Paschal I, Pope, St.
PASCHAL I, POPE, ST.
Pontificate: Jan. 24, 817 to Feb. 11, 824. Little is known of Paschal's life before he became Pope, except that he was of Roman origin, was educated at the papal curia, was ordained to the priesthood, and was appointed abbot of the monastery of St. Stephen Major. Perhaps during part of his early career he played a role in papal administration. The surviving evidence suggests that his election to the papal office had general support in Rome.
At the time of Paschal I's election there remained a variety of unanswered questions about the relationship between the Pope and the Papal States and the recently created western Roman emperor and his empire. During the last years of his reign charlemagne (768–814) had done little to clarify that issue; neither had the tumultuous pontificate of Pope leo iii (795–816) contributed to a solution. Apparently concerned about his relationship with the Franks, one of Paschal's first actions as Pope was to establish communications with Emperor louis i the pious (814–840), who had assumed the imperial office less that three years earlier and had already shown signs of moving in new directions in his political and religious policy. Paschal dispatched two letters to Louis. The first sought to explain the circumstances surrounding his election and consecration, which had occurred without the involvement of the emperor. This enigmatic letter seems to reflect uncertainty about the role of the western emperor in papal elections and a strong desire on the part of Paschal to avoid any sign of impropriety with respect to the emperor. The second requested that Louis renew the friendship pact that had existed between the papacy and the Carolingian rulers since the time of King pepin iii (751–768) and reconfirm the territorial concessions granted to the papacy by Pepin III and Charlemagne. Again the pope seemed anxious to define the boundaries of the Papal States and to clarify its role in the Carolinian empire. Louis responded promptly by issuing in 817 a document called the Pactum Ludovicianum which set forth in writing the terms that Louis and Pope stephen iv (V) (816–817), Paschal's immediate predecessor, had agreed upon during their meeting in 816. Although the authenticity of this important document has been challenged many times by modern historians, it is now generally accepted as authentic in its main provisions. The Pactum renewed the friendship pact between the papacy and the Franks and confirmed the exact territories and patrimonies that pertained to the papacy in a way that sanctioned papal claims to a large part of Italy. Louis recognized papal sovereignty in administrative and judicial functions in the Papal States, except in cases where the Pope asked for imperial assistance or where inhabitants of the Papal States who claimed to be oppressed sought justice from the emperor. The emperor pledged to protect
the Papal State and to allow complete freedom of papal elections. The generous terms of the Pactum Ludovicianum have sometimes been interpreted as an instance where Louis' misdirected piety led to undue concessions to the Church at the expense of the secular authority. In reality, the Pactum represented an important step in formally integrating the Papal States into the structure of the Carolingian Empire in a manner that gave to that entity and its ruler, the Pope, a privileged place, immune for the most part from outside interference.
During most of Paschal I's pontificate the Pactum Ludovicianum served as a workable arrangement governing papal-Frankish relationships. When Louis the Pious enacted his famous Ordinatio imperii of 817, which arranged for his succession in terms aimed at preserving the unity of the Carolingian empire rather than observing the Frankish tradition of dividing the realm among all male heirs, Paschal I gave his approval. Paschal I responded to Louis I's request that he lend papal support to the missionary effort of ebbo, archbishop of Reims, in Denmark by providing Ebbo with a letter that designated him papal legate to the mission field in the North. In 821 Paschal sent legates bearing gifts to celebrate the marriage of lothair i, heir to the imperial title. In 823 the Pope welcomed Lothair I to Rome and bestowed on him the crown of the kingdom of Italy and the title emperor; although Louis I had already designated Lothair I as co-emperor in 817, Paschal's act reinforced the idea that papal participation was necessary to legitimate assumption of the imperial crown.
During most of his pontificate Paschal was in full control of affairs in the Papal States with little interference from either Emperor Louis I or his surrogate in Italy, Lothair I. Little is known about papal activity during these years. Paschal I gave some attention to the renewal of iconoclasm by the eastern emperor, leo v
(813–820), a matter drawn to his attention chiefly by the appeals of theodore the studite, the leader of the considerable anti-iconoclastic forces opposing Emperor Leo V in the East. Theodore's appeals were couched in terms that recognized the Pope as the ultimate source of orthodox doctrine. Aside from welcoming victims of persecution in the eastern empire, Paschal wrote letters denouncing the iconoclasm of Leo V and his successor, Michael II (820–829). Papal condemnation was a factor in sustaining the opposition within the Eastern empire. Paschal also gave considerable attention to rebuilding and redecorating churches in Rome, continuing the policy of transforming the physical appearance of the city begun by his predecessors during the eighth century.
