The Middle Ages Gregory the Great
(c. 540 - c. 604)
Middle Ages

Founder of the medieval papacy.

Keys may symbolize the power
of the papacy

Son of a Roman senator and inheritor of vast wealth, Gregory VII founded several monasteries and entered one of them as a monk. After being summoned from this seclusion by the pope and serving for a time as a papal diplomat, Gregory himself became pope in 590. As pope, Gregory found Italy in a shambles, in part as a result of Lombard invasions. He organized the administration of Italy as a whole and of the papal estates at the same time. While doing this, he negotiated a separate peace with the Lombards, bypassing the authority of the emperor in Constantinople. These actions paved the way for the rise of the power of the papacy in the medieval West. As a theologian, Gregory was a prolific author, popularizing a modified Augustinian theology. He also encouraged many of the practices of popular medieval Catholicism. Gregory amplified the doctrine of purgatory, he encouraged the veneration of relics, spread mystical doctrines associated with Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, and fostered the standardization of the Roman liturgy in the West. One of the major initiatives of his papacy was to dispatch Augustine of Canterbury to evangelize England.

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