Bishop Pappolus succeeded to the bishopric of Langres around 572. His path to the appointment was an odd one—Bishop Tetricus of Langres (r. 539-572) had died after falling into a vegetative state. While the ill Tetricus clinged to life, an archpriest was appointed to oversee the diocese. This regent ruler of the Langres church was also the recognized heir to the bishopric. The first archpriest was Munderic, yet he indulged in the politics of the Frankish Merovingian Dynasty and was eventually ousted by King Chilperic (r. 561-584). The next archpriest was Silvester, who, when Tetricus died in 572, did indeed succeed to the bishopric of Langres. Silvester, however, reportedly had a severe bout of seizures almost immediately after becoming bishop and died three days later. Only after the political ousting of Munderic, and the deaths of Tetricus and Silvester, did Pappolus (presumably still in 572) become the next Bishop of Langres.
Bishop Pappolus reportedly reigned over his diocese for eight years, and developed an impious and tyrannical reputation. His contemporary, Bishop Gregory of Tours (c. 539-594), judged Pappolus’ rule in Langres as “extremely bad” and accused him of pilfering from church resources, as well as scattering the Christian flock (History of the Franks, V.5). Pappolus’ time as bishop was so atrocious, at least according to Gregory, that even spirits decided to intervene.
As the story goes, Pappolus was visited in a dream by the spirit of the late Bishop Tetricus around 580. Stern-faced and wielding a staff, the ghostly Tetricus reportedly proclaimed, “’What are you doing here, Pappolus? Why do you befoul my diocese? Why do you rob the Church? Why do you scatter the flock which was entrusted to my care? Off with you, resign from your bishopric, leave this neighborhood and go somewhere else far away!’” (Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks, V.5). At the end of his tirade, the spirit of Tetricus readied his staff and gave Pappolus a powerful whack across the chest, which violently woke the poor clergyman from his nightmare. The next day, he presumably asked his fellow churchmen about what the dream may have meant, and these associates may have been Gregory’s sources. Whatever the case, Pappolus did not have long to deliberate, for the ghost’s visit was apparently not a suggestion, but an ultimatum.
According to the tale, the very next day after the dream, Pappolus began to feel strange. As time went on, the bishop’s symptoms became more and more painful. Gregory of Tours described the rumored last moments of the unfortunate Bishop Pappolus:
“While he was wondering what all this meant, he had the impression that his chest had been pierced and he suffered excruciating pain. He could not bear the sight of food and drink, and he made ready for the death which he felt to be near. What more can I say? On the third day he vomited blood and died” (The History of the Franks, V.5).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Witch of Endor painted by Nikiforovich Dmitry Martynov (1826–1889), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.