by Anupum Pant
Pope John XXI was the only pope ever, who had an illustrious medical career alongside his work as a theologian. He was also a fruitful writer, who wrote on subjects like logic, physics, philosophy and medicine. Before being elected as a Pope, he served as personal physician to Pope Gregory.
In medicine, he contributed towards great advances in female reproductive system and wrote about a few remarkably effective methods of birth control, during times when the Catholic Church condemned contraception. He also taught medicine at the University of Siena.
As men with thoughts ahead of their time are always labeled as heretics, John was also called a magician after his death. His death was announced to have been caused by “an act of god”.
The unfortunate accident
His brief papacy [of 8 months, 1276-77] ended with a tragic accident:
As a man of the science, he dabbled in astronomy and had a special room built in the papal palace. He loved spending hours in this special room, where he could observe the stars at night. It was in this room, where he sustained severe injuries, when the roof of his palace collapsed. He died six days later (on May 20, 1277).
Stephen Hawking’s interpretation
In 1277, Pope John XXI’s declared ‘laws of nature’ to be heresy because they conflicted with God’s omnipotence. Several years later, Hawking and Mlodinow, with their book, The Grand Design, caused quite a stir when they wrote – “Pope John was killed by the effects of the law of gravity a few months later when the roof of his palace fell in on him“.
Bonus Death Fact: Jack Daniel, the founder of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery, died in very peculiar manner:
Unable to open the safe in his office, Mr. Jack kicked it in frustration. This blow broke his toe and infection set in, leading to his untimely death in 1911. – [Source]