The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
John VII (705-707)
Before 708 (II)


(1) 1. CONSTANTINUS (?-715)

Birth. (No date found), of a family of Syrian origin. Son of Iohanne. Although the sources say nothing about it, he was perhaps brother of Pope Sisinnius, since he was of Syrian origin and like him son of a Iohanne (1).

Education. He belonged to the Roman clergy, where he had developed his ecclesiastical career, reaching the rank of subdeacon regionary.

Early life. The first time he is mentioned by known sources is in 680, when, with Presbyters Giorgio and Teodoro, and deacon Giovanni (future Pope John V), was chosen to represent Pope Agathon and the Roman Church in the delegation sent Byzantium with a mandate to defend before the Sixth Ecumenical Council the point of view of the Western Church on the Monothelist dispute, which as had emerged during the Roman Synod of March 27, 680 and which was outlined in two documents that the legation brought to Constantinople: the collegial letter, signed by one hundred twenty-five bishops present at the Roman Synod, and the epistle addressed by the pope to Emperor Constantine IV on the occasion. Members of the delegation sent by Rome, were Presbyter Teodoro, representing the Church of Ravenna, and the bishops of Reggio, Giovanni; Patèrno, Abbondanzi; and Porto, Giovanni; as well as delegates from the Greek monasteries in Rome. Together with his colleagues, Subdeacon Constantinus arrived in Constantinople on September 10 and participated in the work of the council, which opened on November 7, 680, and ended September 16 the following year. The news of the death of Pope Agathon, who died on January 10, 681, and the election to the papacy of Pope Leo II, communicated personally by the emperor to Subdeacon Constantinus and the other Roman delegates on March 10, reduced ability to maneuver of the latter ones but did not affect the results of the council, which solemnly sanctioned the condemnation of the doctrines Monothelitism based on dogmatic principles set out in their letters by Pope Agathon and the synodal fathers gathered in Rome in March 680. Subdeacon Constantinus and his colleagues returned to Rome in the summer of 682, bringing in Greek the text of the official acts of the council, the profession of faith voted by the assembly and the address of homage paid to the emperor in this final session, as well as the letter with which the council fathers exposed to the pope - addressing Pope Agathon as if he still alive - the substance of the deliberations and asked him to approve the acts of the council with his own document. Together with the imperial orders that ratified and made enforceable the acts of the Council itself (an edict and two rescripts, the first of which, dated December 13, 681, was addressed to Pope Leo II, and another of December 23, which was directed to the churches under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome), also was sent the consent of Emperor Constantine IV to the consecration of the new pontiff and divales iussiones with which, just as requested by Pope Agathon, was decreased the taxation of the patrimonium of St. Peter in Calabria and Sicily.

Soon after, on August 17, 682, Pope Leo II was consecrated pope. In 683, Subdeacon Constantinus was appointed by the new pope his apocrisiarius at the imperial court and entrusted with the task of delivering Emperor Constantine IV the papal answer to the imperial rescript of December 13, 681. In a letter, dated May 7, 683, the pope informed the monarch of the arrival in Rome of the Western delegates returning from the council; ratified, by the authority of St. Peter, the deliberations of the council; pointed out the decisive contribution that the Roman Church had given to the definition of orthodox doctrines and the restoration of religious peace; and finally, presented as his official envoy, the Regionary Subdeacon Constantinus. Sending him to Byzantium, Pope Leo II fulfilled an invitation of the emperor, who in his letter had highlighted the value of the constant presence in Constantinople of a papal nuncio. After that year, for almost quarter of a century, the name of Subdeacon Constantinus no longer appears in the sources known. Nothing can be said about the progress of his career under the pontiffs who succeeded Pope Leo II after his death on July 3, 683: Popes Benedict II, John V, Conon, Sergius I, John VI, John VII and Sisinnius.

Cardinalate. Deacon cardinalis of the Holy Roman Church before 708 (2).

Papacy. Elected pope on March 25, 708. Kept his baptismal name as pope. His election, as well as that of his predecessors from Conon to Sisinnius, was influenced by the considerations that made him feel at that moment as the only candidate favorably accepted by the Byzantine authorities as well as by the city environment, and not unwelcome to the powerful groups and elements linked to the Roman tradition. The new pope helplessly watched the new outburst of revenge which Emperor Justinian II turned this time on Ravenna, whose militia, the monarch believed, had betrayed the Byzantine initiatives in the name of a supposed regional 'autonomy' by recently intervening in defense of Popes Sergius I, John VI and John VII. Patrician Teodoro, by order of the emperor, went from Sicily with the fleet to Ravenna; once the city fell, he arrested nobles and clergy, chained them and dragged them into ships anchored in the harbor. The patrician put the city on fire, massacred a large number of citizens and left for Constantinople. In the imperial capital were executed several people sentenced to death; the acknowledged leader of the revolt, Giovannicio, was walled up alive and the archbishop of Ravenna, Felice, was blinded and exiled to Pontus. The emperor had ordered this gruesome punishment probably believing that he could win the will of the pope, considering that Archbishop Felice had shown a vague sentiment of rebellion against Rome. In any case, such a punishment was the action of a madman, who had as his own end to conciliate the pope and to confirm his own undisputed supremacy. The fact is that Emperor Justinian II, after this latest showdown, invited the pope to go to Constantinople to settle the dispute still pending on the articles of the Council Quinisextum. Pope Constantinus, energetic and courageous, accepted the invitation only if he was given a safe conduct and the request was granted. The pontiff left from Porto on October 5, 710 and stopped in Naples, where he met the new Exarch Giovanni Rizocopo, who, as soon as the pope left for Byzantium, went to Rome and governed as a tyrant during the absence of the pontiff. The exarch condemned to death without any kind of process numerous ecclesiastics, and his actions were practically a continuation of the vendetta carried out by Patrician Teodoro in Ravenna.

