Pope Paschal I

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Pope Saint

Paschal I
98-St.Paschal I.jpg
Papacy began25 January 817
Papacy ended824
Predecessor Stephen IV
Successor Eugene II
Personal details
Birth namePasquale dei Massimi
Born Rome, Papal States
Rome, Papal States
Buried Santa Prassede, Rome
Feast day11 February
Venerated in Catholic Church
Other popes named Paschal
Papal styles of
Pope Paschal I
Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous style Saint

Pope Paschal I (Latin : Paschalis I; born Pascale Massimi; died 824) was pope from 25 January 817 to his death in 824.

Pope leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the Bishop of Rome and ex officio leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.


Paschal was a member of an aristocratic Roman family. Before his election to the Papacy, he was abbot of St. Stephen's monastery, which served pilgrims. He was elected pope in January 817. His pontificate notably established the practice of crowning the Emperor in Rome when, in 823, Paschal crowned Lothair I as King of Italy. He rebuilt a number of churches in Rome, including three basilicas.

Lothair I 9th-century Frankish emperor

Lothair I or Lothar I was the Holy Roman Emperor, and the governor of Bavaria (815–817), King of Italy (818–855) and Middle Francia (840–855).

Early life

According to the Liber Pontificalis , Paschal was native of Rome and son of Bonosus and Episcopa Theodora. The Liber Censuum says that Paschal was from the Massimo family, as was his predecessor Pope Stephen IV. [1]

<i>Liber Pontificalis</i> Book of biographies of popes

The Liber Pontificalis is a book of biographies of popes from Saint Peter until the 15th century. The original publication of the Liber Pontificalis stopped with Pope Adrian II (867–872) or Pope Stephen V (885–891), but it was later supplemented in a different style until Pope Eugene IV (1431–1447) and then Pope Pius II (1458–1464). Although quoted virtually uncritically from the 8th to 18th centuries, the Liber Pontificalis has undergone intense modern scholarly scrutiny. The work of the French priest Louis Duchesne, and of others has highlighted some of the underlying redactional motivations of different sections, though such interests are so disparate and varied as to render improbable one popularizer's claim that it is an "unofficial instrument of pontifical propaganda."

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

<i>Episcopa Theodora</i> Greek inscription on a Christian mosaic in the Chapel of Zeno of Verona

Episcopa Theodora is the Greek inscription on a 9th-century Christian mosaic in the Chapel of Bishop Zeno of Verona located within the Church of Saint Praxedis the Martyress in Rome.

Pope Leo III placed Paschal in charge of the monastery of St Stephen of the Abyssinians, where his responsibilities included the care of pilgrims visiting Rome. [2] According to early modern accounts, Leo III may have elevated Paschal as the cardinal of Santa Prassede. [3] Goodson attributes this account to a "desire to explain the attention that the pope so lavishly and prominently paid to that church later in his career." [3]

Pope Leo III 8th and 9th-century pope

Pope Leo III was Bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 26 December 795 to his death in 816. Protected by Charlemagne from his enemies in Rome, he subsequently strengthened Charlemagne's position by crowning him Holy Roman Emperor and "Augustus of the Romans".

Cardinal (Catholic Church) senior ecclesiastical official of the Catholic Church

A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical leader, considered a Prince of the Church, and usually an ordained bishop of the Catholic Church. The cardinals of the Church are collectively known as the College of Cardinals. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and making themselves available individually or in groups to the pope as requested. Most have additional duties, such as leading a diocese or archdiocese or managing a department of the Roman Curia. A cardinal's primary duty is electing the pope when the see becomes vacant. During the sede vacante, the day-to-day governance of the Holy See is in the hands of the College of Cardinals. The right to enter the conclave of cardinals where the pope is elected is limited to those who have not reached the age of 80 years by the day the vacancy occurs.

Santa Prassede medieval church in Rome

The Basilica of Saint Praxedes, commonly known in Italian as Santa Prassede, is an ancient titular church and minor basilica in Rome, Italy, located near the papal basilica of Saint Mary Major. The current Cardinal Priest of Titulus Sancta Praxedis is Paul Poupard.

Selection as Pope

Paschal became pope on 25 January 817, just one day after the sudden death of Pope Stephen IV. [3] This decision was made without the sanction of Emperor Louis the Pious. Paschal began his pontificate apologizing for this slight, stressing that the office had been thrust upon him [4] , and explaining that the decision had been made to avoid factional strife in Rome.

Pope Stephen IV 9th-century pope

Pope Stephen IV was Bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from June 816 to his death in 817.

Louis the Pious King of Aquitaine

Louis the Pious, also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of the Franks and co-emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813. He was also King of Aquitaine from 781.

According to the Liber Pontificalis, Pope Paschal's papal legate Theodore returned with a document titled Pactum cum Pashali pontiff, in which the Emperor congratulated Paschal, recognized his sovereignty over the Papal States and guaranteed the free election of future pontiffs. [5] This document has since been challenged by historians as a forgery. [6]

Papal legate a personal representative of the pope

A papal legate or apostolic legate is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic Church. He is empowered on matters of Catholic faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters.

