Popes in a Year
#93 - Pope St. Paul I
Pope from May 29, 757 - June 28, 767
Lived: 700 - June 28, 767
Give me the scoop on Paul I.
Paul was born in Rome, and was the odds-on choice to succeed Stephen II in 757. Paul I was elected despite a rival faction having formed before Stephen’s death to elect the archdeacon, Theophylact. He was chosen by a strong majority and consecrated on May 29. With iconoclasm still running rampant, one of Paul’s great acts was his dedication of a monastery to Stephen II and St. Sylvester in order to house monks fleeing persecution in the East. His efforts to battle the heresy itself were fruitless.
This pope was one of great virtue, keeping the papacy and the Church afloat despite uncertain times. He died on June 28, 767, the same day on which his feast is now celebrated.
What was he known for?
Paul continued to deal with the drama over northern Italy, like Stephen before him. Though Pepin had won key battles over the Lombards and gifted their lands to the pope, each territory’s Lombard ruler had stayed in place despite the change in ownership. What’s more, Desiderius, the new Lombard king, saw Paul and the Franks as a threat and tried to form an alliance with the Byzantine emperor as a result. The pope had to keep repeating, “Breathe, Paul, breathe.” Thankfully, though, the Byzantine-Lombard alliance never happened. King Pepin came through in the clutch, and after agreeing to return the Lombard hostages he had taken during their initial battles, he was finally able to convince the Lombards to make good on their pinky swear to give the territories to the pope.
Paul I actually succeeded his own brother, Stephen II, as pope in 757. Though many popes have been related to one another, Stephen & Paul are one of only two sets of brothers to occupy the papacy. The others, Sisinnius & Constantine, reigned consecutively just a half century earlier.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 766, the city of Baghdad was close to completion. According to the story, nearly 100,000 laborers worked to complete three lines of circular walls around the city, with a palace for the caliph Al-Mansur sitting dead center. At nearly 2 km in diameter, it became known as the “Round City.”
Coming Tomorrow...Pope Stephen III
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope St. Paul I -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, May 10 at 2:00AM