Vol.4, Chapter IV. The Papal Hierarchy and the Holy Roman Empire

48. General Literature on the Papacy

*Bullarium Magnum Romanum a Leone M. usque ad Benedictum XIV. Luxemb., 1727-1758. 19 vols., fol. Another ed., of superior typography, under the title: Bullarum … Romanorum Pontificum amplissima Collectio, opera et studio C. Cocquelines, Rom., 1738-1758, 14 Tomi in 28 Partes fol.; new ed., 1847-’72, 24 vols. Bullarii Romani continuatio, ed. A. A. Barberi, from Clement XIII. to Gregory XVI., Rom., 1835-1857, 18 vols.

*Monumenta Germaniae Historica inde ab anno Christi quingentesimo usque ad annum millesimum et quingentesimum; ed. by G. H. Pertz (royal librarian at Berlin, d. 1876), continued by G. Waitz. Hannoverae, 1826-1879, 24 vols. fol. A storehouse for the authentic history of the German empire.

*Anastasius (librarian and abbot in Rome about 870): Liber Pontificalis (or, De Vitis Roman. Pontificum). The oldest collection of biographies of popes down to Stephen VI., a.d. 885, but not all by Anastasius. This book, together with later collections, is inserted in the third volume of Muratori, Rerum Ital. Scriptores (Mediol., 1723-’51, in 25 vols. fol.); also in Migne, Patrol. L. Tom. cxxvii. (1853).

Archibald Bower (b. 1686 at Dundee, Scotland, d. 1766): The History of the Popes, from the foundation of the See of Rome to the present time. 3rd ed. Lond., 1750-’66. 7 vols., 4to. German transl. by Rambach, 1770. Bower changed twice from Protestantism to Romanism, and back again, and wrote in bitter hostility, to the papacy, but gives very ample material. Bp. Douglas of Salesbury wrote against him.

Chr. F. Walch: Entwurf einer vollstaendigen Historie der römischen Päpste. Göttingen, 2d ed., 1758.

G. J. Planck: Geschichte des Papstthums. Hanover, 1805. 3 vols.

L. T. Spittler: Geschichte des Papstthums; with Notes by J. Gurlitt, Hamb., 1802, new ed. by H. E. G. Paulus. Heidelberg, 1826.

J. E. Riddle: The History of the Papacy to the Period of the Reformation. London, 1856. 2 vols.

F. A. Gfrörer: Geschichte der Karolinger. (Freiburg, 1848. 2 vols.); Allgemeine Kirchengeschichte (Stuttgart, 1841-’46, 4 vols.); Gregor VII. und sein Zeitalter (Schaffhausen, 1859-64, 8 vols.). Gfrörer began as a rationalist, but joined the Roman church, 1853, and died in 1861.

*Phil. Jaffé: Regesta Pontificum Roman. ad annum 1198. Berol., 1851; revised ed. by Wattenbach, etc. Lips. 1881 sqq. Continued by Potthast from 1198-1304, and supplemented by Harttung (see below). Important for the chronology and acts of the popes.

J. A. Wylie: The Papacy. Lond., 1852.

*Leopold Ranke: Die römischen Päpste, ihre Kirche und ihr Staat im 16 und 17ten Jahrhundert. 4 ed., Berlin, 1857. 3 vols. Two English translations, one by Sarah Austin (Lond., 1840), one by E. Foster (Lond., 1847). Comp. the famous review of Macaulay in the Edinb. Review.

Döllinger. (R.C.): Die Papstfabeln des Mittelalters. München, 1863. English translation by A. Plummer, and ed. with notes by H. B. Smith. New York, 1872.

*W. Giesebrecht: Geschichte der Deutschen Kaiserzeit. Braunschweig, 1855. 3rd ed., 1863 sqq., 5 vols. A political history of the German empire, but with constant reference to the papacy in its close contact with it.

*Thomas Greenwood: Cathedra Petri. A Political History of the great Latin Patriarchate. London, 1856-’72, 6 vols.