Papal States territories in the Appenine Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope between 752–1870

The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.


At first, the Emperor confirmed the agreement reached in Rheims with Paschal's predecessor, Stephen IV and detailed in the document Pactum Ludovicanum about free papal elections and noninterference in Church affairs unless officially asked for help. The two worked together to send Ebbo, Archbishop of Rheims to evangelize the Danes in 822. [4]

On Easter Sunday of 823, Paschal crowned and anointed Lothair I as King of Italy. Lothair was less amenable to cooperating with the Papal Curia than his father. He held a court and declared Farfa Abbey, just north of Rome, exempt from Papal taxation. Paschal's aristocratic opponents in the papal palace, especially his former legate, Theodore, and his son-in-law, Leo, who turned to the young leader of the Franks for support in their opposition to Paschal. [2] The decision outraged the Roman nobility and led to an uprising against the authority of the Roman Curia in northern Italy led by Theodore and Leo. The revolt was quickly suppressed, and two of its leaders were seized, blinded, and afterwards beheaded by members of the papal household. Paschal denied any involvement, but the Emperor remained suspicious and sent two commissioners to investigate. Paschal refused to submit to the authority of the imperial court, but he did take an oath of purgation before a synod of thirty-four bishops. [4] The commissioners returned to Aachen, and Emperor Louis let the matter drop.

Construction projects

Paschal gave shelter to exiled monks from the Byzantine Empire who had fled persecution for their opposition to iconoclasm. He both offered the exiled Byzantine mosaic artists work decorating churches in Rome [5] and wrote to Frankish King Louis the Pious [7] and the Byzantine emperor Leo V in support of those who opposed iconoclasm. [4]

Paschal rebuilt three basilicas of Rome: Santa Prassede, Santa Maria in Domnica, and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. [8] These churches contain mosaics with lifelike portraits of Paschal. [4] Paschal is credited with finding the body of Saint Cecilia in the Catacomb of Callixtus and translating it to the rebuild the basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Paschal also undertook significant renovations on Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. [9] In addition, Paschal added two oratories to Old St. Peter's Basilica, SS. Processus et Martinianus and SS. Xistus et Fabianus, which did not survive the 16th century renovation of St. Peter's. [10]

Paschal is also sometimes credited with the renovation of Santo Stefano del Cacco in early modern sources, but this renovation was actually undertaken by Pope Paschal II. [11]

According to Goodson, Paschal "used church-building to express the authority of the papacy as an independent state." [12]


Papal bulla of Paschal I Detailed image of Papal bulla of Paschal I 817-824 (FindID 69063).jpg
Papal bulla of Paschal I

Only six known letters written by Paschal remain. [13] The first (Jaffé 2546) confirms the possessions of the Territorial Abbey of Farfa. [13] The second and third (Jaffé 2547 and Jaffee 2548) were written to a Frankish abbot prior to and after his elevation as archbishop of Vienne. [13] The fourth (Jaffé 2550) was written to Louis the Pious. [13] The fifth (Jaffé 2551, preserved in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana) confirms the privileges of the church of Ravenna. [13] The last (Jaffé 2553) was written to Ebbo, the archbishop of Reims. [14] [13]


Paschal died on 11 February 824. The Roman Curia refused him the honour of burial within St. Peter's Basilica because of his harsh government of the Roman people. [4] He was instead buried in the Basilica of Santa Prassede, which also contains the famous Episcopa Theodora mosaic of his mother. [15]

Paschal canonized in the late sixteenth-century. His feast day in the Roman calendar prior to 1963 was 14 May. [4] It is currently celebrated on 11 February.

See also

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  1. Goodson, 2010, p. 9 & n.13.
  2. 1 2 Kirsch, Johann Peter. "Pope Paschal I." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 13 September 2017
  3. 1 2 3 Goodson, 2010, p. 9.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 O'Brien, Richard P. (2000). Lives of the Popes. NewYork: Harper Collins. pp. 132–133. ISBN   0-06-065304-3.
  5. 1 2 John N.D. Kelly, Gran Dizionario Illustrato dei Papi, p. 271
  6. Claudio Rendina, I papi, p. 256
  7. Goodson, 2010, p. 12.
  8. Goodson, 2010, p. 3.
  9. Goodson, 2010, p.4.
  10. Goodson, 2010, pp. 3-4.
  11. Goodson, 2010, p. 5 n.7.
  12. Goodson, 2010, p. 14.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Goodson, 2010, p. 8 & n.11.
  14. Philippus Jaffe (1885). S. Loewenfeld (ed.). Regesta pontificum romanorum ab condita ecclesia ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII (in Latin) (secunda ed.). Leipzig: Veit. pp. 318–320.
  15. John N.D. Kelly, Gran Dizionario Illustrato dei Papi, p. 272
Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Paschal I"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton.

Further reading

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Stephen IV
Succeeded by
Eugene II