The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Gelasius I (492-492)
Ca. 495 (II)


(37) 1. GIOVANNI (?-526)

Birth. (No date found), Siena, Tuscany. Son of Costanzio. He is also listed as Catelinus, Catalino and Catelino.

Education. (No information found).

Cardinalate. Presbyter cardinalis of the title Pamachii (Ss. Giovanni e Paolo). Subscribed the documents of the Roman Synod of March 1, 499, convoked by Pope Symmachus in St. Peter's basilica, which issued a decree regulating the papal elections. He participated in the synod convoked by Pope Symmachus on October 23, 501 and decreed in its 4th session that the pope could not be tried for the crimes of which he was accused and that his case must be left to the judgment of God; that synod was known as the Synodus Palmaris for having being held ad palmaria, in the atrium of St. Peter's basilica (1).

Papacy. Consecrated Pope John I on August 13, 523. His pontificate was brief but rather stormy. In 523, Byzantine Emperor Justin issued an edict against the Arian heretics. Many of these abjured out of fear, others suffered death and several of their churches were taken over and given to the Catholics. When Ostrogothic King Theodoric of Italy learned what had happened to his brothers in faith, he felt directly threatened by this edict. The king's irritation, augmented by his awareness of having demonstrated complete tolerance toward the Catholic faith, led him to declare that the persecutions against the Arians of the East were to be avenged by the suppression of the Catholic faith in Italy. As an initial warning, the king had the Oratory of S. Stefano in Verona demolished. But he did not stop there, for he suspected that Rome was trying to undermine him from afar, which was true partly of certain members of the Senate. King Theodoric, therefore, forbade Roman citizens to use weapons and began to distrust those in his entourage. The Consul Albinus, who had exchanged correspondence with Emperor Justin, was accused of high treason and the same charge was made against famous writer Boethius who was only guilty, in fact, of having defended the Roman consul. Boethius was tried, convicted and executed and the head of the Senate, Symmachus, father-in-law of Boethius, suffered the same fate. In this state of violent anger which was overwhelming affecting King Theodoric, the monarch summoned Pope John I to Ravenna in 525 and ordered him to go to Constantinople with a delegation consisting of a few bishops and four distinguished Senators. The mission entrusted to him was to induce Emperor Justin to withdraw the edict against the Arians, to return the churches to them and to allow those who had been constrained by fear to abjure, to return to the Arian religion. While Pope John I firmly refused to present the third request, contrary to his conscience as a Christian, he departed. He was the first Roman pontiff to visit Constantinople. The city welcomed him enthusiastically, not as an ambassador from King Theodoric but as the head of Christianity. The pope was carried in triumph into the cathedral of Saint Sofia where he celebrated Easter of 526. During the celebration, the pope was given a throne in the church that was higher than the patriarch's, celebrated mass according to the Latin rite, and instead of the patriarch, the pope placed the customary Easter crown on Emperor Justin's head. In the negotiations, the emperor accepted most of the demands of King Theodoric, but rejected the one to which the king attached most importance: that the Arians who had been forced to convert should be permitted to revert to their original belief. Being aware of King Theodoric's impatience and certain that they had obtained all that was possible, the legates hurried back to Ravenna, and there they were confronted with the fury of the monarch. In the king's eyes the mission had been a failure since it had not brought about the reciprocal toleration that he sought. King Theodoric was also profoundly angered by the news of Pope John I's magnificent reception and his gratified reaction to it. The members of the delegation were sent to jail as soon as they returned to Ravenna. During his pontificate, he consecrated fifteen bishops. He completed the decoration of the atrium of St. Peter's basilica, which had been started by Pope Symmachus. He also rebuilt and restored several cemeteries like Nerei et Achillei in Via Ardeatina; Commodilla, where he had a basilica built, which replaced the Damasian shrine in honor of the martyrs Felice and Adautto, buried in that cemetery; and Priscillae, including the basilica of S. Silvestro..

