Saint of the Day – 8 September – Saint Pope Sergius I (c 650–701) Papal Ascension 15 December 687. Born in c 650 at Palermo, Sicily and died on 8 September 701 of natural causes in Rome, Italy.
Sergius was born about the year 650 into a Syrian family from Antioch that had moved to Palermo in Sicily. He received his education in Sicily before he moved to Rome during the Pontificate of Pope Adeodatus II in the 670s. Ordained by Pope Leo II, he was a Cardinal-Priest of the Church of St Susanna at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome.
As Pope Conon was dying in 687, two warring factions vied to elect a successor. In simultaneous elections after the death of Pope Conon the Archdeacon Pascal and the Priest Theodore were elected to the Papal throne. However, an assembled group of clergy and people ignored these elections and chose instead, the Priest Sergius, who was then consecrated on 15 December 687. Theodore, recognising the support behind the election of Sergius, quickly acknowledged Sergius I as Pope. Pascal, who had turned for help to the Exarch of Ravenna, John Platyn with offers of gold, was soon abandoned by the Exarch after the Consecration of Sergius and Pascal eventually ended up confined to a Monastery on charges of witchcraft.
During the early years of his Pontificate, Sergius had numerous contacts with England and English notables. He received King Caedwalla of the West Saxons and baptised him on 10 April 689, before his death on 20 April, apparently from battle wounds. Under Pope Sergius’ direction Caedwalla was buried in St Peter’s. He consecrated St Willibrord, an Englishman, as Bishop of the Frisians.
The cruel Emperor Justinian wanted him to sign the decrees of the so-called Quinisext or Trullan Council of 692, in which the Greeks allowed Priests and Deacons to keep the wives they had married before their Ordination and which aimed at placing the Patriarch of Constantinople on a level with the Pope of Rome. When Sergius refused to acknowledge this Synod, the Emperor sent an officer to bring him to Constantinople as a prisoner. But the people protected the Pope, and Justinian himself was soon afterwards deposed (695).
Sergius succeeded in extinguishing the last remnants of the Schism of the Three Chapters in Aquileia. He repaired and adorned many Basilicas, added the Agnus Dei to the Mass and instituted processions to various Churches.
Pope Sergius died in Rome on 8 September 701. He was succeeded by John VI.
The image below The Dream of Pope Sergius depicts an miraculous incident in the life of our Saint. A cut-away wall reveals a small bedroom where an Angel appears to Pope Sergius in his sleep. The Angel tells Sergius that the Bishop Saint Lambert has been assassinated and Sergius is to appoint a new Bishop, Saint Hubert. The Angel holds a Bishop’s mitre and crozier formerly belonging to Saint Lambert. To the right, the Pope and two Cardinals go out into a brick enclosure, meeting a lawyer or noble and a Franciscan friar, who both kneel before the Papal retinue and present petitions requesting benefits or indulgences. In the far distance, on the steps of the early Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Sergius presents Saint Hubert with the Bishop’s mitre and staff.
The artists made an imaginative effort to recreate Rome as it would have appeared at that time. The depiction of minutely detailed objects and the ability to portray space in a convincing manner were among the major achievements of Netherlandish painters in the 1400s.