John II of Rome

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Pope John II of Rome was the Archbishop and Pope of the Church of Rome from 533 to 535.


Little is known of the life of Pope John II. He was born with the name Mercurius in Rome, the son of Projectus. He was priest of the Basilica di San Clemente on the Caelian Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. The basilica of St. Clement still retains several memorials of "Johannes surnamed Mercurius". Presbyter Mercurius is found, also, on a fragment of an ancient ciborium (drinking cup). Also, several of the marble slabs that enclose the schola cantorum (choir school) bear upon them the monogram of Johannes, in the style of the sixth century.

During this period, simony, i.e., the purchase or sale of church offices or preferment, in the election of bishops was widespread among clergy and laity. During the two months the see of Rome was vacant after the repose of Pope Boniface II, "shameless trafficking in sacred things was indulged in. Even sacred vessels were exposed for sale". The matter had been brought before the Roman Senate and laid before the Arian Ostrogothic Court at Ravenna. The last decree (Senatus consultum) that the Senate is known to have issued, passed during the ponticate of Pope Boniface II, was directed against simony in papal elections. The decree was confirmed by King Athalaric of the Ostrogoths. He also ordered the decree to be engraved on marble and placed in the atrium of St. Peter's Basilica in 533. One of Athalaric's own additions to the decree was that if a disputed election was carried by the Roman clergy and people before the Gothic officials of Ravenna, three thousand solidi would have to be paid into court. This sum was to be given to the poor.

Mercurius became pope on January 2, 533 and adopted the new name (regnal name) of John upon his elevation to the papacy, as his theophoric birth name honored the Roman god Mercury. John remained on good terms with Athalaric, although an Arian Christian, was content to refer to John's tribunal all actions brought against the Roman clergy.

The Liber Pontificalis records that in 534 John received valuable gifts as well as a profession of orthodox faith from emperor Justinian I, a significant accomplishment in light of the strength of Monophysitism in the Eastern Roman Empire at that time.

In response to the notorious adulterous behavior of Bishop Contumeliosus of Riez in Provence, John ordered the bishops of Gaul to confine him in a monastery until a new bishop could be appointed and charged the clergy of Riez to obey the Bishop of Arles[1]

A council of 217 bishops that assembled at Carthage in 535 submitted to Pope John II a question about whether bishops who had lapsed into Arianism should, on repentance, keep their rank or be admitted to communion only as a layman, again raising the question of re-admittance to the lapsed that had troubled north Africa for centuries (see Novatianism and Donatism). The answer, however, to their question was given by Pope Agapetus I, as Pope John II died on May 8, 535. He was buried in St Peter's Basilica.


  1. Agapetus, in Henry Wace, A Dictionary of Christian Biography.
Succession box:
John II of Rome
Preceded by:
Boniface II
Pope of Rome
533 - 535
Succeeded by:
Agapetus I
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