Pope Gregory I

Pope Gregory I
Short Name: Pope Gregory I
Full Name: Gregory I, Pope, ca. 540-604
Birth Year: 540
Death Year: 604

Gregory I., St., Pope. Surnamed The Great. Was born at Rome about A.D. 540. His family was distinguished not only for its rank and social consideration, but for its piety and good works. His father, Gordianus, said to have been the grandson of Pope Felix II. or III., was a man of senatorial rank and great wealth; whilst his mother, Silvia, and her sisters-in-law, Tarsilla and Aemiliana, attained the distinction of canonization. Gregory made the best use of his advantages in circumstances and surroundings, so far as his education went. "A saint among saints," he was considered second to none in Rome in grammar, rhetoric, and logic. In early life, before his father's death, he became a member of the Senate; and soon after he was thirty and accordingly, when his father died, he devoted the whole of the large fortune that he inherited to religious uses. He founded no less than six monasteries in Sicily, as well as one on the site of his own house at Rome, to which latter he retired himself in the capacity of a Benedictine monk, in 575. In 577 the then Pope, Benedict I, made him one of the seven Cardinal Deacons who presided over the seven principal divisions of Rome.

The following year Benedict's successor, Pelagius II, sent him on an embassy of congratulation to the new emperor Tiberius, at Constantinople. After six years' residence at Constantinople he returned to Rome. It was during this residence at Rome, before he was called upon to succeed Pelagius in the Papal chair, that his interest was excited in the evangelization of Britain by seeing some beautiful children, natives of that country, exposed for sale in the slave-market there ("non Angli, sed Angeli"). He volunteered to head a mission to convert the British, and, having obtained the Pope's sanction for the enterprise, had got three days' journey on his way to Britain when he was peremptorily recalled by Pelagius, at the earnest demand of the Roman people.

In 590 he became Pope himself, and, as is well known, carried out his benevolent purpose towards Britain by the mission of St. Augustine, 596. His Papacy, upon which he entered with genuine reluctance, and only after he had taken every step in his power to be relieved from the office, lasted until 604, when he died at the early age of fifty-five. His Pontificate was distinguished by his zeal, ability, and address in the administration of his temporal and spiritual kingdom alike, and his missionaries found their way into all parts of the known world. In Lombardy he destroyed Arianism; in Africa he greatly weakened the Donatists; in Spain he converted the monarch, Reccared: while he made his influence felt even in the remote region of Ireland, where, till his day, the native Church had not acknowledged any allegiance to the See of Rome. He advised rather than dictated to other bishops, and strongly opposed the assumption of the title of "Universal Patriarch" by John the Faster of Constantinople, on the ground that the title had been declined by the Pope himself at the Council of Chalcedon, and declared his pride in being called the “Servant of God's Servants." He exhibited entire toleration for Jews and heretics, and his disapproval of slavery by manumitting all his own slaves. The one grave blot upon his otherwise upright and virtuous character was his gross flattery in congratulating Phocas on his accession to the throne as emperor in 601, a position the latter had secured with the assistance of the imperial army in which he was a centurion, by the murder of his predecessor Mauricius (whose six sons had been slaughtered before their father's eyes), and that of the empress Constantina and her three daughters.

Gregory's great learning won for him the distinction of being ranked as one of the four Latin doctors, and exhibited itself in many works of value, the most important of which are his Moralium Libri xxxv., and his two books of homilies on Ezekiel and the Gospels. His influence was also great as a preacher and many of his sermons are still extant, and form indeed no inconsiderable portion of his works that have come down to us. But he is most famous, perhaps, for the services he rendered to the liturgy and music of the Church, whereby he gained for himself the title of Magister Caeremoniarum. His Sacramentary, in which he gave its definite form to the Sacrifice of the Mass, and his Antiphonary, a collection which he made of chants old and new, as well as a school called Orplianotrophium, which he established at Rome for the cultivation of church singing, prove his interest in such subjects, and his success in his efforts to render the public worship of his day worthy of Him to Whom it was addressed. The Gregorian Tones, or chants, with which we are still familiar after a lapse of twelve centuries, we owe to his anxiety to supersede the more melodious and flowing style of church music which is popularly attributed to St. Ambrose, by the severer and more solemn monotone which is their characteristic.
The contributions of St. Gregory to our stores of Latin hymns are not numerous, nor are the few generally attributed to him quite certainly proved to be his. But few as they are, and by whomsoever written, they are most of them still used in the services of the Church. In character they are well wedded to the grave and solemn music which St. Gregory himself is supposed to have written for them.

The Benedictine editors credit St. Gregory with 8 hymns, viz. (1) “Primo dierum omnium;" (2) "Nocte surgentes vigilemus;" (3) "Ecce jam noctis tenuatur tunbra;" (4) “Clarum decus jejunii;" (5) "Audi benigne conditor;" (6) "Magno salutis gaudio;" (7) “Rex Christe factor omnium;" (8) "Lucis Creator Optime." Daniel in his vol. i. assigns him three others. (9) “Ecce tempus idoneum;" (10) "Summi largitor praemii;" (11) "Noctis tempus jam praeterit." For translations of these hymns see under their respective first lines. (For an elaborate account of St. Gregory, see Smith and Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography.)

[Rev. Digby S. Wrangham, M.A.]

