Pope Gregory I - Hymns and Chants

Pope Gregory I
“Saint Gregory” redirects here. For other uses, see Saint ther is known about that position. Gregory’s mother, SilGregory (disambiguation).
via, was well-born and had a married sister, Pateria, in
Sicily. His mother and two paternal aunts are honored
GrePope Gregory I (Latin: Gregorius I ; c. 540 – 12 March by Catholic and Orthodox churches as saints.
[1] gory’s great-great-grandfather had been Pope Felix III,
604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great,
was Pope from 3 September 590 to his death in 604. Gre- the nominee of the Gothic king, Theodoric. Gregory’s
the most
gory is well known for his writings, which were more pro- election to the throne of St Peter made his family
lific than those of any of his predecessors as pope. He is
also known as St. Gregory the Dialogist in Eastern Orthodoxy because of his Dialogues. For this reason, English translations of Orthodox texts will sometimes list
him as “Gregory Dialogus”.
The family owned and resided in a villa suburbana on
the Caelian Hill, fronting the same street, now the Via
di San Gregorio, with the former palaces of the Roman
emperors on the Palatine Hill opposite. The north of
the street runs into the Colosseum; the south, the Circus
Maximus. In Gregory’s day the ancient buildings were
in ruins and were privately owned.[15] Villas covered the
area. Gregory’s family also owned working estates in
Sicily[16] and around Rome.[17] Gregory later had portraits done in fresco in their former home on the Caelian
and these were described 300 years later by John the Deacon. Gordianus was tall with a long face and light eyes.
He wore a beard. Silvia was tall, had a round face, blue
eyes and a cheerful look. They had another son whose
name and fate are unknown.[18]
Throughout the Middle Ages he was known as “the Father
of Christian Worship” because of his exceptional efforts
in revising the Roman worship of his day.[3] His contributions to the development of the Divine Liturgy of the
Presanctified Gifts, still in use in the Eastern Orthodox
Church, were so significant that he is generally recognized as its de facto author.
He was the first of the popes to come from a monastic
background. Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and
one of the Latin Fathers. He is considered a saint in
the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church,
Anglican Communion, and some Lutheran churches. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim.[4] The Protestant reformer John Calvin admired Gregory and declared in his Institutes that Gregory
was the last good pope.[5] He is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers.[6]
Gregory was born into a period of upheaval in Italy. From
542 the so-called Plague of Justinian swept through the
provinces of the empire, including Italy. The plague
caused famine, panic, and sometimes rioting. In some
parts of the country, over 1/3 of the population was wiped
out or destroyed, with heavy spiritual and emotional effects on the people of the Empire.[19] Politically, although
the Western Roman Empire had long since vanished in
favour of the Gothic kings of Italy, during the 540s
Italy was gradually retaken from the Goths by Justinian
I, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire ruling from
Constantinople. As the fighting was mainly in the north,
the young Gregory probably saw little of it. Totila sacked
and vacated Rome in 546, destroying most of its ancient
population, but in 549 he invited those who were still
alive to return to the empty and ruined streets. It has
been hypothesized that young Gregory and his parents
retired during that intermission to their Sicilian estates,
to return in 549.[20] The war was over in Rome by 552,
and a subsequent invasion of the Franks was defeated in
554. After that, there was peace in Italy, and the appearance of restoration, except that the central government
now resided in Constantinople.
Early life
The exact date of Gregory’s birth is uncertain, but is usually estimated to be around the year 540,[7] in the city of
Rome. His parents named him Gregorius, which according to Aelfric in An Homily on the Birth-Day of S. Gregory, "... is a Greek Name, which signifies in the Latin
Tongue Vigilantius, that is in English, Watchful....”[8]
The medieval writers who give this etymology[9] do not
hesitate to apply it to the life of Gregory. Aelfric,
for example, goes on: “He was very diligent in God’s
Gregory was born into a wealthy patrician Roman family with close connections to the church. His father,
Gordianus, who served as a Senator and for a time was Like most young men of his position in Roman socithe Prefect of the City of Rome,[11] also held the posi- ety, Saint Gregory was well educated, learning grammar,
tion of Regionarius in the church, though nothing fur- rhetoric, the sciences, literature, and law, and excelling in
all.[11] Gregory of Tours reported that “in grammar, dialectic and rhetoric ... he was second to none....”[21] He
wrote correct Latin but did not read or write Greek. He
knew Latin authors, natural science, history, mathematics and music and had such a “fluency with imperial law”
that he may have trained in it “as a preparation for a career in public life.”[21] Indeed, he became a government
official, advancing quickly in rank to become, like his father, Prefect of Rome, the highest civil office in the city,
when only thirty-three years old.[11]
The monks of the Monastery of St. Andrew, established
by Gregory at the ancestral home on the Caelian, had a
portrait of him made after his death, which John the Deacon also saw in the 9th century. He reports the picture of
a man who was “rather bald” and had a “tawny” beard
like his father’s and a face that was intermediate in shape
between his mother’s and father’s. The hair that he had
on the sides was long and carefully curled. His nose was
“thin and straight” and “slightly aquiline.” “His forehead
was high.” He had thick, “subdivided” lips and a chin “of
a comely prominence” and “beautiful hands.”[22]
to stealing three gold pieces. Gregory forced the monk to
die friendless and alone, then threw his body and coins on
a manure heap to rot with a curse, “Take your money with
you to perdition”. Gregory believed that punishment of
sins can begin, even on one’s deathbed.[25] However, this
was done to help the monk to repent of his sin, and not out
of a misplaced anger. The penance from St Gregory did
in fact help him to repent, and afterwards St Gregory offered 30 Masses in his remembrance to assist his soul before the final judgment. He later appeared to his brother
and said that he has been released and is in Heaven.[26]
Eventually, Pope Pelagius II ordained him a deacon and
solicited his help in trying to heal the schism of the Three
Chapters in northern Italy. However, Italy was not healed
until well after Gregory was gone.[27]
Gregory had a deep respect for the monastic life. He
viewed being a monk as the 'ardent quest for the vision
of our Creator.'[28] His three paternal aunts were nuns
renowned for their sanctity. However, after the two eldest passed away after seeing a vision of their ancestor
Pope Felix, the youngest soon abandoned the religious
In the modern era, Gregory is often depicted as a man life and married the steward of her estate. Gregory’s rescandal was “many are called but
at the border, poised between the Roman and Germanic sponse to this family
mother Silvia herself is a
worlds, between East and West, and above all, perhaps,
between the ancient and medieval epochs.
