#101 Pope Gregory IV

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Pope from March 828 – January 25, 844

Died: January 25, 844


Give me the scoop on Gregory IV.

Born in Rome late in the 8th Century, Gregory was known for his penchant for learning and his rugged good looks (yes, seriously) prior to being pope. After priestly ordination, Gregory served as cardinal and pastor of the Basilica of St. Mark, which he adorned with mosaics still able to be seen today. His election happened similarly to Pope Valentine’s – with a unanimous election by Rome’s nobility (who by now pretty much controlled papal elections) and a lot of protest from Gregory himself as he prayed in the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas & Damian. Though he was elected in October of 827, he wasn’t able to begin leading the Church in earnest until Spring 828, once the emperor could assess the choice and give his approval.
During Gregory’s pontificate, St. Ansgar continued making great headway evangelizing Sweden and the surrounding area, which prompted Gregory to name him First Bishop of Hamburg, send him the pallium, and give him “full authority to preach the Gospel … before the body and confession of St. Peter” as the pope’s official representative among the Northern European population. Gregory IV died after nearly 16 years in office on January 25, 844.

What was he known for?

Gregory IV’s time in office was defined by his part in some not-so-brotherly love among the Carolingians, the heirs to the Frankish throne. Louis the Pious was Holy Roman Emperor at the time, but in 817 he had made an agreement which divided the empire three ways, one for each son from his first wife. Louis made the unfortunate decision to renege in 829 after being persuaded by his second wife to also assign a kingdom to his youngest son, Charles the Bald.
Dear ol’ dad was first imprisoned by the older three, then released and restored to power when the trio warred amongst each other. Louis continued to favor Charles, at which point Lothair, the oldest son, persuaded Gregory IV to intervene and play peacekeeper. The pope ended up doing more harm than good, since his choice to accompany Lothair’s army over the Alps was misconstrued as Gregory being on the eldest son’s side (which wasn’t the case). With mistrust on all sides, and despite Gregory’s best intentions and efforts, the empire basically crumbled as a result of this great quarrel. Bummer for the Franks and, as it turned out, for the rest of Europe for many years thereafter.

Fun fact: When Muslims captured Sicily in 831, it didn’t take rocket science to infer that Rome would soon be next. In response, Gregory IV built a fortress at Ostia, the mouth of the Tiber River, to hold off the Muslim army, should they try to attack the Eternal City. The fortress was named, creatively, “Gregoriopolis.”

What else was going on in the world at the time?Around the mid-830s, the Vikings (not the Minnesota ones) began to move south and stick a thorn in the side of Europeans, France and England especially, as the Norse ruler Ragnar Lodbrok rose to power.

SOURCES (and further reading)John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Gregory IV – http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06789b.htm
Pope Gregory IV – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Gregory_IV
830s – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/830s

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Sent by Karin Kirby