C. de Cherrier: Histoire de la lutte des papes el des empereurs de la maison de swabe, de ces causes et des ses effets. Paris, 1858. 3 vols.

*Rud. Baxmann: Die Politik der Päpste von Gregor I. bis Gregor VII. Elberfeld, 1868, ’69. 2 vols.

*F. Gregorovius: Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter, vom 5. bis zum 16. Jahrh. 8 vols. Stuttgart, 1859-1873 .2 ed., 1869 ff.

A. v. Reumont: Geschichte der Stadt Rom. Berlin, 1867-’70, 3 vols.

C. Höfler (R.C.): Die Avignonischen Päpste, ihre Machtfülle und ihr Untergang. Wien, 1871.

R. Zöpffel: Die Papstwahlen und die mit ihnen im nächsten Zusammenhange stehenden Ceremonien in ihrer Entwicklung vom 11 bis 14. Jahrhundert. Göttingen, 1872.

*James Bryce (Prof. of Civil Law in Oxford): The Holy Roman Empire, London, 3rd ed., 1871, 8th ed. enlarged, 1880.

W. Wattenbach: Geschicte des römischen Papstthums. Berlin, 1876.

*Jul. von Pflugk-Harttung: Acta Pontificum Romanorum inedita. Bd. I. Urkunden der Päpste a.d. 748-1198. Gotha, 1880.

O. J. Reichel: The See of Rome in the Middle Ages. Lond. 1870.

Mandell Creighton: History of the Papacy during the Reformation. London 1882. 2 vols.

J. N. Murphy (R.C.): The Chair of Peter, or the Papacy and its Benefits. London 1883.


49. Chronological Table of the Popes, Anti-Popes, and Roman Emperors from Gregory I. to Leo XIII

We present here, for convenient reference, a complete list of the Popes, Anti-Popes, and Roman Emperors, from Pope Gregory I. to Leo XIII., and from Charlemagne to Francis II., the last of the German-Roman emperors:




a.d. Popes. Anti-Popes. Emperors. a.d.   

(Greek Emperors)   

590-604 St. Gregory I. Maurice. 582   

 (the Great). Phocas. 602   

604-606 Sabinianus.   

607 Boniface III.   

608-615 Boniface IV. Heraclius. 610   

615-618 Deusdedit.   

619-625 Boniface V.   

625-638 Honorius I.   

638(?)-640 Severinus.   

640-642 John IV. Constantine III.   

Constans II. 641   

642-649 Theodorus I.   

649-653 [655] St. Martin I. Constantine IV.   

654-657 Eugenius I. (Pogonatus.) 668   

657-672 Vitalianus.   

672-676 Adeodatus.   

676-678 Donus or Domnus I.   

678-681 Agatho.   

682-683 Leo II.   

683-685 Benedict II.   

685-686 John V. Justinian II. 685   

686-687 Conon.   

687-692 Paschal. Leontius. 694   

687 Theodorus. Tiberius III. 697   

687-701 Sergius I. Justinus II. restored 705   

701-705 John VI. Philippicus Bardanes 711   

705-707 John VII. Anastasius II. 713   

708 Sisinnius. Theodosius III. 716   

708-715 Constantine I. Leo III. (the Isaurian). 718   

715-731 Gregory II.   

731-741 Gregory III. (Charles Martel, d. 741, defeated the Saracens at Tours 732.)   

741-752 Zacharias. (Pepin the Short, Roman (Patricius). 741  


752 Stephen II.   

752-757 Stephen III. (II.)   

757-767 Paul I.   

767-768 Constantine II. Roman Emperors.   

768 Philippus.   

768-772 Stephen IV.   

772-795 Adrian I. *Charlemagne. 768-814   

795-816 Leo III. Crowned emperor at Rome, 800   

816-817 Stephen V.   

817-824 Paschal I. *Louis the Pious. 814-840   

824-827 Eugenius II. (le Débonnaire).   

827 Valentinus. Crowned em. at Rheims 816   

827-844 Gregory IV. *Lothaire I. (crowned 823). 840-855   

844 John (diaconus).   

844-847 Sergius II. (Louis the German,   

847-855 Leo IV. King of Germany,   

The mythical papess Joan or John VIII. 840-876.)   

