Popes in a Year
#91 - Pope St. Zachary
Pope from December 5, 741 - March 15, 752
Lived: 679 - March 15, 752
Give me the scoop on Zachary.
Zachary, Greek by birth and the last of the Byzantine popes, was born around the year 679. He was elected immediately after the death of St. Gregory III, being immensely popular among the clergy and a close advisor to his predecessor. Zachary took great care of Rome’s churches, restoring many including the Lateran Basilica. During that process, workers discovered the head of St. George and had it moved to the church bearing the same name.
Zachary was also immensely generous, often giving alms to the poor from his own palace. He was a skilled diplomat in dealing with both the trigger-happy Lombards and new iconoclastic emperor, Constantine V. Zachary died after a 10-year reign on March 15, 752. He was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
What was he known for?
Zachary’s most important accomplishments involved all the moving and shaking going on in Western Europe at that time. St. Boniface was still at work evangelizing the region, and found such success in reorganizing the German Church that he established new dioceses in modern-day Cologne and Mainz, and became very close with the Carolingians, who ruled much of the region. Their leader, Pepin the Short (yes, that’s his real name), actually petitioned the pope on the advice of St. Boniface to depose the current king, who was by that time ruling in name only. Zachary, after carefully considering the situation, rubber-stamped the idea. Soon afterward, Boniface consecrated Pepin as King of the Franks, thus granting the Church vital protection against the many pagan neighbors who were very against the missionaries’ efforts.
Zachary was the first pope to bypass the approval of the emperor once elected. For decades, new pontiffs would send word to the emperor or his representatives to say, “Hey, I’m pope now. That alright with you?” But the lack of real sway held by the Byzantine Empire at that point rendered such action all but unnecessary.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
Around the year 745, the Bubonic plague decimated a third of the population of Asia Minor (Turkey) and progressed through the Balkan Peninsula toward Rome. Not good.
Coming Tomorrow...Pope Stephen II (and Pope-elect Stephen II)
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Monday, May 8 at 2:00AM