Pope Constantine

Pope Constantine
Papacy began March 25, 708
Papacy ended April 9, 715
Predecessor Sisinnius
Successor Gregory II
Personal details
Birth name Constantinus
Born 664
Syria, Byzantine Empire
Died April 9, 715(715-04-09)

Pope Constantine (664 – April 9, 715) was pope from 708 to 715. With the exception of Antipope Constantine, he was the only pope to take such a "quintessentially" Eastern name of an emperor.[1] During this period, the regnal name was also used by emperors and patriarchs.

Selected as one of the last popes of the Byzantine Papacy, the defining moment of Constantine's pontificate was his 710/711 visit to Constantinople where he compromised with Justinian II on the Trullan canons of the Quinisext Council. Constantine was the last pope to visit Constantinople until Pope Paul VI did again in 1967.[2][3]


Early life

Constantine was an Assyrian by birth, fluent in the Greek language, and immersed in Eastern rituals and practices.[4] By his upbringing, he would have been "fully at ease in the oriental milieu of the early-eight-century Byzantine court".[4]

Before his selection as pope, he had visited Constantinople twice.[4] He was one of the Roman legates to the Third Council of Constantinople there in 680/681.[4] He also delivered a combative letter from Pope Leo II to Constantine IV in 682.[4] He met and developed a rapport with Prince Justinian, the heir apparent to the Byzantine throne, on both occasions.[4]

Selection as Pope

Constantine's predecessor Pope Sisinnius, a Syrian, was pope for only twenty days.[5] Constantine became pope in March 708, less than two months later.[5] Constantine was one of the many Greek popes of the Byzantine Papacy, the period during which Rome was under the rule of the Byzantine Empire and popes required the approval of the emperor for consecration as pope.

The defining issue of the papacy at the time of Constatine's election was the Western rejection of the Trullan canons of the Quinisext Council.[6] Pope John VII had been sent the canons for approval and instead had sent them back, "without any emendations at all".[6] John VII's predecessor, Pope Sergius I had declared that he would rather die than subscribe to the council.[6]

Papal visit to Constantinople

Constantine's successor Pope Gregory II accompanied him to Constantinople as a deacon.

In 710, Justinian II demanded in an iussio that Constantine appear before the emperor in Constantinople.[7] The imperial mandate made it "obvious that the relentless emperor meant to settle once and for all the issue of Rome's acceptance of the Trullan decrees".[1] Unlike his predecessors, Constantine neither delayed nor made excuses to avoid appearing in the imperial city; in fact, he "identified with Byzantium as perhaps no Roman pontiff before him ever had".[1] Prior to Constantine's departure, the emperor had blinded Archbishop Felix of Ravenna for plotting to overthrow the emperor, an act that had improved the papal-Byzantine rapport.[4] However, Constantine's primary motivation for the trip was to "forestall" a rift between Rome and Constantinople over the Trullan decrees.[4]

Constantine departed on October 5, 710.[4] In Constantinople, Constantine stayed in the Placidia Palace, which had formerly been occupied by Pope Vigilius in 547, the representatives of Pope Martin I (who were prohibited from saying Mass therin), and Pope Agatho (attending the Third Council of Constantinople).[8] Eleven of Constantine's thirteen companions who can be identified by name (two bishops, three priests, and all the ranking members of the papal chancellery and household) were also of Eastern extraction.[9] Also accompanying Constantine was the future Pope Gregory II, then a deacon, and another Latin subdeacon Julian.[9] Constantine specifically chose attendants who were "cut from similar cloth" as he, and likely to be sympathetic to the East.[4]

While stopping in transit in Naples, Constantine crossed paths with Exarch of Ravenna John III Rizocopo, then on his way to Rome to execute four high-ranking papal officials by cutting their throats.[4] The four (as evidenced by their staying behind) were opposed to Constantine's new policy of rapproachment with Constantinople.[4] Doubtlessly, Constantine himself learned of the exarch's errand before departing for Sicily, then Gallipoli, and then Otranto, where the group stayed for winter.[4] In the spring, Constantine crossed the Ionian Sea, meeting the strategos of the imperial fleet on the island of Chios and was received by the Karabisianoi before proceeding to Constantinople.[4]