855-858 Benedict III.   

855 Anastasius. *Louis II. (in Italy) 855-875   

858-867 Nicolas I.   

867-872 Adrian II.   

872-882 John VIII. *Charles the Bald. 875-881   

882-884 Marinus I. *Charles the Fat. 881-887   

884-885 Adrian III   

885-891 Stephen VI. *Arnulf. 887-899   

891-896 Formosus. Crowned emperor, 896   

896 Boniface VI.   

896-897 Stephen VII. (murdered).   

897 Romanus.   

897 Theodorus II.   

898-900 John IX. (Louis the Child.) 899   

900-903 Benedict IV.   

903 Leo V. Louis III. of   

903-904 Christophorus (deposed). Provence (in Italy). 901   

904-911 Sergius III. Conrad I. (of   

911-913 Anstasius III. Franconia)   

913-914 Lando. King of Germany. 911-918   

914-928 John X. Berengar (in Italy). 915   

928-929 Leo VI. Henry I. (the   

929-931 Stephen VIII. Fowler) King of   

931-936 John XI. Germany. The   

936-939 Leo VII. House of Saxony. 918-926   

939-942 Stephen IX. *Otto I. (the Great). 936-973   

942-946 Marinus II. Crowned emperor 962   

946-955 Agapetus II.   

955-963 John XII. (deposed).   

963-965 Leo VIII.   

964 Benedict V. (deposed).   

965-972 John XIII.   

972-974 Benedict VI. *Otto II. 973-983   

974-983 Benedict VII. (Boniface VII.?)   

983-984 John XIV. (murdered). *Otto III. 983-1002   

984-985 Boniface VII. Crowned emperor 996  


985-996 John XV.   

996-999 Gregory V.   

997-998 Calabritanus John XVI *Henry II. (the Saint the last of the Saxon empe’rs). 1002-1024   

998-1003 Silvester II. Crowned emperor 1014   

1003 John XVII.   

1003-1009 John XVIII.   

1009-1012 Sergius IV.   

1012-1024 Benedict VIII. *Conrad II. The 1024-1039   

1012 Gregory. House of Franconia.   

1024-1033 John XIX. Crowned emperor 1027   

1033-1046 Benedict IX. (deposed).   

1044-1046 Silvester III. *Henry III. 1039-1056   

1045-1046 Gregory VI. Crowned emperor, 1046   

1046-1047 Clement II.   

1047-1048 Damasus II.   

1048-1054 Leo IX.   

1054-1057 Victor II. *Henry IV. 1056-1106   

1057-1058 Stephen X. Crowned by the Anti-pope Clement.   

1058-1059 Benedict X. (deposed). 1084   

1058-1061 Nicolas II.   

1061-1073 Alexander II.   

1061 Cadalous (Honorius II.). (Rudolf of Swabia, rival). 1077   

1073-1085 Gregory VII.   


1080-1100 Wibertus (Clement III.) (Hermann of Luxemburg, rival) 1081   

1086-1087 Victor III.   

1088-1099 Urban II.   

1099-1118 Paschal II.   

1100 Theodoricus.   

1102 Albertus. *Henry V. 1106-1125   

1105-1111 Maginulfus (Silvester IV.).   

1118-1119 Gelasius II.   

1118-1121 Burdinus (Gregory VIII.). *Lothaire II. (the Saxon) 1125-1137   

1119-1124 Calixtus II.   

1124 Theobaldus Bucca- *Conrad III. The   

1124-1130 Honorius II. pecus (Celestine). House of Hohen-   

1130-1143 Innocent II. staufen. (The Swa-   

1130-1138 Anacletus II. bian emperors.) 1138-1152   

1138 Gregory (Victor IV) Crowned Em. at Aix   

1143-1144 Celestine II.   

1144-1145 Lucius II   

1145-1153 Eugenius III. *Frederick I. (Barbarossa). 1152-1190   

1153-1154 Anastasius IV. Crowned emperor 1155   

1154-1159 Adrian IV.   