Monastic years
3 Apocrisiariate (579–585)
Jerome and Gregory.
On his father’s death, Gregory converted his family villa
into a monastery dedicated to the apostle Saint Andrew
(after his death it was rededicated as San Gregorio Magno
al Celio). In his life of contemplation, Gregory concluded
that “in that silence of the heart, while we keep watch
within through contemplation, we are as if asleep to all
things that are without.”.[24]
It seems to some that Gregory was not always forgiving, Illumination in a 12th-century manuscript of a letter of Gregory’s
or pleasant for that matter, even in his monastic years. to Saint Leander, bishop of Seville (Bibl. Municipale, MS 2,
For example, a monk lying on his death bed confessed Dijon).
In 579, Pelagius II chose Gregory as his apocrisiarius
(ambassador to the imperial court in Constantinople), a
post Gregory would hold until 586.[30] Gregory was part
of the Roman delegation (both lay and clerical) that arrived in Constantinople in 578 to ask the emperor for
military aid against the Lombards.[31] With the Byzantine military focused on the East, these entreaties proved
unsuccessful; in 584, Pelagius II wrote to Gregory as
apocrisiarius, detailing the hardships that Rome was experiencing under the Lombards and asking him to ask
Emperor Maurice to send a relief force.[31] Maurice,
however, had long ago determined to limit his efforts
against the Lombards to intrigue and diplomacy, pitting
the Franks against them.[31] It soon became obvious to
Gregory that the Byzantine emperors were unlikely to
send such a force, given their more immediate difficulties with the Persians in the East and the Avars and Slavs
to the North.[32]
According to Ekonomou, “if Gregory’s principal task was
to plead Rome’s cause before the emperor, there seems
to have been little left for him to do once imperial policy
toward Italy became evident. Papal representatives who
pressed their claims with excessive vigor could quickly
become a nuisance and find themselves excluded from the
imperial presence altogether”.[32] Gregory had already
drawn an imperial rebuke for his lengthy canonical writings on the subject of the legitimacy of John III Scholasticus, who had occupied the Patriarchate of Constantinople
for twelve years prior to the return of Eutychius (who had
been driven out by Justinian).[32] Gregory turned himself to cultivating connections with the Byzantine elite
of the city, where he became extremely popular with
the city’s upper class, “especially aristocratic women”.[32]
Ekonomou surmises that “while Gregory may have become spiritual father to a large and important segment
of Constantinople’s aristocracy, this relationship did not
significantly advance the interests of Rome before the
emperor”.[32] Although the writings of John the Deacon
claim that Gregory “labored diligently for the relief of
Italy”, there is no evidence that his tenure accomplished
much towards any of the objectives of Pelagius II.[33]
works.[36] Gregory left Constantinople for Rome in 585,
returning to his monastery on the Caelian Hill.[37] Gregory was elected by acclamation to succeed Pelagius II in
590, when the latter died of the plague spreading through
the city.[37] Gregory was approved by an Imperial iussio
from Constantinople the following September (as was the
norm during the Byzantine Papacy).[37]
4 Papacy (590–604)
Although Gregory was resolved to retire into the monastic lifestyle of contemplation, he was unwillingly forced
back into a world that, although he loved, he no longer
wanted to be a part of.[38] In texts of all genres, especially those produced in his first year as pope, Gregory
bemoaned the burden of office and mourned the loss of
the undisturbed life of prayer he had once enjoyed as a
monk.[39] When he became Pope in 590, among his first
acts was writing a series of letters disavowing any ambition to the throne of Peter and praising the contemplative life of the monks. At that time, for various reasons,
the Holy See had not exerted effective leadership in the
West since the pontificate of Gelasius I. The episcopacy
in Gaul was drawn from the great territorial families, and
identified with them: the parochial horizon of Gregory’s
contemporary, Gregory of Tours, may be considered typical; in Visigothic Spain the bishops had little contact with
Rome; in Italy the territories which had de facto fallen
under the administration of the papacy were beset by the
violent Lombard dukes and the rivalry of the Jews in the
Exarchate of Ravenna and in the south.
Pope Gregory had strong convictions on missions:
“Almighty God places good men in authority that He may
impart through them the gifts of His mercy to their subjects. And this we find to be the case with the British over
whom you have been appointed to rule, that through the
blessings bestowed on you the blessings of heaven might
be bestowed on your people also.”[40] He is credited with
re-energizing the Church’s missionary work among the
non-Christian peoples of northern Europe. He is most
famous for sending a mission, often called the Gregorian
mission, under Augustine of Canterbury, prior of Saint
Andrew’s, where he had perhaps succeeded Gregory, to
evangelize the pagan Anglo-Saxons of England. It seems
that the Pope had never forgotten the English slaves whom
he had once seen in the Roman Forum.[41] The mission
was successful, and it was from England that missionaries later set out for the Netherlands and Germany. The
preaching of the Catholic faith and the elimination of all
deviations from it was a key element in Gregory’s worldview, and it constituted one of the major continuing policies of his pontificate.[42]
Gregory’s theological disputes with Patriarch Eutychius
would leave a “bitter taste for the theological speculation of the East” with Gregory that continued to influence
him well into his own papacy.[34] According to Western
sources, Gregory’s very public debate with Eutychius culminated in an exchange before Tiberius II where Gregory
cited a biblical passage ("Palpate et videte, quia spiritus
carnem et ossa non habet, sicut me videtis habere"[35] )
in support of the view that Christ was corporeal and
palpable after his Resurrection; allegedly as a result of
this exchange, Tiberius II ordered Eutychius’s writings
burned.[34] Ekonomou views this argument, though exaggerated in Western sources, as Gregory’s “one achievement of an otherwise fruitless apokrisiariat".[36] In reality, Gregory was forced to rely on Scripture because According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he was declared
after his death by “popular
he could not read the untranslated Greek authoritative a saint immediately
In his official documents, Gregory was the first to make
extensive use of the term "Servant of the Servants of
God" (servus servorum Dei) as a papal title, thus initiating a practice that was to be followed by most subsequent
Liturgical reforms
John the Deacon wrote that Pope Gregory I made a general revision of the liturgy of the Pre-Tridentine Mass,
“removing many things, changing a few, adding some”.
