Constantine II, Antipope

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Pontificate: June 28, 767Aug. 6, 768. We do not have the precise dates of his birth or death. Constantine was the brother of Toto, the Duke of Nepi (northwest of Rome). In the mid-700s central Italy was a highly contested area. The Byzantine Empire and the Lombards had recently (680 or 681) concluded a treaty that recognized the Lombard kingdom in the north. While the Byzantines could not effect a meaningful presence around Rome, the Lombards remained important power brokers who hoped to expand their territory. Meanwhile, the papacy was attempting to solidify its hold on the nascent Papal States, the Franks were becoming an increasingly important presence under Pepin the Short (75168), and local military magnates, some of whom claimed the title Duke, often used the confusion to expand their power. Within Rome itself, there appears to have been a power struggle between the military elite, whose power base was in the countryside, and various clergy of the Lateran, who hoped to control both the city and the Papal States.

In the midst of this turmoil Duke Toto approached Rome with a large band of troops, hoping to influence the impending papal election, since Pope Paul I (75767) lay on his death bed. Although he met with the papal chancellor, Christophorus, and agreed not to enter the city or influence the election, Toto broke his oath and entered Rome by force when the pope died on June 28. He and three of his brothers had the fourth, Constantine, elected pope by the mob of soldiers and tenants. Toto himself became Duke of Rome. A few days later, the bishops of Praeneste, Alba, and Porto were forced to consecrate Constantine. Immediately after his election, Constantine wrote King Pepin to confirm alliances made between the two previous popes and the Franks. He did this because military control of Rome, and thus his hold on the papacy, was tenuous: the Lombards still had their eyes on the city, and Lateran officials were hostile to Constantine because he was an outsider.

Soon Christophorus and his son Sergius sought to leave the city, claiming that they would retire to the monastery of St. Savior in Rieti. Once out of Toto's reach, however, the two went to the Lombard duke Theodicius of Spoleto, hoping to find an ally against Toto and his pope. As a result, the Lombard king Desiderius (75774) instructed Theodicius to supply troops to Sergius, who fought his way into Rome on July 30, 768. Toto was killed in the battle, and Constantine was taken captive in the Lateran. After a failed attempt to install a Lombard pope (Philip, 768), a new pope, Stephen III (IV) (76872), was canonically elected under the leadership of Christophorus. Stephen was consecrated on Aug. 7,768. Constantine was formally deposed the day before and imprisoned in a monastery, which was later attacked by a mob that blinded the former antipope.

On April 12 and 13, 769 a synod of 49 bishops was convoked in Rome to consider the issues raised by Constantine's irregular election. The synod, guided by Christophorus, decreed that laymen could not participate in papal elections, and narrowed the criteria required of candidates for the papacy. When Constantine appeared before the synod to defend himself, some of the participants attacked him. The synod then decided to burn all documents of his administration and ruled that his ordinations were invalid. Constantine was sentenced to penance in a monastery, where he disappears from the historical record.

Bibliography: l. duchesne, ed. Liber Pontificalis (Paris 188692; repr. 195557) 1.46885. p. jaffÉ, Regesta pontificum Romanorum (Leipzig 188588; repr. Graz 1956) 1.28385. j. d. mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (Florence and Venice 175998; repr. Graz 196061) 12.71320. Concilium Romanum, in Monumenta Germaniae historica, Concilia 2 (1).7492; also Monumenta Germaniae historica, Epistolae 3.64953. h. k. mann, The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages (London 190232) 1 (2) 36178. o. bertolini, Roma di fronte a Bisanzio e ai longobardi (Bologna 1943) 62238. f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (Munich 195459) 2.14652. g. bardy, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1956) 13.59193. k. baus, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg 195765) 3.48. h. zimmerman, Papstabsetzungen des Mittelalters (Graz, Vienna, Cologne 1968) 1325. o. bertolini, Roma e i longobardi (Rome 1972). w. ullmann, A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages (London 1972). t. f. x. noble, The Republic of St. Peter (Philadelphia 1984). j. n. d. kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 934.

[p. m. savage]

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Constantine II, Antipope

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