Centurion Cornelius

Cornelius the Centurion
Francesco Trevisani, 1709.
Born unknown
Died unknown
Honored in Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion
Feast 2 February,[1] 7 February
Attributes Roman military garb

Cornelius (in Greek, Κορνήλιος) was a Roman centurion who is considered by Christians to be the first Gentile to convert to the faith, as related in Acts of the Apostles.

Biblical account

A centurion of the Italic cohort, Cornelius was stationed in Caesarea, the capital of Roman Iudaea province.[2] He is depicted in the New Testament as a God-fearing man who always prayed and was full of good works and deeds of alms. Cornelius receives a vision in which an angel of God tells him that his prayers have been heard. The angel then instructs Cornelius to send the men of his household to Joppa, where they will find Simon Peter, who is residing with a tanner by the name of Simon.

The conversion of Cornelius comes after a separate vision given to Simon Peter (

When Cornelius' men arrive, Simon Peter understands that through this vision the Lord commanded the Apostle to preach the Word of God to the Gentiles. Peter accompanies Cornelius' men back to Caesarea.[3] When Cornelius meets Simon Peter, he falls at Peter's feet. Simon Peter raises the centurion and the two men share their visions. Simon Peter tells of Jesus' ministry and the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone at the gathering. The Jews among the group (presumably they were all Jews if Cornelius was the first gentile convert, see Jewish Christians) are amazed that Cornelius and other uncircumcised should begin speaking in tongues, praising God. Thereupon Simon Peter commands that Cornelius and his followers be baptized.[4] The controversial aspect of Gentile conversion is taken up later at the Noahide Law.


Cornelius was a centurion in the Cohors II Italica Civium Romanorum, mentioned as Cohors Italica in the Vulgate.[6]

The warlike nature of the vocation of Cornelius as an officer of respect. a member of a special forces type group in the Roman military hierarchy, finding no dichotomous division between loyalism to both Roman imperium and Christianity, is of weighty importance. Membership in the Imperial Roman Army carried no relevance either way in the narrative. The fact that the first non-Jewish Christian was a sword-bearing Roman warrior offers material for exegesis and interpretive analysis as to the validity of Christian pacifism.

Florentine Bechtel summarizes the importance of Cornelius' baptism as follows:

Certain traditions hold Cornelius as becoming either the first bishop of Caesarea or the bishop of Scepsis in Mysia.[2][4]


His feast day on the Roman calendar is 2 February. He is commemorated in the Orthodox tradition on September 13.[3]

Cornelius is honored with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America on February 7. When Governor's Island, New York, was a military installation the Episcopal Church maintained a stone chapel there dedicated to him.

in popular cultural

  • Cornelius is a main character in several works of literature, including Sholem Asch's novel The Nazarene (1939).
  • Cornelius is also the title and subject of a song by the Christian Rock/Pop band Newsboys.
  • In 2012, a contemporary Praise & Worship musical based on the life of Cornelius debuted at The Living Waters Theatre (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) named "The Centurion The Musical"; written and produced by Debbie Orloff, with Donald Braswell II starring as Cornelius and with music by contemporary Christian artists including Steven Curtis Chapman, Nicole C. Mullen, Keith Getty, Chris Tomlin, and Andrae Crouch.[7]

Images of St. Cornelius Chapel, Governor's Island, New York

Notes and references

See also

  • Biblical law in Christianity

External links

  • St. Cornelius page at Christian Iconography
  • Morgan Dix
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.