The pope was received in Constantinople pompously by the highest imperial officials. In Nicomedia, the pontiff met with Emperor Justinian II, who even carried out the proskynesis (knelt before the pope, kissed his feet and confirmed the privileges of the Roman Church). The long negotiations brought poor results for the emperor because the pope remained adamant and accepted what was already valid for previous councils. In early October, Pope Constantinus left Constantinople and this was the last visit of a pope to that city for twelve and a half centuries (3). Pope Constantinus on his return stopped at Gaeta, reaching Rome on October 24, 711, after an absence of a year, which was very painful for citizenship because of the tyrannical actions of Exarch Giovanni Rizocopo, who had meanwhile left for Ravenna.There, the exarch died, probably a victim of an open revolt that broke out in the city between 710 and 711. The leader of the revolt was a certain Giorgio, son of Giovannicio, who had been executed in Constantinople. Giorgio was like a "captain of the people" and divided the militia in the twelve sections of the city. No more about the progress of the revolt is known. But it is certain that, when the Armenian Philippikos Bardane became emperor, killing Emperor Justinian II, victory finally arrived for the Byzantines.

The new emperor was Monothelite and felt compelled to condemn the decisions of the sixth ecumenical council in Trullo, issuing a decree stating that in Christ there was only one will, and sent ambassadors to the pope with this profession of faith, which Pope Constantinus obviously rejected. The pontiff went so far as to refuse to recognize Philippikos as emperor. The pope did not want that the usual procession through the streets of Rome exalting the person of the emperor take place and that papal coins with the effigy of Bardane were issued. This papal opposition produced a very serious state of unrest in Rome with street fighting in which more than thirty people were killed. There was open battle on Via Sacra between the city militia headed by Dux Cristoforo, who had been elected to this office by Emperor Justinian II, and the one led by a certain Pietro, sent as a new dux by the exarch of Ravenna. A procession with banners and icons led by Pope Constantinus passed between the contenders and put an end to hostilities. The refusal to recognize an emperor, who in the eyes of the papacy was a heretic, was an important event for the future independence of the papacy. In June 713, Emperor Philippikos Bardane lost the throne. He was replaced by a minister who self-appointed himself as emperor with the name Anastasius II. The new emperor declared himself Orthodox and adherent to the faith of the Fourth Council. The authority of the pope began to influence that of this emperor, who was improvised and fearful of losing his throne because of unpopularity arising from a non-recognition of his authority by pontifical Rome, thus the parts were reversed. The new exarch of Ravenna declared himself loyal to the new Emperor Anastasius II. Peter remained as dux of the imperial garrison in Rome after promising a general amnesty. Cristoforo probably left his position for the peace of all. Ultimately, the pope had imposed himself for the first time to the emperor. The pontiff died shortly after.

Death. April 9, 715, Rome. Buried in the left nave of St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican. 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, 30-32; 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. 499-504; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XXXVIII; Del Re, Niccolò. "Costantino I, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 427-428; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 146, no. 2; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 85-86; Miller, David. "Costantino." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 641-647; 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, 389-395; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 130, no. 88; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 58; 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, 247-249.

Links. Biography, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English, (Britannica); his image and biography, in English; biography by Joseph Brusher, S.S., in English, Popes through the ages; biography, in English, The Ecole Initiative; biography by David Miller, in Italian, Enciclopedia dei papai, Treccani; biography, in Italian, Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Treccani; biography, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; another engraving from the same source; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; engravings, Araldica Vaticana; his engraving, iStockphoto; his engraving, Il Mercante in Asta; 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; and his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic.

(1) This is according to Miller, "Costantino", Enciclopedia dei papi, I, 641.
(2) This is according to "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926, p. 146, no. 2, which says tha for certain he was named cardinal deacon before 708. None of the other sources consulted, including Miller, "Costantino." Enciclopedia dei papi, I, 641-647, from which most of the information on his early life was taken, mention this promotion.
(3) In July 1967, Pope Paul VI went to Constantinople to meet with Patriarch Athenagoras but certainly under very different circumstances.

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