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All Saints’ Day

A feast kept on 1 November in the West, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in the East, to celebrate the fellowship of all Christians, in the Church Triumphant as well as on earth. Its origins are uncertain. A hymn by Ephraem (in 359) refers to a commemoration of all martyrs on 13 May, while a sermon of John Chrysostom (d.407) shows that Antioch remembered its martyrs on the Sunday after Pentecost. Such feasts soon included other saints besides martyrs. On 13 May, 609 or 610, Boniface IV received the Roman Pantheon from the Emperor Phocas (d.610) and dedicated it under the title S. Maria ad Martyres. The anniversary of this event was later observed as a major festival and may have been the origin of All Saints' Day. How there came to be a feast of all the saints on 1 November is unknown; but it possibly stems from the dedication on that day in St. Peter's basilica by Gregory III (731-41) of an oratory to “all the saints.”

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