The man who would become known as Saint Urban was elected pope in 222, the same year Alexander Severus became the Roman emperor. Both the new ruler of Rome and his prefect Ulpian were friendly to Christianity, and so the nine years of Urban's reign were peaceful and prosperous ones for a change. The number of Christians grew dramatically.
Historians from this era agree that the emperor was sympathetic to the Christians, and Lampridius the historian gives an example: When Christians and tavern-keepers quarreled over a plot of land in Rome, Severus decided in favour of the church, saying it was better to use the place to worship God than it was to keep a tavern there.
Two nice, but untrue stories are told about Urban. The first was that he was the one who decided all the Church's sacred liturgical vessels should be fashioned from silver, rather than glass, and that he on his own expense gave twenty-five silver patens to the same number of churches.
The second legend associates Urban with the martyred St. Cecilia, whose husband Valerian he is said to have baptised. However, this is probably untrue since the Cecilia is thought to have lived at an earlier time than the pope. The accounts connecting them are written after both were long dead, in the fifth century.
What little we know about this pope comes from the Liber Pontificalis or archaeological evidence. He was a Roman and the son of a certain Pontius or Pontianus. Little else is known about his life. His death is recored, however. The pope died on May 23, 230, and was buried on May 25, which became his feast day. He appears to have died of natural causes, and was probably made a saint by default on account of being one of the early popes.
Even the site of his burial is uncertain: Two tombs of a bishop Urban from the period when he lived (and died) have been found, one in the Catacomb of Praetextatus and one at the Saint Callistus Cemetary. It is most likely that the Pope lies in the former and some foreign bishop by the same name rests in peace in the latter.
Hippolytus, leader of the opposition to the pope, probably lived and schismed at this time. His Philosophumena, which attacked the previous pope, may even have been written during the reign of Urban.
Urban I was the 17th pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
<Callistus I | Pope | Pontian>