Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 356
The clergy of Rome ask Justinian for the recall of Pope Vigilius and clerics exiled with him. Rome, after AD 552. Account of the Liber Pontificalis (written in Rome, probably in the early 7th c.).
61. Vigilius
[...] Tunc adunatus clerus rogaverunt Narsem ut una cum eius suggestionem rogarent principem ut si adhuc viveret Vigilius papa aut presbiteri seu diaconi vel clerus qui cum eodem Viglio fuerant in exilio deportati, reverterentur. Suscepta relatione Narsetis vel cuncto clero Romano laetus effectus est imperator et omnis synclitos eius eo quod requiem donasset Deus Romanis. Mox misit iussiones suas per diversa loca ubi fuerant in exilio deportati, in Gypso et Proconiso […].
The account follows, describing how the exiled were invited by Justinian to decide whether they want as their bishop Vigilius or archdeacon Pelagius.
(ed. Duchesne 1886: 299)
61. Vigilius
[...] Then the clergy came together and requested Narses to ask the prince together with them that if pope Vigilius and the presbyters, deacons, and clergy who had been sent into exile with him were still alive, they should be allowed to return. The emperor and all who seat with him received the report of Narses and the whole Roman clergy and rejoiced that God had given repose to the Romans. Next the emperor sent his mandate to the various places where they had been sent into exile, Gypsus and Proconnesus [...].
The account follows, describing how the exiled were invited by Justinian to decide whether they want as their bishop Vigilius or archdeacon Pelagius.
(trans. R. Davis, modified)


The passage informs us that not only Pope Vigilius, but also many clerics of Rome had been deported from the city during the Gothic War.
Some of the exiled clerics were certainly exiled as companions of Vigilius, and later deported also from Constantinople, because of their opposition to the condemnation of the Three Chapters. The loyalty of some Roman clerics in the midst of the wars against the Ostrogoths may also have been questioned. Therefore, after the battle of Taginae (552), the clergy that remained in Rome enlist the support of Narses to plead to the emperor for the return of the exiled. Justinian agreed, but he recalled them firstly to Constantinople, and asked them for a decision on who should be the bishop of Rome: Pope Vigilius or archdeacon Pelagius. Although they opted for Vigilius, they agreed for the succession of Pelagius after his death.
The account is not necessarily true, Justinian probably would not have been seeking consent in this way, and it is not corroborated by other sources. However, it shows that the voice of 'presbyters, deacons and clergy' was still considered important in the process of choosing a new pope.

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Rome

About the source:

Title: Liber Pontificalis, The Book of Pontiffs, Gesta Pontificum Romanorum
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Liber Pontificalis is a major source for the history of the papacy in the first millenium. It is a collection of the lives of popes, starting from St Peter and kept going through to 870. Liber Pontificalis is prefaced by two apocryphical letters of Pope Damasus and Jerome, but it cannot be dated to that period. Although Mommsen tended to put the date of the actual compilation as late as the seventh century, nowadays Duchesne`s view is generally accepted that there were two editions made in the 530s-540s. The first, presumably completed soon after 530, has not survived as such, though we have two epitomes made from it (known as “Felician” and “Cononian” from the names of the popes at which they end). Duchesne tried to reconstruct it in his edition, but we follow the second edition presented by him, which was completed by the siege of Rome in 546. The work was then left aside for some time, and taken up again probably under Honorius (625-638) or shortly afterwards; hence the additions were written shortly after each pontiff`s death.
Liber starts to provide some more reliable information with the times of Pope Leo I (440-461), and becomes very well informed with the end of the fifth century. The lives of earlier popes cannot be considered as a valid source of information about their lifetime. However, those notices are a precious source for the sixth century: we learn what was considered an old tradition at the time, and how the past of the Roman church was being seen and constructed then. It is especially important when we deal with the liturgy.
 L. Duchesne ed., Le `Liber Pontificalis`, vol. 1., Paris 1886.
 T. Mommsen ed., Liber Pontificalis pars prior, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Gesta Pontificum Romanorum 1, Berlin 1898.
 The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis). The ancient biographies of the first ninety Roman bishops to AD 715, revised edition, translated with an introduction by R. Davis, Liverpool 2000.


Travel and change of residence
    Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
      Ecclesiastical administration - Election of Church authorities
          Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
            Relation with - Monarch and royal/imperial family
              Relation with - Secular authority
                Administration of justice - Secular
                  Administration of justice - Exile
                    Ecclesiastical administration
                      Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER356,