The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pelagius I (556-561)
Before 560 (II)


(3) 1. GIOVANNI (?-574)

Birth. (No date found), Rome. Son of "illustrious" Anastasio, a Roman noble, senator and provincial governor. He was surnamed Catelinus.

Education. (No information found).

Early life. He probably was the subdeacon Giovanni who completed Pope Pelagius I's translation of the Greek 5th century Sayings of the Elders and compiled an Exposition of the Heptateuch.

Cardinalate. Presbyter cardinalis of an unknown title or deacon cardinalis of the Holy Roman Church. He was elected to the papacy after the death of Pope Pelagius I on March 4, 561 and had to wait four months to receive the approval of the Byzantine emperor.

Papacy. Consecrated Pope John III on July 17, 561. On March 11, 562, in the church of S. Silvestro, by the bull Totius orbis, the pope declared the monastery of Saint-Medard of Soissons, head of all the monasteries of Gaul; King Lothaire confirmed its possession and the abbot was granted the right to impart the benediction in solemn masses and to preach to the faithful. Ca. 567, he wrote to King Gunthram of Burgundy, indicating that Bishops Salonio of Embrun (Aix) and Sagittario of Vapincum (Gap), who had been deposed by the Council of Lyon, should be reinstated to their sees. On September 15, 568, Pope John III consecrated Bishop Pietro of Ravenna in Rome; a week later, September 22, 568, by the bull Convenire novimus, he granted the pallium to the bishop of Ravenna.

The most important event of Pope John III's pontificate was the arrival of the Lombards in Italy which began with King Alboinus in 568 and was unchallenged because General Narses had been recalled to Constantinople in 567 by the new emperor, Justin II (1). King Alboinus advanced calmly. In 569, he was in Milan; and by 572 he had entered Pavia, after a siege of three years, making it the capital of the Lombard kingdom in Italy. That same year he was assassinated by his wife, Rosamund. The new king, Cleft, was also killed and for ten years the Lombards, without a king, were used for raids by various dukes. Faroaldus, the duke of Spoleto, descended upon Rome in 573 and set up camp around the walls to wage a strong siege. Sacred sites, monasteries and Church property all over the peninsula were then abandoned.

In 572, Lorenzo II, the bishop of Milan, who had being elected in Genoa because of the occupation of his city in 569, decided to renew communion with Rome and signed a document, which was countersigned by the future Pope Gregory I, then prefect of Rome, acquiescing in the condemnation of the Three Chapters. The schism of the see of Aquileia continued. During his papacy ceased the burying the dead near the tomb of the martyrs and began to spread the pious custom of visiting these holy places to worship the sacred relics of Christian heroes. Pope John III restored the catacombs of the holy martyrs and arranged for the oblations, the ampoules and the lamps for the catacombs were provided every Sunday from the Lateran patriarchium. The years of his pontificate saw the descent into Italy of the Lombards led King Alboin, whose success was also due to the withdrawal of the Byzantine General Narses, the old leader who fell into disgrace at the court of Byzantium after the death of Emperor Justinian and sought refuge in Naples. As the Lombards advanced to the south, the pope went in desperation to Naples, and persuaded him to return to Rome in 571, reside in the imperial palace, and take charge of the crisis. In spite of the help he was providing, this created great disturbances among the populace and made Pope John III so unpopular that he thought it prudent to avoid being involved in the quarrel, and to withdraw from the city and reside at the church of Ss. Tiburzio e Valeriano, two miles outside on the Via Appia. There he performed all his duties, including the consecration of bishops, until General Narses's death in Rome in 573/4. During the last period of his pontificate. Pope John III, were very difficult and he had to live tormented by the dangers and threats of the Lombarda,having being forced to spend several months in the catacombs of Praetextatus. Shortly after having completed and consecrated the basilica of Ss. Filippo e Giacomo (now Ss. XII Apostoli), started by Pope Pelagius, he died at the Lateran patriarchium. He elevated the basilica to the category of Roman parish (title), fixing its boundaries, by the bull Quoniam primitivam of May 13, 573. The tireless zeal that Pope John III demonstrated in the construction of churches and religious buildings even in times of extreme poverty, like the ones that followed the Gothic War, earned him the admiration of the contemporary Romans as well as of future ones generations. During his pontificate, he ordained sixty one bishops for different sees, thirty eight priests and thirteen deacons.

Death. July 13, 574, Rome. Buried in atrium (ante secretarium) of St. Peter's basilica, Rome (2). 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, ; 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. , no. ; and ; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. and ; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 142, no. 1; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 64; 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, 305-307; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 112, no. 61; Pennacchio, Maria Cristina. "Giovanni III." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Rom : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 537-539; Petruzzi, Caterina. "Giovanni III, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 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. 46; 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, 136-137.

Links. Biography by Horace Mann, in English, The Catolic Encyclopedia; biography, in English, Britannica; biography by Joseph Brusher, 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; his image and biography, in English, Cultural Catholic; biography by Maria Cristina Pennacchio, in Italian, Enciclopedia dei papi, Treccani; brief biographical entry, in Italian, Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Treccani; his image and biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; his image and biography, in Italian, Cathopedia, Enciclopedia Cattolica; biography, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographischen Kirchenlexikons; engravings. Araldica Vaticana; his engraving, iStockphoto; 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 sources; another engraving, also from the same source; and his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic.

(1) The Liber pontificalis gives a different story about the old general, recorded in part by Paul the Deacon, which says that General Narses fled from Rome to Campania, refusing to return to Constantinople. The Romans, fearing a siege by the Lombards, convinced Pope John III to meet with the general and beg him to return to Rome and defend the city. It seems that the mission was successful; General Narses settled in Rome in a house near a cemetery that cannot be clearly identified and assisted in the consecration of bishops. The truth is that Rome no longer had a Byzantine army in a garrison and the legend ends by showing us a Narses "assisting the pontifical see" with military qualities no longer existing.
(2) This is a fragment of his epitaph, recorded by Peter Mallio, ecclesiastical historian of the 12th century, taken from Reardon, The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs, p. 46:

IOANNES PAPA TERTIUS,
QUI COMPLEVIT ECCLESIAM PHILIPPI ET IACOBI,
SICUT HABETUR IN HOC SEQUENTI VERSU:
PELAGIUS COEPIT, COMPLEVIT PAPA IOANNES.


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