Before Francis, Benedict, and John Paul I and II, there was Pope Leo II.
Born in the year 611 as Leo Manelius to a man named Paulus, Pope Leo II led the Catholic Church, albeit briefly, during the Byzantine Papacy (537-752). During this period, the Byzantine Emperor had the final say over matters concerning popes. (Read: Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Reconverts Into Mosque After 86 Years)
Despite the fact that his papacy was under the ruling of an emperor and he only served as pope for a short period of time, Leo II was still able to accomplish many things during his leadership. To commemorate the day he first reigned as Pope (he was was the bishop of Rome from 17 August 682 to his death), we list five little-known facts about Saint Pope Leo II!
There are 12 other popes who share his name.
History notes that there are 13 Pope Leos, the first (known as Pope Leo The Great) reigned from 440-461, and the 13th (who was the oldest pope at 93) from 1878 to 1903. Interestingly, Pope Leo II’s relics are now buried with the remains of four of his namesake popes.
Pope Leo II reigned as Santo Papa for only a year.
Pope Leo II, who replaced Pope Agatho upon his death on January 681, was elected soon after but only assumed the papacy on August 682. His death in June 683 means he was pope for only a year and two months. (Read: Eight leadership values we can learn from these popes’ childhood memories)
Still, this short reign is not the shortest in history. That title goes to Urban VII, who held the title of the pope for 13 days and died before he was consecrated.
He accomplished a lot during his papacy.
In his brief reign, Leo II was a busy pope. He translated sections of the acts of the Sixth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople from Greek to Latin so bishops and kings in Western churches could understand them. He also called out Pope Honorius for not opposing the long-running Monothelite heresy, the belief that Jesus Christ had two natures but only one will.
When the archbishops of Ravenna attempted to break free from the bishops of Rome, Pope Leo II put a stop to it but also abolished taxes that they were obligated to pay. He even spared a number of relics from being looted or destroyed by Lombard raids, by having them transferred from the catacombs to the churches.
He was into languages and church music.
Liber Pontificalis (The Book of the Popes) describes Pope Leo II as “a man of great eloquence, completely versed in Holy Scripture, proficient in Greek and Latin, and distinguished for his chanting and psalmody.”
Composer of a number of sacred hymns, Pope Leo II was known for reforming the Gregorian Chant and was said to be a great singer. (Read: You Won’t Be Able To Guess How These Popes Spent Their Free Times)
His feast day used to be celebrated in July.
Originally commemorated on July 3, Pope Leo II’s feast day has since been moved and celebrated on June 28. And while he isn’t officially a patron saint of anything, he is best remembered for caring for the poor and needy. The Book of Saints regards him as the “Father of the Poor.”