I was searching for a subject to write about and thought to do something on the ancient Greek gods. It’s a favorite topic for many followers of MIE and me, too. Just as I sat down to start, I heard a buzz on my phone and saw a news alert banner flash across the screen: “New Pope chosen. First non-European in over 1200 years.”
Poof, my glorious blog idea had just gone up in smoke, glorious white smoke to be precise. Somehow it no longer seemed an appropriate time to be writing about pagan practices.
But what to write about? Answer: The last non-European Pope, the one from the 8th Century (thank you Wikipedia). Pope Saint Gregory III, born near what is modern day Damascus to a Syrian named John, served as Pope from 731 until his death in 741.
When I started reading about Gregory III it struck me as eerily coincidental how I’d passed on doing a post about pagan gods venerated by the Greeks to learn about a pope who, from the inception of his papacy, was locked in conflict with Byzantine Emperor Leo III over his banning of all religious images. Leo III had brought on what was called the First Iconoclasm (iconoclasm meaning “image breaking” in Greek) accompanied by widespread destruction of religious images and persecutions of those who’d supported their veneration.
|Emperor Leo III|
As an interesting sidebar, those who engaged in this deliberate destruction of their own culture’s symbols or monuments came to be called iconoclasts, a term which has evolved to where today it means one who rails against or questions established precepts or ways. If Tim Hallinan comes to mind you’re on the right track.
Gregory III did more than press Leo III to change his position on the ban; he encouraged the veneration of icons and relics by embellishing and repairing images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints in numerous churches within his realm. But Gregory III paid a hefty price for his opposition to Leo III. The emperor retaliated with armed efforts at controlling Gregory III and appropriation of Papal territories in Sicily and Calabria.
Nor did Gregory III do well in his efforts to restrain the conquering Lombards’ advance from Southern Scandinavia and Germany into Italy. His promised allies did not support him, and he died as the Lombards approached their zenith of power in Italy—a period brought to an end in 774 by Charlemagne, “the Father of Europe.”
|Charlemagne agreeing to aid Pope Adrian I against Lombards|
I’m not in any way capable of evaluating the impact of Pope Gregory III on world or church events, but a position he took 1241 years ago is uncannily apropos for a heated debate now raging across Europe: In 732 Pope Gregory III banned the consumption of horsemeat, both domestic and wild, calling it an abomination.
With that, and one further thought, I shall leave you for today.
God Bless Pope Francis.