A history of the Papacy

Jesus founded the papacy in the first century, when he chose St. Peter, the leader of the apostles, to be his earthly representative. “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church,” he states in chapter 16 of Matthew. “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Those words, which now circle the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, serve as the biblical mandate for the papacy. 

 

The list below charts this long history from St Peter to the current Pope.

St Peter

33 to 64/67

Apostle of Jesus from whom he received the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, according to Matthew 16:18 and 19 . Executed by crucifixion upside-down; feast day (Feast of Saints Peter and Paul) 29 June, (Chair of Saint Peter) 22 February. Recognized by the Catholic Church as the first Bishop of Rome (Pope) appointed by Christ. Also revered as saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 29 June

St Linus

64/67? to 76/79?

Feast day 23 September. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 7 June.

St Anacletus (Cletus)

76/79? to 88/92

Martyred; feast day 26 April. Once erroneously split into Cletus and Anacletus

St Clement I

88/92 to 97

Feast day 23 November. Issued 1 Clement which is said to be the basis of apostolic authority for the clergy. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 25 November.

St Evaristus

97/99 to 105/107

Said to have divided Rome into parishes, assigning a priest to each. Feast day of 26 October.

St Alexander I

107 – 115

Inaugurated the custom of blessing houses with holy water. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 16 March.

St Sixtus I

115/116 – 125

Feast day of 6 April. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 10 August.

St Telesphorus

125 – 136/138

Feast day of 5 January. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 22 February. Church Father St. Irenaeus called him a great martyr.

St Hyginus

136/138 – 140/142

Tradition holds he was martyred; feast day 11 January

St Pius I

140/142 – 155

Martyred by sword; feast day 11 July. Decreed that Easter should only be celebrated on a Sunday.

St Anicetus

155 – 20 April 168

Tradition holds he was martyred; feast day 17 April. Decreed that priests are not allowed to have long hair.

St Soter

168 – 174

Tradition holds he was martyred; feast day 22 April. Declared that marriage was valid as a sacrament blessed by a priest; formally inaugurated Easter as an annual festival in Rome.

St Eleuterus

174 – 24 May 189

Tradition holds he was martyred; feast day 6 May

St Victor I

189 – 198/199

Known for excommunicating Theodotus of Byzantium. Quartodecimanism controversy.

St Zephyrinus

199–20 December 217

Combated against the adoptionist heresies of the followers of Theodotus the Byzantium who were ruled by Theodotus, the Money Changer and Asclepiodotus. Although not physically martyred, he is called a martyr for the suffering he endured.

St Callixtus I

c. 217 – 222

Martyred; feast day 14 October.

St Urban I

222 – 23 May 230

Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 25 May.

St Pontian

21 July 230 – 28 September 235 (5 years, 69 days)

First to abdicate after exile to Sardinia by Emperor Maximinus Thrax. The Liberian Catalogue records his death on 28 September 235, the earliest exact date in papal history

St Anterus

21 November 235 – 3 January 236 (43 days)

Feast day 3 January. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 5 August.

St Fabian

10 January 236 – 20 January 250 (14 years, 10 days)

Divided the communities of Rome into seven districts, each supervised by a deacon. Feast day 20 January. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 5 August.

St Cornelius

6/11 March 251 – June 253 (2 years+)

Died a martyr through extreme hardship; feast day 16 September.

St Lucius I

25 June 253 – 5 March 254 (256 days)

Feast day 5 March.

St Stephen I

12 May 254 – 2 August 257 (3 years, 82 days)

Martyred by beheading; feast day 2 August. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with the same feast day.

St Sixtus II

31 August 257 – 6 August 258 (341 days)

Martyred by beheading. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 10 August.

St Dionysius

22 July 259 – 26 December 268 (9 years, 157 days)

Feast day 26 December

St Felix I

5 January 269 – 30 December 274 (5 years, 890 days)

St Eutychian

4 January 275 – 7 December 283 (8 years, 337 days)

St Caius

17 December 283 – 22 April 296 (12 years, 127 days)

Martyred (according to legend) Feast day 22 April. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 11 August.

St Marcellinus

30 June 296 – 1 April 304 (7 years, 276 days)

Feast day 26 April. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 7 June.