Death. May 18, 526, martyred by starvation after a few days in prison in Ravenna (2). Buried outside the walls of Ravenna; later his body was taken back to Rome and buried in the nave of St. Peter's basilica (3). His body soon became the object of veneration for his miracles. His tomb was destroyed during the demolition of the old basilica and the construction of the new one in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sainthood. Inscribed in the Roman Martyrology, his feast is celebrated on May 27.

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 1; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiae usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. Alphonsi Ciaconii Ord. Praed. & aliorum opera descriptæ : cum uberrimis notis. Ab Augustino Oldoino, Soc. Jesu recognitae, et ad quatuor tomos ingenti ubique rerum accessione productae. Additis Pontificum recentiorum imaginibus, & Cardinalium insignibus, plurimisque aeneis figuris, cum indicibus locupletissimis. Romæ : P. et A. De Rubeis, 1677, I, col. 349-354; and ; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XXXVI and 110; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 139, no. 37; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 54-55; Le Liber pontificalis. Paris : E. de Boccard, 1981, 1955. 3 v. : facsims. (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome). Notes: Reprint of the 1955 edition./ Includes indexes./ Vol. 3: "Additions et corrections de L. Duchesne publiées par Cyrille Vogel ... avec L'Histoire du Liber pontificalis dupuis l'édition de L. Duchesne une bibliographie et des tables générales, I, 275-278; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 106, no. 53; Petruzzi, Caterina. "Giovanni I, papa, santo." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 528-529; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 43; Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab conditio Ecclesia. Ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956. 2 v. Reprint. Originally published : Lipsiae : Veit et comp., 1885-1888. Original t.p. included : Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia : ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Editionem secundam correctam et auctam edidit Philippus Jaffè ; auspiciis Gulielmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, I, 109-110; Sardella, Teresa. "Giovanni I, santo." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 483-487.

Links. Biography by Léon Clugnet, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English, Britannica; his image and biography, in English, Wikipedia; biography by Joseph Brusher, S.J., in English, Popes through the Ages; biography by J. Barmby, Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies; biography by Teresa Sardella, in Italian, Enciclopedia dei papai, Treccani; brief biographical entry, in Italian, Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Treccani; his image and biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; Giovanni I: La prima missione in terra d'Orienteby Eugenio Russomanno, in Italian, Tracce.it, Rivista Internazionale di Comunione e Liberazione; images and biography by Piero Bargellini , in Italian, Santi e Beati; biography by Gunda Wittich, Biographisch-Bibliographischen Kirchenlexikons; biography, in Norwegian, Den katolske kirke; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; engravings, Araldica Vaticana; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; another engraving, from the same source; another engraving, also from the same source; his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic; his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic.

(1) Sardella, "Giovanni I, santo." Enciclopedia dei papi, p. 109, says that he may have been the Deacon Giovanni ((Iohannes Diaconus) who signed a document, dated September 18, 506, publicly admitting guilt for having been an anti-Symachist and promising loyalty to the legitimate pope; the document may be considered the conclusion of the final phase of the Laurentian schism. He was an elderly man when elected to the papacy.
(2) This is according to all the sources consulted except Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, p. 55, which says that King Theodoric ordered the pope "to remain in Ravenna at his disposal, making clear to him that he had forfeited his favour, trust, and protection. Before the king had reached a final decision about him, the wretched man, ill, worn out by his travels, and shattered by the terrible prospect before him, collapsed and died."
(3) This is the text of his epitaph, transcribed fron Reardon, The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs, p. 43:

QVISQVIS AD AETERNAM FESTINAT TENDERE VITAM
HAC ITER EXQVIRAT QVA LICET IRE PIIS
TRAMITE QVO FRETVS CELESTIA REGNA SACERDOS
INTRAVIT MERITIS ANTE PARATA SVIS
MINVS MAGIS VIVENS COMMERCIA GRATA PEREGIT
PERDIDIT VT POSSET SEMPER HABERE DEVM
ANTISTES DOMINI PROCVMBIS VICTIMA CHRISTI
PONTIFICI SVMMO SIC PLACITVRE DEO

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