Abbildungen der Seite

ancients, he fixed every thing worth notice in his memory, where it was faithfully preserved as in a store-house; he, also improved himself by the conversation of old men, in. which he took great delight. By these methods he made. a great progress in the sciences, and there was not a man in Rome, who surpassed him in grammar, logic, and rhetoric; nor can it be doubted but he had early instructious in the civil law, in which his letters prove him to have been well versed: he was nevertheless entirely ignorant of the Greek language. These accomplishments in a young nobleman procured him senatorial dignities, which he filled with great reputation ; and he was afterwards appointed præfect of the city by the emperor Justin the Younger ; but, being much inclined to a monastic life, he quitted that post, and retired to the monastery of St. Andrew, which he himself had founded at Rome in his father's house, and put it under the government of an abbot, called Valentius. Besides this, he founded six other convents in Sicily; and, selling all the rest of his possessions, he gave the purchase-money to the poor.

He had not, however, enjoyed his solitude in St. An, drew's long, when he was removed from it by pope Pela. gius II. who made him his seventh deacon, and sent him as his nuncio to tbe emperor Tiberius at Constantinople, to demand succours against the Lombards. The pope, it is said, could not have chosen a man better qualified than Gregory for so delicate a negociation ; but the particulars of it are unknown. Meanwhile, he was not wanting in exerting his zeal for religion. While he was in this metropolis, he opposed Eutychius the patriarch, wbo had advanced an opinion bordering on Origenism, and maintained, that after the resurrection the body is not palpable, but more subtile than air. In executing the business of his embassy, he contracted a friendship with some great men, and so gained the esteem of the whole court, by the sweetness of his behaviour, that the emperor Maurice chose him for a godfather to one of his sons, born in the year 583. Soon after this he was recalled to Rome, and made secretary to the pope; but, after some time, obtained leave to retire again into his monastery, of which he had been chosen abbot.

Here he had indulged himself with the hopes of gratifying his wish, in the enjoyment of a solitary and unrufied life, when Pelagius II. dying Feb. 8, 590, he was elected

pope by the clergy, the senate, and the people of Rome; to whom he had become dear by his charity to the poor, whom the overflowing of the Tiber, and a violent plague, had left perishing with hunger. This promotion was so disagreeable to him, that he employed all possible methods to avoid it; he wrote a pressing letter to the emperor, conjuring him not to confirm his election, and to give orders for the choice of a person who had greater capacity, more vigour, and better health than he could boast; and hearing his letter was intercepted by the governor of Rome, and that his election would be confirmed by the imperial court, he fled, and hid himself in the most solitary part of a forest, in a cave; firmly resolved to spend his days there, till another pope should be elected : and, the people despairing to find him, a new election ensued. In this case, the Roman clergy, always fond of miracles, tell us that Gregory would never accept the papal chair, till be had manifestly found, by some celestial signs, that God called him to it. It is pretended, that a dove fying before those who sought for him, shewed them the way they were to go; or that a miraculous light, appearing on a pillar of fire over his cavern, pointed out to them the place of his retreat. : However that be, it is almost as certain that his reluctance was sincere *, as that he at length accepted the dige nity, and was enthroned pope, Sept. 3, 590. And it ap. peared by his conduct, that they could not have elected a person more worthy of this exalted station ; for, besides his great learning, and the pains he took to instruct the church, both by preaching and writing, he had a very happy talent to win over princes, in favour of the tempo. - ral as well as spiritual interests of religion.' It would be tedious to run over all the particulars of his conduct on these occasions; and his converting the English to Chriscianity, a remarkable fact in our history, is on that account generally known t. In this attempt Gregory owed his

: * His famous pastoral is alledged appellation, “ Your Beatitude, &c." on the side of his sincerity. Gregory which had been given to his predeces. wrote it in answer to John, bishop of sors. Ravenna, who had given him a friendly + He first set out on his mission reproof for hiding himself, in order to himself, while he was a monk only, avoid the pontificate. This conduet is and was advanced three days' journey, ascribed, and not undeservedly, to his when Pelagius, then pope, recalled humility; and, after his promotion, he him to Rome at the instigation of the gave another evidence of his sincerity, people, who even clamorously pressad. in constantly declaring his dislike of the him toʻit.

success to the assistance of queen Ethelburga, who not only prompted the king Ethelbert her consort, to treat the pope's missionaries kindly, but also to become himself a convert.

The new pope, according to custom, held a synod at Rome the same year, 591; whence he sent letters to the foar patriarchs of the East, with a confession of his faith, declaring his reverence to the four general councils, and the fifth too, as well as the four gospels. In this inodesty he was not followed by his successors; and he even exceeded some of his predecessors in that and other virtues, which for many ages past bave not approached the chair of St. Peter. As he had governed his monastery with a severity upparalleled in those times ; so now he was parti, çularly careful to regulate his house and person according to St. Paul's directions to Timothy. Even in performing divine worship, he used ornaments of but a moderate price, and his common garments were still more simple, Nothing was more decent than the furniture of his house, and he retained none but clerks and religious in his service. By this means his palace became a kind of monastery, in which there were no useless people; every thing in his house had the appearance of an angelic life, and his charity surpassed all description. He employed the revenues of the church entirely for the relief of the poor ; he was a constant and indefatigable preacher, and devoted all his talents for the ivstruction of his flock.

