Pope Pelagius I was the 60th pope, serving the church during a tumultuous time. Much is unknown about his birth, except that he was born to a wealthy and noble family in Rome. This article will dive into some of the interesting and known facts about Pope Pelagius I.
Becoming the Vicar of Rome
Pope Pelagius I is first mentioned in historical texts as a deacon in Constantinople, where he served Pope Vigilius. There he quickly gained the favor of the Byzantine Emporer Justinian I. In doing so, Pope Pelagius I was named an apocrisiarius, or a Byzantine ambassador.
By 543, Pope Pelagius I made his way back to Rome. As he met with the poor, he shared his wealth to ease their pain and gained great popularity among the people. This and his favor with the Emperor led to his appointment as Archdeacon. This meant that when Pope Vigilius left to visit the Emperor, he became the vicar of Rome.
Pope Pelagius I saw difficult times as vicar or Rome. He was charged with defending the city from invasion by Totila, the King of the Goths. King Totila established a blockade around the city in hopes to take Rome back from the Byzantines. During this siege, Pope Pelagius I used his private wealth to help the hungry in Rome. He also used it to bring about a truce with King Totila and save his city from war and death.
Becoming the Pope
The Byzantine Papacy lasted from 537 to 752 and required an appointment to have the Emporer’s approval. Generally, someone was chosen from the pool of apocrisiarii. Being in this select group and having Emporer Justinian I’s favor led to a quick approval for Pope Pelagius I following Pope Vigilius’ death.
That being said, ten months without a Pope passed after the death of Pope Vigilius. This is due to the lack of bishops that would support Pope Pelagius I’s papacy. Several, it is reported, questioned his loyalties and role in the death of Vigilius. He took the time to attest to his purity and was eventually made Pope on April 16, 556. He served to his death on March 4, 561.
Quick Facts About Pope Pelagius I
- His actual date of birth is unknown, though it presumed to be around 500.
- Similarly, no birth name is attributed to him other than Pelagius.
- He died on March 4, 561.
- The cause of death is not reported.
- He became Pope on April 16, 556, when he was presumably 56 years old.
- His papacy ended just under four years with his death on March 4, 561.
- His papacy was preceded by Pope Vigilius.
- Pope John III succeeded him four months after his death.
Interesting Facts About Pope Pelagius I
- He commissioned the building of Santi Dodici Apostoli in dedication of the Apostles. This is a Roman Catholic parish and a minor basilica.
- He was nicknamed the ‘Father of the Poor’ for his donations to the needy in Rome.
- He lived in Rome during the Ostrogothic Kingdom.