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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. 189-192.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 752-757.

STEPHEN the Second, a Roman, son of Constantine, from one degree in the Church to another, ascended at length to the papal dignity; although upon the death of Zachary the people presently made choice of another Stephen, a priest, who on the third day of his pontificate awaking out of sleep, and beginning to settle his domestic affairs, was suddenly seized with a fit of an apoplexy, of which he died. After whom our Stephen the Second (for we reckon not his short-lived predecessor of that name in the list) was unanimously elected by the clergy and people in the church of St Mary ad Præsepe, and being highly beloved by all, was carried upon men’s shoulders to St Saviour’s, called also the Constantinian Church, and from thence into the Lateran Palace. He was a person of extraordinary piety and prudence, a lover of the clergy, a repairer of churches, a diligent preacher and writer of the doctrine of Christianity, a father of the poor, a zealous defender of orphans and widows, and in going through with anything he undertook, hardy and resolute, but not obstinate. For Aistulphus now making inroads upon the borders of the Romans, he at first endeavoured by persuasions and presents to bring him off. But that covetous prince requiring the payment of a tribute of so much a head yearly from the people, the Pope thereupon was forced to seek for help from abroad, and accordingly he sent Nuncios to Constantine, the Emperor of Constantinople, to desire aid of him against Aistulphus, who gave disturbance to all Italy, and had already taken Ravenna, the seat of the Exarchate, and a great part of Romagna. But finding no hope of succours from him, he resolves to go to Pipin of France; and therefore sends to that king to desire that he would prevail with Aistulphus to permit him safe passage through his country, which Aistulphus at Pipin’s request consented to. Stephen now reaching the borders of the kingdom of France, Pipin’s son, Charles, who from his mighty achievements was afterward surnamed the Great, in token of honour goes forth an hundred miles to meet him. Pipin himself met him three miles from the city, and alighting off his horse, kissed his feet, and led the horse upon which he rode by the 190 bridle till he had conducted him into the city, and brought him to his apartment. Aistulphus now fearing that the Pope was practising against him, sends Carloman a monk, to his brother Pipin, to persuade him not to make war upon the Lombards in Stephen’s quarrel; which Pipin not only refused to grant, but also confined the monk to a monastery in Vienna, where not long after the died of grief. But it not being a fit season of the year to undertake an expedition, and Pipin allowing much to the ancient friendship there had been between them, he sends ambassadors to Aistulphus, to advise him to restore the places he had taken, or otherwise to let him know that he should be obliged in a short time to recover them by force of arms. Aistulphus hearkened not to this good counsel; whereupon Pipin, the spring now approaching, advances with an army against the Lombards;1 and having sent before some light-harnessed soldiers to force Atisulphus’s guards to quit the passes of the Alps, he marches down into the plain of the State of Milan, and having without any opposition sacked and harassed all places he came to, at length he invests Pavia, the seat-royal of the kings of Lombardy, which Aistulphus and those that were in garrison with him defended. But Stephen, moved with compassion at the numerous calamities which this obstinate man had brought upon himself and his people, voluntarily offers Aistulphus a peace, upon condition he would restore what he had taken; which Aistulphus at length consented to, and promised upon oath more than was demanded. Pipin reckoning that the Pope had now satisfaction, raises the siege, and returns into France, leaving Varrenus the arbitrator of this peace between them. Stephen and Varrenus go to Rome, not doubting but that Aistulphus would in a little time perform his promise; instead of which he presently mustering up from all parts what forces he could, with tumultuary rout rather than a just army, follows them, and besieges Rome, laying waste and burning the suburbs and places adjacent, insomuch that the people of Rome suffered more damage by the outrages he then committed, than they had received in three hundred and forty-four years before from the declining of the Empire. Hereupon Pipin 191 being again sued to by the Pope to aid the distressed city of Rome against the perfidiousness and cruelty of Aistulphus, he with all possible expedition raises an army for that purpose. In the meantime the Turks, willing to mend their quarters, over-run and conquer the Alanes first, then the Colchians and Armenians, after them the people of the lesser Asia, and lastly the Persians and Saracens, A.D. 755. Some writers tell us that these were of the race of those Scythians whom Alexander the Great kept within the Hyperborean Mountains with iron bars, meaning by that metaphor, that he had shut up that wild nation there as into a prison. But after much mischief done and received on both sides, a peace being concluded between the Saracens and Turks, it was agreed that the Turks which dwelt in Persia should be called Saracens; and by this means the Saracens did more patiently suffer the Turks to bear sway in Asia, especially apprehending, moreover, that they might soon be brought to embrace the Mahometan religion. But we return to Pipin, who coming again with his army into Italy, was met by Gregory, principal secretary to the Emperor Constantine the Fourth, who desired him in his master’s name, that if he should prove victorious over the Lombards, he would not give the Exarchate of Ravenna to the Pope or the Romans, it belonging of right to the emperor. To which Pipin answered, that he came into Italy to do the Pope and people a kindness, and that he should consult their advantage to the utmost of his power. After this he marched to Pavia, and reduced Aistulphus to such extremity, that he was forced to accept of the former conditions of peace. Hereby the Exarchate was restored to the Romans, together with all the tract contained between the Po and Apennine, from Piacentino to the Gulf of Venice, and whatever lies between the river Isara, the Apennine and the Adriatic, with all that Aistulphus had taken in Tuscany and Sabina. Pipin stayed at the foot of the Alps till conditions should be performed, having left Holcadus, an abbot, with part of his army to oblige Aistulphus to perform what he had promised, and moved no farther till he understood that Aistulphus had died of an apoplexy while he was hunting, before the surrender was fully made. Upon his death, Desiderius, Duke of Tuscany, forthwith raises an army of Lombards, with design to possess himself of the kingdom. The same also did Rachis, Aistulphus’s brother, who had 192 before, as we have already said, taken the habit of a monk; and, indeed, the Lombards generally, except those of Tuscany, were on his side. But Desiderius by making large promises to the Pope and the Romans, wrought them into a favour of his pretensions; and accordingly they with all speed sent ambassadors, and among them Holcadus, the abbot, to Rachis, to require him to lay down his arms, and submit to Desiderius. And so Faenza and Ferrara were at last delivered to the Pope, and the name of the Exarchate, which had continued from the time of Narses to the taking of Ravenna by Aistulphus an hundred and seventy years, was extinguished. Things being now peaceably settled, and the jurisdiction of the Church greatly increased, Stephen holding a synod, takes an account of his several flocks and their pastors, gently chastises those who had offended, directs such as had gone astray, teaches and instructs the ignorant, and finally sets before them the duty of a bishop, of a presbyter, and of all orders in the clergy. Moreover, he appointed litanies for the appeasing of the Divine anger; the procession on the first Saturday to be to St Marie’s ad Præsepe, on the second to St Peter’s in the Vatican, on the third to St Paul’s in the Via Ostiensis. He also repaired several churches which had been damaged by Aistulphus while he lay siege to the city; yet he did not recover the reliques of the saints which that king had carried with him to Pavia, and there reposited not dishonourably in divers churches. The good man having by these means proved serviceable to God, his country, and the Church, died in the fifth year and first month of his pontificate, and was buried, April the 26th, with general lamentation as for the loss of a common father. The see was then vacant thirty-two days.


 1  Platina omits to record that the Pope, rendered desperate by the advance of Aistulphus, forged a letter from St Peter to Pipin, promising paradise or threatening hell, according as he hastened or retarded his movements. See Milman, ii. 180. — ED.

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Previous Pope:  93. Zacharias I. 94. Stephen II. Next Pope: 95. Paul I.

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