In letters, Gregory remarks that he moved the Pater Noster (Our Father) to immediately after the Roman Canon
and immediately before the Fraction. This position is
still maintained today in the Roman Liturgy. The preGregorian position is evident in the Ambrosian Rite. Gregory added material to the Hanc Igitur of the Roman
Canon and established the nine Kyries (a vestigial remnant of the litany which was originally at that place) at
the beginning of Mass. He also reduced the role of deacons in the Roman Liturgy.
Sacramentaries directly influenced by Gregorian reforms
are referred to as Sacrementaria Gregoriana. With the
appearance of these sacramentaries, the Western liturgy
begins to show a characteristic that distinguishes it from
Eastern liturgical traditions. In contrast to the mostly invariable Eastern liturgical texts, Roman and other Western liturgies since this era have a number of prayers that
change to reflect the feast or liturgical season; These variations are visible in the collects and prefaces as well as in
the Roman Canon itself.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Gregory is credited with
compiling the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
Gregorian chant
Main article: Gregorian chant
The mainstream form of Western plainchant, standardized in the late 9th century,[44] was attributed to Pope
Gregory I and so took the name of Gregorian chant. The
earliest such attribution is in John the Deacon’s 873 biography of Gregory, almost three centuries after the Pope’s
death, and the chant that bears his name “is the result
of the fusion of Roman and Frankish elements which
took place in the Franco-German empire under Pepin,
Charlemagne and their successors”.[45]
Gregory is commonly credited with founding the medieval papacy and so many attribute the beginning of me-
dieval spirituality to him.[46] Gregory is the only Pope
between the fifth and the eleventh centuries whose correspondence and writings have survived enough to form
a comprehensive corpus. Some of his writings are:
• Commentary on Job, frequently known in Englishlanguage histories by its Latin title, Magna Moralia,
or as Moralia on Job. This is one of the longest patristic works. It was possibly finished as early as 591.
It is based on talks Gregory gave on the Book of
Job to his 'brethren' who accompanied him to Constantinople. The work as we have it is the result of
Gregory’s revision and completion of it soon after
his accession to the papal office.[47]
• Liber regulae pastoralis (Book of Pastoral Rule / The
Rule for Pastors), in which he contrasted the role of
bishops as pastors of their flock with their position
as nobles of the church: the definitive statement of
the nature of the episcopal office. This was probably begun before his election as pope and finished in
• Dialogues, a collection of four books of miracles,
signs, wonders, and healings done by the holy men,
mostly monastic, of sixth-century Italy, with the second book entirely devoted to a popular life of Saint
• Sermons, including:
• The sermons include the 22 Homilae in
Hiezechielem (Homilies on Ezekiel), dealing
with Ezekiel 1.1-4.3 in Book One, and Ezekiel
40 in Book 2. These were preached during
592-3, the years that the Lombards besieged
Rome, and contain some of Gregory’s most
profound mystical teachings. They were revised eight years later.
• The Homilae xl in Evangelia (Forty Homilies on
the Gospels) for the liturgical year, delivered
during 591 and 592, which were seemingly finished by 593. A papyrus fragment from this
codex survives in the British Museum, London, UK.[49]
• Expositio in Canticis Canticorum. Only 2 of
these sermons on the Song of Songs survive,
discussing the text up to Song 1.9.
