Pope St. Paul I

Holding the office of Pope for a decade, Pope Paul I came to power after spending the previous five years as the trusted ally and negotiator of his brother, Pope Stephen II. Many experts argue the move to install Pope Paul I as the Vicar of Jesus Christ came after the stability of the Papacy of Pope Stephen II leading to the decision to continue his work with his brother.

Throughout his time as Pope, before his death on June 28, 767, Pope Paul I spent the majority of his time trying to maintain the position of the Church as the leader of Rome and much of Northern Italy.

Early Life of Pope Paul I

There is not much known about the early life of Pope Paul I apart from his birth taking place in Rome as a member of a family that appears to have been wealthy and owned land in the ancient city. The brother of Pope Stephen II, both brothers spent their formative years at the Lateran Palace in Rome that was once the home of Popes.

Working with Pope Stephen II

Pope Paul I came to power long before he became the Vicar of Jesus Christ in his own right. After Stephen II came to power in 752, Paul I took control of the work done to maintain control of the Lombard Kings who had spent much of the era looking to take control of the lands controlled by the Pope and Rome. As a member of the family linked to the title of Exarchate of Italy, Paul I was tasked with negotiating to keep the leaders of these lands in order.

A Contested Vote

It is important to remember that Paul I was not the overwhelming favorite to become the Pope when his brother, Stephen II died. Instead, he was forced to overcome the challenge of Archdeacon Theophylact who many believed proved a better option. Despite the challenge posed to his power by Theophylact, Pope Paul I kept the Archdeacon in the service of the Holy See leaving him in positions of power throughout his rule.

Fears of Battles

One of the main reasons for the election of Pope Paul I to the Holy See was his role in maintaining the status quo with his brother, Stephen II. The Lombard and Flemish Kings had long threatened to take control of the cities in what is Northern Italy with the peace held by constant negotiation between the Papacy and the Kings seemingly ready to wage war.

The Rise of Desiderius

There were many threats to the lands owned and ruled by the Holy See, including those posed by the Lombard King Desiderius. Pope Paul I spent much of his time as the Bishop of Rome facing a threat from the Lombard King Desiderius and trying to maintain good relations with King Pepin the Younger, the Frankish King.

In the past, there had been problems between Pepin and the Holy See leaving relations strained and risk of attack from Lombardy. Eventually, Desiderius would seize the lands of Imola, Osimo, Ancona, and Bologna which he later promised to return. This was often seen as a test of the power of Paul I and Pepin the Younger.

Pepin’s Patronage

The power of the Frankish King was large and played a role in the life of Pope Paul I as he offered protection from the growing power of the Kings of Lombardy. After the death of Pope Stephen II, the thawing of relations between the Frankish King and the Papacy led to a new relationship between the two leaders. Pepin held out an olive branch to Pope Paul I and the Frankish King when the monarch sent the gift of his newborn daughter’s Christening gown to the Holy See.

The Fear of Overthrow

Despite being the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Paul I was forced to spend the majority of his time as the Bishop of Rome looking to please Pepin the Younger because of his fear of the Lombard Kings. An alliance was the great fear of Pope Paul I with the leaders of the Eastern lands of Italy and beyond attempting to influence Pepin the Younger to abandon his protection of the Papal lands.

List of Events In The Life of Pope Paul I

75050.0Elevated to Cardinal
29 Apr 75757.3ElectedPope (Roma, Italy)
28 Jun 76767.4DiedPope (Roma, Italy)

Quick Facts about Pope Paul I

  • Paul was born in Rome, Italy along with his brother, Pope Stephen II.
  • Unlike the majority of Popes, neither Paul nor his brother, Stephen II changed their given names when they took their role.
  • Paul died on 28 June, 767 in Rome.
  • The exact cause of the death of Pope Paul I is not known aside from the circumstances. What is known is the Pope had decided to attend the Church of San Paulo Fuori le Mura. The Pope had attended church on a hot Summer’s day before collapsing near to the location.
  • Pope Paul I was elected to the Papacy on 29 May 757.
  • The period of his Papal rule lasted until his death on 28 June 767.
  • Pope Paul I was preceded in the role by his brother, Stephen II and followed by Pope Stephen III.

Interesting Facts about Pope Paul I

  • Pope Paul I may never have taken his role as the leader of the Catholic Church has Stephen survived following his election to the papacy in 752. The first Pope Stephen I died just three days after his election to be replaced by Paul’s brother, who became Stephen II.
  • Paul was a determined Church leader spending time pushing to return the people of Rome to a disciplined, Christian way of life.
  • The controversy over the election of Paul I was created by supporters of Archdeacon Theophylact trying to elect their chosen candidate as Pope while Paul was attending to his dying brother.
  • Pope Paul I turned his childhood home into a monastery as he dedicated his life to Christianity.
  • Paul is buried in the Church of San Paolo Fuori le Mura which he was visiting at the time of his death.