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Pope Agatho

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Bishop of Rome
Pope Agatho depicted in the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD)
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began678
Papacy ended681
SuccessorLeo II
Created cardinal5 March 676
by Adeodatus II
Personal details
Died10 January 681(681-01-10) (aged 106–107)[2]
Rome, Exarchate of Ravenna, Eastern Roman Empire
Previous post(s)Cardinal-Deacon (676–77)
Feast day
Venerated in
AttributesHolding a long cross

Pope Agatho (574 – 10 January 681) served as the bishop of Rome from 27 June 678 until his death.[3] He heard the appeal of Wilfrid of York, who had been displaced from his see by the division of the archdiocese ordered by Theodore of Canterbury. During Agatho's tenure, the Sixth Ecumenical Council was convened to deal with monothelitism. He is venerated as a saint by both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. He is said to have been the longest lived Pope ever.[4]

Early life[edit]

Little is known of Agatho before his papacy but he may have been among the many Sicilian clergy in Rome at that time, due to the Caliphate's attacks on Sicily in the mid-7th century.[5] He served several years as treasurer of the church of Rome. He succeeded Donus in the pontificate.[6]


Mosaic of Saint Sebastian, added to San Pietro in Vincoli c. AD 680, and therefore contemporaneous with Agatho's reign

Shortly after Agatho became pope, Bishop Wilfrid of York arrived in Rome to invoke the authority of the Holy See on his behalf. Wilfrid had been deposed from his see by Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, who had carved up Wilfrid's diocese and appointed three bishops to govern the new sees. At a synod which Pope Agatho convoked in the Lateran to investigate the affair, it was decided that Wilfrid's diocese should indeed be divided, but that Wilfrid himself should name the bishops.[7]

The major event of his pontificate was the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680–681), following the end of the Muslim Siege of Constantinople,[8] which suppressed Monothelism, which had been tolerated by previous popes (Honorius I among them). The council began when Emperor Constantine IV, wanting to heal the schism that separated the two sides, wrote to Pope Donus suggesting a conference on the matter, but Donus was dead by the time the letter arrived. Agatho was quick to seize the olive branch offered by the Emperor. He ordered councils held throughout the West so that legates could present the universal tradition of the Western Church. Then he sent a large delegation to meet the Easterners at Constantinople.[7]

The legates and patriarchs gathered in the imperial palace on 7 November 680. The Monothelites presented their case. Then a letter of Pope Agatho was read that explained the traditional belief of the Church that Christ was of two wills, divine and human. Patriarch George of Constantinople accepted Agatho's letter, as did most of the bishops present. The council proclaimed the existence of the two wills in Christ and condemned Monothelitism, with Pope Honorius I being included in the condemnation. When the council ended in September 681 the decrees were sent to the Pope, but Agatho had died in January. The Council had not only ended Monothelism, but also had healed the schism.[7]

Agatho also undertook negotiations between the Holy See and Constantine IV concerning the interference of the Byzantine court in papal elections. Constantine promised Agatho to abolish or reduce the tax that the popes had to pay to the imperial treasury on their consecration.[7]


Church records state that Agatho served as pope as a centenarian, dying between the ages of 106–107.[9][10] However, recent research has cast doubt on his age, with many people claiming that Pope Agatho and the monk "Agathon" have been confused, and are two different people.[11]


Anastatius says that the number of his miracles procured him the title of Thaumaturgus. He died in 681, having held the pontificate about two and a half years.[1][6] He is venerated as a saint by both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.[12] His feast day in Western Christianity is on 10 January.[13] Eastern Christians, including Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches, commemorate him on 20 February.[14]


  1. ^ a b Encyclopedia Britannica. 6 January 2021. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  2. ^ Mann, Horace. "Pope St. Leo II." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 12 September 2017
  3. ^ Kelly, J. N. D.; Walsh, Michael (23 July 2015). Dictionary of Popes. Oxford University Press. p. 215. ISBN 9780191044793. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  4. ^ https://www.pillarcatholic.com/p/the-aging-see-of-peter
  5. ^ Jeffrey Richards (1 May 2014). The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages: 476–752. Routledge. p. 270. ISBN 9781317678175.
  6. ^ a b Butler, Alban. "St. Agatho, Pope", The Lives of the Saints, Vol. I, 1866. Butler spells the name of Agatho's predecessor as "Domnus"; according to "Pope Donus" in the Catholic Encyclopedia, this is an alternative spelling of "Donus".
  7. ^ a b c d Joseph Brusher, S.J., Popes Through the Ages Archived 6 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Hubert Cunliffe-Jones (24 April 2006). A History of Christian Doctrine (reprint ed.). A&C Black. p. 233. ISBN 9780567043931.
  9. ^ "Father Richard Kunst: Why Bad Popes Have Been Good for the Church – Papal Artifacts". Retrieved 26 March 2024.
  10. ^ "A look at the oldest popes of history, including Francis". Aleteia — Catholic Spirituality, Lifestyle, World News, and Culture. 16 December 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2024.
  11. ^ "A look at the oldest popes of history, including Francis". aleteia.org. Aleteia SAS. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  12. ^ Ott, Michael. "Pope St. Agatho." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 12 September 2017
  13. ^ "Agatho". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  14. ^ "The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church – February". Holy Apostles Convent. Archived from the original on 28 June 2018. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Pope
Succeeded by