Popes in a Year
#65 - Pope Sabinian
Pope from September 13, 604 - February 22, 606 A.D.
Died: February 22, 606 A.D.
Give me the scoop on Sabinian.
Sabinian was born in the region of Blera, northwest of Rome. He first appears on the scene in 593, at which point Pope Gregory sent him to Constantinople as nuncio. The trip, to dissuade the patriarch from calling himself “universal patriarch,” seems to have been a failure, as Sabinian was replaced in 597. Still, he apparently held high esteem in the pope’s court, having been selected to succeed Gregory soon after his death. With the approval period being lengthy, he didn’t take office until September 13, 604.
Sabinian reportedly rolled back the rule put in place by Gregory that only monks could hold important offices in the Church, thus opening them back up to regular clergy as a result. He also consecrated 26 bishops during his short reign. Sabinian died in February of 606 and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
What was he known for?
Gregory the Great was a tough act to follow, and a famine during Sabinian’s reign didn’t help his cause. Due to an expiring truce with the Lombards and a poor wheat and vine harvest in 605, food became scarce and peace in the area was threatened. A high price had to be paid to the Lombards to keep the peace, but after it was secured Sabinian, having conserved the grain stores of the Church until that point, opened them up and helped relieve the famine. That he was greedy or mean-spirited in nature can’t be verified, and may well be an embellishment of future biographers of Gregory the Great.
Though we can’t be sure of its truth, Sabinian is credited with introducing the tradition of ringing bells for times of prayer and also during the celebration of the Eucharist. An Augustinian monk wrote about it during the 16th century, but its original attribution came three centuries earlier.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In the year 604, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was founded. The present church, built in the late 1600s, sits on the same site as the original one constructed that year.
Coming tomorrow....Pope Boniface III
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Sabinianus -
Pope Sabinian -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, March 31, 2017 at 2:00AM