The Three Dalmatian (Croatian) Popes


Pope St. Caius (283-296) |

Pope John IV (640 - 642)

| Pope Sixtus V (1521 - 1590)


The Croats embraced Catholicism more than 1,300 years ago. Their first contact with the Holy See occurred as early as 641 when they received the Pope's envoy Martin who came to ransom Christian slaves and martyrs' bones.

  1. Pope St. Caius (283-296). Also called Gaius was of Dalmatian origin.
    Gaius, SAINT,
    Gaius also spelled CAIUS (b. Dalmatia?--d. April 22?, 296, Rome; feast day April 22), pope from 283 (possibly December 17) to 296. Nothing about him is known with certainty. Supposedly a relative of the Roman emperor Diocletian, he conducted his pontificate at a period of Diocletian's reign when Christians were tacitly tolerated. Gaius is said, nevertheless, to have carried on his religious work for his last eight years concealed in the catacombs. His epitaph was found in the Cemetery of Calixtus. (Copyright © 1997 Encyclopedia Britannica).

    Short biography of St. Caius (in Croatian) by Inoslav Besker.
    Sv. Kaja: javlja se kao Caius ili Gaius - na njegovu epitafu u katakombama sv. Kaliksta ime mu je pisano grčki s gamom (bio bi, dakle, Gaj!) - ali u tradiciji je kao Kaja ili Kajo (vidi naziv lokaliteta Sv. Kaja, luka između Vranjica i Solina, pored nekadašnje njegove crkvice, gdje je sada Brodospasovo rezalište). Nema dokaza da je bio Dalmatinac, ali ga tako navodi tradicija (koja je od nečega ipak počela), pa ga tako i službena vatikanska kronotaksa navodi kao Dalmatinca (v. Annuario Pontificio). Naziv lokaliteta možda je predslavenski, pa bi govorio i o lokalnom utemeljenju tradicije. Na svaki način - nitko drugi ne svojata tog papu kao zemljaka, pa je krajnje vjerojatno da doista jest Dalmatinac. Vjerojatno je bio iz Solina (Salone) ili okolice. Smatra se naknadnom legendom da je bio Dioklecijanov rođak i da je poginuo mučenickom smrću (tim prije sto ga Rimski kalendar iz 354. ne ubraja u mučenike). Dapače, čini se da je bio papa u periodu relativnog mira i prosperiteta, koji je potrajao i s njegovim nasljednikom, Marcelinom, sve do 303., kada počinju Dioklecijanovi progoni. Izvori o sv. Kaji: Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiae, 7, 32; Liber Pontificalis I, XCVIII-XCIX, 6f, 71f, 161. Sekundarna bibliografija na engleskome: Dictionary of Christian Biography (London, 1877-87); C. H. Turner, The Papal Chronology of the Third Century; J. N. D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Britannica je u tome površna, kao i obično (prenosi npr. legendu o srodstvu s Dioklecijanom, koju su osporili bolandisti još u prošlom stoljeću).

    St. Caius or Gaius: appears as Caius or Gaius - on his epitaph in the catacombs of St. Calixtus his name is written in Greek with Gama (he would, therefore be, Gaius!) - But the tradition is named as Kaja and Kajo (see the name of the St. Kaja locallity, between the port and Vranjica and Solin, in addition to his former church, where there are now Brodospasovo yards ). There is no evidence that he was Dalmatian, but it also cites a tradition (which must have started from something), thus the Vatican official chronicle ascribes him Dalmatian origin (see Annuario Pontificio). The name of the place may have been pre Slavic, so it would have discussed the established local tradition. In every way - no one else claims the pope as their countryman, thus it is extremely likely that really is a Dalmatian. He was probably from Solin (Salona) or the surrounding area. It is believed, as per the subsequent legend that he was Diocletian's cousin, and that he died a martyr (especially since the Roman calendar from the year 354 does not name him as one of the martyrs). Indeed, it seems that his Papacy took place during a period of relative peace and prosperity, which continued with his successor, Marcelino, up to the the year 303, when Diocletian's persecutions began. Sources about St. Caius: Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiae, 7, 32; Liber Pontificalis I, XCVIII-XCIX, 6f, 71f, 161. Secondary Bibliography in English: Dictionary of Christian Biography (London, 1877-87); C. H. Turner, The Papal Chronology of the Third Century; J. N. D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. In this respect,
    Britannica is superficial, as usual (eg. it transmits the legend of kinship with Diocletian, which was challenged by Bollandists in the last century).

    Above article, courtesy of: Inoslav Besker <>
    Sun, 30 Nov 1997 12:51:56 +0100

  2. Pope John IV (640 - 642)
    John, a native of Dalmatia and the son of a lawyer, was chosen to succeed Severinus. John had been archdeacon of Rome and as such had played a prominent part in ruling the see. He was consecrated on Christmas Eve 640.
    A native of Dalmatia, and the son of the scholasticus (advocate) Venantius. The date of his birth is uncertain; d. 12 October, 642. At the time of his election he was archdeacon of the Roman Church. As John's consecration followed very soon after his election, it is supposed that the papal elections were now confirmed by the exarchs resident at Ravenna. Troubles in his native land, caused by invasions of Slavs, directed John's attention there. To alleviate the distress of the inhabitants, John sent the abbot Martin into Dalmatia and Istria with large sums of money for the redemption of captives. As the ruined churches could not be rebuilt, the relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints were brought to Rome. John erected an oratory in their honour which still stands. It was adorned by the pope with mosaics depicting John himself holding in his hands a model of his oratory. John apparently did not content himself with palliating the evils wrought by the Slavs. He endeavoured to convert these barbarians. Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus says that Porga, a prince of the Croats who had been invited into Dalmatia by Heraclius I, sent to an Emperor Heraclius for Christian teachers. It is supposed that the emperor to whom this message was sent was Heraclius I himself, and that the pope to whom he sent was John IV.

