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Pope Saint John I

Pope Saint John I
  • Century: 5th & 6th Century
  • Patronage: -
  • Feast Day: May 18th

Pope John I was born in 470, and was Pope from August 13, 523 to May 18, 526.  He was from Siena.  He is the first known Pope to have visited Constantinople while in office.  While he was a deacon in Rome, he was known to have been a partisan of the anti-pope Laurentius.  The “libellus” written to Pope Symmachus in 506, John confessed his error in opposing him, and begged pardon of Pope Symmachus.  He was the Deacon John that signed the “Acta” of the Roman Synod of 499 and 502.   At this time, the Catholic Church had only seven Deacons, making it very easy to identify him.  He also was the Deacon John that dictated several of the early religious tractates written between 512 and 520.   

John was very frail when he was elected to the Papacy.  Despite protests, he was sent by the Arian King, Theodoric the Great, to Constantinople to secure a moderation of Emperor Justin’s decree of 523, against the Arians.  The King threatened Pope John I that if he should fail in his mission, there would be reprisals against the Catholics in the West.  John proceeded to Constantinople with a considerable entourage; his religious companions included Bishops Ecclesius of Ravenna, Eusebius of Fanum Fortunae, and Sabinus of Campania.  His secular companions were the Senators Flavius, Theodorus, Inportunus and Agapitus. 

It is recorded that Emperor Justin promised to do everything the embassy asked of him, with the exception of restoring converts from Arianism to Catholicism to their original beliefs.  Although Pope John was successful in his mission, when he returned to Ravenna, King Theodoric’s Capital, King Theodoric had John arrested on the suspicion of having conspired with Emperor Justin.  He was imprisoned at Ravenna, where he died of neglect and ill treatment.  His body was transported to Rome and buried in the Basilica of St. Peter.  

The Liber Pontificalis credits Pope St. John I, with making repairs to the cemetery of the martyrs many saints.  He is depicted in art as looking through the bars of a prison or imprisoned with a deacon and sub-deacon.  He is still venerated in a strong way at Ravenna and in Tuscany.  His feast day is May 18th, the anniversary of the day of his death.  

Practical Take Away

Pope John I was born in 470, and was Pope from August 13, 523 to May 18, 526.  He was from Siena.  He is the first known Pope to have visited Constantinople while in office.  King Theodoric threatened him, if he did not go to Emperor Justin, and get the provisions he asked for.  Pope St. John I, made the trip and his mission was successful, but upon his return he was imprisoned by King Theodoric on suspicion of conspiring with Emperor Justin.  He died in prison from neglect, on May 18th.   The Church places his feast day on the Liturgical calendar to be commemorated.