19th century depiction of Pope Zachary
|Papacy began||3 December or 5 December 741|
|Papacy ended||March 752|
Santa Severina, Calabria, Byzantine Empire
|Died||15 March 752 (aged 72-73)|
Rome, Kingdom of the Lombards
|Feast day||15 March|
|Venerated in||Catholic Church|
|Papal styles of|
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
Pope Zachary (Latin: Zacharias; 679 - March 752) reigned from 3 December or 5 December 741 to his death in 752. A Greek from Santa Severina,Calabria, he was the last pope of the Byzantine Papacy. Most probably he was a deacon of the Roman Church and as such signed the decrees of the Roman council of 732, and succeeded Gregory III on 5 December 741.
Zachary built the original church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, forbade the traffic of slaves in Rome, and negotiated peace with the Lombards. In response to an inquiry forwarded by Pepin the Short, Zachary rendered the opinion that it was better that he should be king who had the royal power than he who had not. Shortly thereafter, the Frankish nobles decided to abandon the Merovingian Childeric III in favor of Pepin, who then reigned as King of the Franks from 751 to 768.
Historians such as J.P. Kirsch and Peter Partner have viewed Pope Zachary as a capable administrator and a skillful and subtle diplomat in a dangerous time.
His predecessor's alliance with the Lombard Duke of Spoleto put papal cities at risk when the Dukes of Spoleto and Benevento rebelled. Zachary turned to King Liutprand the Lombard directly. Out of respect for Zachary the king restored to the church of Rome all the territory seized by the Lombards and sent back the captives without ransom. The contemporary history (Liber pontificalis) dwells chiefly on Zachary's personal influence with Liutprand, and with his successor Ratchis. At the request of the Exarchate of Ravenna, Zachary persuaded Luitprand to abandon a planned attack on Ravenna and to restore territory seized from the city.
Zachary corresponded with Saint Boniface, the archbishop of Germany. He counseled Boniface about dealing with disreputable prelates such as Milo of Trier. "As for Milo and his like, who are doing great injury to the church of God, preach in season and out of season, according to the word of the Apostle, that they cease from their evil ways."
At Boniface's request, the Pope confirmed three newly established Bishoprics of Würzburg, Büraburg, and Erfurt. In 742 he appointed Boniface as papal legate to the Concilium Germanicum, hosted by Carloman. In a later letter Zachary confirmed the metropolitans appointed by Boniface to Rouen, Reims, and Sens. In 745 Zachary convened a synod in Rome to discourage a tendency toward the worship of angels.
In order to legitimize his planned usurpation of the throne, Pepin the Short makes the Pope a compromising consultation charged in the guise of a naive search for orthodox conduct. In response to his question, the Pope said that in these circumstances, the de facto power was considered more important than the de jure authority, an endorsement Pepin was later able to present to an assembly of the Frankish nobles and army. Pepin was subsequently crowned King of the Franks by Boniface at Soissons in 752.
Zachary built the original church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva over an ancient temple to Minerva near the Pantheon. He also restored the decaying Lateran Palace, moving the relic of the head of Saint George to the church of San Giorgio al Velabro.
Also in Rome, some Venetian merchants bought many slaves in the city to sell to the Muslims of Africa; however, Zachary forbade such traffic and then paid the merchants their price, giving the slaves their freedom.
Pope Zachary died around 15 March 752 (it may also have been the 12th or 14th) and was buried in St. Peter's Basilica. Zachary was succeeded by Stephen, who died soon before his consecration and is not considered a valid pope. He was then followed by another Stephen who became Stephen II. The letters and decrees of Zachary are published in Jacques Paul Migne, Patrolog. lat. lxxxix. p. 917-960.
Church historian, Johann Peter Kirsch said of Zachary: "In a troubled era Zachary proved himself to be an excellent, capable, vigorous, and charitable successor of Peter."Peter Partner called Zachary a skilled diplomat, "perhaps the most subtle and able of all the Roman pontiffs, in this dark corridor in which the Roman See hovered just inside the doors of the Byzantine world."