Popes in a Year
#92 - Pope Stephen II (and Pope-Elect Stephen II)
Pope from March 26, 752 - April 26, 757
Lived: 715 - April 26, 757
Okay, wait. Why are there two Stephen II’s?
After the death of Pope St. Zachary, a man named Stephen was elected. He died, however, just three days later, before being consecrated. Incidentally, the next guy in line was
named Stephen, a deacon who had served the Church from childhood. Because of this, “Pope-elect Stephen II” is normally left off the list of popes.
Now, here’s the scoop on Stephen II.
Pope Stephen II began what’s become known as “the Frankish Papacy” after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Born around the year 715, Stephen was Roman through and through. His care for the city translated into great affection for Rome’s poor after he was elected pope, and also was the likely reason he opted to restore four hospitals there. As pope, Stephen II followed his predecessors in trying to subdue the iconoclast heresy, but sadly failed. After reigning for five years and one month, Stephen died and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
What was he known for?
Stephen II was, for all intents and purposes, the first “pope-king” in the Church’s history. With the Lombards threatening to conquer all of Italy, and the pope wishing to keep it out of their hands, he first petitioned the Byzantine emperor. Constantine V, with little real temporal power, tried to resolve the issue diplomatically. Finding the pen no match for the sword, Constantine V failed miserably.
Then, Stephen traveled to France to ask for help from Pepin, the king of the Franks. Pepin, remembering the love St. Boniface had for the papacy, said, “I’m game,” and sent an army to Italy to push back the Lombard forces. Aistulf, the Lombard king, loosened his hold on northern Italy, which allowed Pepin to donate the conquered territory to the pope and make up what would become the “papal states.”
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In the third year of Stephen II’s reign (754), St. Boniface was martyred in Germany by a group of pagans while reading the Scriptures to a group he had helped to convert. Boniface was buried in a nearby monastery.
Coming Tomorrow...Pope St. Paul I
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Stephen (II) III -
Pope Stephen II -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Tuesday, May 9 at 2:00AM