In the mean time, he extended his care to the other churches under bis pontifical jurisdiction, and especially those of Sicily, for whom he had a particular respect; he put an end to the schism in the church of Iberia the same year: this was effected by the gentle methods of persua, sign, to which, however, he had not recourse till after he bad been hindered from using violence. Upon this account he iş censured as an intolerant; and it is certain his maxims on that head were a little inconsistent. He did not, for instance, approve of forcing the Jews to receive baptism, and yet he approved of compelling heretics to return to the church. In some of his letters too he exclaims against violence in the method of making converts, yet at the same time was far laying heavier taxes on such as would not be converted by persuasive means; and in the year 593, he sent a nuncio to Constantinople, and wrote a letter the same year to the emperor Maurice, der

claring his humility and submission to that sovereigo; hę. also shewed the same respect to the kings of Italy, though they were heretics.

The same year he composed his “ Dialogues,” a work filled with fabulous miracles and incredible stories; the style is also low, and the narration coarse ; yet they were received with astonishing applause; and Theqdilinda, '' queen of the Lombards, having converted her husband to the catholic faith, the pope rejoiced at it, and sent his “ Dialogues," composed the following year, to that prin. ceșs. She is thought to have made use of his book at this time for the conversion of that people, who were easily influenced by such compositions. For the same reason pope Zachary, about 150 years after, translated it into Greek for the use of those people, who were so delighted with it, that they gave $t. Gregory.the surname of Dialogist. Still these dialogues being the composition of Gregory is a point now thought very doubtful. In the year 594, he excommunicated and suspended the bishop of Salona, the metropolis of Dalmatia, who, however, paid po regard to the exercise of his power in these censureş. The same year he laboured to convert the infidels in Sardinia by gentle methods, according to his system : which was, to punish heretics, especially at their first rise, as rebels and traitors, but to compel infidels only indirectly; that is, treating the obstinate with some rigour, and persuading them as much by promises, threats, and gentle şeverities, as by argument and reason. This was the distinction he made in treating with the Manichees and pagans.

In the year 595, he refused to send the empress Con. stantia any relics, of St. Paul, which she had requested, desiring to look at the body of that apostle. On this eccasion he relates several miraculous punishments for such a rash attempt, all as simply devised as those in his • Dialogues.” The same year he warmly opposed John patriarch of Constantinople, for assuming the title of ecumenical or universal, which he himself disclaimed, as having uo right to reduce the other bishops to be his substitutes; and afterwards forbad his nuncio there to communicate with that patriarch, till he should renounce the title. His humility, however, did not keep him from resenting an affront put upon his understanding, as he thought, by the emperor, for proposing terms of peace to the Lombards, who besieged Rome this year: the same year he executed

the famous mission into England; and as Brunehaut, queen. of France, had been very serviceable in it, he wrote à letter of thanks to her on the occasion. The princess is represented as a profligate woman, but very liberal to the ecclesiastics ; founding churches and conrents, and even sueing to the pope for relics. This was a kind of piety which particularly pleased Gregory; and accordingly, he wrote to the queen several letters, highly commending her conduct in that respect, and carried bis complaisance so far as to declare the French happy above all other nations in having such a sovereign. In the year 598, at the request of the Christian people at Caprita, a small island at the bottom of the gulph of Venice, he ordered another bishop to be ordained for that place, in the room of the present prelate, who adhered to the Istrian schism. This was done contrary to the orders of the emperor Maurice, against taking any violent measures with schismatics.

In the year 599, he wrote a letter to Serenus bishop of Marseilles, commending his zeal in breaking some images which the people had been observed to worship, and throwing them out of the church; and the same year a circular letter to the principal bishops of Gaul, condemning simoniacal ordinations, and the promotions of laymen to bishoprics : he likewise forbad clerks iiy holy orders to live with women,' except such as are allowed by the canons ; and recommended the frequent holding assemblies to regulate the affairs of the church. The same year he refused on account of some foreseen opposition, to take cognizance of a crime alleged against the primate of Byzacena, a province in Africa. About the same time he wrote an important letter to the bishop of Syracuse, concerning ceremonies, in which he says, “ That the church of Rome followed that of Constantinople, in the use of ceremonies; and declares that see to be undoubtedly subject to Rome, as was constantly testified by the emperor and the bishop of that city." He had already this year reformed the office of the church, which is one of the most remarkable actions of his pontificate. In this reform, as it is called, he introduced several new customs and superstitions; amongst the rest, purgatory. He ordered pagan temples to be consecrated by sprinkling holy water, and an annual feast to be kept, since called wakes in England, on that day; with the view of gaining the pagans in England to the church-service. Besides other less important

ice of the city.” He hained by the en

« ZurückWeiter »