1159-1181 Alexander III.   

1159-1164 Octavianus (Victor IV.)   

Guido Cremensis (Paschal III.).   

1164-1168 Johannes de   

1168-1178 Struma. (Calixtus III.).   

1178-1180 Landus Titinus   

1181-1185 Lucius III. (Innocent III.).   

1185-1187 Urban III.  


1187 Gregory VIII.   

1187-1191 Clement III.   

*Henry VI. 1190-1197   

1191-1198 Celestine III.   

1198-1216 Innocent III. Philip of Swabia   

and Otto IV. (rivals) 1198   

*Otto IV. 1209-1215   

1216-1227 Honorius III. *Frederick II. 1215-1250.   

1227-1241 Gregory IX. Crowned emperor 1220   

1241 Celestine IV.   

(Henry Raspe, rival)   

1241-1254 Innocent IV. (William of Holland, rival).   

Conrad IV 1250-1254   

1254-1261 Alexander IV.   

Interregnum. 1254-1273   

Richard (Earl of Cornwall).   

1261-1264 Urban IV. Alfonso (King of Castile)-(rivals). 1257   

1265-1268 Clement IV.   

1271-1276 Gregory X.   

1276 Innocent V. Rudolf I. (of Hapsburg).   

1276 Adrian V. House of Austria. 1272-1291   

1276-1277 John XXI.   

1277-1280 Nicolas III.   

1281-1285 Martin IV.   

1285-1287 Honorius IV.   

1288-1292 Nicolas IV.   

Adolf (of Nassau). 1292-1298   

1294 St. Celestine V. (abdicated).   

1294-1303 Boniface VIII.   

Albert I. (of   

1303-1304 Benedict XI. Hapsburg). 1298-1308   

1305-1314 Clement V.   

*Henry VII. (of   

Luxemburg). 1308-1313   

1316-1334 John XXII. *Lewis IV. (of Bavaria). 1314-1347   

1334-1342 Benedict XII. (Frederick the Fair   

1342-1352 Clement VI. of Austria, rival   


1352-1362 Innocent VI.   

1362-1370 Urban V. *Charles IV. (of Luxemburg). 1347-1437   

1370-1378 Gregory XI. (Günther of   

1378-1389 Urban VI Schwarzburg, rival).  


1378-1394 Clement VII.   

1389-1404 Boniface IX. Wenzel (of   

1394-1423 Benedict XIII. Luxemburg). 1378-1400   

(deposed 1409)   

1404-1406 Innocent VII. Rupert (of the   

1406-1409 Gregory XII. (deposed). Palatinate). 1400-1410   

1410-1415 Alexander V.   

1410-1415 John XXIII. (deposed). Sigismund (of   

Luxemburg). 1410-1437   

(Jobst of Moravia,   

1417-1431 Martin V. Clement VIII. rival.)   

1431-1447 Eugene IV.   

1439-1449 Felix V. Albert II. (of Hapsburg). 1438-1439   

1447-1455 Nicolas V. *Frederick III. 1440-1493.   

1455-1458 Calixtus IV. Crowned emperor 1452   

1458-1464 Pius II.   

1464-1471 Paul II.   

1471-1484 Sixtus IV.   

1484-1492 Innocent VIII. Maximilian I. 1493-1519   

1492-1503 Alexander VI.   

1503 Pius III.   

1503-1513 Julius II. *Charles V. 1519-1558   

1513-1521 Leo X. Crowned emperor at   

Bologna not in Rome 1530   

1522-1523 Hadrian VI.   

1523-1534 Clement VII.   

1534-1549 Paul III.   

1550-1555 Julius III.   

1555 Marcellus II. Ferdinand I. 1558-1564   

1555-1559 Paul IV.   

1559-1565 Pius IV.   

1566-1572 Pius V.   

1572-1585 Gregory XIII. Maximilian II. 1564-1576   

1585-1590 Sixtus V.   

1590 Urban VII.   

1590-1591 Gregory XIV.   

