Popes in a Year
#138 - Pope Gregory V
Sorry about that, folks! Looks like we accidentally skipped over our friend Gregory V this morning, so here's his story for your reading convenience. Blessings on your two-popes-for-one Monday! -
Pope from May 3, 996 - February 18, 999
Lived: c. 972 - February 18, 999
Birth name: Bruno of Carinthia
Give me the scoop on Gregory V.
Gregory V, born Bruno of Carinthia, was elected a the young age of 23, having been the cousin of Emperor Otto III, himself just 16 years old at the time. He picked the name Gregory, probably both as a way to honor St. Gregory the Great and to hide his German birth name. The idyllic Otto was equal parts eager to restore the empire’s greatness in Rome and bitter about how Crescentius, the man running Rome at the time, had mistreated Pope John XV. As a result, Otto helped pick his cousin to be the next pope.
Otto, hoping to soon move permanently to Rome, had to take a trip back to Germany before he could do so, and left Gregory in charge. Crescentius, a real dandy guy, took advantage of the boss being out of town, forced Gregory V to flee to Lombardy for the next year, then tried to elect his own pope. Otto rushed back to the Eternal City as soon as he heard. Not to be outdone, he had Crescentius publicly beheaded and his antipope, John, severely maimed (John lost his nose, ears, tongue, and eyes. Ouch.). There’s a chance Gregory’s untimely death in 999 was retaliation at the hands of Otto’s opponents. Barely 25 years old at his death, Gregory V was buried near the sacristy in St. Peter’s Basilica, near Pope Pelagius.
What was he known for?
Gregory V, despite his young age and short reign, was known for being a respectable man and worthy pontiff. He was well-educated prior to being elected, and took his role seriously even while in exile in Lombardy. A council he held in Pavia helped resolve a number of disputes among Italian dioceses, excommunicated Crescentius and his antipope, and wagged a finger at the King of France for wishing to marry his relative.
Pope Gregory V was the first of seven German-born popes in Church history. The most recent German pope, of course, was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
St. Vladimir the Great, Grand Prince of Kiev in the year 998, after exploring and researching the religions of the world, settled on Christianity as the official religion of Rus, what would become parts of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Apparently, Vladimir rejected Islam because of its prohibition on alcohol and pork (yes, bacon), having said about alcohol, “Drinking is the joy of all Rus. We cannot exist without that pleasure.” His feast day, incidentally, is celebrated in both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches this Saturday, July 15.
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Guruge, A. (2010). The Next Pope. New Hampshire: WOWNH
Pope Gregory V -
Pope Gregory V -
Vladimir the Great -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Monday, July 10 at 10:32AM