Feast Day : March 15 (formerly March 22;
in the East, September 5)
Also known as: Zacharias I
Zachary was born at San Severino, Calabria, Italy, of Greek parents. He joined the priesthood and was made a deacon in the Roman Church by Pope St. Gregory III (r. 731–741). Immediately after Gregory’s burial on November 29, 741, Zachary was unanimously elected his successor. He was consecrated and enthroned on December 5. Zachary was soon called upon to intervene with King Liutprand of the Lombards, who was about to invade Roman lands. Legend has it that the Lombards were moved to tears at the devotion with which they heard Zachary say Mass. He presented Liutprand (St. Ratchis) with a Benedictine habit. More important, he succeeded not only in dissuading Liutprand from his campaign but also in getting him to return lands he had seized and occupied for 30 years, and in winning the liberty of all Roman prisoners of war—concessions that led to a lasting peace between the Lombards and the Eastern Empire. At the same time, Zachary sowed the seeds for the Papal-Frankish alliance, which also was to have lasting implications for the Roman Church. Relations between Rome and the Eastern churches, led by Constantinople, had been strained for some time over Iconoclasm, the Muslim-influenced movement that banned the worship of images. Meanwhile, St. Boniface in Germany was shoring up the Roman Church’s influence with the Franks. Zachary instructed Boniface to recognize baptisms of persons whose Latin was imperfect, on the grounds that it was the intention that was important. He also told him to suspend polygamous and murderous priests and to abolish superstitious practices, even those that were then current in Rome. Zachary is remembered also for translating the Dialogues of Gregory the Great (Gregory I, r. 590–604) from Latin into Greek, for providing refuge to nuns driven from Constantinople by the Iconoclasts, and for opposing the Mediterranean slave trade. He ransomed slaves from the Venetians and forbade the selling of Christian slaves to the Muslim Moors. He also aided the poor of Rome. So great was his popularity that he began to be venerated as a saint immediately after his death in 752. In art, Zachary is shown making peace with King Liutprand. Sometimes he has a dove and olive branch over him.