Gregory II, Pope


Gregory II, Pope
(669-731)
   One of two popes in the eighth century who were involved in a revolution in papal policy that led to the establishment of an alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian dynasty and the rupture of relations with the Byzantine Empire. Although it was his successor, Pope Gregory III, who made formal overtures to the Carolingian mayor of the palace and effective ruler of the Franks Charles Martel and the later pope Stephen II who formalized the relationship, the conditions that required the diplomatic revolution were set in Gregory II's reign. His difficulties with both the Lombard king and the Byzantine emperor, as well as the papacy's growing connections with the Frankish kingdom, laid the foundation for a closer association in the coming generation.
   Gregory's pontificate (715-731) revealed the growing tensions with the Byzantine Empire and growing connections with the barbarian kingdoms in a number of ways. One of the most important examples of the increasing ties with the west was Gregory's relationship to Boniface, an important Anglo-Saxon missionary with great influence among the Franks, who possessed the devotion to Rome shared by the English since their conversion to Christianity. Boniface's visits to Rome reinforced the Franks' interest in the papal city and brought Roman liturgical and administrative reforms to the Frankish church and newly converted areas of Saxony. In 719, Boniface visited Rome for the first time and swore allegiance to the pope before going to preach among the pagans of central Germany. Three years later in 722, Boniface returned to Rome to receive episcopal consecration from Gregory. He also swore an oath of allegiance to Gregory in preparation for his mission to convert the Saxons and reform the Frankish church. Gregory's own correspondence reveals that he saw the mission as an extension of the authority of the Roman church. Boniface's mission and dedication to Rome and Gregory's support of the mission was an important step in strengthening ties between Rome and the Frankish kingdom.
   Gregory also faced serious challenges in Italy of the kind that ultimately led to a break between Rome and Constantinople. In 712 a new Lombard king, Liutprand, ascended the throne and renewed the Lombard effort to unify Italy. Although the Lombards had converted to Catholic Christianity at the end of the seventh century, they did not let spiritual concerns interfere with political ambitions and were thus still eager to take control of all of Italy, including territories controlled by the papacy. The papacy's traditional ally against the Lombards, the Byzantine Empire, was, however, powerless to assist Gregory in his struggles with Liutprand. Moreover, the emperor, Leo III, the Isaurian, had instituted a religious policy of iconoclasm (banning and eventual destruction of icons with images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints) without the approval of the pope. Leo further alienated the pope and people of Italy with his administrative reforms, which increased the burden of taxation on Italy.
   Gregory was placed in an awkward position by the actions of the Lombard king and the Byzantine emperor. He attempted to restrain Liutprand and also remain loyal to Leo. In the 720s, for example, he negotiated successfully with Liutprand for the return of papal territory that had been seized by the Lombard king. Gregory also kept Liutprand from marching on Rome, and instead welcomed him into the city to pray at St. Peter's and make an offering of his cloak, sword, breastplate, and crown to the apostle Peter. The pope also sought to restrain the worst assaults on imperial rule by the people of Rome and refused to support a rival emperor. Gregory realized that his only support against the unreliable Liutprand was the emperor, but the pope's activities clearly established a new relationship between Rome and Constantinople. No longer was the pope a subject of the empire but an ally, and once the empire proved unable to help, later popes turned to a more reliable supporter in the kingdom of the Franks.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Davis, Raymond, trans. The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis): The Ancient Biographies of Nine Popes from a.d. 715 to a.d. 817. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1992.
 ♦ Herrin, Judith. The Formation of Christendom. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.
 ♦ Llewellyn, Peter. Rome in the Dark Ages. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971.
 ♦ Noble, Thomas F. X. The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680-825. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.
 ♦ Paul the Deacon. History of the Lombards. Trans. William Dudley Foulke. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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