St Marcellus I

308–309

Banished from Rome under Maxentius (309).

St Eusebius

18 April – 17 August 309 or 310

Banished by the emperor Maxentius, and died in exile.

St Miltiades

2 July 311 – 10 January 314 (2 years, 192 days)

First pope after the end of the persecution of Christians through the Edict of Milan (313 AD) issued by Constantine the Great. Presided over the Lateran council of 313.

St Sylvester I

31 January 314 – 31 December 335 (21 years, 334 days)

Feast day 31 December. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 2 January. First Council of Nicaea (325). Under him was built: the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and Old St. Peter's Basilica. Donation of Constantine.

St Mark

18 January 336 – 7 October 336 (263 days)

Feast day 7 October

St Julius I

6 February 337 – 12 April 352 (15 years, 66 days)

Arian controversy. Credited with splitting the birth of Christ into two distinct celebrations: The Epiphany stayed on the traditional date, and the Nativity was added on 25 December.

Liberius

17 May 352 – 24 September 366 (14 years, 130 days)

Earliest pope not yet canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 27 August

St Damasus I

1 October 366 – 11 December 384 (18 years, 71 days)

Patron of Jerome, commissioned the Vulgate translation of the Bible. Council of Rome (382).

St Siricius

11 December 384 – 26 November 399 (14 years, 350 days)

St Anastasius I

27 November 399 – 19 December 401 (2 years, 22 days)

Instructed priests to stand and bow their heads as they read from the Gospels.

St Innocent I

22 December 401 – 12 March 417 (15 years, 80 days)

Visigoth Sack of Rome (410) under Alaric

St Zosimus

18 March 417 – 26 December 418 (1 years, 283 days)

St Boniface I

28 December 418 – 4 September 422 (3 years, 250 days)

St Celestine I

10 September 422 – 27 July 432 (9 years, 321 days)

Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 8 April.

St Sixtus III

31 July 432 – 18 August 440 (8 years, 18 days)

St Leo I (Leo the Great)

29 September 440 – 10 November 461 (21 years, 43 days)

Convinced Attila the Hun to turn back his invasion of Italy. Wrote the Tome which was instrumental in the Council of Chalcedon and in defining the hypostatic union. Feast day 10 November. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 18 February.

St Hilarius

19 November 461 – 29 February 468 (6 years, 102 days)

St Simplicius

3 March 468 – 10 March 483 (15 years, 7 days)

St Felix III (Felix II)

13 March 483 – 1 March 492 (8 years, 354 days)

Text.

St Gelasius I

1 March 492 – 21 November 496 (4 years, 265 days)

The last pope to have been born on the continent of Africa. The first pope called the "Vicar of Christ"

Anastasius II

24 November 496 – 19 November 498 (1 years, 360 days)

Tried to end the Acacian schism but it resulted in the Laurentian schism.

St Symmachus

22 November 498 – 19 July 514 (15 years, 239 days)

St Hormisdas

20 July 514 – 19 July 523 (8 years, 364 days)

Father of Pope Silverius. Acacian schism.

St John I

13 August 523 – 18 May 526 (2 years, 278 days)

St Felix IV (Felix III)

13 July 526 – 22 September 530 (4 years, 71 days)

Sometimes called Felix III. Built Santi Cosma e Damiano.

Boniface II

22 September 530 – 17 October 532 (2 years, 25 days)

Changed the numbering of the years in the Julian Calendar from Ab Urbe Condita to Anno Domini.

John II

2 January 533 – 8 May 535 (2 years, 126 days)

First pope not to use his personal name (Mercurio). This was because of the Roman god, Mercury.

St Agapetus I

13 May 535 – 22 April 536 (346 days)

Feast days 22 April and 20 September. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 17 April.

St Silverius

1 June 536 – 11 November 537 (1 years, 163 days)

Exiled; feast day 20 June, son of Pope Hormisdas

Vigilius

29 March 537 – 7 June 555 (18 years, 70 days)

Pelagius I

16 April 556 – 4 March 561 (4 years, 322 days)

Credited with the construction of the basilica of Santi Apostoli.

John III

17 July 561 – 13 July 574 (12 years, 361 days)

Benedict I

2 June 575 – 30 July 579 (4 years, 58 days)

Pelagius II

26 November 579 – 7 February 590 (10 years, 73 days)

Ordered the construction of the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.

