The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
John VI (701-705)
At an unknown date between 701 and 705 (I)


(1) 1. GIOVANNI (?-707)

Birth. (No date found), Greece or Rossano, Calabria, Magna Grecia. Son of Platon Janediga, curator of the Palatine Hill palace, and his wife Blatta. His paternal grandfather was Senator Theodorus Chilas. He was the first pope to be the son of a Byzantine official.

Education. He was a learned and eloquent man with great interest in the arts.

Early life. He dedicated an epitaph to his parents - his father died on November 7, 686; and the mother died the following year. The epitaph was preserved in the church of S. Anastasia until the fifteenth century. This testimony is important because it tells us that Plato, his father, was a member of the Byzantine administration, and was in fact engaged in "cura Palatii urbis Romae" (in the care of the palace of the city of Rome), which presided over the restoration of the imperial palace on the Palatine, which became the residence of the lieutenant of the Byzantine exarch. Giovanni celebrated his father's work, which had represented the most prestigious charge that Plato had had (he specialized in this type of work, since the epitaph stated that Plato previously had directed the restoration of other buildings). The text of the inscription also indicated that in 687 Giovanni John was the rector of the Patrimony of the Appian Way.

Cardinalate. Deacon cardinalis of the Holy Roman Church at an unknown date between 701 and 705 (1).

Papacy. Consecrated pope on March 1, 705. Took the name John VII. He reestablished good relations with the Lombards. Duke Faroaldo II of Spoleto asked the pope to confirm the assets of the Monastery of S. Maria di Farfa - founded by Frankish Thomas with his consent - clearly indicating how important the duke believed the the consent of the pope was. Lombard King Ariberto II, even returned to the Church some possessions along the Ligurian coast, at the time occupied by the Lombards. The deed was written in letters of gold and shipped to Rome. The relations with Constantinople were not as peaceful. In 705, Emperor Justinian II had seized back power, which he had lost ten years earlier; he had been aided by the Bulgarians. The monarch retaliated harshly against his opponents, among whom was the patriarch of Constantinople, Callinicus, who had supported the usurper Leontius. Patriarch Callinicus was deposed, blinded and sent to Rome, probably with the aim of showing what was the end of those who dare oppose the emperor. The message was addressed to both the pope and the Byzantine troops that had objected on several occasions with their arms to the envoys sent by the emperor. The arrival of Patriarch Callinicus followed by the arrival of two bishops sent by the emperor, who brought with them the acts of the council known as Quinisesto or "in Trullo", held in 691-692, which promulgated a set of standards that transpose Eastern traditions of Christianity and that should be valid for all Christians. Pope Sergius I had strongly opposed the decision taken by this council and the emperor had failed to punish him because of a riot troops of Ravenna and Pentapolis and his subsequent deposition.The emperor asked the pope to recognize the famous Council Quinisextum, which had already been rejected by Pope Serglus I. Two metropolitans appeared in Rome with the conciliar canons and the request was limited to ensuring that the pope accepted the decisions that seemed valid to him, and pointing out those which he did not considered orthodox. The pope, because of human frailty, as his biographer in Liber pontificalis says, returned all the canons to the emperor without any modifications. The pontiff did not sign anything and in practice did not even approve anything. He stalled for fear.

Pope John VII built and restored several churches in Rome. He adorned them with mosaics and some of them still exist, like that of S. Maria Antiqua in the Roman Forum; the church had towards the center of the nave a pulpit, of which remains an octagonal platform with the words: "Giovanni the servant of the Mother of God", referring specifically to the pontiff. Also, he erected a chapel in St. Peter's basilica in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary with various mosaics, one of which depicts the pope and is still visible in the Vatican grottoes. In this chapel, it seems that the pope deposed the famous shroud of Veronica, of which still remains a commemorative inscription in those grottoes. He restored the monastery of Subiaco, which had been destroyed by the Lombards in 601. He also ordered several frescoes in various churches in which, as noted with certain irony by his biographer in Liber pontificalis, his effigy was often portrayed. The pope also built a new palace on the Palatine Hill, where once stood the imperial palace. In addition, Pope John VII ordered the restoration of the half-destroyed church of S. Eugenia and the repair of the cemetery of Ss. Marcellianus e Marco and of Pope Damasus. In his brief pontificate, Pope John VII consecrated eighteen bishops.

Death. October 18, 707, in the palace he had built near the Palatine, Rome. Buried in the pavement before the altar of the oratory he had erected in St. Peter's basilica, which was in the second aisle of basilica against the wall of the counter-facade (2). His tomb was destroyed during the destruction of the old basilica and the construction of the new one in the 16th and 17th centuires (3).

