Pope Zachary

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Pope Saint Zachary (Greek Zacharias) was pope from 741 to 752. A Greek from Calabria, he was the last pope of the Byzantine Papacy. Most probably he was a deacon of the Roman Church and as such signed the decrees of the Roman council of 732 and was on intimate terms with Gregory III, whom he succeeded on December 10, 741.

Zachary was a wise and subtle diplomat. Finding that his predecessor's alliance with the Lombard Duke of Spoleto was not protecting Papal cities against the Lombard king, Zachary turned to Liutprand directly. Contemporary history (Liber pontificalis) dwells chiefly on Zachary's great personal influence with Liutprand, and with his successor Ratchis. His tact in dealing with these princes in a variety of emergencies contributed to save the Exarchate of Ravenna from the Lombard attacks.

A correspondence, of considerable extent and of great interest, between Zachary and Saint Boniface, the apostle of Germany, survives, and shows how great was the influence of this pope on events then passing in France and Germany. He encouraged the deposition of the last Merovingian king of the Franks, Childeric III, and it was with his sanction that Boniface crowned Pepin the Short as King of the Franks at Soissons in 752. Thomas Hobbes held this action up as one of the "greatest" abuses of papal power in history. Zachary is stated to have remonstrated with the Byzantine emperor Constantine V Copronymus on the part he had taken in the iconoclastic controversy. He died on March 22, 752, and was buried in St. Peter's Basilica. His successor was Stephen who died soon before his consecration and is not considered a valid pope. He was then succeeded by another Stephen who became Stephen II.

In the effort to Christianize Rome, Zachary built the original church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva over an ancient temple to Minerva near the Pantheon. He also restored the Lateran Palace, moving the relic of the head of Saint George to the church of San Giorgio al Velabro.

The letters and decrees of Zachary are published in Jacques Paul Migne, Patrolog. lat. lxxxix. p. 917–960.

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