St. Gregory the Great was born around the year 540 A.D. in Italy, “into a world in which peace and stability could not be taken for granted.” (R.A. Markus, Gregory the Great and His World) He was named the Prefect of Rome in either his late 20s or early 30s, but resigned the office and entered monastic life around the year 575, converting his family home into a monastery dedicated to St. Andrew.
Despite becoming a monk, Gregory soon afterwards was ordained a deacon and then sent to Constantinople as the representative of Pope Pelagius II in 579. He was recalled to Rome around 585 or 586 and returned to his monastery. In 590, he was elected Pope, succeeding Pelagius II.
Over the course of his papacy, Gregory worked to keep Rome secure against the Lombard tribes that had invaded Italy, buying temporary truces with them, negotiating treaties and ransoming prisoners, and providing for the poor amid famines and plagues. He also wrote Pastoral Care in 590, a treatise on the responsibilities of bishops that has remained influential in the centuries since its publication. In this work, Gregory calls on bishops to maintain a life of prayer while diligently attending to the needs of those entrusted to their care.
In 597, he launched a mission for the conversion of England, sending a mission of 40 monks, including some from his own monastery. When Catholicism eventually took root in England, the church there would regard Gregory as a founding father. His favorite title for the papacy was “servant of the servants of God.”
St. Gregory the Great is a Doctor of the Church, one of the four Great Latin Fathers. The others are St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and St. Jerome, and all four are featured on the high altar of St. Gregory church (pictured above). Pope St. Gregory the Great is the figure located at the far right.
Eamon Duffy, Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes
R.A. Markus, Gregory the Great and His World