St Gregory I (Gregory the Great)

3 September 590 – 12 March 604 (13 years, 191 days)

The first formally to employ the titles Servus servorum Dei and Pontifex Maximus. Established the Gregorian chant. Feast day 3 September. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 12 March. Known as "the Father of Christian Worship". Known as "St. Gregory the Dialogist" in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Sabinian

13 September 604 – 22 February 606 (1 years, 162 days)

Boniface III

19 February 607 – 12 November 607 (267 days)

St Boniface IV

25 August 608 – 8 May 615 (6 years, 256 days)

First pope to bear the same name as his immediate predecessor. Member of the Order of Saint Benedict.

St Adeodatus I (Deusdedit)

19 October 615 – 8 November 618 (3 years, 20 days)

Sometimes called Deusdedit, as a result Pope Adeodatus II is sometimes called Pope Adeodatus without a number. The first pope to use lead seals on papal documents, which in time came to be called Papal bulls.

Boniface V

23 December 619 – 25 October 625 (5 years, 306 days)

Honorius I

27 October 625 – 12 October 638 (12 years, 350 days)

Named a heretic and anathematized by the Third Council of Constantinople (680)

Severinus

28 May 640 – 2 August 640 (66 days)

John IV

24 December 640 – 12 October 642 (1 years, 292 days)

Theodore I

24 November 642 – 14 May 649 (6 years, 171 days)

The last pope from Palestine. Planned the Lateran Council of 649, but died before it could open.

St Martin I

21 July 649 – 16 September 655 (6 years, 57 days)

Last pope recognized as a martyr. Feast day of 12 November. Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 14 April.

St Eugene I

10 August 654 – 1 June 657 (2 years, 295 days)

St Vitalian

30 July 657 – 27 January 672 (14 years, 181 days)

Adeodatus II

11 April 672 – 17 June 676 (4 years, 67 days)

Sometimes called Pope Adeodatus (without a number) in reference to Pope Adeodatus I sometimes being called Pope Deusdedit. Member of the Order of Saint Benedict.

Donus

2 November 676 – 11 April 678 (1 years, 160 days)

St Agatho

27 June 678 – 10 January 681 (2 years, 197 days)

Also revered as a saint in Eastern Christianity, with a feast day of 20 February.

St Leo II

17 August 682 – 28 June 683 (315 days)

Feast day 3 July

St Benedict II

26 June 684 – 8 May 685 (317 days)

Feast day 7 May

John V

12 July 685 – 2 August 686 (1 years, 21 days)

Conon

21 October 686 – 22 September 687 (335 days)

St Sergius I

15 December 687 – 8 September 701 (13 years, 267 days)

Introduced the singing of the Lamb of God at mass

John VI

30 October 701 – 11 January 705 (3 years, 73 days)

John VII

1 March 705 – 18 October 707 (2 years, 231 days)

The second pope to bear the same name as his immediate predecessor.

Sisinnius

15 January 708 – 4 February 708 (21 days)

Constantine

25 March 708 – 9 April 715 (7 years, 15 days)

Last pope to visit Greece while in office, until John Paul II in 2001.

St Gregory II

19 May 715 – 11 February 731 (15 years, 268 days)

Feast day 11 February. Held the Synod of Rome (721).

St Gregory III

18 March 731 – 28 November 741 (10 years, 255 days)

The third pope to bear the same name as his immediate predecessor. Was previously the last pope to have been born outside Europe until the election of Francis in 2013.

St Zachary

3 December 741 – 22 March 752 (10 years, 110 days)

Feast day 15 March. Built the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Pope-elect Stephen

23 March 752 – 25 March 752 (Never took office as pope)

Sometimes known as Stephen II. Died three days after his election; never receiving episcopal consecration. Some lists still include him. The Vatican sanctioned his addition in the sixteenth century; removed in 1961. He is no longer considered a pope by the Catholic Church.

Stephen II (Stephen III)

26 March 752 – 26 April 757 (5 years, 31 days)

Sometimes called Stephen III. The Donation of Pepin.

St Paul I

29 May 757 – 28 June 767 (10 years, 30 days)

Stephen III (Stephen IV)

7 August 768 – 24 January 772 (3 years, 170 days)

Sometimes called Stephen IV. The Lateran Council (769).

