Pelagius II of Rome

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Pope Pelagius II of Rome was the Pope of the Church of Rome from 579 to 590. Pelagius was Pope during a time of conflict as Rome was besieged by the Lombards, and he himself was confronted by a schism concerning the Three Chapters. He was a strong advocate of the celibacy of the clergy.


Little is known of his early life including his date of birth. Apparently a native of Rome, he was of Gothic descent as his father's name was Winigild. He came to the see of Rome, succeeding Pope Benedict I without being confirmed by the emperor in Constantinople, as at the time the Lombards were besieging the city. The siege also delayed his consecration to November 26, 579. His appeal for help to emperor Maurice of Constantinople to save Rome from the barbarians, with an explanation of the manner of his election, brought only belated assistance in 584, in the form of an exarch with civil and military authority over the Italian peninsula but with an insufficient military force.

In the meantime Pelagius had approached the Frankish kings through Bishop Aunacharius of Auxerre for assistance against the Lombards. After only nominal help from the Franks before they were bribed to retired from Italy, the exarch of Ravenna succeeded in concluding a truce with the Lombards. In 581, Pelagius was able to address the Three Chapters schism and convinced the bishop of Milan to return to communion although other bishops in Northern Italy remained in schism which continued for another two hundred years. Pope Pelagius was more successful in Spain where the Visigoths converted to Christianity.

Pope Pelagius worked greatly to promote the celibacy of the clergy. He issued such strong regulations on this matter that his successor Pope Gregory I thought them too strict and changed them to some extent. But, Gregory did support Pelagius' protest of the Patriarch of Constantinople's use of the title of "Ecumenical Patriarch."

Among his construction projects, Pelagius directed the construction of the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, a church shrine built over the place where St. Lawrence was martyred. Pelagius also turned his own house into a hospital for the Poor.

Pelagius died a victim of the plague that devastated Rome at the end of 590. He was buried in St. Peter's Basilica.

Succession box:
Pelagius II of Rome
Preceded by:
Benedict I
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
Gregory I
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