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


Gregory I., St., Pope, p. 469, i. We have been unable to discover any grounds which justified the Benedictine editors and Daniel in printing certain hymns (see p. 470, i.) as by St. Gregory. Modern scholars agree in denying him a place among hymnwriters; e.g., Mr. F. H. Dudden, in his Gregory the Great (London, 1905, vol. i.,p. 276), says "The Gregorian authorship of these compositions [the hymns printed by the Benedictine editors] however cannot be maintained... Gregory contributed ... nothing at all to the sacred music and poetry of the Roman Church." [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)

Texts by Pope Gregory I (70)sort descendingAsAuthority LanguagesInstances
Again we keep this solemn fastGregory the Great (Author (ascribed to))English18
Asi en ayunas vio MoisésGregory the Great (Author (attributed to))English, Spanish2
Audi, benigne ConditorGregory the Great (Author)10
Behold, night's shadows fadeGregory the Great (Author)1
Behold, the shade of night is now recedingGregory (Author)English8
Blest Creator of the lightGregory I, 540-604 (Author (attributed to))English1
Blest Maker of the light, by whomGregory the Great (Author)2
Christ is the world's light, Christ and none otherGregory the Great (Author (attributed to) (C))English1
Christ's loving children, for his hope abiding Pope Gregory I (Author)English, Latin2
Come, God Creator, Holy Ghost, And visit Thou the souls of menPope Gregory I (Author (attributed to))English1
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspireGregory the Great (Author)English6
Creator Spirit, by Whose aidGregory the Great (Author)English3
Danksagen wir alle GottPope Gregory I (Author)German1
Earth's mighty Maker, whose commandGregory the Great (Author)English2
Eternal Source of light's clear streamGregory the Great (Author)1
Father of mercies, hear, Thy pardon we imploreGregory the Great (Author)1
Father, we praise Thee, now the night is overSt. Gregory, 540-604 (Author (attributed to))English40
Good it is to keep the fastGregory I, 540-604 (Author)English3
Grates nunc omnes reddamusGregorius (Author)1
Hagan ayuno y oraciónGregory the Great (c.540-604) (Author (attributed to))Spanish2
Hear, O thou bounteous Maker, hearGregory the Great (Author)2
Herr Christe, treuer Heiland wertGregory the Great (Author)German1
Kind Maker of the world, O hearGregory the Great (Author (attr.))English4
Kom, Gud og Skaber, HelligaandPope Gregory I (Author)Norwegian1
Kom Helligaand med skaber magtPope Gregory I (Author)Norwegian3
Now let us all with one accord, In company with ages pastGregory the Great (Author)English7
Let us arise and watch ere dawn of lightGregory the Great (Author)3
Lo fainter now lie spread the shadesGregory the Great (Author)2
Lo! now is our accepted dayGregory I (Author (attributed to))English1
Lo the dim shadows of the night are waningGregory the Great (Author)2
Lucis creator optimeGregory the Great (Author)1
Maker, by whose unuttered WordGregory the Great (Author)1
'Mid evening shadows, let us all be watchingGregory (Author)English8
Now from the slumbers of the night arisingGregory the Great (Author)2
Now is the healing time decreedSt. Gregory the Great (Author (attributed to))English1
Now shadows wane, now heavy night departethPope Gregory I (Author)English2
Now, when the dusky shades of night retreatingGregory the Great (Author)English40
O blest Creator of the light, Who mak'st the day with radiance bright Gregory I, 540-604 (Author (attributed to))English1
O blest Creator of the light, Who dost the dawn from darkness bringSt. Gregory (Author (attributed to))English11
O blest Creator of the worldGregory the Great (Author)English2
O bountiful Creator, hearGregory the Great (Author)3
O Christ, our King, Creator, LordGregory the Great, ca. 540-604 (Author)English36
O come, Creator, Spirit blest!Pope Gregory I (Author)English2
PrayersGregory the Great, 7th C. (Author)English1
O gracious Lord, Creator dearGregory the Great (Author)6
O gracious Lord, incline thine earsGregory the Great (Author)2
O great creator of the lightGregory the Great (Author)9
Ô Jésus-Christ, entends nos crisGregory (Author)French2
O kind Creator, bow Thine earSt. Gregory the Great (Author)English10
O maker of this world, give earGregory the Great (Author)3
O merciful creator, hear; In tender pity bow thine earGregory the Great (Author)English2
O merciful Creator! Hear, Our prayer, to Thee devoutly bentGregory I, 6th century (Author (attributed to))English2
O merciful Redeemer, hear; in pity now incline thine earGregory the Great (Author)English4
O thou who calledst forth the lightGregory the Great (Author)2
O thou who dost all nature swayGregory the Great (Author)3
O thou who dost to man accordGregory I, d. 604 (Author (attributed to))3
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest, And in our hearts take up thy restGregory the Great (Author)English5
On this the day that saw the earthGregory the Great (Author)2
Rex Christe, factor omniumGregory the Great (Author)2
Rising at midnight, one and all awakingGregory the Great (Author)2
Rising in darkness, let us all keep watchingGregory the Great, 540-604 (Author (attributed to))English2
Source of light and life divineSt. Gregory (Author)English15
The glory of these forty daysSt. Gregory the Great, ca. 540-604 (Author (attributed to))English24
This day the first of days was made, When God in light the world arrayed (Bridges)Pope Gregory I (Author)English4
This glorious morn, time's eldest bornGregory the Great (Author)2
Thou King anointed, at whose wordGregory the Great (Author)2
Thou loving Saviour of mankindPope Gregory I (Author)15
Thou Trinity in unityGregory the Great (Author)3
Tu Trinitatis UnitasGregory the Great (Author)2
With these lenten prayers, O LordGregory the Great (Author)3

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