Adrian I

1 February 772 – 26 December 795 (23 years, 328 days)

St Leo III

26 December 795 – 12 June 816 (20 years, 169 days)

Crowned Charlemagne Imperator Augustus on Christmas Day, 800, thereby initiating what would become the office of Holy Roman Emperor requiring the imprimatur of the pope for its legitimacy.

Stephen IV (Stephen V)

12 June 816 – 24 January 817 (226 days)

Sometimes called Stephen V.

St Paschal I

25 January 817 – 11 February 824 (7 years, 17 days)

Credited with finding the body of Saint Cecilia in the Catacomb of Callixtus, building the basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere and the church of Santa Maria in Domnica.

Eugene II

8 May 824 – August 27 827 (3 years, 111 days)

Valentine

31 August 827 – 10 October 827 (40 days)

Gregory IV

December 827 – 25 January 844 (17 years+)

Rebuilt the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica and in the newly decorated chapel transferred the body of Gregory I.

Sergius II

25 January 844 – 7 January 847 (2 years, 347 days)

St Leo IV

27 January 847 – 17 July 855 (8 years, 171 days)

Member of the Order of Saint Benedict.

Benedict III

29 July 855 – 7 April 858 (2 years, 252 days)

St Nicholas I (Nicholas the Great)

24 April 858 – 13 November 867 (9 years, 203 days)

Encouraged missionary activity.

Adrian II

14 December 867 – 14 December 872 (5 years, 0 days)

John VIII

14 December 872 – 16 December 882 (10 years, 2 days)

Marinus I

16 December 882 – 15 May 884 (1 years, 151 days)

St Adrian III

17 May 884 – July 885 (1 year+)

Stephen V (Stephen VI)

September 885 – 14 September 891 (4 years+)

Sometimes called Stephen VI.

Formosus

19 September 891 – 4 April 896 (4 years, 198 days)

Posthumously ritually executed following the Cadaver Synod.

Boniface VI

4 April 896 – 19 April 896 (16days)

Stephen VI (Stephen VII)

22 May 896 – 14 August 897 (1 years, 84 days)

Sometimes called Stephen VII. Held the infamous Cadaver Synod.

Romanus

August 897 – November 897

Theodore II

December 897 - 20 December 897

John IX

January 898 – January 900 (2 years+)

Member of the Order of Saint Benedict.

Benedict IV

1 February 900 – July 903 (3 years+)

Leo V

July 903 – September 903

Sergius III

29 January 904 – 14 April 911 (7 years, 75 days)

"Saeculum obscurum" begins. The first pope to be depicted with the Papal Tiara.

Anastasius III

April 911 – June 913

Lando

July/August 913 – 25 February 914

John X

March 914 – May 928

Leo VI

June 928 – February 929

Stephen VII (Stephen VIII)

February 929 – 15 March 931

Sometimes called Stephen VIII.

John XI

February/March 931 – December 935

Leo VII

3 January 936 – 13 July 939 (3 years, 191 days)

Member of the Order of Saint Benedict.

Stephen VIII (Stephen IX)

14 July 939 – October 942

Sometimes called Stephen IX.

Marinus II

30 October 942 – 10 May 946 (3 years, 192 days)

Agapetus II

10 May 946 – 8 December 955 (9 years, 212 days)

John XII

16 December 955 – 14 May 964 (8 years, 150 days)

Deposed in 963 by Emperor Otto invalidly; end of the "Saeculum obscurum".

Benedict V

22 May 964 – 23 June 964 (32 days)

Elected by the people of Rome, in opposition to the Antipope Leo VIII who was appointed by Emperor Otto; he accepted his own deposition in 964 leaving Leo VIII as the sole pope.

Leo VIII

July 964 – 1 March 965

Appointed antipope by Emperor Otto in 963 in opposition to John XII and Benedict V. He became the true pope after Benedict V was deposed.

John XIII

1 October 965 – 6 September 972 (6 years, 341 days)

Chronicled after his death as "the Good".

Benedict VI

19 January 973 – June 974 (1 year+)

Deposed and murdered.

Benedict VII

October 974 – 10 July 983