[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]

—————0 —————

From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 264-265.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.



A.D. 999-1003.

SYLVESTER the Second, before called Gerbert, a Frenchman, got the Popedom (as they say) by ill arts. When he was young he was entered and sworn a monk of Fleury, in the diocese of Orleans; but he left the monastery to follow the devil, to whom he had wholly delivered himself up, and went to Seville in Spain to study human sciences; being extremely greedy of knowledge and learning, in which he made such progress, that of a scholar he soon became an excellent master. Martinus writes that the Emperor Otho, King Robert of France, and Lotharius, a man of noble birth and great learning, afterward Archbishop of Sens, were his scholars. Gerbert, therefore, full of ambition and pushed on with the diabolical desire of rule, by simony first gets the Archbishopric of Rheims, and then of Ravenna; at last the devil helping him with an extraordinary lift, he got the Popedom, upon this condition, that after his death he should be wholly the devil’s, by whose assistance he had arrived at so great a dignity. Being greedy of rule, he asked the devil once, how long he should enjoy the pontificate, the enemy of mankind answered (as he is wont) ambiguously, that he should live long, if he came not near Jerusalem. So that when in the fourth year, first month, and tenth day of his papacy, he was at Rome at Mass in the Church of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, it came into his mind that now he must die; where he, heartily repenting, confessed his fault before the people, exhorting them all to lay aside ambition and to withstand the stratagems of the devil, betaking themselves to a holy and pious life: then he desired them that after his death they would lay the trunk of his body, however torn and 265 dismembered, as it deserved to be, in a cart, and there to bury it where the horses should of their own accord carry it: and then (as it is said) that wicked men might see that yet there was some room for pardon left with God for them, if they at any time repent, by the Divine will and providence, the horses of their own accord went to the church of the Lateran, where his body was buried. Martinus writes beside, that as well from the clattering of this Pope’s bones, as from the sweat or rather moisture of his tomb, people are wont to gather presages, and those most manifest of the approaching death of any Pope, and that this is hinted in the epitaph on his tomb. Whether it be true or no, let the Popes, whom it concerns, look to it.


 1  [The whole of this life is utterly unworthy of one who aimed at the character of an historian. Pope Sylvester II. was a man of unimpeachable morals, of great learning, and of real piety. But he was unpopular because his election was not by the people but by the bishops, and the severity of his morals offended the loose clergy. Above all he was high in favour with the German Emperor. The origin of the absurd stories of his intercourse with the devil is discussed at length by Milman (ii. 418-419), and by Robertson (ii. 452, note). He was a great student of natural science, and it is remarkable that he invented an organ which worked by steam.]

——————————0 ——————————

Previous Pope: 145. John XVI. 146. Sylvester II. Next Pope: 147. John XVII.

——————————0 ——————————

[Back] [Blueprint] [Next]