#148 - Pope Gregory VI
Pope from May 1, 1045 - December 20, 1046
Birth name: John Gratian
Give me the scoop on Gregory VI.
Pope Gregory VI was born John Gratian, serving as a priest in Rome at the church of St. John by the Latin Gate prior to being pope. He was the godfather of Benedict IX, and as a result was offered the papacy by him when Benedict sought to resign and get married. Gratian took the name Gregory VI upon his election on May 1, 1045. When monasteries and churches throughout Europe heard the news, everyone reacted like a kid on Christmas morning, not least of which was the great St. Peter Damian, a Benedictine monk who would later serve as cardinal in brighter papal times, under Pope St. Leo IX (No. 152). Gregory tried to restore order in Rome, writing letters and holding meetings to handle spiritual strife and toughening up his armies to handle the temporal outrage. Opposition proved to be a bit too steep, leading Gregory ultimately to convene the Council of Sutri at the request of Emperor Henry III in 1046.
It was there that he was charged with simony and voluntarily resigned from office. The simony charge, however, seems to have only been leveled because of the public scandal Gregory created by buying the papacy. It wasn't because the purchase itself wasn’t well-intentioned or even (arguably) necessary given the extraordinary circumstances. Nevertheless, ends don't justify the means. After resigning, Gregory traveled with the emperor to Germany, where he died just two years later.
What was he known for?
Though he’s known as “The Man who Bought the Papacy,” Gregory VI, renowned for his virtue and upstanding character, likely only agreed to the sale because it would get his reprobate godson out of office. In any case, Gregory probably wasn’t sporting a pencil mustache, slicked hair, and tuxedo with rose boutonniere when Benedict sold it to him.
One of Pope Gregory VI’s closest advisors (and biggest fans, apparently) would soon become one of the greatest men and pontiffs the Church has ever seen. Hildebrand, serving as Gregory’s chaplain, helped the pope in his attempt to restore order, traveled with him post-resignation to Germany, and ultimately took the same name -- as Pope St. Gregory VII -- when he himself was elected in 1073, in homage to his former boss.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 1045, after King Edward the Confessor married Edith of Wessex, construction began on the great Westminster Abbey in England.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Clement II
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Gregory VI -
Pope Gregory VI -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 2:00AM