), Priest, Founder of the Theatines
St. Donatus (362), Bishop, Martyr