Feast Day : February 11 (sometimes February 13)
Also known as: Dialogus, Gregory the Lesser, Gregory Junior
Gregory was born about 669 to Marcellus and Honesta, Roman nobles. While very young he showed an interest in the Church and was placed by the pope in the schola cantorum, the choir school. He became a Benedictine monk. Pope St. Sergius I (r. 687–701) made him a subdeacon and appointed him sacellarius (almoner and treasurer) of the Roman Church. Later he also became its librarian, and has the distinction of being the first known papal almoner or librarian In 710, Gregory, now a deacon, accompanied Pope Constantine (r. 708–715) to Constantinople to protest the anti-Western canons of the Second Quintisext (Trullan) Council. He distinguished himself in his replies to Emperor Justinian II and helped to secure Justinian’s acceptance of papal supremacy. The two returned to Rome in 711. Constantine died in 715, and on May 19 of that year, Gregory was elected his successor. One of his first official actions was to repair the walls of Rome as a defense against the Muslims, who were then in control of much of the Mediterranean. In 716, Gregory peacefully regained papal territory from the Lombards, and when their king Liutprand threatened to invade Rome in 729, Gregory dissuaded him. Although Gregory acknowledged allegiance to the Greek emperor Leo III the Isuarian (Leo the Iconoclast), he opposed Leo’s illegal taxation of the Italians, and demanded that Leo stop interfering in Church matters. He rebuked Leo severely at a synod in Rome in 727, proclaiming the true doctrine on the matter of the worship of images. In return, Leo plotted (unsuccessfully) to have him killed. During his pontificate, Gregory received several distinguished pilgrims—including the Anglo-Saxons, Abbot Ceolfrid and King Ina, the latter of whom became a monk in Rome in 726—and in 719 sent SS. Corbibian and Winfrid (or Boniface) as missionaries to Germany. In 722, he consecrated St. Winfrid bishop and interested the great Frankish chief Charles Martel in his work. Gregory also assisted St. Nothelm in his researches in the papal archives to provide material for St. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. Gregory was a great supporter of the monastic order. On his mother’s death, he followed his papal namesake, Gregory I (Gregory the Great, r. 590–604), in converting his family mansion into a monastery. He also founded or restored many others monasteries, including the abbey of Monte Cassino, which had been destroyed by Lombards 150 years before. Gregory is regarded as the greatest of the great eighthcentury popes. His Western contemporaries called him Gregory the Younger or Gregory Junior, while those in the East, who confused him with Gregory I, author of the “Dialogues,” knew him as “Dialogus.” Gregory died of natural causes on February 11, 731, and was buried in St. Peter’s. He is honored as a saint in the Roman and other martyrologies.