• In Librum primum regum expositio (Commentary on
1 Kings)
• Copies of some 854 letters have survived. During
Gregory’s time, copies of papal letters were made
by scribes into a Registrum (Register), which was
then kept in the scrinium. It is known that in the
9th century, when John the Deacon composed his
Life of Gregory, the Registrum of Gregory’s letters
was formed of 14 papyrus rolls (though it is difficult
to estimate how many letters this may have represented). Though these original rolls are now lost,
the 854 letters have survived in copies made at various later times, the largest single batch of 686 letters
being made by order of Adrian I (772-95).[47] The
majority of the copies, dating from the 10th to the
15th century, are stored in the Vatican Library.[50]
6 Iconography
Opinions of the writings of Gregory vary. “His character
strikes us as an ambiguous and enigmatic one,” Cantor
observed. “On the one hand he was an able and determined administrator, a skilled and clever diplomat, a
leader of the greatest sophistication and vision; but on
the other hand, he appears in his writings as a superstitious and credulous monk, hostile to learning, crudely
limited as a theologian, and excessively devoted to saints,
miracles, and relics".[51]
Gregory wrote over 850 letters in the last 13 years of
his life (590–604) that give us an accurate picture of his
work.[52] A truly autobiographical presentation is nearly
impossible for Gregory. The development of his mind
and personality remains purely speculative in nature.[53]
Controversy with Eutychius
In Constantinople, Gregory took issue with the aged
Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople, who had recently
published a treatise, now lost, on the General Resurrection. Eutychius maintained that the resurrected body
“will be more subtle than air, and no longer palpable”.[54]
Gregory opposed with the palpability of the risen Christ
in Luke 24:39. As the dispute could not be settled, the
Byzantine emperor, Tiberius II Constantine, undertook
to arbitrate. He decided in favor of palpability and ordered Eutychius’ book to be burned. Shortly after both
Gregory and Eutychius became ill; Gregory recovered,
but Eutychius died on 5 April 582, at age 70. On his
deathbed Eutychius recanted impalpability and Gregory
dropped the matter. Tiberius also died a few months after
Gregory and his Dove, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge Ms
In art Gregory is usually shown in full pontifical robes
with the tiara and double cross, despite his actual habit of
dress. Earlier depictions are more likely to show a monastic tonsure and plainer dress. Orthodox icons traditionally
show St. Gregory vested as a bishop holding a Gospel
Book and blessing with his right hand. It is recorded that
he permitted his depiction with a square halo, then used
for the living.[61] A dove is his attribute, from the wellknown story recorded by his friend Peter the Deacon,[62]
who tells that when the pope was dictating his homilies
on Ezechiel a curtain was drawn between his secretary
and himself. As, however, the pope remained silent for
long periods at a time, the servant made a hole in the curtain and, looking through, beheld a dove seated upon Gre5.4 Identification of three figures in the gory’s head with its beak between his lips. When the dove
withdrew its beak the pope spoke and the secretary took
down his words; but when he became silent the servant
and saw the dove had
Gregory was among those who identified Mary Magda- again applied his eye to the hole [63]
lene with Mary of Bethany, whom John 12:1-8 recounts
as having anointed Jesus with precious ointment, an event This scene is shown as a version of the traditional
that some interpret as being the same as the anointing Evangelist portrait (where the Evangelists’ symbols are
of Jesus performed by a woman that Luke (alone among also sometimes shown dictating) from the tenth century
the synoptic Gospels) recounts as sinful.[55] Preaching on onwards. An early example is the dedication miniature
the passage in the Gospel of Luke, Gregory remarked: from the an eleventh-century manuscript of St. Gregory’s
“This woman, whom Luke calls a sinner[56] and John Moralia in Job.[64] The miniature shows the scribe, Bebo
calls Mary,[57] I think is the Mary from whom Mark of Seeon Abbey, presenting the manuscript to the Holy
reports[58] that seven demons were cast out.”[59] Today Roman Emperor, Henry II. In the upper left the author is
Biblical scholars distinguish the three figures, but they are seen writing the text under divine inspiration. Usually the
all still popularly identified.[60]
dove is shown whispering in Gregory’s ear for a clearer
ably saw no such distinction. The church had no interThe imaginative and anachronistic example at the top of est in secular profit and as pope Gregory did his utmost
this article is from the studio of Carlo Saraceni or by a to encourage that high standard among church personclose follower, ca. 1610. From the Giustiniani collection, nel. Apart from maintaining its facilities and supporting
the painting is conserved in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte its personnel the church gave most of the donations it reAntica, Rome.[65] The face of Gregory is a caricature of ceived as alms.
the features described by John the Deacon (mentioned Gregory is known for his administrative system of charunder his early life above): total baldness, outthrust chin, itable relief of the poor at Rome. They were predombeak-like nose, where John had described partial bald- inantly refugees from the incursions of the Lombards.
ness, a mildly protruding chin, slightly aquiline nose and The philosophy under which he devised this system is
strikingly good looks. In this picture also Gregory has that the wealth belonged to the poor and the church was
his monastic back on the world, which the real Gregory, only its steward. He received lavish donations from the
despite his reclusive intent, was seldom allowed to have. wealthy families of Rome, who, following his own example, were eager to expiate to God for their sins. He gave
alms equally as lavishly both individually and en masse.
He wrote in letters:[67]
“I have frequently charged you ... to act as my
representative ... to relieve the poor in their
distress ....”
"... I hold the office of steward to the property
of the poor ....”
The church received donations of many different kinds
of property: consumables such as food and clothing;
investment property: real estate and works of art; and
capital goods, or revenue-generating property, such as
the Sicilian latifundia, or agricultural estates, staffed and
operated by slaves, donated by Gregory and his family.
The church already had a system for circulating the consumables to the poor: associated with each parish was
a diaconium or office of the deacon. He was given a
building from which the poor could at any time apply for
The Mass of St Gregory, by Robert Campin, 15th century
The late medieval subject of the Mass of St Gregory
shows a version of a 7th-century story that was elaborated
in later hagiography. Gregory is shown saying Mass when
Christ as the Man of Sorrows appears on the altar. The
subject was most common in the 15th and 16th centuries,
and reflected growing emphasis on the Real Presence, and
after the Protestant Reformation was an assertion of the
doctrine against Protestant theology.[66]
Alms in Christianity is defined by passages of the New
Testament such as Matthew 19:21, which commands
"...go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor ... and
come and follow me.” A donation on the other hand is a
gift to some sort of enterprise, profit or non-profit.
On the one hand the alms of St. Gregory are to be distinguished from his donations, but on the other he prob-
The state in which Gregory became pope in 590 was a
ruined one. The Lombards held the better part of Italy.
Their predations had brought the economy to a standstill.
They camped nearly at the gates of Rome. The city was
packed with refugees from all walks of life, who lived
in the streets and had few of the necessities of life. The
seat of government was far from Rome in Constantinople,
which appeared unable to undertake the relief of Italy.
The pope had sent emissaries, including Gregory, asking
for assistance, to no avail.
In 590, Gregory could wait for Constantinople no longer.
He organized the resources of the church into an administration for general relief. In doing so he evidenced a
talent for and intuitive understanding of the principles of
accounting, which was not to be invented for centuries.
The church already had basic accounting documents: every expense was recorded in journals called regesta, “lists”
of amounts, recipients and circumstances. Revenue was
recorded in polyptici, "books". Many of these polyptici were ledgers recording the operating expenses of the
church and the assets, the patrimonia. A central papal administration, the notarii, under a chief, the primicerius no-
tariorum, kept the ledgers and issued brevia patrimonii, or Great to the rise of Italian nationalism the papacy was
lists of property for which each rector was responsible.[70] most influential in ruling Italy.
