Thursday, August 26, 2010
8th Century Popes
30 October 701 – 11 January 705 (3 years)
Born in Greece.
Pope John VI isn't known for much except that he had to try and maintain a delicate balance between the power of the emperor in Constantinople and Italian leaders who were resisting imperial rule. He ended up having to spend great quantities of money on bribes to keep various armies from invading and looting Rome during these conflicts.
1 March 705 – 18 October 707 (2 years)
Born in Greece.
Second pope to bear the same name as his predecessor.
Pope John VII was the first pope to have been the son of an imperial official - these imperial ties seem to have been a principle reason why John was able to keep from angering the imperial officials at Constantinople. Although he did not do it always, he did show a great willingness to defer to imperial demands and Byzantine policy - for example, when it came to questions of how churches should be built and decorated. He would, in fact, become known for his building projects and for being a patron of the arts.
15 January 708 – 4 February 708 (21 days)
Born in Syria.
Why Sisinnius was elected pope remains something of a mystery to this very day. He was so ill that he died after just twenty days as pope and his gout was so bad that he wasn't even able to feed himself. If he is remembered for anything, it is for not being memorable.
25 March 708 – 9 April 715 (7 years)
Born in Syria.
Last pope to visit Greece until John Paul II in 2001.
Pope Constantine managed to heal a long-standing rift between East and West when he met Emperor Justinian II at Nicomedia in 711. Here the emperor kissed the pope's foot as a sign of obedience and Constantine administered communion to Jusitinian as a sign of his readmission to the Church.
19 May 715 – 11 February 731 (15 years)
Born in Rome, Byzantine Empire.
Feast day 11 February.
Gregory II has become known for a variety of political successes and defeats. On the positive side, he managed to stave off Lombard encroachments on Rome by buying them off with 30 pounds of gold. He then used the relatively peaceful time to expand the reach of Christianity in German lands to the north. On the negative side, he was forced to excommunicate Byzantine emperor Leo III because of his attempts to impose massive taxes on Italy.
Leo was also an Iconoclast, a "breaker of images" who opposed the presence of images and statues during Christian worship. He ordered all such images destroyed and tried to force Gregory to agree, but Gregory refused and Italy came to his defense. This in turn led to many years of civil wars and revolts between East and West.
18 March 731 – 28 November 741 (10 years)
Born in Syria.
Third pope to bear the same name as his predecessor.
Gregory III was the very last pope to try and get the Byzantine exarch in Ravenna (political representative of the Byzantine empire in Italy) to grant approval of the papal consecration. Conflict with the Eastern churches quickly appeared, however, because of his refusal to support the movement towards banning the use of icons in churches (known as iconoclasm), thus leading to the Iconoclastic Controversy.
3 December 741 – 14/22 March 752 (10 years)
Born in Greece.
Feast day 15 March.
Pope Zacharias is chiefly known for his political acumen - unlike his predecessors, he was able to reach agreements with Lombard rulers, preventing for example the exarchate of Ravenna from coming under Lombard domination. At the same time, he strengthened the papal ties with the Franks, a move which would later secure the papacy and Rome against further Lombard incursions.
23 March 752 – 25 March 752 (Never took office as Pope.)
Sometimes known as Stephen II.
Died three days after his election and was never consecrated into the office of Pope as such. Some lists still include his name. The Vatican sanctioned his addition to the list of popes in the sixteenth century, however he was removed in 1961. He is no longer considered a pope by the Catholic Church.
26 March 752 – 26 April 757 (5 years)
Sometimes called Stephen III.
Stephen II was a popular candidate and he was unanimously elected to succeed Zachary. Unfortunately, Stephen died after just a couple of days and before he could be consecrated. As a consequence, his pontificate was never really considered official. He was not listed into the official Liber Pontificalis and his successor, also named Stephen, is often listed as the second Stephen rather than the third. This has led to inconsistency in the numbering of popes named Stephen because many other sources do include this Stephen in their lists.
29 May 757 – 28 June 767 (10 years)
Born in Rome.
Pope Paul I, the younger brother of his predecessary Pope Stephen III, had some difficulty in dealing with the growing support of iconoclasm from Constantinople. A council called by emperor Constantine V had denounced the veneration of icons, resulting in a flood of refugees who were welcomed by Paul in the west. Constantine tried to get Pepin to also support iconoclasm, but that effort failed.
1/7 August 767 – 24 January 772 (4 years)
Born in Sicily.
Sometimes called Stephen IV.
Stephen III reigned at a time when the papacy was under severe pressure Byzantine emperors. Because of this, he turned to Pepin the short, Mayor of the Palace of the Kingdom of the Franks. Stephen agreed recognized Pepin as king and Pepin proceeded to Childebert III. In exchange. Pepin then invaded Italy to ensure that the papal estates would be safe from the Lombards in the north and the Byzantines in the east.
There is some debate as to whether Stephen should be III or II. The original Stephen II died just 3 days after he was elected and before he was consecrated, so some don't regard him as ever having been officially pope. Those who don't number this Stephen as II while those who do number this Stephen as III.
1 February 772 – 26 December 795 (23 years)
Born in Rome.
Adrian I was beset by numerous political problems, the most immediate of which was when Desiderius, king of the Lombards, invaded the Papal States right after Adrian was elected. Adrian called upon Charlemagne for aid and he did come to Italy and destroyed the Lombard kingdom.
After this security was established, Adrian moved to confirm the judgement of the Second Council of Nicaea which condemned iconoclasm. Charlemagne was not happy with this because it meant an easing of relations between East and West (and perhaps because he had not been invited when it was convened), but he reconciled himself to it eventually. Adrian was also instrumental in combatting the heresy of Adoptionism which had been spreading through Spain at the time.
Adrian remains today one of the longest reigning popes ever, surpassed by only four others in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
26 December 795 – 12 June 816 (20 years)
Born in Rome.
Crowned Charlemagne Imperator Augustus on Christmas Day, 800, thereby initiating what would become the office of Holy Roman Emperor requiring the imprimatur of the pope for its legitimacy.
Leo III has been known to history as "Charlemagne's Pope." He came from the lower classes and, as a result, the aristocrats who formed the bulk of the Vatican hierarchy always resented him. Although he was unanimously elected, just a few years afterwards a conspiracy lead by some members of his predecessor's family (including Paschalis, a nephew of Pope Hadriam) attacked him just as he was about to say mass in St. Peter's Cathedral in 1799. They tried to blind him and cut out his tongue - but he recovered and sought refuge with Charlemagne.
On Christmas day, 800, Leo crowned Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor. This solidified the imperial protection of the papacy which meant that things proceeded peacefully for Leo, but he never forgot that he had made himself something of a subject to Charlemagne and he never seemed to be entirely happy about it. Leo did manage to resist Charlemagne's efforts to have the word filioque ("and the son") added to the Nicene Creed, but the two worked together to fight the heresy of Adoptionism. This direct alliance to the political rulers of the West became an important stepping stone towards the ultimate schism between the Eastern and Western churches.
After Charlegmagne died in 814, Leo III lost a lot of his political protection, but by that time he had learned to exercise such power himself and he had conspirators against him executed. Theologically, he fought against the spread of the doctrine of adoptionism but with the issue of filioque he was more cautious - allowing its use, but not requiring it.