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April 1, 2015

Papal Pandemonium: Semifinal #2

Papal Pandemonium 2015
Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 Results

For more info on Popes, visit New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia

From our first slate of semifinalists, you selected HILARIUS, SIMPLICIUS, and LINUS to advance to the Grand Finale. Whom will you pick from our second batch?

Voting closes Thursday, April 2 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

Papal Pandemonium semi 2

Once again, to help you make an informed decision, we’ll turn some of this post over to our very own Papal Pedant.

About The Papal Pedant

Pope Eugene VFor the semifinals, I’m excited to welcome commentary from my favorite pundit: Eugene Finerman, a five-time Jeopardy! champion.

When he’s not lecturing rebellious youths on the horrors of purgatory, he is a mercenary freelance writer at FinermanWorks. Check out his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

All right – on with the show!

Semifinal #2: Choose your three favorite papal names.

    Zephyrinus (53%, 21 Votes)

    Victor (13%, 5 Votes)

    Telesphorus (40%, 16 Votes)

    Sylvester (35%, 14 Votes)

    Severinus (15%, 6 Votes)

    Leo (25%, 10 Votes)

    Lando (50%, 20 Votes)

    Felix (33%, 13 Votes)

    Celestine (28%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 40

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Key: ✝ = canonized (“Saint”), * = beatified (“Blessed”)

Celestine – used 5 times (last: 1294)  Support Pope Celestine!

Derivation: Latin, heavenly

422–432 1143–1144 1191–1198 1241 1294

Until Benedict XVI did so in 2013, Celestine V was the last pope to resign. He had been a hermit until he was elected to end a two-year interregnum; he was unfamiliar with the political nature of the position, and longed to return to monastic life.

Instead, he was imprisoned by his successor, Boniface VIII, who was afraid rivals would install Celestine as an antipope.

The Papal Pedant says:

In the tenth century, the Papacy was controlled by a family of robber barons, the Counts of Tusculum. The Popes were either members of the family or accommodating ciphers. One of these Popes was killed by a jealous husband. In reaction to hundred years of flagrant corruption, an invading German army was considered an improvement.

The problem was German moderation; yes, it is an oxymoron. The Holy Roman Emperor figured that as long as he was in Rome, he might as well take over all of Italy. Conquering the North and central Italy were easy enough. Southern Italy was the challenge. Malaria was a novelty to the Germans. As for Sicily, well, you cannot exactly march into it.

So, a frustrated, diseased German army would eventually retreat back north to Germany. Italy would revert to its traditional chaos. Then, after a few years the Germans would invade again – with the same results. Did the Germans ever learn? No, the Teutonic tides swept Italy throughout the 11th and 12th centuries.

One occurred in 1191, just as Celestine III was elected Pope; pontiff one day, prisoner-of-war the next. Indeed, the new Pope’s first duty was to crown Heinrich Hohenstaufen as the Holy Roman Emperor. How could the 85-year-old Celestine refuse? Heinrich – alias Henry VI – marched on to Southern Italy and the usual ensuing disasters.

His retreat, however, was a little less abject than his ancestors’. German garrisons were left in central and northern Italy. The Pope was quite mindful of that. Indeed, little more than a hostage, Celestine did not dare protest an outrage perpetrated by Henry VI and his vassal the Duke of Austria: the kidnapping of Richard the Lion-Heart.

In 1192 Richard was returning from the Third Crusade, and so should have been guaranteed a safe passage through all of Christian Europe. (Indiana would have hassled him, but that is a different matter.) However, the Duke of Austria seized Richard, who then was turned over to the Emperor.

Henry VI literally demanded a king’s ransom: thirty-two tons of silver. Of course, the Pope wanted to protest; but he prudently waited until after the ransom was paid. With this fortune, Henry could afford another invasion of Italy – and this time he could rent a fleet for the invasion of Sicily. Genoa obliged him, and by 1195 Sicily had a king Enrico.

Italy still had malaria, however, and Heinrich/Enrico died of it in 1197. Celestine was not required to perform Last Rites. His smirk might have been unseemly.

Felix – used 3 times (last: 530)  Support Pope Felix!

Derivation: Latin, lucky

269–274 antipope 483–492 526–530 antipope

Lando (913–914)  Support Pope Lando!

Derivation: Latin, bright sun

Until Francis in 2013, Lando was the last pope to take a theretofore-unused name (it was his own).

The Papal Pedant says:

Lando was only a front for the Robber Barons who controlled the Papacy in the tenth century. He reigned less than a year. However, his name is fascinating and somewhat incriminating. Lando is a mitigated form of Landulf. It might seem that his parents were fans of Tolkien; more likely they were Lombards, descendants of a barbarian tribe that seized much of Italy.

