Pope John III
|Pope John III|
|Papacy began||17 July 561|
|Papacy ended||13 July 574|
Rome, Eastern Roman Empire
|Died||13 July 574
Rome, Eastern Roman Empire
Pope John III (Latin: Ioannes PP. III, Italian: Giovanni III) was pope from 17 July 561 to 13 July 574. He was born in Rome of a distinguished family. The Liber Pontificalis calls him a son of one Anastasius. His father bore the title illustris, more than likely being a vir illustris ("illustrius man", high-ranking member of the Roman Senate). According to the historian Evagrius, his birth name was Catelinus, but he took the name John on his accession.
His pontificate is characterized by two major events over which he had no control. The first was the death of Emperor Justinian I in 565. Jeffrey Richards considers his reign was an "anomaly", "a temporary damming up of the stream of history." With his death, the Byzantine Empire turned its attention from Rome and the West to pressing problems in the Balkans, from the Avars, Persians and the Arabs. "Italy, being geographically peripheral to the imperial heartland, inevitably took bottom place on the strategic priority list."
The other major event was the invasion of the Lombards, which began in 568. Much of northern Italy was overrun, as well as the central spine of the peninsula, making a shambles of the imperial administration. Further, their warriors threatened the survival of Rome herself, subjecting the Eternal City to repeated sieges. Lastly, their entrance reintroduced the newly extinguished Arian belief, which threatened the predominance of Roman Catholicism.
As the Lombards poured south into Italy, the newly-appointed governor Longinus sat powerless in Ravenna, unable to stop them. Pope John took it upon himself to go to Naples, where the former governor Narses was preparing to return to Constantinople, and beg him to take charge. He had been recalled by the new Emperor Justin II in response to Italian petitions over his oppressive taxation. Narses agreed to this, and returned to Rome. However, popular hatred of Narses was then extended to John for inviting him back. This unrest reached such a pitch that the Pope was forced to retire from Rome and take up residence at the catacombs along the Via Appia two miles outside the city. There he carried out his duties, including the consecration of bishops.
One recorded act of Pope John involved two bishops, Salonius of Embrun and Sagittarius of Gap, who had been condemned in a synod at Lyons (c. 567). This pair succeeded in persuading Guntram, King of Burgundy, that they had been condemned unjustly, and appealed to the pope. Influenced by Guntram's letters, John decided that they should be restored to their sees.
It is recorded in the Liber Pontificalis that he died on 13 July 574.
- Mann, Horace K. (1910). "Pope John III". Catholic Encyclopedia 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- Martindale, John R.; Jones, A.H.M.; Morris, John (1992), The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire – Volume III, AD 527–641, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-20160-8, p. 61
- Historia Ecclesiastica 5.16
- Jeffrey Richards, The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 256
- Richards, Popes and the Papacy, pp. 162f
- Richards, Popes and the papacy, pp. 164f
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