    While still only pope-elect, John, with the other rulers of the Roman Church, wrote to the clergy of the North of Ireland to tell them of the mistakes they were making with regard to the time of keeping Easter, and exhorting them to be on their guard against the Pelagian heresy. About the same time he condemned Monothelism. Emperor Heraclius immediately disowned the Monothelite document known as the "Ecthesis". To his son, Constantine III, John addressed his apology for Pope Honorius, in which he deprecated the attempt to connect the name of Honorius with Monothelism. Honorius, he declared, in speaking of one will in Jesus Christ, only meant to assert that there were not two contrary wills in Him. John was buried in St. Peter's.

    Copyright © 2009 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

    Pope John IV proved to be a vigorous foe of the Monothelite or One Will heresy. He promptly held a synod at Rome and condemned both the heresy itself and the compromise formula called the Ecthisis. This firm stand produced good results, for Emperor Heraclius now dropped the Ecthisis and returned to Catholic orthodoxy. And when Heraclius died in 641 the Pope encouraged his successors to remain constant in the faith.

    John also defended the memory of Pope Honorius and rebuked those who tried to make him a friend of the Monothelites. In a letter to the sons of the Emperor Heraclius, John explained the real meaning of the Honorius letter.

    Pope Honorius had succeeded in bringing Southern Ireland--Mogh's half of Ireland as it was called by the ancient Gaels--into line with the current corrected date for celebrating Easter. John IV tried to do the same for the Northern Irish and the frontier Gaels in Scotland--in vain. It took another lifetime to convince the stubborn men of Conn's half of Ireland that there had been an improvement in the reckoning of Easter since 432 when good St. Patrick landed.

    Pope John did not forget his native Dalmatia. This land badly needed a little friendly aid, for it was being harried by the still untamed Serbs and Croats. To the distressed country the Pope sent an abbot named Martin with an ample supply of money to see what he could do about redeeming poor Dalmatians who had been carried off by the barbarians.

    Through this abbot the Pope also secured the translation of relics of the saints from the troubled churches of Dalmatia to the haven of Rome. To receive these relics the Pope built a church which still stands.

    Pope John IV died in October 642. He was buried in St. Peter's.

    Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J. Electronic version copyright © 1996 New Advent, Inc.

  3. Pope Sixtus V (1521 - 1590) was of Croatian parents from southern Dalmatia.

    SIXTUS V 1585-1590



    Copyright © Adam S. Eterovich, San Carlos, California - USA

    Pope Sixtus V was a decendant of a Dalmatian family that fled to Italy as many others had to escape the Turks during the 15th century. His family settled at Montalto in the Marches near the Adriatic Sea. They later moved to Grottammare and the Pope was born on December 13, 1520 as Felice Peretti. He was the son of a farm worker and became a Franciscan friar. He is listed in all Italian biographies as Italian.

    He was responsible for the present Pope’s apartments in the Vatican, the Vatican Library, the Lateran Palace, the Spanish Steps, he placed the obelisk from the Circus Maximus in the middle of St Peter’s Square. He completed the gigantic cupola of St Peter’s basilica. He organized the administration of the Church-State, eliminated bandits, and reformed church institutions. He also organized the Vatican Press and organized the Vatican Navy.

    He built the Church of St Jerome with the proviso that the priests should be of Croatian origin. He created a Chapter in the church which later became an academic college for Croatians.

    A number of books have been written about him. In a Cambridge History they mention he is from Illyria and that he erected the church and hospice of San Girolamo degli Schiavoni (Croatians-Slavonians). In The Life and Times of Sixtus V it states he did not forget his Slavonian origin and that other Slavonian refugees founded that miserable quarter called Schiavonia in Rome.  In the book Elizabeth and Sixtus V, he published the Bull of Excommunication against Queen Elizabeth of England.

    His family name and origin in Croatia has been written about by historians Vidov, Pandzic, Krasic, Mlivoncic and others. His coat of arms includes a lion, three golden pears, a castle and a star. It is said he is from Krusevica, Kruscica or Krusevo in Croatia. In Italian Pero means pear and in Croatian Kruska means pear and his name is Peretti. I do believe he came from Krusevica, Boka Kotor, Dalmatia and that the family name is not Peretich. I am certain the archives in Herceg Novi will reveal their true family name. It was common at that time to adopt your place of origin as your name such as many Dalmatians that settled in Venice would use Pero de Brazza (Brac) or Mateo de Lesina (Hvar). Pope Felice Peretti would be Srecko of Krusevica.


    CROATIAN Pope Sixtus V wanted to expand his navy, a report was made: "Concerning the galley crews which the Pope desired, I have been informed from Rome that in the last few days His Holiness gave instructions to the chiefs at SEGNA-SENJ and FIUME-RIJEKA to make him in those regions some two thousand slaves subject to the Turk--who are called MORLACCHI- DALMATIANS-- so that he can use them as crews for his galleys." This was a report from Venice dated March 12, 1588.

    He requested his own CROATIANS as he knew they were excellent mariners and fighters.

Note: The autor of the above article ignored the existence of two previous Croatian Popes.

See also this article on Pope Sixtus V by Wikipedia.
See also: Bibliography of Croatian Popes


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Last update: December 27, 2012
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