Pope Saint Hormisdas

Jul 01, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long


Early Life

Pope St Hormisdas

Pope Saint Hormisdas was born in Frosinone, Campagna di Roma, Italy.

He was an Italian by birth, though his name, Hormisdas, is Persian. This name derives from the Ancient Greek “Ahura Mazdā > Hormoz / Ormazd”, meaning “lord of wisdom, or according to other sources, the spirit that creates the thought.”

His Persian name was probably given in honor of an exiled Persian noble, Hormizd, celebrated in the Roman martyrology (August 8).

Pope Hormisdas, married and widowed prior to ordination, was the bishop of Rome from July 20, 514 A.D. until his death on August 6, 523 A.D. His papacy was dominated by the Acacian schism, started in 484 by Acacius of Constantinople.

His efforts to resolve this schism were successful and just five years into his pontificate the reunion between Constantinople and Rome was ratified in the cathedral of Constantinople before a large crowd. The Formula of Hormisdas was signed by Patriarch John II of Constantinople and 250 Eastern bishops (see below).


Pope St Hormisdas Chronicle

Upon taking the Chair of Saint Peter, one of Hormisdas' first actions was to remove the last vestiges of the then-existing schism in Rome, receiving back into the Church those adherents of the Laurentian party who had not already been reconciled.

Continuing the theme of unity in the Catholic Church, his efforts were then directed toward restoring communion between the Sees of Rome and Constantinople caused by the Acacian schism.

The emperor Anastasius took the first steps to resolve this schism pressured by Vitalian, the commander of the imperial cavalry, who, having taken up the cause of orthodoxy, led Thracia, Scythia Minor, and Mysia to revolt, and marched with an army of Huns and Bulgarians to the gates of Constantinople.

Choosing a more diplomatic course of action, Anastasius wrote to Pope Hormisdas in December of 514, inviting him to a synod that would be held July 1 of the following year. Keeping in mind the less-than-efficient modes of communication of the day, it was not until April 4 when Hormisdas answered, expressing his delight at the prospect of peace, but at the same time defending the position of his predecessors. He guardedly carried on negotiations, convened a synod at Rome and wrote to the emperor on July 8, announcing the departure of an embassy for Constantinople.

The pope's embassy to the imperial court consisted of two bishops, Ennodius of Pavia and Fortunatus of Catina, a priest by the name of Venantius, the deacon Vitalis, and a notary named Hilarius. These men carried with them the following demands made by Hormisdas:

  1. The emperor should publicly announce his acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon and the letters of Pope Leo;
  2. The Eastern bishops should make a similar public declaration, and in addition anathematize Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Aelurus, Peter Mongus, Peter the Fuller, and Acacius, with all their followers;
  3. Everyone exiled in this dispute should be recalled and their cases reserved for the judgment of the Apostolic See;
  4. Those exiles who had been in communion with Rome and professed Catholicism should first be recalled; and
  5. Bishops accused of having persecuted the Orthodox should be sent to Rome to be judged.

These demands were not to the emperor’s liking. Anastasius even attempted to bribe the legates of a second papal embassy, but was unsuccessful. Upon discovering that his strong man, Vitalian, had been defeated outside Constantinople, forced into hiding, and his supporters executed, Anastasius announced on July 11, 517 that he was breaking off negotiations with Rome. Less than a year later the emperor died; he was struck dead by a thunderbolt according to the Liber Pontificalis.

His successor, the Catholic Justin I, immediately granted all of the demands of Pope Hormisdas. The Patriarch John II accepted the Formula of Hormisdas. However, the East continued to disregard papal demands by not condemning Acacius. Even so, on March 28, 519, in the cathedral of Constantinople and in the presence of a great throng of people, the end of the schism was concluded in a solemn ceremony.

List of Popes
Marble plaque listing all of the pontiffs entombed in St. Peter's Basilica. Pope Hormisdas’ name can be found in the first column, eighteenth from the top (highlighted).