Popes in a Year
#58 - Pope St. Silverius
Pope from June 8, 536 to December 2 537 A.D.
Died: December 2, 537 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Silverius.
Pope St. Silverius was the legitimate son of Pope St. Hormisdas, who had been married prior to his priesthood (the practice was allowed in that time). He was but a mere subdeacon when the Gothic king Theodahad forced his election and consecration, on the eve of the war between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire no less. Whether Silverius bribed the king to do so, or if he merely was chosen for being a pro-Gothic candidate (maybe he just really liked the color black) is unclear, since the author of the
(the who’s who history book of early popes) was at the same time clearly biased against the Goths and in favor of the bribery narrative.
Due to unfortunate tensions a few months into his pontificate (more on that in a second), Silverius was only allowed to reign as pope for nine months, though he remained the legitimate pope to his death. After being exiled from office and deposed (unlawfully), he died many months later on December 2, 537. He was honored as a saint by popular acclamation, and his feast day is June 20.
What was he known for?
Silverius is best known for being the victim of terrible greed and treachery. Vigilius, who had been assigned to Constantinople by Pope Agapetus I, remained there after the Agapetus’ death and, being of a particularly ambitious persuasion, lobbied Empress Theodora to give him the papacy. The catch: Vigilius promised to bring back into vogue the heresy of Monophysitism (the belief that Christ only has one nature, not two). Three months after Rome was conquered by the Byzantines, Silverius was hauled before the imperial general, Belisarius, deposed, and exiled to Asia, with Vigilius being consecrated antipope soon after.
A small glimmer of hope appeared when Justinian, the emperor and husband of Theodora, discovered Silverius’ maltreatment and brought him back to Italy. Justinian demanded a fair trial and, if found innocent, a restoration of Silverius to his rightful office. His enemies had none of it, though, as Vigilius had Silverius seized upon arrival and sent instead to the island of Palmarola, where he died of starvation and harsh treatment. Consequently, Silverius is known as a martyr, while Vigilius is remembered for being little more than a halfwit.
St. Silverius (aka
) is the patron of the Italian island of Ponza. A local legend recalls an apparition of Silverius to fishermen who were lost and caught in a storm. The apparition pointed them in the direction of the nearby island of Palmarola and helped them survive as a result.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 537, according to legend, King Arthur (yes, THAT King Arthur) fought his final battle against his nephew, Mordred, and was mortally wounded. God save the king.
Coming tomorrow....Pope Vigilius
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Silverius -
Pope Silverius -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, March 22 at 2:00AM