Boniface III

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St Gregory I (c. 540—604)

Peter (c. 64 ad)


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(19 Feb.–12 Nov. 607)

Born in Rome, possibly of a Greek family, he had to wait almost a year before being consecrated. In contrast to Sabinian, he was a favoured protégé of Gregory I, who after he had been chief executive agent of the church (primicerius defensorum) had made him a deacon and sent him as nuncio to Constantinople in 603, commending him warmly to the new emperor Phocas (602–10). A skilful diplomat, he established friendly relations with Phocas, and when he became pope obtained from him a formal declaration that Rome, the see of St Peter, was head of all the churches. Emperor Justinian (527–65) had issued a similar pronouncement, but this time it put a stop, for the moment at any rate, to the claim of bishops of Constantinople, exasperating to Pelagius II and Gregory I, to the title ‘ecumenical patriarch’. The occasion was marked by the erection in Rome of a gilded statue of the tyrannical Phocas with an adulatory inscription. A further proof of good relations between Boniface and the emperor was the latter's ending of his predecessors' policy of tolerance towards the schism in Venetia–Istria caused by the Three Chapters controversy, and his instruction to exarch Smaragdus to take energetic measures against its adherents. The only other noteworthy event of Boniface's reign was his holding of a synod to regulate papal elections; this forbade, on pain of excommunication, all discussion of a successor to a pope or bishop during his lifetime and until three days after his death. It is possible that Boniface's own election had been marked by canvassing and rivalries between the pro- and anti-Gregorian factions; this would explain the long vacancy better than delay, of which there is no evidence, in obtaining the necessary imperial confirmation.

Further Reading

JW i. 220, ii. 698LP i. 316 (Davis 1: 64)Caspar ii. 517 f.DCB i. 329 (T. R. Buchanan)DHGE ix. 898 (G. Bardy)Levillain i. 186 (J. Durliat)NCE ii. 499 (P. J. Mullins)DBI xii. 136 f. (P. Bertolini)Seppelt ii. 43 f.JR 177, 259, 261–3

Subjects: Christianity.

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