Constantine of Rome

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Constantine of Rome was the Archbishop and Pope of the Church of Rome from 708 to 715. One of the last popes of the Byzantine Papacy, Constantine was the last pope to visit Constantinople until Pope Paul VI made a visit in 1967.


Constantine was born in the year 664. He was an Assyrian by birth, born in the old Roman province of Syria. He was fluent in the Greek language and familiar in the rituals and practices of the East. Little else is known of his youth. Before becoming the Pope of Rome, he had visited Constantinople twice. The first time he was one of the Roman legates to the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680/681. Then in 682, he delivered a letter from Pope Leo II to emperor Constantine IV. During these visits, Constantine met and developed a rapport with Prince Justinian, the heir apparent to the Byzantine throne.

Constantine was elected to the papacy on March 25, 708, succeeding Pope Sininnius, who may have been his brother. Sisinnius, a Syrian, had been pope for only twenty days.[1] Constantine was one of the popes of Greek origin during the period called the Byzantine Papacy, during which Rome was ruled by the Eastern Empire and the bishops of Rome required the approval of the emperor for consecration as pope.

The principal issue before the papacy at the time of Constantine's election were the rejections by Popes Sergius I and John VII of the canons of the Quinisext Council that had been convened under emperor Justinian II in 692. Pope John VII had been sent the canons for approval but instead sent them back.

In 710, Justinian II demanded that Constantine appear before him in Constantinople to settle once and for all the issue of the acceptance by Rome of the Quinisext decrees. Constantine neither delayed nor made excuses to avoid appearing in the imperial city as did his predecessors. Prior to Constantine's departure from Rome, Justinian had Archbishop Felix of Ravenna blinded for plotting to overthrow him, an act that had improved the rapport between the emperor and pope. However, Constantine's main motivation for the trip was to "forestall" a rift between Rome and Constantinople over the Quinisext decrees. Also, accompanying him to Constantinople was Constantine's successor Pope Gregory II as a deacon.

Constantine departed Rome on October 5, 710. Included in the party of thirteen travelers were eleven of Eastern extraction, two bishops, three priests, and all the ranking members of the papal chancellery and household. Among these were the future Pope Gregory II, then a deacon, and another Latin subdeacon Julian. Constantine specifically chose attendants who were "cut from similar cloth" as he, and likely to be sympathetic to the East.

The party traveled through Naples, Sicily, Gallipoli in southern Italy, and Otranto where they wintered over, to continue in the spring. In Naples, Constantine crossed paths with the Exarch of Ravenna, John III Rizocopo, who was on his way to Rome to execute four high-ranking papal officials who had opposed Constantine's new policy of rapprochement with Constantinople. In the spring, Constantine crossed the Ionian Sea, meeting the strategos of the imperial fleet on the island of Chios before proceeding to Constantinople.

Constantine entered Constantinople royally, on a "horse caparisoned with gilded saddle clothes and golden bridles and bearing on its head the kamelaukion, or diadem, which only the sovereign was authorized to wear and then only on a great public festival of the Lord". At the seventh milestone from the city, Constantine was met by Justinian II's co-emperor Tiberios, along with Patriarch Cyrus, senators, nobles, clerics, and many others). In Constantinople, Constantine stayed in the Placidia Palace that had formerly been occupied by Pope Vigilius in 547, the representatives of Pope, and Pope Agatho when he attended the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

Justinian II was in Nicea at the time and urged the pontiff to meet him in Nicomedia. That Sunday, Justinian II received communion from the hands of the pope and issued a vague confirmation of the various privileges of the Roman See.

The negotiations regarding the Quinisext canons were conducted by the future Pope Gregory II. A degree of compromise (the "so-called Compromise of Nicomedia")—which "diplomatically skirted" the actual issue of their acceptance—was reached. While Constantine made concessions regarding the economia, he did not give ground on the vast majority of the Roman grievances. The agreement was more designed to secure East-West political unity than resolve any doctrinal dispute. The fact of Constantine's having been summoned to Constantinople was the real proof that the "imperial writ still ran in Rome". Constantine left the city in October 711.

Shortly after Constantine's return to Rome, Justinian was killed by mutinous troops, in November 711. His successor as emperor was Philippicus Bardanes, an adherent of Monothelitism, who rejected the arrangements of the Third Council of Constantinople, and demanded Constantine's support of the view that Christ had only one will and the revival Monothelitism, demands that Constantine rejected in 712. Further, Constantine refused to receive an imperial portrait or coins with the emperor's image and also refused to commemorate the emperor in Mass. Clashes arose when the exarch (the imperial representative in Italy) attempted to enforce the imperial presence in Italy there were clashes, which Constantine was able to calm.

In June 713, Philippicus was overthrown, forestalling further conflicts, and his successor, Anastasius II, had exarch Scholasticus deliver to Constantine a letter affirming his support for the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

Pope Constantine reposed on April 9, 715 and was succeeded by his former deacon Gregory II. Pope Constantine was buried in the Old St. Peter's Basilica.


  1. *Williams, George L. 2004. Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-2071-5. p. 10.
Succession box:
Constantine of Rome
Preceded by:
Pope of Rome
708 - 715
Succeeded by:
Gregory II
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