Pope Donus was a Roman man who reigned as pope from 676 to 678 and was the 78th pope. He is also the only man in history to select the name Donus upon becoming pope. This article compiles some of the limited information available about his life.
The limited information that we have about Pope Donus claims that he was born in the Byzantine Empire city of Rome somewhere around 610. His father was also Roman by birth and known as Mauricius. Donus is one of the only men in history to use the same name both before and after becoming pope.
Before becoming pope, Donus served as a cardinal deacon and received his appointment in 673. Later that same year, the Church elevated him to a full cardinal. Donus has a unique story because he only worked for the Church for three years before becoming pope.
As pope, Donus instituted restoration efforts to beautify local churches and make members take pride in those buildings. He hired workers to use large bricks made from Italian marble to create an atrium at the Old St. Peter’s Basilica. The atrium stood for many years until the Church replaced it. Other restoration efforts took place at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and in smaller churches around Rome.
As Donus was pope for only 525 days, there aren’t many historical records available for his reign. Records show that he issued appointments for five new deacons and 12 priests. He also appointed six bishops and sent them to work at Sees around Europe. Though the Church had issues with Constantinople at the time, Pope Donus helped end those troubles. He allowed archbishops in Constantinople to once again offer communion and added the names of past priests back to official records. Those men were removed due to siding with Constantinople. After his death in 678, Church officials had him buried in Rome.
Quick Facts About Pope Donus
- He was born circa 610 in Rome, which was part of the Byzantine Empire at the time.
- His parents gave him the name Donus. He kept the name after becoming pope.
- Donus passed away on April 11, 678.
- The most likely cause of death for the former pope was natural causes.
- Pope Donus became pope on November 2, 676.
- His papacy ended on April 11, 678 upon his death.
- Church officials named Agatho the next pope after Donus passed away.
Interesting Facts About Pope Donus
- Official records from the Church show a Pope Donus II who allegedly served as pope in 974. The Church would later admit that this was a mistake and that there was only ever one Pope Donus.
- One of the controversial steps that he took as pope came when Donus evicted a group of monks from a monastery in Syria. Those monks were part of the Nestorian order, which contradicted the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. After the eviction, Catholic monks moved into the monastery. Some historians believe that Donus helped the monks find new homes before he officially evicted them.
- Pope Donus was one of several older men who served as pope of the Church. He was 66 when he became pope and 68 when he passed away.
- It took nearly four months before the Church appointed Donus to the position of pope following the death of Adeodatus II. Some credit the restoration work that Donus did with the efforts started by the former pope.
- Old St. Peter’s Basilica was the final resting place of Pope Donus. That basilica stood on the grounds where the new St. Peter’s Basilica now sits.