Pope John XXI

Pope John XXI was the 187th man to lead the Church. His election came after the quick and untimely death of two of his predecessors. He was the third pope to rule in a single year.

Considered to be one of the most scholarly Popes in history, he wrote several texts still used today.


Pope John XXI was born as Pedro Julião. He came from Lisbon. At a young age, he went to the episcopal school of Lisbon Cathedral. Eventually, he moved onto the University of Paris. He may have also studied at Montpellier.

Either way, he studied many subjects. He focused on medicine, theology, logic, and more. Pedro Julião is typically identified with Peter of Spain, who taught at the University of Siena.

History with the Church

As Peter of Spain, he was Archdeacon of Vermoim. According to historical records, he attempted to become Bishop of Lisbon. Unfortunately, he was defeated.

Eventually, he started working for Pope Gregory X. He acted as his personal physician. After that, Pope Gregory X made him Cardinal Bishop of Tusculum.


Pope John XXI was elected in September of 1276. He immediately went on to reverse a decree that affected how cardinals elected a new Pope. He removed the rules regarding the restriction of supplies and food.

Other notable achievements during his brief tenure as Pope include the start of missions to Convert the Tatars. He also maintained peace between several Christian nations and attempted to launch a crusade into the Holy Land.

Unfortunately, he was unable to see the outcome of those launches. He died after his personal apartment collapsed.

Quick Facts About Pope John XXI

  • The future Pope John XXI was born around the year 1215. His exact birth year is not known.

  • He was not born John. He had the birth name Pedro Julião. The John XXI name was adopted after his consecration.

  • Pope John XXI died on May 20th, 1277. He was roughly 70 years old.

  • The Pope died of very mysterious circumstances. He had a separate apartment built for his medical studies. While in the apartment, it collapsed. He was buried under the rubble and eventually died of his injuries several days later.

  • The papacy of Pope John XXI started on September 8th, 1276.

  • His reign ended with his death on May 20th, 1277.

  • Pope John XXI was succeeded by Pope Nicholas III.

Interesting Facts About Pope John XXI

  • He was one of only two popes to come from Portugal.

  • Pope John XXI might have been the only pope who was once a physician.

  • The Pope constructed a separate apartment at the papal palace at Viterbo. He used it solely for his medical studies.

  • After his death, his body was buried in Duomo di Viterbo. His tomb is still there and visible.

  • He was rumored by many to be a necromancer. Some even believed that his death was an act of God. The mysterious

  • Pope John XXI was originally supposed to be Pope John XX. However, he decided to skip the John XX title due to historical inaccuracies and mistakes in record-keeping.

All of the Popes that took the name “John”

There has been 21 popes that have taken the name of John.

Take a look at all the Popes who’s name began with a J

John I (St.) (#53) (523 – 526)
John II (#56) (533 – 535)
John III (#61) (561 – 574)
John IV (#72) (640 – 642)
John V (#82) (685 – 686)
John VI (#85) (701 – 705)
John VII (#86) (705 – 707)
John VIII (#108) (872 – 882)
John IX (#117) (898 – 900)
John X (#123) (914 – 928)
John XI (#126) (931 – 935)
John XII (#131) (955 – 963)
John XIII (#134) (965 – 972)
John XIV (#137) (983 – 984)
John XV (#138) (985 – 996)
John XVII (#141) (1003)
John XVIII (#142) (1003 – 1009)
John XIX (#145) (1024 – 1032)
John XXI (#188) (1276 – 1277)
John XXII (#197) (1316 – 1334)
John XXIII (Blessed) (#262) (1958 – 1963)

See all Popes here.