Although Gregory would have preferred the simple monastic life, it was not to be.
In 579, he was appointed papal ambassador to Constantinople, and in 590, he reluctantly accepted his appointment as Pope.
During the 14 years of his papacy, Gregory's administrative and pastoral skills enabled him to rise to the challenges of war, famine and plague, whilst also instituting much-needed clerical and ecclesiastical reforms,
When certain Church leaders began to denounce the religious images that were beginning to emerge as 'artistic impressions', Gregory made clear the distinction between worship of 'graven images' and the true purpose of art work, adding that in an age of illiteracy, these pictures were a 'living reading of the lord's story for those who cannot read',
A humble man himself, he was a true friend to the poor. In his book Pastoral Rule, he wrote:
"If the care of feeding the flock is proof of loving, whoever abounds in virtue but refuses to feed the flock of the lord stands convicted of not loving the Chief Shepherd".
In the wider sphere of the life of the Church as a whole, Gregory's reign is rightly seen as decisive in the development of the Medieval Church, and if only for that alone, he thoroughly deserved the title of 'the Great'.
Although Gregory was one of the most influential people in world history and was awarded the title Magnus, (the Great), he consistently referred to himself as being the 'Servant of the Servants of God'.
Lawyer, Administrator and Monk | Mission to England | Gregorian Chant | Death
Text by Bill Smith. Page provided by Ryedale Christian Council Updated 8th May 2004