1591 Innocent IX.   

1592-1605 Clement VIII. Rudolf II. 1576-1612   

1605 Leo XI.   

1605-1621 Paul V. Matthias. 1612-1619   

1621-1623 Gregory XV. Ferdinand II. 1619-1637   

1623-1644 Urban VIII.   

1644-1655 Innocent X. Ferdinand III. 1637-1657   

1655-1667 Alexander VIII   

1667-1669 Clement IX. Leopold I. 1657-1705  


1669-1676 Clement X.   

1676-1689 Innocent XI.   

1689-1691 Alexander VIII.   

1691-1700 Innocent XII.   

1700-1721 Clement XI.   

Joseph I. 1705-1711   

1721-1724 Innocent XIII. Charles VI. 1711-1740   

1724-1730 Benedict XIII. Charles VII. (of   

1730-1740 Clement XII. Bavaria). 1742-1745   

1740-1758 Benedict XIV. Francis I. (of   

Lorraine). 1745-1765   

1758-1769 Clement XIII. Joseph II. 1765-1790   

1769-1774 Clement XIV.   

1775-1799 Pius VI.   

Leopold II. 1790-1792   

Francis II. 1792-1806   

1800-1823 Pius VII. Abdication of Francis II. 1806   

1823-1829 Leo XII.   

1829-1830 Pius VIII. (Francis I. Emperor   

1831-1846 Gregory XVI. of Austria): 1814-1866   

1846-1878 Pius IX. (longest reign).   

[German Confederation   

North German Con-federation 1866-1870   

1878 Leo XIII. [New German Empire. 1870   

William I. of Prussia 1870]  


50. Gregory the Great. a.d. 590-604


I. Gregorii M. Opera.

The best is the Benedictine ed. of Dom de Ste Marthe (Dionysius Samarthanus e congregatione St, Mauri), Par., 1705, 4 vols. fol. Reprinted in Venice, 1768-76, in 17 vols. 4to.; and, with additions, in Migne’s Patrologia, 1849, in 5 vols. (Tom. 75-79).

Especially valuable are Gregory’s Epistles, nearly 850 (in third vol. of Migne’s ed.). A new ed. is being prepared by Paul Ewald.


II. Biographies of Gregory I

(1) Older biographies: in the “Liber Pontificalis;” by Paulus Diaconus († 797), in Opera I. 42 (ed. Migne); by Johannes Diaconus (9th cent.), ibid., p. 59, and one selected from his writings, ibid., p. 242.

Detailed notices of Gregory in the writings of Gregory of Tours, Bede, Isidorus Hispal., Paul Warnefried (730).

(2) Modern biographies:

G. Lau: Gregor I. nach seinem Leben und nach seiner Lehre. Leipz., 1845.

Böhringer: Die Kirche Christi und ihre Zeugen. Bd. I., Abth. IV. Zürich, 1846.

G. Pfahler: Gregor der Gr. und seine Zeit. Frkf a. M., 1852.

James Barmby: Gregory the Great. London, 1879. Also his art. “Gregorius I.” in Smith & Wace, “Dict. of Christ. Biogr.,” II. 779 (1880).

Comp. Jaffé, Neander, Milman (Book III., ch. 7, vol. II., 39 sqq.); Greenwood (Book III., chs. 6 and 7); Montalembert (Les moines d’Occident, bk. V., Engl. transl., vol. II., 69 sqq.); Baxmann (Politik der Päpste, I. 44 sqq.); Zoepffel (art. Gregor I. in the new ed. of Herzog).


Gregory the Great

“Whatever may be thought of the popes of earlier times,” says Ranke, “they always had great interests in view: the care of oppressed religion, the conflict with heathenism, the spread of Christianity among the northern nations, the founding of an independent hierarchy. It belongs to the dignity of human existence to aim at and to execute something great; this tendency the popes kept in upward motion.”

This commendation of the earlier popes, though by no means applicable to all, is eminently true of the one who stands at the beginning of our period.