Gregory began by aggressively requiring his churchmen
to seek out and relieve needy persons and reprimanded
them if they did not. In a letter to a subordinate in Sicily
he wrote: “I asked you most of all to take care of the poor.
And if you knew of people in poverty, you should have
pointed them out ... I desire that you give the woman, Pateria, forty solidi for the children’s shoes and forty bushels
of grain ....”[71] Soon he was replacing administrators who
would not cooperate with those who would and at the
same time adding more in a build-up to a great plan that
he had in mind. He understood that expenses must be
matched by income. To pay for his increased expenses he
liquidated the investment property and paid the expenses
in cash according to a budget recorded in the polyptici.
The churchmen were paid four times a year and also personally given a golden coin for their trouble.[72]
8 Famous quotes and anecdotes
Money, however, was no substitute for food in a city that
was on the brink of famine. Even the wealthy were going
hungry in their villas. The church now owned between
1,300 and 1,800 square miles (3,400 and 4,700 km2 ) of
revenue-generating farmland divided into large sections
called patrimonia. It produced goods of all kinds, which
were sold, but Gregory intervened and had the goods
shipped to Rome for distribution in the diaconia. He gave
orders to step up production, set quotas and put an administrative structure in place to carry it out. At the bottom
was the rusticus who produced the goods. Some rustici 19th century mosaic in Westminster Cathedral, Non Angli sed
were or owned slaves. He turned over part of his produce Angeli
to a conductor from whom he leased the land. The latter
reported to an actionarius, the latter to a defensor and the
• Non Angli, sed angeli – “They are not Angles, but
latter to a rector. Grain, wine, cheese, meat, fish and oil
angels". Aphorism, summarizing words reported to
began to arrive at Rome in large quantities, where it was
have been spoken by Gregory when he first encoungiven away for nothing as alms.[73]
tered pale-skinned English boys at a slave market,
Distributions to qualified persons were monthly. Howsparking his dispatch of St. Augustine of Canterever, a certain proportion of the population lived in the
bury to England to convert the English, according
streets or were too ill or infirm to pick up their monthly
to Bede.[74] He said: “Well named, for they have
food supply. To them Gregory sent out a small army of
angelic faces and ought to be co-heirs with the ancharitable persons, mainly monks, every morning with
gels in heaven.”[75] Discovering that their province
prepared food. It is said that he would not dine until the
was Deira, he went on to add that they would be resindigent were fed. When he did dine he shared the family
cued de ira, “from the wrath”, and that their king
table, which he had saved (and which still exists), with 12
was named Aella, Alleluia, he said.[76]
indigent guests. To the needy living in wealthy homes he
sent meals he had cooked with his own hands as gifts to
• Ecce locusta – “Look at the locust.” Gregory himself
spare them the indignity of receiving charity. Hearing of
wanted to go to England as a missionary and started
the death of an indigent in a back room he was depressed
out for there. On the fourth day as they stopped
for days, entertaining for a time the conceit that he had
for lunch a locust landed on the edge of the Bible
failed in his duty and was a murderer.[72]
Gregory was reading. He exclaimed ecce locusta,
These and other good deeds and charitable frame of mind
completely won the hearts and minds of the Roman people. They now looked to the papacy for government, ignoring the rump state at Constantinople, which had only
disrespect for Gregory, calling him a fool for his pacifist
dealings with the Lombards. The office of urban prefect
went without candidates. From the time of Gregory the
“look at the locust”, but reflecting on it he saw it as a
sign from Heaven since the similar sounding loco sta
means “stay in place.” Within the hour an emissary
of the pope[77] arrived to recall him.[75]
• “I beg that you will not take the present amiss. For
anything, however trifling, which is offered from the
prosperity of St. Peter should be regarded as a great
blessing, seeing that he will have power both to bestow on you greater things, and to hold out to you
eternal benefits with Almighty God.”
• Pro cuius amore in eius eloquio nec mihi parco – “For
the love of whom (God) I do not spare myself from
His Word.”[78][79] The sense is that since the creator
of the human race and redeemer of him unworthy
gave him the power of the tongue so that he could
witness, what kind of a witness would he be if he did
not use it but preferred to speak infirmly?
9 Memorials
9.1 Lives
In Britain, appreciation for Gregory remained strong even
after his death, with him being called Gregorius noster
(“our Gregory”) by the British.[85] It was in Britain, at a
monastery in Whitby, that the first full length life of Gregory was written, in c. 713.[86] Appreciation of Gregory
in Rome and Italy itself, however, did not come until later.
The first vita of Gregory written in Italy was not produced
until John the Deacon in the 9th century.
• “For the place of heretics is very pride itself...for the
place of the wicked is pride just as conversely humility is the place of the good.”[42]
• Non enim pro locis res, sed pro bonis rebus loca
amanda sunt – “Things are not to be loved for the
sake of a place, but places are to be loved for the
sake of their good things.” When Augustine asked
whether to use Roman or Gallican customs in the
mass in England, Gregory said, in paraphrase, that
it was not the place that imparted goodness but good
things that graced the place, and it was more important to be pleasing to the Almighty. They should
pick out what was “pia”, “religiosa” and “recta” from
any church whatever and set that down before the
English minds as practice.[80]
• “For the rule of justice and reason suggests that one
who desires his own orders to be observed by his
successors should undoubtedly keep the will and ordinances of his predecessor.”[81] In his letters, Gregory often emphasized the importance of giving
proper deference to last wills and testaments, and
of respecting property rights.
