c.500-555. Pope from 537. Although his father, a Roman noble, served in Theodoric's Gothic administration, Vigilius's destiny lay with Byzantine political forces. When a Roman deacon, he was Boniface II's intended successor. In 532 the Roman clergy and senate blocked his consecration, and he was sent as Agapetus I's apocrisarius to Constantinople, where he became confidant of the Monophysite empress Theodora.* When the Goths abandoned Rome, Vigilius became the imperial candidate for the papacy. On the pretext of treason Silverius was deposed, tried, and exiled by the Byzantine general Belisarius, and Vigilius succeeded him in the spring of 537.
Acting contrary to his alleged commitment to Theodora, Vigilius demonstrated an effort to avoid secular manipulation of the papacy by refusing to exonerate and reinstate Anthimus, a deposed Monophysite patriarch, and by defending Chalcedonian orthodoxy in correspondence with Emperor Justinian* and Patriarch Menas.* Consistent with Western clerical conviction, Vigilius dissented from Justinian's 543/44 edict-an obvious concession to Monophysites-against the Three Chapters.* Forcibly brought to Constantinople under imperial orders, Vigilius was with difficulty persuaded to accept Justinian's position. He did so only after expressing reservations based on the Chalcedon decrees, stating his position in Iudicatum (548). Intense Western reaction to his concession moved him to return to his initial stance, which he set forth in Constitutum. When the Council of Constantinople* (553), over which Vigilius had refused to preside, confirmed the emperor, Vigilius again vacillated and under protracted pressure acquiesced in the council's decision. Allowed after a seven-year absence to return to Rome, he died on the way. His role in thehas been cited as historical evidence against the Roman claim of papal infallibility in doctrinal matters.