Bibliography. Berto, Luigi Andrea. "Giovanni VII." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, 638-640; Bertolini, Ottorino. "Riflessi politici delle controversie religiose con Bisanzio nelle vicende del sec. VII in Italia", in Caratteri del sec. VII in Occidente, II, Spoleto 1958, p. 733-89; Breckenridge, J. "Evidence for the nature of relations between Pope John VII and the Byzantine emperor Justinian II." Byzantinische Zeitschrift 65 (1972), 263-374; 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. 495-498; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XXXVIII; Duchesne, Louis. "L'historiographie pontificale au huitième siècle." Mélanges d'Archéologie et d'istoire. Ècole Française de Rome, IV, 1884, pp. 232-73; Ekonomou, Andrew J. Byzantine Rome and the Greek popes: Eastern influences on Rome and the papacy from Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D. 590-752. Lanham, MD : Lexington Books, 2007; "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. 1; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 84-85; 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, 385-87; Miller, David. "The Roman Revolution of the Eighth Century." Medieval Studies, 36, 1974, p. 79-133; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 128-129, no. 86; Noè, Virgilio. Le tombe e i monumenti fundebri dei papa nella basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano. Modena : Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2000, p. ; Nordhagen, Per Jonas. The frescoes of John VII (A.D. 705-707) in S. Maria Antiqua in Rome. Roma, l'Erma; Spoleto, Panetto & Petrelli, 1968; Petruzzi, Caterina. "Giovanni VII, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 532; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 57-58; 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, 246-247; Rossi, Giovanni Battista de ; Stevenson, Enrico ; Gatti, Giuseppe ; Duchesne, Louis. Musaici cristiani e saggi dei pavimenti delle chiese di Roma anteriori al secolo XV. Tavole cromo-litografiche con cenni storici e critici. Roma : Libreria Spithöver di G. Haass, 1872-1899. Notes: In portfolio./ Published in 27 parts, 1872-96./ After the death of G.B. de Rossi, in 1894, Enrico Stevenson took charge of the work, and at his death, in 1898, its completion was left to Giuseppe Gatti. The French translation is by the Abbé L.M.O. Duchesne. The explanatory text to plates XXXIV and XLIII-LIII has not been published. Responsibility: Tavole cromo-litografiche con cenni storici e critici del Commendatore G.B. de Rossi, con traduzione francese, tav. XX; Roy, Jules, Du rôle des légats de la cour de rome en orient et en occident du IVe au IXe siècle. Paris : Imp. Nationale, 1878. Note: Extrait des mélanges publiés par l'école des hautes études; Sansterre, Jean-Marie. "Jean VII (705-707): idéologie pontificale et réalisme politique", in Rayonnement grec. Hommages à Charles Delvoye. Bruxelles : Éditions de l'Université de Bruxelles, 1982, pp. 377-288.

Links. Biography, in English; biography, in English (Britannica); his image and biography, in English; his engraving and biography, in English, Greek Popes of the Roman Catholic Church, Hellenica; biography by Joseph Brusher, S.J., Popes through the ages, in English; biography by Luigi Andrea Berto, in Italian, Enciclopedia dei papi, Trecanni; biography, in Italian, Dizionario biogrfico degli italiani; biography, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon; his image in a mosaic fragment, Reverenda Fabbrica di S. Pietro, Vatican City; another image of the same mosaic; thesis on the Icon of Madonna della Clemenza, church of S. Maria in Trastevere, Rome; image of the icon of Madonna della Clemenza, chapel Altemps, church of S. Maria in Tastevere, Rome; his portrait by Giuseppe Franchi, 17th century, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan; engravings, Araldica Vatcana; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; 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; 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; and his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic.

(1) Chacón, Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium, I, col. 495, says that he was cardinal deacon of S. Maria Novæ. None of the other sources consulted mention this.
(2) This is the text of the original epigraph, including the corrections in parentheses, taken from Montini, Le tombe dei papi, p. 129:

HIC SIBI CONSTITVIT TVMVLVM IVSSITQVE REPONI
PRAESVL IOHANNES SVB PEDIBVS DOMINAE
COMMITTENS ANIMAM SANCTAE SVB TEGMINE MATRIS
INNVBA QVAE PEPERIT VIRGA (recte, VIRGO) PARENSQVE DEVM
HIC DECVS OMNE LOCVM (recte, LOCO) PRISCO SQVALORE REMOTO
NONTVLIT (recte, CONTVLIT) VT STVPEAT PRODIGA POSTERITAS
NON POMPAE STVDIO QVAE DEFLVIT ORBE SVB IPSO
SED FERVORE PIO PRO GENITRICE DEI
NON PARCENS OPIBVS PRAETIOSVM QVICQVID HABEBAT
IN TVA DISTRIBVIT MVNERA SANCTA PARENS
PAVPERIBVS RELIQVVM MVNVS DEDIT INDICAT HOSPES
FESSVS AB OCEANO QVI TENVS ORBE (recte, VRBE) VENIT
CVM VCTVM INVENIET QVO VITAE SERIA SVMAT
HINC APVD EXCELSVM SPES ERIT ALME TIBI


    Montini, on the same page, adds that in the grotto of the Vatican basilica is preserved another inscription, IOHANNES SERVIS SCAE MARIAE, which supposedly belongs to the pope's tomb.
(3) Reardon, The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs, p. 57, indicates that "during the demolition of St. Peter's in the early seventeenth century, church canon and historian Giacomo Grimaldi recorded a simple epitaph for John VII:

Here is John VII, a Greek by birth, son of Plato, who held office 2 years, 7 months, 17 days, who died in the year of the lord 705. He is buried before the altar of the oratory that he himself built in the basilica of St. Peter .... Anastasius [the papal biographer and later antipope] says "he is buried in St. Peter's before the altar in the oratory of the mother of God that he himself built." However, in the demolition under Paul V, supreme pontiff, not a single trace of his tomb was found.

    Reardon, on the same page, adds "Close to that place, however, was discovered a very ancient body buried in a marble sarcophagus, believed to be that of John VII. At that site, a fragment of stone was uncovered, with "Mother of God" (Theotokos) carved on it in large Greek letters. Perhaps this is a fragment of his epitaph, which originally said: IOHANNES SERVIS SCAE MARIAE.

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