Tomb of St. Gregory at St. Peter’s, Rome
The namesake church of San Gregorio al Celio (largely
rebuilt from the original edifices during the 17th and 18th
centuries) remembers his work. One of the three oratories annexed, the oratory of St. Silvia, is said to lie over
• “Compassion should be shown first to the faithful the tomb of Gregory’s mother.
and afterwards to the enemies of the church.”[82]
In England, Gregory, along with Augustine of Canterbury, is revered as the apostle of the land and the source
• “At length being anxious to avoid all these incon- of the nation’s conversion.[87]
veniences, I sought the haven of the monastery…
For as the vessel that is negligently moored, is very
often (when the storm waxes violent) tossed by the 9.3 Music
water out of its shelter on the safest shore, so under
the cloak of the Ecclesiastical office, I found my- Italian composer Ottorino Respighi composed a piece
self plunged on a sudden in a sea of secular matters, named St. Gregory the Great (San Gregorio Magno) that
and because I had not held fast the tranquillity of the features as the fourth and final part of his Church Winmonastery when in possession, I learnt by losing it, dows (Vetrate di Chiesa) works, written in 1925.
how closely it should have been held.”[83] In Moralia,
sive Expositio in Job (“Commentary on Job,” also
known as Magna Moralia), Gregory describes to the 9.4 Feast day
Bishop Leander the circumstances under which he
became a monk.
The current General Roman Calendar, revised in 1969 as
instructed by the Second Vatican Council,[88] celebrates
• “Illiterate men can contemplate in the lines of a pic- St. Gregory the Great on 3 September. Before that, it
ture what they cannot learn by means of the written assigned his feast day to 12 March, the day of his death
word.” [84]
in 604. This day always falls within Lent, during which
there are no obligatory memorials. For this reason his
feast day was moved to 3 September, the day of his episcopal consecration in 590.[89]
The Eastern Orthodox Church[note 1] continue to commemorate St. Gregory on 12 March which is during
Great Lent, the only time when the Divine Liturgy of the
Presanctified Gifts, which names Saint Gregory as its author, is used.
Other Churches also honour Saint Gregory: the Church
of England and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on
3 September, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church in the United States on 12
Book 9, Letter 1) he rebukes Bishop Januarius of Cagliari,
Sardinia, excusing himself for not observing 1 Timothy
5.1, which cautions against rebuking elders. 5.9 defines
elderly women to be 60 and over, which may apply to everyone. Gregory appears not to consider himself an elder, limiting his birth to no earlier than 539, but 540 is
the typical selection. Dudden (1905), page 3, notes 1–3.
The presumption of 540 has continued in modern times see for example Richards, Jeffrey (1980). Consul of God.
London: Routledge & Keatland Paul.
[8] Aelfric; Elizabeth Elstob (translator); William Elstob
(1709). An English-Saxon Homily on the Birth-day of
St. Gregory: Anciently Used in the English-Saxon Church,
Giving an Account of the Conversion of the English from
Paganism to Christianity. London: W. Bowyer. p. 4.
A traditional procession is held in Żejtun, Malta in honour of Saint Gregory (San Girgor) on Easter Wednesday, [9] Elizabeth goes on to state that "Paulus Diaconus, who first
writ the life of St. Gregory, and is followed by all the after
which most often falls in April, the range of possible dates
Writers on that subject, observes that 'ex Greco eloquio in
being 25 March to 28 April. The feast day of St. Grenostra lingua ... vigilator, seu vigilans sonat.” However,
gory also serves as a commemorative Day for the former
Paul the deacon is too late for the first vita, or life.
pupils of Downside School, the so-called Old Gregorians.
Traditionally, the OG ties are worn by all of the society’s [10] The name is Biblical, derived from New Testament contexts: grēgorein is a present, continuous aspect, meaning
members on this day.
See also
• Category:Documents of Pope Gregory I
• Libellus responsionum
[1] Huddleston, Gilbert (1909). "Pope St. Gregory I (“the
Great”)". Catholic Encyclopedia 6. New York: Robert
Appleton Company. Gregory had come to be known as
'the Great' by the late ninth century, a title which is still
applied to him. See John Moorhead, Gregory the Great,
(Routledge, 2005), p1
[2] Ekonomou, 2007, p. 22.
to be watchful of forsaking Christ. It is derived from
a more ancient perfect, egrēgora, “roused from sleep”,
of egeirein, “to awaken someone.” Thayer, Joseph Henry
(1962). Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti Translated Revised and Enlarged. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan
Publishing House.
[11] Thornton, pp 163-8
[12] Whether III or IV depends on whether Antipope Felix II
is to be considered pope.
[13] Dudden (1905), page 4.
[14] Richards
[15] Dudden (1905), pages 11–15.
[16] Dudden (1905), pages 106–107.
[17] Richards (1980), page 25.
[18] Dudden (1905), pages 7–8.
[3] Christian Life and Worship (Dissertations in European Economic History), 1948, 1979, Gerald Ellard
(1894–1963), Arno Press, ISBN 0-405-10819-2 ISBN
9780405108198, p. 125.
[4] F.L. Cross, ed. (2005). “Gregory I”. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press.
[19] Markus pg 4–5
[20] Dudden (1905), pages 36–37.
[21] Richards (1980), page 26.
[22] Richards (1980), page 44.
[23] Leyser pg 132
[5] F.L. Cross, ed. (1515). “Institutes of the Christian Religion Book IV”. Institutes of the Christian Religion Book
IV. New York: Oxford University Press.
[24] Cavadini pg 155
[6] “St. Gregory the Great”. Web site of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
[26] Pronechen, Joseph. “Interview with Susan Tassone”. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
[7] Gregory mentions in Dialogue 3.2 that he was alive
when Totila attempted to murder Carbonius, Bishop of
Populonia, probably in 546. In a letter of 598 (Register,
[27] Gregory the great and his world pg 3
[25] Straw pg 47
[28] Markus- pg 69
[29] Consul of God, Richards. Pg 26
[55] Luke 7:36-50;Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9
[30] Ekonomou, 2007, p. 8.
[56] Luke 7:37
[31] Ekonomou, 2007, p. 9.
[32] Ekonomou, 2007, p. 10.