Constantine entered Constantinople on a "horse caparisoned with gilded saddle clothes and golden bridles and bearing on its head the kamelaukion, or diadem, which the sovereign alone was authorized to wear and then only on 'a great public festival of the Lord'".[4] Justinian II's son and co-emperor Tiberios (along with Patriarch Kyros, senators, nobles, clerics, and many others) greeted Constantine at the seventh milestone from the city, in the style of an imperial adventus.[10] Justinian II was in Nicaea at the time and urged the pontiff to meet him in Nicomedia.[10] The Liber pontificalis recounts a bizarre scene of the crowned emperor prostrating himself before the pope but a more mutual greeting is probable.[10] That Sunday, Justinian II received communion from the hands of the pope and issued a vague confirmation of the various privileges of the Roman See.[10]

The negotiations regarding the Trullan canons were conducted by the future Pope Gregory II. A degree of compromise (the "so-called Compromise of Nicomedia")—which "diplomatically skirted" the actual issue of their acceptance—was reached.[10] While Constantine made concessions regarding the economia, he did not give ground on the vast majority of the Roman grievances.[10] The agreement was more designed to secure East-West political unity than resolve any doctrinal dispute.[10] The fact of Constantine's having been summoned to Constantinople was the real proof that the "imperial writ still ran in Rome".[10] Constantine left the city in October 711.

Later imperial disputes

Constantine refused to accept coins minted with the image of Philippikos Bardanes.

However, shortly after Constantine's return to Rome, Justinian was killed by mutinous troops, in November 711.

The new emperor, Philippikos Bardanes was an adherent of Monothelitism, rejected the arrangements of the Third Council of Constantinople, and demanded Constantine's support of the view that Christ had only one will. In 712, Constantine rejected Philippikos's demand to revive Monothelitism; he further refused to receive an imperial portrait or coins with the emperor's image, and also refused to commemorate the emperor in Mass.[6] As the exarch (the imperial representative in Italy) attempted to enforce the imperial presence there were clashes, but Constantine was able to calm the situation.

Philippus was overthrown in June 713, and his successor, Anastasius II had exarch Scholasticus deliver to the Pope a letter affirming his support for the Sixth General Council.



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Ekonomou, Andrew J. (2007), Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes: Eastern influences on Rome and the papacy from Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D. 590-752, Lexington: Lexington Books, ISBN 073911977X 
  •  Mann, Horace K. (1913). "Pope Constantine". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Gregory II

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pope Constantine —     Pope Constantine     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope Constantine     Consecrated 25 March, 708; d. 9 April, 715; a Syrian, the son of John, and a remarkably affable man . The first half of his reign was marked by a cruel famine in Rome, the… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Constantine —     Pope Constantine     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope Constantine     Consecrated 25 March, 708; d. 9 April, 715; a Syrian, the son of John, and a remarkably affable man . The first half of his reign was marked by a cruel famine in Rome, the… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • pope —     The Pope     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Pope     (Ecclesiastical Latin papa from Greek papas, a variant of pappas father, in classical Latin pappas Juvenal, Satires 6:633).     The title pope, once used with far greater latitude (see below …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Constantine — most commonly refers to one of the following: Constantine (name), a given name and surname Constantine I, Roman Emperor from 306 to 337, commonly known as Constantine the Great It may also refer to: People Roman/Byzantine Emperors Constantine II… …   Wikipedia

  • Pope St. Gregory II —     Pope St. Gregory II     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope St. Gregory II     (Reigned 715 731).     Perhaps the greatest of the great popes who occupied the chair of Peter during the eighth century, a Roman, son of Marcellus and Honesta. To his… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Pope Gregory II — Infobox Pope English name=Gregory II birth name=??? term start=May 19, 715 term end=February 11, 731 predecessor=Constantine successor=Gregory III birth date=??? birthplace=Rome, Italy dead=dead|death date=death date|731|2|11|mf=y deathplace=Rome …   Wikipedia

  • Constantine the Great and Christianity — Constantine the Great Mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Constantinople, c. 1000 Isapostolos, 13th Apostle Born Feb 27, 272 in Naissus, Roman Empire (now …   Wikipedia

  • Pope St. Zachary —     Pope St. Zachary     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope St. Zachary     (ZACHARIAS.)     Reigned 741 52. Year of birth unknown; died in March, 752. Zachary sprang from a Greek family living in Calabria; his father, according to the Liber… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Pope St. Leo III —     Pope St. Leo III     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope St. Leo III     Date of birth unknown; died 816. He was elected on the very day his predecessor was buried (26 Dec., 795), and consecrated on the following day. It is quite possible that… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Pope St. Miltiades —     Pope St. Miltiades     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope St. Miltiades     The year of his birth is not known; he was elected pope in either 310 or 311; died 10 or 11 January, 314. After the banishment of Pope Eusebius, the Roman See was vacant… …   Catholic encyclopedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.