Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope. Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian. This sign united the votes of clergy and laity, and he was chosen unanimously.
He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in 250 A.D.. St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.
In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”