Constantine, like Sisinnius, was a Syrian. He was a mild, amiable man.
Felix, archbishop of Ravenna, refused to sign their customary act of
submission to the Pope. Terrible punishment followed swiftly, not from the
good-natured Pope, but from the grim Justinian. The Emperor ordered Ravenna
to be sacked because some of its citizens had taken part in the rebellion
of 695. Archbishop Felix had his eyes torn out, and he was driven into
exile. After the murder of Justinian in 711, Felix was allowed to return.
He then submitted to the Pope.
Consolation came from England when Coenred, king of Mercia, abdicated and
entered a Roman monastery. Even more impressive was it when Offa, the
beautiful young prince of Essex, left throne and wealth to serve Christ in
the monastic habit.
Constantine received an invitation from Justinian II to visit him at
Constantinople to settle the question of the Quinisext or Trullan Council
decrees. The Pope, with visions of eyeless bishops and tortured victims,
might well have trembled at this invitation, but if he did fear, he was
most agreeably surprised. The Emperor received him with the highest honor.
The people of Constantinople joyously greeted the Pope at the seventh
milestone. Justinian received Holy Communion from the Pope and promised to
renew all the privileges of the Church. Then Constantine and the Emperor
went into consultation on the vexed problem of Justinian's pet project, the
Quinisext Council. Constantine seems to have done what John VII feared to
do, to have approved whatsoever in the canons of this council did not
oppose, faith, morals, or the decrees of the Roman Church. Justinian
appears to have been satisfied with this. At any rate, Pope Constantine
returned safely, complete with eyes, on October 24, 711.
The Pope soon learned that Justinian had been murdered. He had reason to
regret the loss of the slit-nosed one, for the next emperor, Philippicus,
was a Monothelite. He decided to wipe out the Sixth Ecumenical Council and
make the One-Will heresy the official religion of the empire. A council of
Eastern bishops obediently went into heresy at the imperial nod. They
repudiated the Sixth Ecumenical Council and adopted the Monothelite
The Pope's answer was to have a series of pictures painted in the portico
of St. Peter's showing the six ecumenical councils. The Romans refused to
place the heretic Emperor's name or image on their coins. Imperial troops
carried the answer of Philippicus and blood flowed. The Pope, however,
quieted the struggle and his patience was rewarded. It was the usurper's
turn to be deposed and have his eyes put out. Anastasius II who took the
throne was orthodox, and the Monothelite heresy at last sinks into a
Constantine died and was buried in St. Peter's on April 9, 715.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.