Pope Severinus was elected within three days of the death of Pope Honorius,but was not installed as Pope for nearly two years after that. During this time,a newly elected Pope had to get confirmation from the emperor of Constantinople. The current emperor was on the Monothelitism bandwagon believing that Jesus had two natures(human and divine),but one will(Divine). This is in direct opposition to the Church’s belief that Jesus has both human and Divine natures and two distinct wills. Severinus refused to even consider this belief so a battle of wills then began between the two cities. The emperor sent his agents to apply pressure on Rome,first by inciting a mob of Roman soldiers to storm the Vatican and steal their pay(which had been late in coming),then another group came in,ran the soldiers off,and stole all the loot they wanted(with a share for the emperor,of course). All the while Severinus and his clergy had barricaded themselves in the Lateran palace,refusing to compromise(or even come outside to meet the various angry mobs). Finally,after all of this childishness from Constantinople,and with the emperor dying,time was running out for him to get his way. Not much could get done without an official Pope and delegates for Severinus had convinced the emperor that he would at least consider the nature of Christ if he was approved as Pope(they were of course lying,or at least fudging the truth. Severinus would not be budged). This convinced the emperor(who was tired of talking about all of this). He confirmed Severinus as our 71st Pope. Severius officially reigned for all of two months before passing away due to natural causes,which looks bad on paper……but the guy put in the time,holding the line on the one Truth of which our Church was built. He was outstanding.
There’s a scene from The Hunchback of Notre-Dame where Quasimodo tries to save the life of the gypsy Esmeralda by locking her in the Church and shouting “SANCTUARY!”….the fact that they could hole up in the Church as a refuge from arrest is a law that goes all the way back to Pope Boniface V,who officially decreed that criminals and fugitives could seek sanctuary in a Church. This was a rule that was on the books until around the 1980’s. Also,if you’re an Immortal from the Highlands of Scotland,you can seek sanctuary in a Church annnnd nobody will get that and now I’ve lost my readers(or reader…)
Pope Boniface took a great interest in the further conversion of England and wrote many letters to the Christian princess of Kent in the effort to help her convince her husband to convert,which he did,and then he died in battle and it was all to naught as his region fell back into pagan hands. Oh well. Pope Boniface V favored priests over monks for clerical positions,which was a reversal of previous Popes. He is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica and I’ll finish this by not mentioning the bad guy from Hunchback……don’t look it up. It’s not important.
Pope Adeodatus I was the first Pope to use an official Papal seal on documents and letters. Bullae is the name of the lead seal that the Pope would use to stamp his approval and over time this became known as the Papal bull. This was the only form of official communication from the Pope until the 14th century when the Papal briefs came into being. These were less formal and were stamped with the Pope’s ring(Ring of the Fisherman)in red ink. Encyclicals fall under Papal briefs. Papal Bulls have more to do with religious orders or properties. My wife asked if my Pope this week did anything cool. I told her he’s the first guy with a Papal stamp and she replied,”I said ‘cool’…”
The Pantheon in Rome was built in the year 125 and was a pagan temple built with the intention of worshiping Roman gods like Jupiter and Mars. It’s the oldest building in the world with its original roof still intact and is basically the model for every government building in the United States. It had stood strong for nearly 500 years when the emperor of Constantinople gifted it to the new Pope in the year 609. Boniface IV quickly went to work throwing out the old gods(with the lower case “g”),and making it a place of worship for the one true God(with a capital “G”). Boniface dedicated the building to the Virgin Mary and to early Christian martyrs. He brought in over 30 cart loads of bones dug up from the Christian Catacombs and had them all reburied under the floor. Roman gods were lame anyways,the Romans just stole the Greek gods and renamed them. Lazy,lazy,lazy….
The Pantheon would later also become famous for being the burial place of the artist Raphael nearly a thousand years later. He apparently had a enormous state funeral there when he passed away at the early age of 37. Also happening during the reign of Pope Boniface was the rise of Islam under the prophet Muhammad but we’ve got a while before we get to any Crusade talk(whew). Pope Boniface IV’s feast day is either May 8th or May 25th(depends of who you ask),and his remains were moved three times before finally coming to rest in St.Peter’s in the thirteenth century under Pope Boniface VIII.
Pope Boniface III was elected in the year 606 but voting shenanigans prevented him from taking office for nearly a year. After a lengthy investigation to make sure he was elected properly,Boniface went to work on reforming the election process to prevent any further shady elections. Well,that didn’t work out,but give the man credit for trying. Among the election rules that he laid down was that it was now forbidden for anyone to discuss who the next Pope might be while the current Pope was still alive. This rule is still basically in effect even today and it is also why Papal elections are the least annoying elections…..as opposed to say,Presidential elections. His other major election rule was that you had to wait three days after the death of a Pope before voting to elect the new Pope could start. It’s been lengthened to around 15 days now,but this is mainly to give Cardinals enough time to get to Rome for the vote(they’re a lot more spread out nowadays).
Boniface’s other major contribution was having the emperor of Constantinople declare “The See of Blessed Peter the Apostle should be the head of all the Churches”. This lofty title was in response to the patriarch of Constantinople calling himself the “Ecumenical Patriarch”. The Popes since Gregory I had issues with this title and under Boniface III it was finally put to rest as to who was the boss of who(in relation to the West and East Churches). I based the image off of an old drawing of Boniface but it looks like I just drew an ancient version of Doctor Strange. Hmmmm,maybe Steve Ditko(creator of Dr.Strange)was a fan of ancient Papal vestments….By the Hoary hosts of Hoggoth!!
