Popes in a Year
#86 - Pope John VII
Pope from March 1, 705 - October 18, 707
Lived: c. 650 - October 18, 707
Give me the scoop on John VII.
Greek by birth, John was born around the year 650 to parents Blatta and Plato. John’s father was high up in the Byzantine government, so John, therefore, was the first pope to be the son of an imperial official. Reportedly a huge fan of the Fourth Commandment, John built a residence near his parents’ house on the Palatine Hill in Rome after being elected pope. With both his parents having died by that point, the palace was an homage to their memory. In addition, several years prior John had constructed an initial memorial “with a broken heart to a most loving and incomparable mother, and to the kindest of fathers.”
John VII was yet another pope who loved to beautify and build churches, exemplifying his great Marian devotion by building a chapel dedicated to Our Lady in St. Peter’s Basilica and restoring the church of Sancta Maria Antiqua (Ancient Church of St. Mary) during his short papacy. John VII died in the residence he built on the Palatine Hill, having spent two and a half years in office.
What was he known for?
This pope was one of high education, eloquent speech, and a pious nature, but John VII is perhaps best known for his trepidation in dealing with the Byzantine emperor, Justinian II. Justinian had recaptured the imperial throne and wasted no time trying to intimidate John VII. Just 13 years prior, Justinian had illicitly convened a rogue meeting of Eastern bishops -- known as the
-- to make Church disciplines uniform across the world. St. Sergius I, the pope at the time, said, “Talk to the hand,” and completely denounced the council’s findings. Apparently still peeved more than a decade later, Justinian sent the Patriarch of Constantinople to John VII with his eyes gouged out, along with the Quinisext Council’s decrees, rather...um...firmly beckoning the pope to reconsider. Out of (entirely understandable) fear, John simply sent the documents back, deciding to do nothing with them.
John VII was apparently a fan of priests who looked the part while out in public. One of the pope’s successes while in office was an appeal to Anglo-Saxon clergy that secular dress was inappropriate, and that clerical garb should be the norm when out and about.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 706, construction of the Great Mosque of Damascus (Syria) was commissioned by Islamic Caliph Al-Walid I. It still stands today, and is thought of as the fourth-holiest place in Islam.
Coming tomorrow....Pope Sisinnius
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope John VII -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Monday, May 1 at 2:00AM