« Pelagius I., bishop of Rome Pelagius II., bishop of Rome Peregrinus, called Proteus »

Pelagius II., bishop of Rome

Pelagius (9) II., bp. of Rome after Benedict I., under the emperors Tiberius, Constantine, and Mauricius, from Nov. 578 to Feb. 590. He was a native of Rome, the son of Winigild, and supposed from his father's name to have been of Gothic extraction. At the time of Benedict's death the Lombards, already the masters of a great part of N. Italy, were besieging Rome. Consequently the new pope was consecrated without the previous sanction of the emperor (required since the reign of Justinian). Partly, perhaps, to excuse this informality, as well as to solicit aid against the Lombards, the new pope, as soon as possible after his accession, sent a deputation to Tiberius, who had become sole emperor on the death of Justin II. in Oct. 578. It was doubtless now that Gregory, afterwards pope Gregory the Great, was first sent to Constantinople as apocrisiarius of the Roman see. On Oct. 4, 584, Pelagius sent him a letter to represent the lamentable condition of Italy and the imminent danger of Rome from the Lombard invasion; Longinus, the exarch at Ravenna, having been appealed to in vain. Gregory is directed to press on the emperor the urgent need of succour. He returned to Rome probably a.d. 585 (Joan. Diac. ib.).

The emperor Mauricius had engaged the Frank king, Childebert II., for a large pecuniary reward to invade Italy and drive out the Lombards. The invasion (probably a.d. 585) resulted in a treaty of peace between the Franks and Lombards (Greg. Turon. vi. 42; Paul. Diac. de Gest. Longob. iii. 17).

On the retirement of Childebert from Italy, it appears that Smaragdus exarch of Ravenna had also concluded a truce with the Lombards (Epp. Pelag. ii.; Ep. i. ad Episcopos Istriae). Pelagius took advantage of it to open negotiations with the bishops of Istria, who still remained out of communion with Rome in the matter of the Three Chapters. In the first of his three letters he implores them to consider the evil of schism, and return to the unity of the church. He is at pains to vindicate his own faith, and to declare his entire acceptance of the four great councils and of the tome of pope Leo, by way of shewing that his acceptance of the 5th council, and his consequent condemnation of the Three Chapters, involved no departure from the ancient faith. He does not insist on condemnation of the Three Chapters by the Istrian bishops themselves. He only begs them to return to communion with Rome, notwithstanding its condemnation of the same; and this in a supplicatory rather than imperious tone. In his second letter he declares himself deeply grieved by their unsatisfactory reply to his first, and by their reception of his emissaries. He quotes St. Augustine as to the necessity of all churches being united to apostolic sees, but further cites Cyprian de Unitate Ecclesiae (with interpolations that give the passages a meaning very different from their original one) in support of the peculiar authority of St. Peter's chair. Finally he calls upon the Istrians to send deputies to Rome for conference with himself, or at any rate to Ravenna for conference with a representative; whom he would send; and mentions (significantly, as appears in the sequel) that he has written to the exarch Smaragdus on the subject. Another, called his third, letter to Elias and the Istrian bishops, is a treatise on the Three Chapters, composed for him by Gregory (de Gest. Longob. iii. 20). Appeals and arguments proving of no avail, Pelagius seems to have called on the civil power to persecute; for Smaragdus is recorded to have gone in person to Grado, to have seized Severus, who had succeeded Elias in the see, together with three other bishops, in the church, carried them to Ravenna, and forced them to communicate there with the bp. John. They were allowed after a year (Smaragdus being superseded by another exarch) to return to Grado, where neither people nor bishops would communicate with them till Severus had recanted in a synod of ten bishops his compliance at Ravenna (Paul. Diac. ib. iii. 27; cf. Epp. S. Greg. l. 1, Ep. 16).

Towards the end of the pontificate of Pelagius (probably a.d. 588), a council at Constantinople, apparently a large and influential one, and not confined to ecclesiastics, dealt with Gregory patriarch of Antioch, who being charged with crime, had appealed "ad imperatorem et concilium" (Evagr. H. E. vi. 7). This council is memorable as having called forth the first protest from Rome, renewed afterwards more notably by Gregory the Great, against the assumption by the patriarch of Constantinople of the title "oecumenical." The title itself was not a new one; as an honorary or complimentary one it had been occasionally given to other patriarchs; and Justinian had repeatedly designated the patriarch of Constantinople "the most holy and most blessed archbishop of this royal city, and oecumenical patriarch" (Cod. i. 7; Novell. iii. v. vi. vii. xvi. xlii.). Nor do we know of any previous objection, and at this council it may have been ostentatiously assumed by the then patriarch, John the Faster, and sanctioned by the council with reference to the case before it, in a way that seemed to recognize jurisdiction of the patriarchate of Constantinople over that of Antioch. In Nov. 589 a destructive inundation of the Tiber at Rome was followed by a plague, described as "Pestis inguinaria," of which Pelagius II. was one of the earliest victims, being attacked by it in the middle of Jan. 590 (Greg. Turon. l. x. c. 1). According to Anastasius he was buried on Feb. 8 in St. Peter's.


« Pelagius I., bishop of Rome Pelagius II., bishop of Rome Peregrinus, called Proteus »
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