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Pope John I

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Image of Pope Saint John I taken from The Lives and Times of the Popes by Artaud de Montor.

Image of Pope Saint John I taken from The Lives and Times of the Popes by Artaud de Montor.

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This profile of Pope John I is part of
Who's Who in Medieval History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Pope John I was known for:

Attempting to appease the Arian king Theodoric, who was apprehensive about the Byzantine emperor's persecution of Arian Christians. His efforts failed dramatically.

Occupations:

Places of Residence and Influence:

Important Dates:

Elected pope: Aug. 13, 523
Died: May 18, 526

About Pope John I:

Little is known of John's life before he took office as pope, except that he was born in Tuscany and that his father was Constantius. He was elected a week after the death of his predecessor Hormisdas.

Thanks to the recent reunification of the Eastern and Western Churches under Hormisdas, relations were very good with the Byzantine empire, but for the same reason they were strained with Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths. The Byzantine emperor Justin persecuted heretics with enthusiasm, and he issued an edict against Arianism in 523. Theodoric, an Arian Christian, distrusted the papacy's affinity to Justin, and in 525 he pressured John to go to Constantinople and convince the emperor to withdraw the edict.

Though rather frail, John did indeed go to Constantinople -- the first sitting pontiff known to travel to that city. He was very well-received; the populace turned out in throngs to greet him, and the emperor prostrated himself upon meeting the pope. He even had John crown him.

In conversations with the emperor, John knew that, as leader of western Christianity, he could not advocate acceptance of heresy in any way, let alone suggest -- as Theodoric is alleged to have urged -- that Arians who had converted to Orthodoxy be allowed to return to Arianism. All he could really do was counsel Justin to treat Arians and other heretics gently. Then, on Easter Sunday, he officiated at services in Hagia Sophia (demonstrating, in the process, his precedence over the Patriarch of Constantinople) before returning to Italy.

Although the clergy and John himself considered his visit to Constantinople a great success, Theodoric saw things differently. The edict against Arianism had not been withdrawn and little had changed for Theodoric's people. Enraged, Theodoric had John arrested and imprisoned in Ravenna. Worn out by his journey and probably starved, John died in prison soon after.

John is honored as a martyr. His successor is Felix IV.

Pope John I Resources:

Portrait of Pope John I

Pope John I on the Web

Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope St. John I
Substantive biography by Léon Clungnet at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Pope John I in Print

The links below will take you to a site where you can compare prices at booksellers across the web. More in-depth info about the book may be found by clicking on to the book's page at one of the online merchants.

Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to John Paul II
by Richard P. McBrien

Chronicle of the Popes: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Papacy over 2000 Years
by P. G. Maxwell-Stuart


The Papacy
Hagiography



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