#84 - Pope St. Sergius I
Pope from December 15, 687 - September 8, 701
Died: September 8, 701
Give me the scoop on Sergius I.
Pope St. Sergius I was of Syrian descent, but grew up in Sicily. He came to Rome in the 670s, like his predecessor, Pope Conon, to avoid the Islamic battles there during that time. His election was full of drama as well. In Conon’s dying days, a deacon, Paschal, tried to bribe the Exarch of Ravenna, the imperial representative in charge of approving papal elections. In the meantime, Paschal’s opponents picked a priest, Theodore, as their rival choice. Seeing the fight as a bunch of papal bull-oney, the majority of clergy and civil authorities in Rome settled on a third choice -- Sergius I -- instead. He was elected and consecrated on December 15, 687 and accepted by both rival candidates...or so he thought. Pascal, secretly still wanting to be pope, tried to bribe the exarch once again to put him on the throne. But the exarch promptly said, “Sergius is the guy. Oh, but I’ll keep your gold,” sending Pascal away and pocketing his bribe anyway.
Sergius had many dealings with the Church in England, ordaining St. Willibrord as a bishop and sending him to evangelize Germany, restoring St. Wilfrid to his see, and requesting the Venerable Bede as one of his key advisors. Sergius I died on September 8, 701 after almost 14 years as pope.
What was he known for?
One of the hallmarks of Sergius’ papacy was having to battle a rogue council in Constantinople, called by the emperor in 692. The “Quinisext Council,” as it’s come to be called, was a desperate attempt by Emperor Justinian II to unify the whole Church in her disciplines as a way to fight the growing Muslim presence. Justinian pretended like Sergius was on board, since one Western bishop, Basil of Gortyna, was present, going so far as coercing Basil into signing the council’s decrees to force the pope’s support. But Sergius, in a decisive, “Yeah. No.” to the emperor, not only denounced the council’s findings, but refused to even receive a copy of the council documents, saying that he “would rather die than consent to such erroneous novelties.”
This heavy dose of salt from Sergius, naturally, made Justinian more than a little peeved. The emperor demanded that the pope be arrested, but unfortunately for the emperor, the Byzantine Empire held little real power over Italy by that time. As a result, Sergius easily thwarted the emperor’s demand.
Sergius is who we can thank for including the
Lamb of God
) chant at the point in which the Host is broken at Mass. This was part of Sergius’ adamant opposition to the Quinisext Council and Justinian II, which, among other things, had tried to omit all depictions of Christ as Lamb.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
The Dome of the Rock, the first major structure of Islamic architecture, was completed in Jerusalem in 691. Octagonal in shape and iconic for its massive golden dome, it’s thought to have been modeled after a Byzantine church called the Church of the Seat of Mary, whose
were discovered in the 1990s.
Coming Monday....Pope John VI
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Sergius I -
Pope Sergius I -
Dome of the Rock -
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