[57] John 12:3
[58] Mark 16:9
[33] Ekonomou, 2007, pp. 10–11.
[34] Ekonomou, 2007, p. 11.
[35] Luke 24:39 - “touch me, and look; a spirit has not flesh
and bones, as you see that I have.”
[36] Ekonomou, 2007, p. 12.
[37] Ekonomou, 2007, p. 13.
[38] Straw pg 25
[39] Cavadini pg 39
[59] “Hanc vero quam Lucas peccatricem mulierem, Ioannes
Mariam nominat, illam esse Mariam credimus de qua
Marcus septem daemonia eiecta fuisse testatur” (Patrologia Latina 76:1239)
[60] Ingrid Maisch, Mary Magdalene: The Image of a
Woman through the Centuries (Liturgical Press 1988 ISBN
9780814624715), chapter 10
[61] Gietmann, G. (1911). “Nimbus”. "The Catholic Encyclopedia" XI. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
[40] Dudden pg 124
[62] Peter the Deacon, Vita, xxviii
[41] Dudden pg 99
[63] Catholic Encyclopedia article – see links, below.
[42] Richards pg 228
[64] Bamberg State Library, Msc.Bibl.84
[43] "Servus servorum Dei". Catholic Encyclopedia. New
York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
[65] Saraceni, Carlo; Emil Kren; Daniel Marx (1996). “St.
Gregory the Great”. Web Gallery of Art. Retrieved 200808-23.
[44] Kenneth Levy, Gregorian Chant and the Carolingians(Princeton University Press 1998 ISBN
9780691017334), p. 7
[45] Gregory Murray, Gregorian Chant According to the
Manuscripts (L. J. Cary & Co. 1963), pp. 3-4
[66] Rubin, Miri, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture, pp. 120–122, 308–310, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-43805-5, ISBN 978-0521-43805-6 Google books
[46] Straw pg 4
[67] Dudden (1905) page 316.
[47] RA Markus, Gregory the Great and his World, (Cambridge: CUP, 1997), p15
[68] Later these deacons became cardinals and from the oratories attached to the buildings grew churches.
• Gardner, Edmund G. (editor) (1911. Reprinted
2010). The Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great.
Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. ISBN
978-1-889758-94-7. Check date values in: |date=
[49] “A Papyrus Puzzle and Some Purple Parchment”. British
Museum. 12 February 2014. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
[50] Ambrosini, Maria Luisa; Mary Willis (1996). The Secret
Archives of the Vatican. Barnes & Noble Publishing. pp.
63–64. ISBN 9780760701256.
[51] Cantor (1993) page 157.
[52] R.A. Markus “Gregory the Great and his world” pg I
[53] Gregory the great and his world. pg. 2
[54] Smith, William; Henry Wace (1880). A Dictionary of
Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines: Being a Continuation of 'The Dictionary of the Bible': VolumeII Eaba – Hermocrates. Boston: Little, Brown and
Company. p. 415. The dictionary account is apparently
based on Bede, Book II, Chapter 1, who used the expression "...impalpable, of finer texture than wind and air.”
[69] Smith, William; Samuel Cheetham (1875). A dictionary
of Christian antiquities: Comprising the History, Institutions, and Antiquities of the Christian Church, from the
Time of the Apostles to the Age of Charlemagne. J. Murray. pp. 549 under diaconia.
[70] Mann, Horace Kinder; Johannes Hollnsteiner (1914). The
Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages: Volume X.
London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., Ltd. p.
[71] Ambrosini & Willis (1996) pages 66–67.
[72] Dudden (1905) pages 248–249.
[73] Deanesly, Margaret (1969). A History of the Medieval
Church, 590–1500. London, New York: Routledge. pp.
22–24. ISBN 9780415039598.
[74] Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, II.i. http://www.
[75] Hunt, William (1906). The Political History of England.
Longmans, Green. p. 115.
[76] The earliest life written a generation earlier than Bede
at Whitby relates the same story but in it the English
are merely visitors to Rome questioned by Gregory (see
Holloway, who translates from the manuscript kept at St.
Gallen). The earlier story is not necessarily the more accurate, as Gregory is known to have instructed presbyter
Candidus in Gaul by letter to buy young English slaves for
placement in monasteries. These were intended for missionary work in England: Ambrosini & Willis (1996) page
[77] Benedict I or Pelagius II.
12.2 Translations
• The Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great, trans Edmund G Gardner, (London & Boston, 1911)
• Pastoral care, trans Henry Davis, ACW 11, (Newman Press, 1950)
• Reading the Gospels with Gregory the Great: Homilies on the Gospels, 21-26, trans Santha Bhattacharji,
(Petersham, MA, 2001) [translations of the 6 Homilies covering Easter Day to the Sunday after Easter]
[78] Dudden pg 317
[79] Homilies on Ezekiel Book 1.11.6. For the text in
manuscript see Codices Electronici Sangalienses: Codex
211, page 193 column 1, line 5 (External links below.)
[80] Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book I
section 27 part II. Bede is translated in Bede; Judith McClure, Bertram Colgrave, Roger Collins (editors, translators, contributors) (1999). The Ecclesiastical History of
the English People: The Greater Chronicle ; Bede’s Letter to
Egbert. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192838667.
• The letters of Gregory the Great, translated, with introduction and notes, by John RC Martyn, (Toronto:
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004). [3
volume translation of the Registrum epistularum]
• Gregory the Great: On the Song of Songs, CS244,
(Collegeville, MN, 2012)
12.3 Secondary literature
[81] Gregory the Great. The Letters of Gregory the Great.
Trans. John R. C. Martyn. 3 vols. (2004). Book VI,
Epistle XII.
• Cantor, Norman F. (1993). The Civilization of the
Middle Ages. New York: Harper.
[82] Richards pg 232
• Cavadini, John, ed. (1995). Gregory the Great:
A Symposium. Notre Dame: University of Notre
Dame Press.
