Pope Paschal I

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Pope Saint

Paschal I
98-St.Paschal I.jpg
Papacy began 25 January 817
Papacy ended 824
Predecessor Stephen IV
Successor Eugene II
Personal details
Birth name Pasquale dei Massimi
Born Rome, Papal States
Died 824
Rome, Papal States
Buried Santa Prassede, Rome
Feast day 11 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 style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy 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.

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.

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]

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]

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.

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]


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

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 was 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


  1. ^ Goodson, 2010, p. 9 & n.13.
  2. ^ a b Kirsch, Johann Peter. "Pope Paschal I." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 13 September 2017
  3. ^ a b c Goodson, 2010, p. 9.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g O'Brien, Richard P. (2000). Lives of the Popes. NewYork: Harper Collins. pp. 132–133. ISBN 0-06-065304-3.
  5. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c d e f 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
 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Paschal I" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Further reading

  • Goodson, Caroline J. 2010. The Rome of Pope Paschal I: Papal Power, Urban Renovation, Church Rebuilding and Relic Translation, 817-824. Cambridge University Press.
  • John N.D. Kelly, Gran Dizionario Illustrato dei Papi, Edizioni Piemme S.p.A., 1989, Casale Monferrato (AL), ISBN 88-384-1326-6
  • Claudio Rendina, I papi, Ed. Newton Compton, Roma, 1990
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Paschal (popes)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

External links

  • Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Latina with analytical indexes
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Stephen IV
Succeeded by
Eugene II
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