Papal name

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Popes buried in St. Peter's

A papal name is a special name (regnal name) which is chosen by the pope when he is elected.[1]

History[change | change source]

In the early church, popes were known by their ordinary names, such as Pope Adeodatus, Pope Formosus and Pope Hyginus.[1]

The practice of choosing a papal name started in the sixth century. At birth, Pope John II was named after the Roman god Mercury. When he was elected pope, he chose to be called by a Christian name.[1]

Papal names became customary in the 10th century. In 996, the first German pope was chosen; and he changed his name from Bruno to Gregory. He is known as Pope Gregory V.[1]

Every pope since the 16th century is known by a different name than the one he was given at birth.[2]


Frequency of names[change | change source]

The papal names have included John (23 times), Gregory (16), Clement (14), Innocent (13), Leo (13) and Pius (12).[3]

The first papal name to be repeated was Pope Sixtus. There have been four others.[3]

As with kings and emperors, a Roman numeral is added if the Pope chooses a name that another pope has used before[3] -- for example, Pope John Paul II decided to be known by the same name as the pope who came before him.

Name # Popes Notes
1. John 21 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV · XV · XVI · XVII · XVIII · XIX · XX · XXI · XXII · XXIII * John XVI = antipope
* There was no John XX
2. Gregory 16 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV · XV · XVI
3. Benedict 15 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV · XV · XVI * Benedict X = antipope
4. Clement 14 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII · XIV
5. Innocent 13 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII
6. Leo 13 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII · XIII
7. Pius 12 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX · X · XI · XII
8. Stephen 9 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX Pope Stephen II died in 752 after election but before being consecrated. The next pope took the same name in 752; and he is known as either Stephen II or III.[2]
9. Boniface 8 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII · IX * Boniface VII = antipope.
10. Urban 8 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII  
11. Alexander 7 I · II · III · IV · V · VI · VII · VIII * Alexander V = antipope
12. Adrian 6 I · II · III · IV · V · VI
13. Paul 6 I · II · III · IV · V · VI
14. Celestine 5 I · II · III · IV · V
15. Nicholas 5 I · II · III · IV · V
16. Sixtus 5 I · II · III · IV · V
17. Anastasius 4 I · II · III · IV
18. Eugene 4 I · II · III · IV
19. Honorius 4 I · II · III · IV
20. Sergius 4 I · II · III · IV
21. Callixtus 3 I · II · III
22. Felix 3 I · II · III · IV · V * Felix II and Felix V = antipope
23. Julius 3 I · II · III
24. Lucius 3 I · II · III
25. Martin 3 I · II · III · IV · V *There was no Martin II or Martin III
26. Sylvester 3 I · II · III
27. Victor 3 I · II · III
28. Adeodatus 2 I · II
29. Agapetus 2 I · II
30. Damasus 2 I · II
31. Gelasius 2 I · II
32. John Paul 2 I · II
33. Marcellus 2 I · II
34. Marinus 2 I · II * Marinus I is not "Martin[us] II"
* Marinus II is not "Martin[us] III"
35. Paschal 2 I · II
36. Pelagius 2 I · II
37. Theodore 2 I · II
38. Agatho 1
39. Anacletus 1
40. Anicetus 1
41. Anterus 1
42. Caius 1
43. Conon 1
44. Constantine 1
45. Cornelius 1
46. Dionysius 1
47. Donus 1
48. Eleuterus 1
49. Eusebius 1
50. Eutychian 1
51. Evaristus 1
52. Fabian 1
53. Formosus 1
54. Francis 1
55. Hilarius 1
56. Hormisdas 1
57. Hyginus 1
58. Lando 1
59. Liberius 1
60. Linus 1
61. Marcellinus 1
62. Mark 1
63. Miltiades 1
64. Peter 1
65. Pontian 1
66. Romanus 1
67. Sabinian 1
68. Severinus 1
69. Silverius 1
70. Simplicius 1
71. Siricius 1
72. Sisinnius 1
73. Soter 1
74. Symmachus 1
75. Telesphorus 1
76. Valentine 1
77. Vigilius 1
78. Vitalian 1
79. Zachary 1
80. Zephyrinus 1
81. Zosimus 1

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 MSNBC.com, "What’s in a pope’s name?" April 19, 2005; retrieved 2012-8-28.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "List of Popes," Catholic Encyclopedia (2009); retrieved 2013-3-16.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "How Pope gets named," Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). April 4, 2005; retrieved 2012-8-28.

Other websites[change | change source]