Feast Day : June 28
Paul was born in Rome and along with his brother, Pope Stephen III (r. 752–757), was trained for the priesthood in the Vatican’s Lateran Palace. Stephen trusted him with negotiations with the Lombards over papal lands, an experience that stood him well when he was elevated to the papacy upon Stephen’s death on April 26, 757. Paul was consecrated in the Chair of St. Peter on May 29. Paul continued Stephen’s policy toward the Frankish king Pepin and thereby maintained papal supremacy over Rome and the districts of central Italy, in opposition to the Lombards, who were aligned with the Eastern Empire. In 758, when Pepin’s daughter was born, he sent as a gift to the pope the cloth that was used at her baptism. In 761, when Emperor Constantine V embraced Iconoclasm, the Islamic-inspired movement that forbade the worship of images, Paul turned his paternal home into a monastery that sheltered Greeks who fled the persecution. Nearby he built the church of San Silvestro in Capite and transferred to it and other Roman churches relics of martyrs from the ancient catacombs that had been devastated by the Lombards five years before. Among the relics were those of St. Petronilla, whom the Franks believed was the daughter of St. Peter. Paul also built an oratory of the Blessed Virgin in St. Peter’s and a church in honor of the apostles on the Via Sacra, beyond the Roman Forum. In 767, Pepin convened a council at Gentilly, near Paris. The synod aligned itself with the Roman Church’s position on the Trinity and the veneration of images, thus pitting the Franks ideologically against the Greeks. Paul died in Rome on June 28, 767, shortly after the conclusion of the Frankish synod. His death came in the Church of San Paolo fuori le Mura, where he had gone to escape the summer’s heat, and he was initially buried there. Three months later, his relics were translated to St. Peter’s.