Among the German tribes, there were gradations of barbarism. The Goths were relatively refined, while the Angles and Saxons were complete louts. The Lombards were unfortunately among the crude. They invaded Italy in the late sixth century, pushing back the Byzantines and civilization to enclaves in Venetia, Rome and Southern Italy. The Papacy was protected by Byzantine garrisons, although the Popes also needed protection from the Byzantine bureaucracy.

In the mid-eighth century, the Popes had broken away from Constantinople; no Greek was going to destroy Italian icons. However, Rome still needed protection from the Lombards. The Papacy appealed to France’s King Pepin (the Joseph Kennedy of medieval France); the obliging French army broke the Lombard kingdom and ceded much of central Italy to the Pope himself.

But the Lombards did remain in the Italian gene pool. You must have noticed that Northern Italians are fairer than Southern Italians. Just compare Benito Mussolini with Antonin Scalia. Everyone does – but this time, just their complexions.

Leo – used 13 times (last: 1903)  Support Pope Leo!

Derivation: Latin, lion

440–461 682–683 795–816 847–855 903
928 936–939 963–964 1049–1054 1513–1521
1605 1823–1829 1878–1903

Leo I was the first pope to be known as the Great; Leo V was jailed by Antipope Christopher, who was only removed from the official list of popes in the 20th century.

The Papal Pedant says:

Unless you are a sulking Nestorian or Copt (no one likes to be called a heretic), you know Leo I as the Pope who dissuaded Attila the Hun from sacking Rome. “Hi, the Visigoths got here first and now all we have left is the plague. But you are welcome here.”

Unfortunately, he tried that same line with Genseric and the Vandals. Genseric remembered, “Didn’t the Visigoths spare the Churches? We’ll just do an audit of your sacristies.” The Goths had slaughtered and raped but spared the Church; the Vandals did the opposite.

So guess who has the worse reputation? History is often written by the victors but always by the literate, and who had the monopoly on medieval literacy? The Church does keep grudges.

Severinus (640)  Support Pope Severinus!

Derivation: Latin, stern

Severinus was actually elected in 638, but the Byzantine Emperor refused to grant his papacy until May 640.

Sylvester – used 3 times (last: 1045)  Support Pope Sylvester!

Derivation: Latin, wooded

314–335 999–1003 1045

Sylvester I was the first beneficiary of the Emperor Constantine’s vision at the 312 Battle of the Milvian Bridge, which led to his acceptance of Christianity in the 313 Edict of Milan. He sent emissaries to the first Council of Nicaea (325) but did not attend himself.

The Papal Pedant says:

First, the official story. Pope Sylvester I was literally a Church Father to Emperor Constantine, curing him of leprosy, personally converting him, helping the young ruler with an arts and craft project: the construction of St. Peter’s.

However, the truth is not quite such an Andy Hardy movie. Constantine never had leprosy, and the Emperor was converted by a Greek bishop in Nicomedia. Constantine might have helped with groundwork of St. Peter’s if the church had been constructed anywhere else. The Emperor hated Rome. (If we can indulge in a little psychoanalysis, the son of a peasant-stock officer and his barmaid concubine might have resented the snobbery of Rome’s patrician class. He could not kill everyone who had snubbed him, so he simply isolated them by moving the empire’s capital.)

Did Sylvester and Constantine even meet? The Emperor was in Rome in 312 if only to conquer the city; he could have encountered Bishop Sylvester at the time. If Pope Sylvester ever met the Emperor, it would have been outside of Rome. The Pope certainly would have been on the invitation list to the Council of Nicaea. But Sylvester did not attend.

Constantine was said to be a very gracious host, charming the bishops and their wives. Yes, at the time many bishops were married. So were the Popes.

Somehow, that is not in the official story.

Telesphorus (125–136)  Support Pope Telesphorus✝!

Derivation: Greek, bearing fruit

A contemporary writer called his martyrdom “glorious”. He might have been the first pope to celebrate Lenten Week before Easter. Also the name of a Greek god.

Victor – used 3 times (last: 1087)  Support Pope Victor!

Derivation: Latin, conqueror

189–199 1055–1057 1086–1087 antipope antipope

Victor I was the first African pope, hailing from outside of Tripoli, Libya.

There were two Antipopes named Victor IV, both of whom “served” in the 12th century.

Zephyrinus (199–217)  Support Pope Zephyrinus✝!

Derivation: Greek, of the west wind

Zephyrinus was not martyred in the traditional sense – you know, crucifixion, stoning, arrows, etc. – but is considered a martyr for the considerable mental and emotional anguish he was said to have endured during his 18-year pontificate. While Emperor Septimius Severus persecuted Christians, and several prominent Christians renounced the faith, Zephyrinus was said to be “the support and comfort of the distressed flock.”

  1. I hope that I am worth the eye strain. (Keith, maybe we can sell ad space to optometrists.)

What do you think?