Gregory the First, or the Great, the last of the Latin fathers and the first of the popes, connects the ancient with the medieval church, the Graeco-Roman with the Romano-Germanic type of Christianity. He is one of the best representatives of medieval Catholicism: monastic, ascetic, devout and superstitious; hierarchical, haughty, and ambitious, yet humble before God; indifferent, if not hostile, to classical and secular culture, but friendly to sacred and ecclesiastical learning; just, humane, and liberal to ostentation; full of missionary zeal in the interest of Christianity, and the Roman see, which to his mind were inseparably connected. He combined great executive ability with untiring industry, and amid all his official cares he never forgot the claims of personal piety. In genius he was surpassed by Leo I., Gregory VII., Innocent III.; but as a man and as a Christian, he ranks with the purest and most useful of the popes. Goodness is the highest kind of greatness, and the church has done right in according the title of the Great to him rather than to other popes of superior intellectual power.

The times of his pontificate (a.d. Sept. 3, 590 to March 12, 604) were full of trouble, and required just a man of his training and character. Italy, from a Gothic kingdom, had become a province of the Byzantine empire, but was exhausted by war and overrun by the savage Lombards, who were still heathen or Arian heretics, and burned churches, slew ecclesiastics, robbed monasteries, violated nuns, reduced cultivated fields into a wilderness. Rome was constantly exposed to plunder, and wasted by pestilence and famine. All Europe was in a chaotic state, and bordering on anarchy. Serious men, and Gregory himself, thought that the end of the world was near at hand. “What is it,” says he in one of his sermons, “that can at this time delight us in this world? Everywhere we see tribulation, everywhere we hear lamentation. The cities are destroyed, the castles torn down, the fields laid waste the land made desolate. Villages are empty, few inhabitants remain in the cities, and even these poor remnants of humanity are daily cut down. The scourge of celestial justice does not cease, because no repentance takes place under the scourge. We see how some are carried into captivity, others mutilated, others slain. What is it, brethren, that can make us contented with this life? If we love such a world, we love not our joys, but our wounds. We see what has become of her who was once the mistress of the world …. Let us then heartily despise the present world and imitate the works of the pious as well as we can.”

Gregory was born about a.d. 540, from an old and wealthy senatorial (the Anician) family of Rome, and educated for the service of the government. He became acquainted with Latin literature, and studied Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustin, but was ignorant of Greek. His mother Sylvia, after the death of Gordianus her husband, entered a convent and so excelled in sanctity that she was canonized. The Greek emperor Justin appointed him to the highest civil office in Rome, that of imperial prefect (574). But soon afterwards he broke with the world, changed the palace of his father near Rome into a convent in honor of St. Andrew, and became himself a monk in it, afterwards abbot. He founded besides six convents in Sicily, and bestowed his remaining wealth on the poor. He lived in the strictest abstinence, and undermined his health by ascetic excesses. Nevertheless he looked back upon this time as the happiest of his life.

Pope Pelagius II. made him one of the seven deacons of the Roman Church, and sent him as ambassador or nuntius to the court of Constantinople (579). His political training and executive ability fitted him eminently for this post. He returned in 585, and was appointed abbot of his convent, but employed also for important public business.

It was during his monastic period (either before or, more probably, after his return from Constantinople) that his missionary zeal was kindled, by an incident on the slave market, in behalf of the Anglo-Saxons. The result (as recorded in a previous chapter) was the conversion of England and the extension of the jurisdiction of the Roman see, during his pontificate. This is the greatest event of that age, and the brightest jewel in his crown. Like a Christian Caesar, he re-conquered that fair island by an army of thirty monks, marching under the sign of the cross.

In 590 Gregory was elected pope by the unanimous voice of the clergy, the senate, and the people, notwithstanding his strong remonstrance, and confirmed by his temporal sovereign, the Byzantine emperor Mauricius. Monasticism, for the first time, ascended the papal throne. Hereafter till his death he devoted all his energies to the interests of the holy see and the eternal city, in the firm consciousness of being the successor of St. Peter and the vicar of Christ. He continued the austere simplicity of monastic life, surrounded himself with monks, made them bishops and legates, confirmed the rule of St. Benedict at a council of Rome, guaranteed the liberty and property of convents, and by his example and influence rendered signal services to the monastic order. He was unbounded in his charities to the poor. Three thousand virgins, impoverished nobles and matrons received without a blush alms from his hands. He sent food from his table to the hungry before he sat down for his frugal meal. He interposed continually in favor of injured widows and orphans. He redeemed slaves and captives, and sanctioned the sale of consecrated vessels for objects of charity.

