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St Gregory I (c. 540—604)


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Benedict I


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(2 June 575–30 July 579)

A Roman by birth, son of Boniface (otherwise unknown), he had to wait almost eleven months after his election before the necessary imperial confirmation, delayed by the breakdown of communications, arrived from Constantinople and he could be consecrated. His reign, about which almost nothing is known, saw the most cruel phase of the Lombard conquest, with armed forces pushing south and in summer 579 investing Rome. A delegation he and the senate sent to Constantinople to ask for help had little success. The troops dispatched by Emperor Justin II (565–78) were too few, and while the grain ships he had sent from Egypt provided valuable relief, it was short-lived. As the siege intensified and famine spread in the city, Benedict died. But certain actions of his stand out from the confusion. For a time at any rate he seems to have had good relations with the Lombard duke of Spoleto, for he was able to order the restitution of landed properties to the monastery of S. Marco near the city. He was exceptionally active pastorally, ordaining no fewer than 21 bishops. One of them was a Roman, John III, whom he appointed archbishop of Ravenna in Nov. 578, thereby consolidating papal influence in the city that was now the residence of the imperial governors of Italy. Finally, it was probably he who removed the future Gregory I from his monastery and ordained him deacon, thus strengthening his administrative staff. He was buried in the sacristy of St Peter's.

Further Reading

JW i. 137, ii. 695 f.LP i. 308 (Davis 1: 64)Caspar ii. 350 f.DCB i. 311 (T. R. Buchanan)DHGE viii. 7–9 (F. Baix)DBI viii. 324 f. (O. Bertolini)Levillain ii. 152–3 (C. Sotinel)NCE ii. 238–9 (J. Chapin)Seppelt ii. 293JR 165 f.

Subjects: Religion

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