Despite the appearance of calm surrounding affairs during most of Paschal I's pontificate, all was not well. Bits of information scattered through the record suggest a rising tide of opposition to his administration of the Papal States. The opposition came chiefly from the Roman secular nobility, who were increasingly unhappy with the clerical control of the Papal States. In 822 the appearance of co-emperor Lothair I in Italy triggered a crisis, which came to a head in 823 when two high officials in the papal administration were put to death, apparently because they headed a faction in Rome favorable to Lothair I. Their pro-Frankish position raised doubts about their loyalty to Paschal I. Although Paschal sent a letter to Louis claiming his innocence, supporters of the victims brought him a version of events in Rome that implicated Paschal I in the murders. The emperor decided to send envoys to investigate, but before the imperial inquest could be completed the Pope appeared before the imperial envoys and many bishops and swore an oath of purgation vowing he was innocent of any wrongdoing. He was following the example set by Pope Leo III in 800 in a similar situation. Louis was momentarily satisfied with Paschal I's denial of culpability; the Pope's death soon after ended further inquiry into his conduct. But apparently Louis I soon became convinced that the situation in Rome required a closer examination of the relationship between Pope and emperor. It was redefined during the pontificate of Paul I's successor, Pope Eugenius II (824–827), in the Constitutio Romana of 824, which provided for more imperial control over papal administration and papal elections than had prevailed before. In a sense, the end result of Paschal I's pontificate was tighter integration of the Papal States into the Carolingian empire through the imposition of severe limitations on the independence of the Pope as ruler of the Papal States. This consequence probably should not be construed as an anti-papal action on the part of Louis the Pious. Rather, it was another facet of the emperor's effort to unify the Christian community into a single imperium Christianum in which spiritual and secular leaders could act in accord to realize God's will.
Feast: May 14.
See Also: carolingian dynasty; carolingian reform; states of the church.
Bibliography: Le Liber Pontificalis, ed. l. duchesne, 3 v., 2nd ed. (Paris 1955–1957) 2:52–68, English translation as The Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis). The Ancient Biographies of Ten Popes from A.D. 817–891, trans. with intro. and notes by r. davis, Translated Texts for Historians 20 (Liverpool 1995) 1–30. Regesta Pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia ad annum post Christum MCXCVIII, ed. p. jaffÉ, 2 v., 2nd ed. (Leipzig 1885–1888) 1:318–320. Annales regni Francorum, a. 817–824, ed. f. kurze, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum (Hannover 1895; reprinted, 1989) 145–164, English translation in Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories, trans. b. w. scholz (Ann Arbor, Mich. 1970) 101–115. Theganus, Gesta Hludowici Imperatoris, chs. 18 and 30, and Astronomus, Vita Hludowici Imperatoris, chs. 27, 34, 36, and 37, both in Thegan, Die Taten Kaiser Ludwigs; Astronomus, Das Leben Kaiser Ludwigs, ed. and trans. e. tremp, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum 64 (Hannover 1995) 200, 218, 372, 402, 414, 418–420, an English translation of the passage from the Astronomer in Son of Charlemagne. A Contemporary Life of Louis the Pious, chs. 27, 34, 36, 37, trans. with intro. and notes a. cabaniss (Syracuse, N.Y. 1964) 62, 71, 75, 76–77. Capitularia regum Francorum, ed. a. boretius and v. krause, 2 v., Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Leges, Sectio II (Hannover 1893–1897; reprinted, 1980–1984) 1:352–355 (text of the Pactum Ludowicianum ). Epistolae selectae pontificum Romanorum Carlo Magno et Ludowico Pio regnantibus scriptae, ed. k. hampe, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, vol. 5: Epistolae Karolini Aevi, vol. 3 (Berlin 1899; reprinted, 1995). 68–71.
[r. e. sullivan]
"Paschal I, Pope, St.." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/paschal-i-pope-st
"Paschal I, Pope, St.." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved January 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/paschal-i-pope-st