Gregory began his administration with a public act of humiliation on account of the plague which had cost the life of his predecessor. Seven processions traversed the streets for three days with prayers and hymns; but the plague continued to ravage, and demanded eighty victims during the procession. The later legend made it the means of staying the calamity, in consequence of the appearance of the archangel Michael putting back the drawn sword into its sheath over the Mausoleum of Hadrian, since called the Castle of St. Angelo, and adorned by the statue of an angel.

His activity as pontiff was incessant, and is the more astonishing as he was in delicate health and often confined to bed. “For a long time,” he wrote to a friend in 601, “I have been unable to rise from my bed. I am tormented by the pains of gout; a kind of fire seems to pervade my whole body: to live is pain; and I look forward to death as the only remedy.” In another letter he says: “I am daily dying, but never die.”

Nothing seemed too great, nothing too little for his personal care. He organized and completed the ritual of the church, gave it greater magnificence, improved the canon of the mass and the music by a new mode of chanting called after him. He preached often and effectively, deriving lessons of humility and piety, from the calamities of the times, which appeared to him harbingers of the judgment-day. He protected the city of Rome against the savage and heretical Lombards. He administered the papal patrimony, which embraced large estates in the neighborhood of Rome, in Calabria, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Dalmatia, and even in Gaul and Africa. He encouraged and advised missionaries. As patriarch of the West, he extended his paternal care over the churches in Italy, Gaul, Spain, and Britain, and sent the pallium to some metropolitans, yet without claiming any legal jurisdiction. He appointed, he also reproved and deposed bishops for neglect of duty, or crime. He resolutely opposed the prevalent practice of simony, and forbade the clergy to exact or accept fees for their services. He corresponded, in the interest of the church, with nobles, kings and queens in the West, with emperors and patriarchs in the East. He hailed the return of the Gothic kingdom of Spain under Reccared from the Arian heresy to the Catholic faith, which was publicly proclaimed by the Council of Toledo, May 8, 589. He wrote to the king a letter of congratulation, and exhorted him to humility, chastity, and mercy. The detested Lombards likewise cast off Arianism towards the close of his life, in consequence partly of his influence over Queen Theodelinda, a Bavarian princess, who had been reared in the trinitarian faith. He endeavored to suppress the remnants of the Donatist schism in Africa. Uncompromising against Christian heretics and schismatics be was a step in advance of his age in liberality towards the Jews. He censured the bishop of Terracina and the bishop of Cagliari for unjustly depriving them of their synagogues; he condemned the forcible baptism of Jews in Gaul, and declared conviction by preaching the only legitimate means of conversion; he did not scruple, however, to try the dishonest method of bribery, and he inconsistently denied the Jews the right of building new synagogues and possessing Christian slaves. He made efforts, though in vain, to check the slave-trade, which was chiefly in the hands of Jews.

After his death, the public distress, which he had labored to alleviate, culminated in a general famine, and the ungrateful populace of Rome was on the point of destroying his library, when the archdeacon Peter stayed their fury by asserting that he had seen the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovering above Gregory’s head as he wrote his books. Hence he is represented with a dove. He was buried in St. Peter’s under the altar of St. Andrew.


Note. Estimates of Gregory I

Bishop Bossuet (as quoted by Montalembert, II. 173) thus tersely sums up the public life of Gregory: “This great pope … subdued the Lombards; saved Rome and Italy, though the emperors could give him no assistance; repressed the new-born pride of the patriarchs of Constantinople; enlightened the whole church by his doctrine; governed the East and the West with as much vigor as humility; and gave to the world a perfect model of ecclesiastical government.”

