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(28 May–2 Aug. 640)

A Roman, son of Avienus (an upper-class name), he was already elderly when elected in mid-Oct. 638, but he had to wait almost twenty months before the imperial mandate necessary for his consecration arrived. The exarch Isaac could not issue it since he had been sent Emperor Heraclius' (610–41) Ecthesis declaring that Christ had only one will (the monothelite heresy) with instructions that the pope-elect should subscribe it. This Severinus refused to do; as a result of representations by eastern opponents of monothelitism the Roman church now had a more realistic appreciation of the issues involved than in Honorius I's time. Envoys had to be sent to Constantinople, where they were told that ratification of his appointment would be conditional on his acceptance of the decree. Only after protracted negotiations and promising to do their best to obtain Severinus' signature were they allowed to return to Rome with the mandate. Meanwhile the pope-elect had been subjected to brutal treatment, which may be explained by an attempt to put pressure on him in view of his reported objection to the Ecthesis. Persuaded by the military registrar (chartularius) Maurice that their arrears of pay were being held in the papal treasure accumulated by Honorius I (the wages, paid by the papacy, were possibly being withheld in an attempt to force the emperor to ratify Severinus' election), the troops in and around Rome besieged Severinus and other leading clergy in the Lateran for three days, and then placed seals on the treasure. When exarch Isaac arrived, ostensibly to sort things out, he temporarily expelled the vicegerents of the see from the city, plundered the vaults and confiscated their contents, dividing the booty between the soldiers and his officials, but prudently sending part to Emperor Heraclius.

Severinus survived his consecration by little more than two months. It is not known whether he ever officially defined his attitude to the Ecthesis. Later reports that he explicitly condemned it, declaring that Christ had two wills and energies corresponding to his two natures, should be treated with reserve; his early death probably saved him from having to make a definitive pronouncement. A good and charitable man (according to LP), he belonged to the pro-clerical faction which opposed the pro-monastic policies of Gregory I and his disciples. He showed his regard for the secular clergy by raising their stipends and granting them a year's full pay when he died. He was buried in St Peter's, the mosaic in the apse of which he had restored.

Further Reading

PL 129: 583–6Mansi x. 675–80JW i. 227LP i. 328 f. (Davis 1: 67–8)E. Caspar, ‘Die Lateransynode von 649’, ZKG51 (1932), 114 n. 87Caspar ii. 526 f., 537 f.DCB iv. 628 (J. Barmby)DTC xiv. 2006–8 (É. Amann)EThC 133 (G. Jenal)Bertolini 317 f.Levillain iii. 1415 (J. Durliat)NCE xiii. 42 (J. Sheppard)Seppelt ii. 56 f.JR 245, 264

Subjects: Christianity.

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