Pope Gregory V

Pope Gregory V was the 138th leader of the Catholic Church and the fifth man to use the name Gregory. He was also the first German pope. He chose this name in honor of his predecessors and set a precedent that other popes still use today. If you want to learn about his policies and short reign, keep reading.

Early Life

The future Pope Gregory V knew from an early age that he would work for the Church. His grandfather was Otto I and a former Holy Roman Emperor. Otto I was also the name of his father. He was both the Duke of Carinthia and a member of the Salian dynasty, which included a number of wealthy leaders and rulers. His official place of birth is listed as Stainach, which was part of the Duchy of Carinthia and the Holy Roman Empire. It was also part of Germany. His parents named him Bruno von Karnten.

Papal Election

Holy Roman Emperor Otto III worked closely with Bruno and had him act as his chaplain. The two were also cousins. When Pope John XV passed away, the emperor nominated Bruno as the next pope. The Church quickly agreed that he was the best choice and elevated him to this position on May 3, 996.


Upon choosing the name Pope Gregory V, the new pope would quickly officially crown his cousin as the Holy Roman Emperor, likely due to the man nominating him. They brought others to Rome for a synod just a few days later in which they restored Arnulf as the Archbishop of Reims, a position that he previously lost to Gerbert of Aurillac. This action caused Robert II of France to both stand down and separate from his wife, Bertha of Burgundy. Bertha was a widow with children and the second cousin of Robert. When the two announced plans to marry, there was much opposition as Robert had divorced his first wife. The pope threatened to excommunicate the pair if Robert did not walk away.


Pope Gregory V was only 27 when he died. He showed no signs or symptoms of illness but passed away while performing his official duties as pope. There were no signs of foul play to indicate that the pope was murdered. As with other popes, the Catholic Church had Gregory V interned in Saint Peter’s Basilica where he was placed close to Pope Pelagius I.

Quick Facts About Pope Gregory V

  • He was born in Germany and given the name Bruno von Karnten.
  • The Church does not have an official birth date for Gregory V but believes he was born circa 972.
  • He died on February 18, 999.
  • The pope died of unknown causes.
  • His papacy began on May 3, 996.
  • Pope Gregory V ended his papacy on February 18, 999.
  • Pope Sylvester II was the successor to Pope Gregory V.

Interesting Facts About Pope Gregory V

  • Gregory V was only 24 when he became the pope, which makes him one of the youngest popes in history. He was also one of the youngest popes to die while holding the position when he passed away at the age of 27.

  • Known as Bruno for much of his life, he became the first pope to pick a different name upon taking over the papacy. He chose Gregory in honor of the four other popes of the same name. All popes who followed him would choose a different name for their time as pope too.

  • Pope Gregory V outlived an antipope who fought him for the position. John XVI assumed the antipope position in April of 997 and spoke for those who did not agree with the pope. He led the opposition until February of 998, nearly one year before the pope died.

  • The death of the antipope was quite cruel and unusual for the time. Emperor Otto III had his troops track the man down and remove his ears and tongue. They then took his eyes and revoked him in public. The antipope survived and lived for nearly three more years.

  • One reason why the emperor allowed the antipope to live was that others spoke out against his actions. Crescentius II was one of the noblemen who appointed the antipope. He was later hanged.