The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Boniface II (530-532)
Before 532 (I)


(1) 1. MERCURIO (?-535)

Birth. (No date found), of the region of Cæliomonte, Rome. Son of Proiecto. He is also listed as Mercurio Giovanni.

Education. (No information found).

Cardinalate. Presbyter cardinalis of the title of S. Clemente before 532 (1). After the death of Pope Boniface II there was an unusually long vacant see of two and a half months. There were arguments and scandals concerning the method to be used for the election of the new pope. Apparently, discussions took place among the Roman clergy, the Senate and the court of Ravenna. Simony and illicit dealings had become the usual way to arrive at the election of a pope among the clergy. The Senate then set itself as the representative of the laity and the Roman people, using its right to vote in ecclesiastical questions. Even the deliberations of the councils had to be submitted for the Senate's approval because, in certain regards, it had replaced royal authority. Therefore, some members of the clergy even sold property of the Church to try to bribe the more powerful senators. The Senate issued a decree under Pope Boniface II denouncing situations like that. It constituted a humiliating lesson in ethics from the civil authority to the clerical one. Ostrogothic King Athalaric of Italy approved that senatorial edict at the moment in which the elderly Presbyter cardinalis Mercurio of S. Clemente was elected to the pontificate.

Papacy. Consecrated Pope John II on December 31, 532 or January 2, 533 (2). In his letter, King Athalaric approved the Senate's decree and praised the freedom of choice of the clergy and the Roman people for the dignified election of a pontiff. Nevertheless, he stressed that he reserved the right to confirm the choice, and put at the disposal of the royal dignitaries a considerable amount of money for the purpose of securing votes for the candidate pre-selected by them. But if there were disputes between the clergy and the laity over an election and the case were submitted to the court of Ravena, the king commanded that, for the expenses of the case, as the Roman pontiff was the subject, no more than three thousand scudi could be spent. Simony aside, money continued to play a role in the final decisions as an expense account had been set up out of the royal reserves. An order was sent to the prefect of Rome, Salvonzius, to engrave in marble both his edict and the senatorial decree and place them on the facade of St. Peter's basilica. King Athalaric died in 534 and his mother, Amalasuntha, to save the kingdom of the Goths, married her cousin, Theodahad, who was clearly hostile to her, thus creating great uncertainty over Italy. The question of Theopaschism that had agitated the last years of the pontificate of Pope Hormisdas, reappeared under Pope John II. The Theopaschite formula defended by the Scythian monks and opposed by the Acoemetae (sleepless) monks, said that "One of the Trinity suffered in the flesh". The Acoemetae monks were opposed to this formula because they judged that it was close to Monophysism. Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who had openly supported the formula, addressed Pope John II for the condemnation of the Acoemetae monks. To achieve his purpose,the emperor enhanced with great words the teaching authority of the Roman pontiff. The pope received imperial deputations and, after holding a synod, formally accepted a dogmatic decree which the emperor had published on 15 Mar. 533. The pope had his best to convince the monks to abandon their opposition, but when they refused, the pontiff excommunicated them as Nestorians and wrote to the emperor declaring his decree orthodox. Emperor Justinian was very satisfied, and incorporated both his letter and the pope's reply in his Code. Pope John II's action has often been cited as a glaring example of a pope contradicting a previous pope in a matter of doctrine. Pope John II was also forced to deal with the dispute that arose in Gaul between Bishops Caesarius of Arles and Contumelioso of Riez. In a council presided over by the former, the latter had been found guilty of misconduct and confined to a monastery. Learning about the case, the pope adopted punitive measures, ordered the deposition of the bishop of Riez and granted jurisdiction over that see to the bishop of Arles. During his pontificate, he ordained fifteen priests and twenty one bishops for different sees.

Death. May 8, 535, Rome. Buried in St. Peter's basilica, Rome (3). His tomb was destroyed during the demolition of the old basilica and the construction of the new one in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 6-7; 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. 361-366; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XXXVI and 84; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". ." Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 141, no. 1; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 57-58; 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, 285-286; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 109, no.56; Petruzzi, Caterina. "Giovanni II, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 529-530; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 44; Pennacchio, Maria Cristina. "Giovanni II."Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 499-503; 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, 113.

Links. Biography, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English, Britannica; biography by J. Barmby, in English, Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies; his image and biography, in English, Wikipedia; biography by Joseph Brusher, S.J., Popes through the Ages; brief biograpjical entry, in Italian, Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Treccani; biography by Maria Cristina Pennacchio, in Italian, Enciclopedia dei papi, Treccani; his image and biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; his image and biography by Eugenio Russomanno, in Italian, TRACCE.it, Rivista Internazionale di Comunione e Liberazione; biography, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographischen Kirchenlexikons; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; his engraving, iStockphoto; 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 , also from the same source; his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic; and his effigy on another medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic.

(1) Duchesne, on p. 285, note 1, of Le Liber pontificalis, includes the following dedication of some votive objects offered to the basilica of S. Clemente by Presbyter Severus, in which Pope John II is mentioned:

+ SALBO PAPA · IOHANNE COGNOMEn
TO MERCVRIO EX SCE ECCL. ROM. PRESBYTE
RIS ORDINATO EX TIT· SCI CLEMENTIS AD GLO
RIAM PONTIFICALEM PROMOTO BEATO PETRO
AP. PATRONO SVO AVINCVLIS EIVS SEVERVS PB OFERT
ET IT · PC LAMPADI ET ORESTIS. VV. CC, VBBI+CLVS CEDRINVS EST


    On the same page, Duchesne adds that there are still in the basilica several monuments of Presbyter cardinalis Mercurio. On a fragment of the alchitrave of the ancient ciborium, the following inscription is found:
ALTARE TIBI DS SALVO HORMISDA PAPA · MERCVRIVS PB CVM SOCIIS OFfert


    Duchesne adds that in a column capital, probably from the same ciborium, there is an inscription that reads: + MERCVRIVS PB SCE EC [clesiae Romanae servu]S DNI. And finishes indicating that the enclosure of the schola cantorum is formed by large marble tables on which can be seen in relief the monogram of the name IOHANNES, amid the ornaments in the style proper of the sixth century.
(2) Annuario Pontificio per l'anno 2010 (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2010), p. 9*, indicates that he is the first pope to have changed his name (Mercury, a Pagan deity) when elected to the papacy. He may be the same as Presbyter cardinalis Gioviano of the title of S. Clemente (537).
(3) This is the text of his epitaph, taken from Reardon, The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs, p. 44:

MENTE PIA VIVENS XPI (Christi) NVTRITVS IN AVLA
ET SOLA GAVDENS SIMPLICITATE BONI
BLANDVS IN OBSEQVIIS ET PVRO PLENVS AMORE
PACIFICAM VITAM IVRE QVIETIS AGENS
QVI GRATVS POPVLIS ET CELSO DIGNVS HONORE
SVMPSISTI MERITIS PONTIFICALE DECVS
COMMISSVMQVE TIBI PASCENS BONITATE MAGISTRA
SERVASTI CVNCTVM SVB PIETATE GREGEM
PRO QVO RITE TVVM VENERANS AGAPETVS HONOREM
PRAESTITIT HAEC TVMVLO MVNERA GRATA TVO
QVI NVNC ANTISTES ROMANA CELSVS IN VRBE
SEDIS APOSTOLICAE CVLMINA SACRA TENET


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