Pope John XXI

Infobox Pope
English name=John XXI

birth_name=Pedro Julião
term_start=September 13, 1276
term_end=May 20, 1277
predecessor=Adrian V
successor=Nicholas III
birth_date="ca." 1215
birthplace= Lisbon, Portugal
dead=dead|death_date=death date|1277|5|20|mf=y
deathplace=Viterbo, Italy

Pope John XXI (1215 – May 20, 1277), born Pedro Julião (Latin, "Petrus Iulianus"), a Portuguese also called Pedro Hispano (Latin, Petrus Hispanus, was Pope from 1276 until his death about eight months later. He was the only Portuguese Pope, although Damasus I can also be considered Portuguese, as he was born in territory that is nowadays in Portugal, and Paul IV also had a Portuguese maternal grandmother.

Note that the previous Pope named John was Pope John XIX (1024–32) and there is no Pope John XX (see article above for explanation).

Pre-papal life

Pedro Julião, born between 1210 and 1220, was probably born in Lisbon. He started his studies at the episcopal school of Lisbon Cathedral, and later joined the University of Paris, although some historians claim that he was educated at Montpellier. Wherever he studied, he concentrated on medicine, theology, and Aristotle's dialectic, logic, physics and metaphysics.

From 1245 to 1250 he became known as "Pedro Hispano" (because he came from Hispania, the Iberian Peninsula) and taught medicine at the university of Siena, where he wrote the "Summulae Logicales", a reference manual on Aristotelian logic that remained in use in European universities for more than 300 years (see Peter of Spain for some controversies). He became famous as a university teacher, then returned to Lisbon. In the courts of Guimarães he was the councilor and spokesman of the king Afonso III of Portugal (1248–79) in church matters; later, becoming prior of Guimarães. He tried to become Bishop of Lisbon, but he was defeated. Instead, he became the master of the school of Lisbon. A notable philosopher, he was also the responsible for the creation of the Square of opposition.

Pedro became the physician of Pope Gregory X (1271–76).

Papacy and death

After the death of Pope Adrian V, on August 18, 1276, Pedro Hispano was elected Pope at the conclave of cardinals on September 13, and he was crowned a week later. One of John XXI's few acts during his brief rule was to reverse the decree recently passed at the Second Council of Lyon (1274), which not only confined cardinals in solitude until they elected a successor Pope, but also progressively restricted their supplies of food and wine if their deliberation took too long.

Though much of John XXI's brief papacy was dominated by the powerful Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini (who succeeded him as Pope Nicholas III), John attempted to launch a crusade for the Holy Land, pushed for a union with the Eastern church, and did what he could to maintain peace between the Christian nations. He also launched a drive to convert the Tatars, which came to nothing.

The Pope had a new wing added to his palace at Viterbo; it was poorly built, and while he lay sleeping part of the roof fell in and he was seriously injured. John XXI died eight days later, probably as the only pope to end his life by an actual accident, on May 20, 1277. He was buried in the Duomo di Viterbo where his tomb can still be seen.


After his death, it was rumored that John XXI had actually been a magician (a suspicion frequently directed towards the preciously few scholars among medieval popes even during their papacy; see e.g., Sylvester II), and that he was writing a heretical treatise in the room that collapsed on him, by an Act of God, it was infered. [Odorico Raynaldi, "sub anno" 1227, no. 19.]

In "The Divine Comedy" Dante sees John XXI (referred to as "Pietro Spano") in the Heaven of the Sun with the other spirits of great religious scholars.

Medical works

Surprisingly, one of the most comprehensive recipe books for pre- and post-coital contraception was written by Pedro Hispano, who offered advice on birth control and how to provoke menstruation in his immensely popular "Thesaurus Pauperum" (Treasure of the Poor). Many of Peter’s recipes have been found surprisingly effective by contemporary research, and it is believed that women in antiquity had more control over their reproduction than previously believed (Riddle, 1994).


* Maxwell-Stuart, P. G. "Chronicle of the Popes: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Papacy from St. Peter to the Present", Thames & Hudson, 2002, p. 119. ISBN 0500017980.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pope John XXI (XX) —     Pope John XXI (XX)     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope John XXI (XX)     Born at Lisbon between 1210 and 1220; enthroned, 1276; died at Viterbo, 20 May, 1277. The son of one Julianus, he was baptized Peter, and was known as Petrus Juliani or… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • John XXI (XX) —     Pope John XXI (XX)     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Pope John XXI (XX)     Born at Lisbon between 1210 and 1220; enthroned, 1276; died at Viterbo, 20 May, 1277. The son of one Julianus, he was baptized Peter, and was known as Petrus Juliani or… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Pope John — has been the most common papal name in the Roman Catholic Church, used by 21 popes, though the numbering of them has been irregular through history due to antipopes and differences in old lists. The Latin name is Iohannes .# Pope John I (523–526) …   Wikipedia

  • Pope John XXII — Infobox Pope English name=John XXII birth name=Jacques Duèze or d Euse term start=August 7, 1316 term end=December 4, 1334 predecessor=Clement V successor=Benedict XII birth date=1249 birthplace= Cahors, France dead=dead|death date=death… …   Wikipedia

  • Pope John XIX — Infobox Pope English name=John XIX birth name=Romanus term start=May, 1024 term end=October, 1032 predecessor=Benedict VIII successor=Benedict IX birth date=??? birthplace=Rome, Italy dead=dead|death date=October, 1032 deathplace=Rome, Italy… …   Wikipedia

  • Pope John Paul II — John Paul II John Paul II in 1993 Papacy began 16 October 1978 Papacy ended 2 April 2005 ( 1000000000000002600000026 years, 1000000 …   Wikipedia

  • John XXI (XX), Pope — • Born at Lisbon between 1210 and 1220; enthroned, 1276; died at Viterbo, 20 May, 1277 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Pope John XX — There has never been a Pope John XX, because the 20th pope of this name, formerly Petrus Hispanus, decided to skip the number XX and to be counted as John XXI instead. He wanted to correct what in his time was believed to be an error in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Pope John XXIII — Infobox pope English name=John XXIII birth name=Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli term start=28 October 1958 term end=3 June 1963 predecessor=Pius XII successor=Paul VI birth date=birth date|df=yes|1881|11|25 birthplace=Sotto il Monte, Italy dead=dead… …   Wikipedia

  • John XXI — (Petrus Hispanus) died 1277, Portuguese ecclesiastic: pope 1276 77. * * * ▪ pope original name  Pedro Julião , byname  Pedro Hispano (the Spaniard) , Latin  Petrus Juliani , or  Petrus Hispanus  born c. 1210–20, Lisbon died May 20, 1277, Viterbo …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.