To this Count Montalembert (likewise a Roman Catholic) adds: “It was the Benedictine order which gave to the church him whom no one would have hesitated to call the greatest of the popes, had not the same order, five centuries later, produced St. Gregory VII …. He is truly Gregory the Great, because he issued irreproachable from numberless and boundless difficulties; because he gave as a foundation to the increasing grandeur of the Holy See, the renown of his virtue, the candor of his innocence, the humble and inexhaustible tenderness of his heart.”

“The pontificate of Gregory the Great,” says Gibbon (ch. 45), “which lasted thirteen years, six months, and ten days, is one of the most edifying periods of the history of the church. His virtues, and even his faults, a singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and superstition, were happily suited to his station and to the temper of the times.”

Lau says (in his excellent monograph, pp. 302, 306): “The spiritual qualities of Gregory’s character are strikingly apparent in his actions. With a clear, practical understanding, he combined a kind and mild heart; but he was never weak. Fearful to the obstinate transgressor of the laws, on account of his inflexible justice, he was lenient to the repentant and a warm friend to his friends, though, holding, as he did, righteousness and the weal of the church higher than friendship, he was severe upon any neglect of theirs. With a great prudence in managing the most different circumstances, and a great sagacity in treating the most different characters, he combined a moral firmness which never yielded an inch of what he had recognized as right; but he never became stubborn. The rights of the church and the privileges of the apostolical see he fought for with the greatest pertinacity; but for himself personally, he wanted no honors. As much as he thought of the church and the Roman chair, so modestly he esteemed himself. More than once his acts gave witness to the humility of his heart: humility was, indeed, to him the most important and the most sublime virtue. His activity was prodigious, encompassing great objects and small ones with equal zeal. Nothing ever became too great for his energy or too small for his attention. He was a warm patriot, and cared incessantly for the material as well as for the spiritual welfare of his countrymen. More than once he saved Rome from the Lombards, and relieved her from famine …. He was a great character with grand plans, in the realization of which he showed as much insight as firmness, as much prudent calculation of circumstances as sagacious judgment of men. The influence he has exercised is immense, and when this influence is not in every respect for the good, his time is to blame, not he. His goal was always that which he acknowledged as the best. Among all the popes of the sixth and following centuries, he shines as a star of the very first magnitude.”

Rud. Baxmann (l.c., I. 45 sq.): “Amidst the general commotion which the invasion of the Lombards caused in Italy, one man stood fast on his post in the eternal city, no matter how high the surges swept over it. As Luther, in his last will, calls himself an advocate of God, whose name was well known in heaven and on earth and in hell, the epitaph says of Gregory I. that he ruled as the consul Dei. He was the chief bishop of the republic of the church, the fourth doctor ecclesiae, beside the three other powerful theologians and columns of the Latin church: Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome. He is justly called the pater ceremoniarum, the pater monachorum, and the Great. What the preceding centuries had produced in the Latin church for church government and dogmatics, for pastoral care and liturgy, he gathered together, and for the coming centuries he laid down the norms which were seldom deviated from.”

To this we add the judgment of James Barmby, the latest biographer of Gregory (Greg., p. 191): “Of the loftiness of his aims, the earnestness of his purpose, the fervor of his devotion, his unwearied activity, and his personal purity, there can be no doubt. These qualities are conspicuous through his whole career. If his religion was of the strongly ascetic type, and disfigured by superstitious credulity, it bore in these respects the complexion of his age, inseparable then from aspiration after the highest holiness. Nor did either superstition or asceticism supersede in him the principles of a true inward religion — justice, mercy, and truth. We find him, when occasion required, exalting mercy above sacrifice; he was singularly kindly and benevolent, as well as just, and even his zeal for the full rigor of monastic discipline was tempered with much gentleness and allowance for infirmity. If, again, with singleness of main purpose was combined at times the astuteness of the diplomatist, and a certain degree of politic insincerity in addressing potentates, his aims were never personal or selfish. And if he could stoop, for the attainment of his ends, to the then prevalent adulation of the great, he could also speak his mind fearlessly to the greatest, when he felt great principles to be at stake.”