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Gregory I

540 - 604

Known as ‘Gregory the Great’, Gregory was born to a wealthy family in the city of Rome around 540, just before Italy was ravaged by the Plague of Justinian and then taken from the Goths by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I of Constantinople. Despite these upheavals, he had a good Latin education. He pursued monastic life by converting his family home to a monastery after his father’s death, and afterwards held several positions in both church and state, eventually acceding to the papacy in 590. As pope, he organised almsgiving in the church to relieve the needs of refugees from invading Lombards and he sent missionaries to England to evangelise the Anglo-Saxons. He also innovated church music with what came to be known as Gregorian chant. He died in 604, having established the papacy as the primary government of Rome, largely disconnected from Constantinople.