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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. 1-10.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 537-555.

VIGILIUS, a Roman, his father a man of consular dignity, was likewise in Justinian’s reign created Bishop of Rome, in whose time a fifth synod was held at Constantinople against Theodorus and other heretics, who held that the Blessed Virgin brought forth man only, not God-man; in this synod therefore it was decreed that the Blessed Virgin should be styled Θεοτόχος, i.e., the mother of God.

Belisarius had now defended the city one whole year and nine days, and having in this time received fresh supplies of men, he resolved to march out and to engage the enemy in a pitched battle. But Vitiges, distrusting his own force, sets fire to his tents, and hastens by great marches to Ravenna. Belisarius with all possible speed follows him, and entering the city, takes Vitiges himself prisoner with all his family and a great part of his nobles; and having recovered almost all Italy, in the fifth year from his arrival there, he carries them with him to Constantinople. The same Belisarius, with incredible expedition, quelled the Moors, who were harassing Africa, and out of the spoils of that victory he made two very rich presents to St Peter’s Church in Rome. He built also two hospitals for strangers at his own charge, one in the Via Lata, the other in the Via Flaminia; and founded the monastery of St Juvenalis at a town called Orta, endowing it with an estate in land for the maintenance of the monks in it.

At this time Theodora was earnest with Vigilius to come to Constantinople, and according to his promise, to restore Anthemius. But Vigilius denies the doing it, for that unjust promises are not to be performed, and he was of opinion that the proceedings of Agapetus and Sylverius against that heretic were legal, and that therefore their acts were by no means to be made void by him. Theodora being hereat enraged, with the assistance of some of her creatures at Rome, causes Vigilius to be impleaded upon two accusations: one, that he had fraudulently procured the banishment of Sylverius; the other, that by his order a certain youth had been beaten to death by his nephew Vigilius, son of Asterius, the consul. And that he might not escape with impunity she sends one Anthemius to Rome, with instructions to bring Vigilius by force to her, if he 129 refused to make his appearance. He, coming to Rome, in pursuance of his commission, seized the bishop in the church of St Cecilia, as he was, according to custom, distributing gifts to the people upon his birthday; and being assisted by some Romans, conveys him to Constantinople. It is said that at Vigilius’s passage down the river Tiber, the people followed him with curses, pelting him with sticks and stones, and particularly using this exprobration, “Mischievous hast thou been to the city of Rome, and may mischief go along with thee.” Being arrived at Sicily, by the permission of those who had him in custody, he ordained several persons, and among them Ampliatus a priest, and Valentinus a bishop, who were to have the inspection of the clergy and Church of Rome in his absence. Coming near Constantinople, Justinian with a great retinue went out to meet him, and they both entered the city together, the clergy going before them, as far as the temple of St Sophia. Theodora had now opportunity to tamper with Vigilius, and persuade him to the performance of his promise. But he told her that he had rather suffer the greatest punishment in the world than change his resolution in the case. She, therefore, and her attendants, beginning to menace him, and he saying that he was come to a Diocletian, not as he thought to Justinian, was thereupon so roughly handled and beaten that it almost cost him his life. And flying from their rage to the church of St Euphemia, not far distant, he was from thence dragged by certain rude people, who put a halter about his neck, and led him like a common rogue publicly through the city till the evening. After this he was imprisoned, and forced for some time to live upon nothing but bread and water, which he yet he bore with so much patience and temper, that he would often say that he had deserved worse than all this, and was not yet punished according to his demerits. Those of the clergy who had accompanied him from Rome were some of them banished, others condemned to dig in the mines. But at the request of the Romans, who had now a better opinion of him, and upon the importunity of Narses, whom Justinian had sent to Rome to oppose the Goths, Vigilius, and all the others who were confined, had liberty granted them to return into Italy. But in their passage thither, being come as far as Syracuse in Sicily, Vigilius, who had outlived so many calamities and troubles, died there of the stone, and his body was carried to Rome, and buried in the church of St Marcellus, in the Via 130 Salaria. He lived in the pontificate at Rome and elsewhere seventeen years, six months, twenty-six days; and by his death the see was vacant three months, five days.

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Previous Pope:  60. Sylverius. 61. Vigilius I. Next Pope: 62. Pelagius I.

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