[83] Pope Gregory I, Moralia, sive Expositio in Job, published
by Nicolaus Kessler Basel, 1496.
[84] Theories of Art: From Plato to Winckelmann
[85] Champ, Judith (2000). The English Pilgrimage to Rome:
A Dwelling for the Soul. Gracewing Publishing. pp. ix.
ISBN 9780852443736.
[86] A monk or nun at Whitby A.D. 713; Julia Bolton Holloway, ed. (1997–2008). “The Earliest Life of St. Gregory the great”. Julia Bolton Holloway. Retrieved 200808-10.
[87] Richards pg 260
[88] Sacrosanctum Concilium, 108–111
[89] Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana
1969), pp. 100 and 118
Modern editions
• Homilae in Hiezechihelem prophetam, ed Marcus
Adriaen, CCSL 142, (Turnhout: Brepols, 1971)
• Dudden, Frederick H. (1905). Gregory the Great.
London: Longmans, Green, and Co. OCLC
• Ekonomou, Andrew J. 2007. Byzantine Rome and
the Greek Popes: Eastern influences on Rome and the
papacy from Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D.
590–752. Lexington Books.
• Gardner, Edmund G. (editor) (1911. Reprinted
2010). The Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great.
Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. ISBN
978-1-889758-94-7. Check date values in: |date=
• Richards, Jeffrey (1980). Consul of God. London:
Routelege & Keatland Paul.
• Straw, Carole E. (1988). Gregory the Great: Perfection in Imperfection. Berkeley: University of California Press.
• Leyser, Conrad (2000). Authority and Asceticism
from Augustine to Gregory the Great. Oxford:
Clarendon Press.
• Markus, R.A. (1997). Gregory the Great and His
World. Cambridge: University Press.
• Ricci, Cristina (2002). Mysterium dispensationis. Tracce di una teologia della storia in Gregorio
Magno. Rome: Centro Studi S. Anselmo. (Italian).
Studia Anselmiana, volume 135.
• Thornton, Father James (2006). Made Perfect in
Faith. Etna, California, USA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies. ISBN 0-911165-60-6.
External links
• “Documenta Catholica Omnia: Gregorius I Magnus”. Cooperatorum Veritatis Societas. 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-10. (Latin). Index of 70 downloadable .pdf files containing the texts of Gregory I.
• “Complete English translation of Gregory’s Moralia
in Job.”. . Found on the website: Lectionary Central.
• Gregory the Great (2007). “Homiliae in Ezechielem
I-XXII”. Codices Electronici Sangallenses: Codex
211 (in mediaeval Latin written in Carolingian minuscule). Stiftsbibliothek St.Gallen. Retrieved
2008-08-10. Photographic images of a manuscript
copied about 850–875 AD.
• “St Gregory Dialogus, the Pope of Rome”.
Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 2008-0810. Orthodox icon and synaxarion.
• Women’s Biography: Barbara and Antonina, contains two of his letters.
• St. Gregory engraved by Anton Wierix from the De
Verda Collection
• Saint Gregory the Great at the Christian Iconography web site
• Of St. Gregory the Pope from Caxon’s translation
of the Golden Legend
[1] and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the
Byzantine Rite
Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses
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State.svg, who had created his file using PD art from Open Clip Art Library and uploaded on 13 July 2006. User talk:F l a n k e r uploaded
this version on 19 January 2007.
• File:Folder_Hexagonal_Icon.svg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/48/Folder_Hexagonal_Icon.svg License: ? Contributors: ? Original artist: ?
• File:Gloriole_blur.svg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Gloriole_blur.svg License: Public domain Contributors: Own work Original artist: Eubulides
• File:Jerome_and_Gregory.jpg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4d/Jerome_and_Gregory.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: https://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/a/vivarini-antonio/avivarini___jerome___greg.html Original artist:
Antonio Vivarini
• File:Kirchenfenster_Böckweiler.jpg Source:
B6ckweiler.jpg License:
CC-BY-SA-2.0 Contributors:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2435169073/sizes/o/in/
photostream/ Original artist: tiegeltuf
• File:Kruis_san_damiano.gif Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/31/Kruis_san_damiano.gif License: Public domain Contributors: http://www.hyvinkaanseurakunta.fi/filebank/376-Risti_6_B.jpg Original artist: Unknown
• File:Man_writing_Corpus_Christi_College_Cambridge_MS._389.jpg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/
10/Man_writing_Corpus_Christi_College_Cambridge_MS._389.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: from an medieval manuscript
Original artist: Anonymous
• File:Moralia_in_Job_MS_dragonslayer.jpg Source:
dragonslayer.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: Scanned from Boucher, François: 20,000 Years of Fashion, Harry Abrams, 1966;
additional info from http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/mdvl103-1.html Original artist: Illustrator unknown
• File:Nicaea_icon.jpg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/31/Nicaea_icon.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: [1],[2] Original artist: Unknown
• File:Symbol_book_class2.svg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Symbol_book_class2.svg License: CCBY-SA-2.5 Contributors: Mad by Lokal_Profil by combining: Original artist: Lokal_Profil
• File:Thomas_Aquinas_in_Stained_Glass.jpg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/35/Thomas_Aquinas_in_
Stained_Glass.jpg License: CC-BY-SA-2.0 Contributors: Flickr Original artist: e3000
• File:Tomb_of_pope_Gregorius_I.jpg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dd/Tomb_of_pope_Gregorius_I.jpg
License: Public domain Contributors: my photo Original artist: Riccardov
• File:Westminster_Cathedral_Non_Angli_sed_Angeli_si_Christiani.jpg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/
db/Westminster_Cathedral_Non_Angli_sed_Angeli_si_Christiani.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: Own work Original artist:
• File:Wikiquote-logo.svg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Wikiquote-logo.svg License: Public domain
Contributors: ? Original artist: ?
• File:Wikisource-logo.svg Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg License: ? Contributors:
Original artist: Nicholas Moreau
Content license
• Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0