Course:Carey HIST501/Project 3/Agatho

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Year of birth and death

Pope Agatho was born in 577 and died on January 10, 681.

A short biographical sketch of Agatho

There is little known of Agatho’s upbringing. One source reports that he was a married layman and a successful businessman for most of his life. When he finally followed a call to God, with his wife’s blessing, he became a monk at Saint Hermes’ monastery in Palermo, Sicily[1]. He was the first pope to be elected from Sicily, thereafter Sicilians, Leo II, Conon, and Sergius I followed his footsteps[2]. He has had the influence of seventeen popes starting from Gregory the Great (590-604) in his lifetime. When Agatho became Pope in 678, he was 101 years old. He held office until his death. He ordained ten priests, three deacons and eighteen bishops during his papacy[2]. As pontiff, Agatho brought his business skill to the throne, maintaining the accounting records himself[3].

Major impact of Agatho

The Sixth Ecumenical Council, frescoe housed at the Virgin Nativity Cathedral, created in 1502 by Moscow artist Dionisy.
On August 12, 678, Constantine IV’s directed Pope Donos to select a delegation to consult with the patriarchs in an effort to arrive at a correct statement of faith and thereby to achieve "the unity of all Christians". When the emperor received a reply over a year and a half later, it was from Donos's successor, Agatho. He apologized profusely as he needed some time to gather the delegates to hold a council at Rome against the Monothelites, also known as the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681. It was a difficult job to find emissaries from Rome as the low level of education continued to persist in Rome as compared with the East[4]. 174 delegates representing the Church from all over the empire met at the Domed Hall of the royal palace in Constantinople. The emperor presided over the 18 meetings that met over 10 months[5].
Agatho was not present at the Council but his letter, recognized dyotheletism, the doctrine of Christ’s two wills – human and divine – and condemned monothletism[6]. His writings and authority swayed the Council of Constantinople, and reunited Constantinople with Rome, though he died before the good news reached him[3].
When Wilfred of York appealed to Rome to restore him to his diocese which was divided by St. Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Agatho and a Roman synod (October 679) ordered his restoration but accepted the division of his diocese but with conditions. This was the first known occasion of an English bishop reaching out to Rome for a decision[7].

Impact of the Agatho

Perhaps the inscription on Pope Agatho’s tombstone speaks to his legacy, “the highest priest Agatho [who] holds firm the covenants of the Apostolic See. There is piety! There is the ancient Faith! The undefiled badges of the Fathers remain, nourisher, through your efforts.”[4]

Agatho is venerated as a saint by the catholic and Eastern Orthodox church. His feast day is celebrated on January 10 in the catholic church, coinciding with his date of death and on February 20 in the Eastern Orthodox church.


  1. "Pope Saint Agatho". CatholicsSaints.Info. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Richards, Jeffrey (2014). The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages (Routledge Revivals): 476-752. Taylor and Francis. pp. Appendix 1, The Popes, Appendix 3, Papal Ordinations.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Pope Saint Agatho". CatholicsSaints.Info. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ekonomou, Andrew J. (2007). Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes : Eastern Influences on Rome and the Papacy From Gregory the Great to Zacharias, A.D. 590-752. Lexington Books. pp. Chapter 6, p.144, footnote 233.
  5. Cartwright, M. (2018, January 17). "Constantine IV". World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 31, 2021. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Brandner, Tobias (2019). Pilgrims and Popes : A Concise History of Pre-Reformation Christianity in the West. Cascade Books. p. 114.
  7. "Saint Wilfrid". Britannica. Retrieved November 2, 2021.