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Gregory II, Pope

Early Life

Just like Gregory the Great who came before him, the second Pope Gregory came from a noble and wealthy family. He was the son of Marcellus and Honesta, but apart from their names, everything else about his family was shrouded in mystery. He was cared for by the popes in his youth and appointed by Pope Sergius as a subdeacon years after. He worked as a treasurer for the church, chief administrator of the Vatican library, and then elevated as deacon after many years. Finally, he was appointed as the Pope on May 19, 715 AD which is where he is recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History.

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As Pope Gregory II

One of the first tasks he undertook after his proclamation as Pope was to fortify the walls of Rome against the Lombards who had penetrated deep into Italy, as well as the Saracens (Muslims) who had dominated Hispania at that time. The task, however, was stopped when the Tiber river rose and flooded the city for eight days.

There was an increase of Anglo-Saxon pilgrims during Gregory II’s pontificate after their conversion to Christianity during the time of Gregory the Great and Augustine of Canterbury. Two of the most prominent of these pilgrims were the Abbot Ceolfrid and King Ina of Wessex. Ceolfrid brought Gregory II a copy of the Bible as a gift, while King Ina visited Pope Gregory and retired in the city of Rome after his abdication. Ina built a school named Schola Saxona in the city. It was established to enable the Anglo-Saxon pilgrims to learn more about church doctrine while they stayed in the city.

Pope_Gregory_II
Pope Gregory II

Theodo, the Christian Duke of Bavaria, also visited Pope Gregory and asked him to convert his people to Christianity. Pope Gregory was all too happy to comply with this request and immediately dispatched Bishop Martinian, Dorotheus, and other church officials to Bavaria to accompany the Duke. The delegates converted the Bavarians and later on, established a local church hierarchy in Theodo’s duchy.

Meanwhile, Gregory had reiterated the importance of marriage, as well as forbade the practice of magic and witchcraft. He also tried to wean the people off from their belief in astrology, as well as lucky and unlucky days that were popular at that time. He also convinced Corbinian, the Frankish monk, to take a break from his life as a hermit and help in the conversion of Bavaria. He was later consecrated as a bishop and began his ministry in Bavaria in 724 after he was sent there by Gregory.

Gregory authorized church repairs and improvement of church decorations during his tenure as pope. He established monasteries in Italy (he even turned his own ancestral house into one) and restored the broken-down sections of the monastery at Monte Cassino between 717 and 718 AD. These parts of the monastery were destroyed by the Lombards during the early years of their invasion.

In spring of the year 721, Gregory called for a synod in Rome that dealt specifically with the subject of marriage. In this council, they agreed to forbid marriage for priests, nuns, and others who were “consecrated to God,” as well as the union between close relatives. Two years later, Gregory helped reconcile the Patriarchs of Grado and Aquileia after a spat between the two. The pope had sent the pallium to the Bishop Serenus, the Patriarch of Aquileia, who took it as a sign of higher authority and then started to meddle on the territory of Bishop Donatus, the Patriarch of Grado. Incensed, the Patriarch of Grado sent a letter to Pope Gregory and informed him about his complaint, so the pope sent letters to both men with a gentle admonition to submit to each other in humility.

The Lombards in Italy

Pope Gregory had a good diplomatic relationship with the Lombard king Liutprand, but he was still worried that Italy would fall completely into the hands of the Lombards. He supported Duke John of Naples in his campaign to regain the ancient city of Cumae and negotiated later with Liutprand for the return of the port of Classis to the Exarch of Ravenna. However, he failed to convince the Frankish mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, to help him completely get rid of the Lombards in the Italian peninsula.

Conflict with Byzantine Emperor Leo III

In Constantinople, the Emperor Leo III had issued a decree that all icons in his domain be destroyed. It was met with hostility by the citizens of Constantinople which later spread to Greece and other Byzantine-dominated cities. The fight for and against the icons was especially bitter in Greece where a short-lived revolt was immediately suppressed. Still, Leo went on with his destruction of images which would later reach Rome and Pope Gregory. He sent the Byzantine emperor a letter in which he told Leo to stay away from formulating church doctrines and focus on ruling the empire but Leo was adamant and iconoclasm continued in the east, while religious flourished in the West during the medieval period.

Pope Gregory died in early 731 AD and was replaced by Gregory III as pope in the same year.

References:
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11893106
Mann, Horace K., and Johannes Hollnsteiner. The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1902.
“Pope St. Gregory II – Catholic Encyclopedia – Catholic Online.” Catholic Online. Accessed August 02, 2016. http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=5358.
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