Pope Agatho

Pope Agatho (died January 681) served as the Bishop of Rome from 27 June 678 until his death in 681.[2] He heard the appeal of Wilfrid of York, who had been displaced from his See by the division of the Archdiocese ordered by Theodore of Canterbury. During Agatho's tenure, the Sixth Ecumenical Council was convened which dealt with the monothelitism controversy. He is venerated as a saint by both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Pope Saint

19th century depiction of Pope Agatho
Papacy began678
Papacy ended681
SuccessorLeo II
Created cardinal5 March 676
by Adeodatus II
Personal details
Birth nameAgáthon
BornPossibly Palermo, Eastern Roman Empire
Died10 January 681[1]
Rome, Exarchate of Ravenna, Eastern Roman Empire
Previous postCardinal-Deacon (676-77)
Feast day
Venerated in
AttributesHolding a long cross


Little is known of Agatho before his papacy but he may have been among the many Sicilian clergy in Rome at that time, due to the Islamic Caliphate battles against Sicily in the mid-7th century.[3] He served several years as treasurer of the church of Rome. He succeeded Donus in the pontificate.[4]


Shortly after Agatho became pope, Wilfrid, Bishop of York, arrived in Rome to invoke the authority of the Holy See on his behalf. Wilfrid had been deposed from his see by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had carved up Wilfrid's diocese and appointed three bishops to govern the new sees. At a synod which Pope Agatho convoked in the Lateran to investigate the affair, it was decided that Wilfrid's diocese should indeed be divided, but that Wilfrid himself should name the bishops.[5]

The major event of his pontificate was the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680–681), following the end of the Muslim Siege of Constantinople,[6] which suppressed Monothelism, which had been tolerated by previous popes (Honorius I among them). The council began when Emperor Constantine IV, wanting to heal the schism that separated the two sides, wrote to Pope Donus suggesting a conference on the matter, but Donus was dead by the time the letter arrived. Agatho was quick to seize the olive branch offered by the Emperor. He ordered councils held throughout the West so that legates could present the universal tradition of the Western Church. Then he sent a large delegation to meet the Easterners at Constantinople.[5]

The legates and patriarchs gathered in the imperial palace on 7 November 680. The Monothelites presented their case. Then a letter of Pope Agatho was read that explained the traditional belief of the Church that Christ was of two wills, divine and human. Patriarch George of Constantinople accepted Agatho's letter, as did most of the bishops present. The council proclaimed the existence of the two wills in Christ and condemned Monothelitism, with Pope Honorius I being included in the condemnation. When the council ended in September 681 the decrees were sent to the Pope, but Agatho had died in January. The Council had not only ended Monothelism, but also had healed the schism.[5]

Agatho also undertook negotiations between the Holy See and Constantine IV concerning the interference of the Byzantine Court in papal elections. Constantine promised Agatho to abolish or reduce the tax that the popes had to pay to the imperial treasury on their consecration.[5]


Anastatius says, that the number of his miracles procured him the title of Thaumaturgus. He died in 681, having held the pontificate about two years.[4] He is venerated as a saint by both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.[7] His feast day in Western Christianity is on 10 January.[8] Eastern Christians, including Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches, commemorate him on 20 February.[9]


  1. Mann, Horace. "Pope St. Leo II." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 12 September 2017
  2. Kelly, J. N. D.; Walsh, Michael (23 July 2015). Dictionary of Popes. Oxford University Press. p. 215. ISBN 9780191044793. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  3. Jeffrey Richards (1 May 2014). The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages: 476-752. Routledge. p. 270. ISBN 9781317678175.
  4. Butler, Alban. "St. Agatho, Pope", The Lives of the Saints, Vol. I, 1866. Butler spells the name of Agatho's predecessor as "Domnus"; according to "Pope Donus" in the Catholic Encyclopedia", this is an alternative spelling of "Donus".
  5. Joseph Brusher, S.J., Popes Through the Ages Archived 6 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. Hubert Cunliffe-Jones (24 April 2006). A History of Christian Doctrine (reprint ed.). A&C Black. p. 233. ISBN 9780567043931.
  7. Ott, Michael. "Pope St. Agatho." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 12 September 2017
  8. "Agatho". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  9. "The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church – February". Holy Apostles Convent. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Leo II
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