Pope Sabinian’s short Papacy had the bad luck of following Pope Gregory the Great’s. In fact,Sabinian’s legacy is directly tied to his predecessor. The Lombards had an on again/off again relationship with Rome in that they liked to show up every few years and try to starve the Romans out of their gates. They were a very “siege-y” bunch of people. When this happened under Pope Gregory(The Great. Don’t forget),he opened up the Vatican granaries and let the people have whatever they needed to keep their families fed. He did this for free. Pope Gregory was a charitable kind of guy. Probably why he’s referred to as “The Great”, but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that or not. Now when the Lombards showed up under Pope Sabinian,he did the same thing Gregory did. Only this time he charged the people for the grain and not only that,he charged them extra. Yeah,that pretty much did it for him with the Roman people. A legacy as a profiteering cheapskate is always going to be a hard thing to shake off. When Pope Sabinian passed away suddenly,his funeral procession had to take alternate routes to St Peter’s to avoid angry mobs of apparently hungry Romans. His Papacy wasn’t a total loss though,he filled Church positions with lay people as opposed to Gregory filling them with his monk friends……so that’s….something.
Born to an extremely wealthy and powerful family,Gregory was made a prefect(a kind of governor)of Rome due to the influence of his father. He excelled at his job but once his father passed away,Gregory gave away every dime his family had and soon turned the family mansion into a monastery. He became a monk and devoted himself to an ascetic life of Christian devotion and study. His solitude was soon disturbed when Pope Benedict I came calling for his intellect and influence. Gregory was reluctantly made a deacon and brilliantly served under two Popes. With the death of Pope Pelagius, Gregory retreated back to his precious peace and quiet at his monastery. Not so fast…..the clergy of Rome knew a good thing when they saw it and unanimously elected him to the Papacy. Gregory begged them to reconsider but the Church would have none of it,and so a legendary Papacy began. He was tireless in Church reform,writings,charity and missionary work. He set in motion the re-conversion of England(after Pagans ran amok)and he helped refine the Mass which he loved so dearly. The Gregorian chant was named for him, although he had nothing to do with the music itself. He was one of three Popes referred to as “The Great”,but Gregory,being the humble monk he was at heart,preferred the title of “Servant of the Servants of God”. To emphasize what a great man Gregory was,John Calvin,a passionate Protestant pastor during the Reformation,said that Pope Gregory was “the last good Pope”. Well,we know that wasn’t the case but it’s high praise from someone who was no friend to The Catholic Church or to the Popes. Gregory the Great is a Doctor of the Church and is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers. He is recognized as a Saint in not only the Catholic Church,but also in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in some Lutheran churches! Mister the Great’s feast day is September 3rd and of course he is buried in St.Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Pelagius II was a native of Rome and took over the Papacy during its siege by the dreaded Lombards. The Pope couldn’t fight back against them,and couldn’t talk any of his allies into helping to fight them so Pelagius basically just paid the Lombards to leave. Wow. Simple as that. With that problem solved Pelagius turned to the fine tuning of the rules for the clergy,namely celibacy. Bishops and Priests traditionally followed the celibacy rule but Pope Pelagius wanted to extend it down to singers,acolytes and readers. He was so strict on this that the next Pope,Gregory I,backed off on a lot of these rules,even though he himself was a monk. If a monk thinks you’re too strict…..
Pope Pelagius also built The Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura,(Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls). This was a Church built on the site of the execution of Saint Lawrence,the deacon who was martyred in 258 by being cooked on a gridiron. As he was being roasted alive,Lawrence told the Romans to flip him over,because he was done on this side. Greatest sarcastic last words ever. This Church was more or less destroyed by Allied bombings during World War II. Damned good guys! Oh,I mean…….hooray for the good guys(with poor aim). A plague swept through Rome in the year 590 claiming Pope Pelagius II as one of it’s victims.
Pope Benedict was elected to the Papacy immediately after Pope John III passed away but he couldn’t take the office for nearly a year. Newly elected Popes needed to be approved by the emperor of Constantinople. However,his messengers had trouble getting the emperor’s blessing back to Rome due to the problem of getting around the invading Lombards. The Lombards had taken over much of Italy but they didn’t have the resources to take the Roman defenses so they dug in and began a siege. The attempt to starve the Romans out from their walls was devastating,and the elderly Pope Benedict soon succumbed to illness brought on by the famine that ravaged the city. There would eventually be sixteen Pope Benedicts,but most of these men would actually be named for Saint Benedict of Nursia,(480-543),who founded the Benedictine monastic movement. The first Pope Benedict is mostly lost to history. He is buried in St.Peter’s basilica.
Born to a wealthy and prominent Roman senator,Pope John III would become another in a succession of unpopular Pontiffs. Shortly after John entered the office of the Papacy,the emperor of Constantinople,Justinian,passed away. In his place was his nephew Justin II,who soon began pulling Constantinople’s troops out of Rome,which they had occupied for several years. This act left Rome wide open for a Lombard invasion. The Lombards were a Germanic people who had already invaded and taken over much of Italy. They brought death,destruction and a strong belief in arianism,which is a heresy that denies the divinity of Christ. So yeah,these guys were bad news for Rome and for Catholicism. The current governor of Rome was of no help in this crisis so Pope John III set off to try to catch the departing Constantinople army led by General Narses,and beg them to return to Rome to act as a deterrent to the prowling Lombards. General Narses agreed and returned to Rome. Problem solved. Not so fast. The Roman people HATED General Narses. HATED HIM! Hate wasn’t a strong enough word,and now our Pope has brought this awful man back to them?? Great,so now they HATED the Pope too. The Pope has managed to keep Rome and the Catholic faith safe for the moment,but the Romans resent him(ungrateful!),and chase him out of Rome,where he has to take up residence in the Catacombs of Callixtus two miles outside of town. He continued his Papal duties from there until his death on July 13 574. Poor guy had to live underground. Like a Fraggle. Nobody ever said being the Pope is easy.