St. Malachy OMore was a medieval bishop who is said to
have foretold the succession of 112 popes, from Celestinus II
(1143) until the final pope in the future yet to come. These predictions
were in the form of a long series of Latin character
mottos instead of actual names, and there is still scholarly
doubt as to whether the prophecies really emanated from St.
Malachy. However, other prophecies attributed to him are
claimed to have been fulfilled.
He was born Maelmhaedhoc Ua Morgair in Armagh, Ireland,
in 1095. His biography was written by a famous contemporary,
St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Malachy was the son of a wellknown
scholar; his mother came from a wealthy family in Bangor,
county Down. His father died when Malachy was eight
years old, and he was subsequently educated by a monk who
later became abbot of Armagh.
Malachy was ordained by St. Celsus, an Irish Benedictine of
Glastonbury, then archbishop of Armagh. He became vicargeneral
to Celsus, then abbot of Bangor, and later bishop of
Connor, succeeding to the archbishopric in 1132. He had a
reputation as a firm disciplinarian.
After six years, he resigned in order to make a pilgrimage
to Rome. But during the course of his journey, he met St. Bernard
at the French abbey of Clairvaux and was so impressed by
him that he requested to be allowed to remain at Clairvaux as
an ordinary monk. However, Pope Innocent II refused permission,
since he had plans for Malachy to be primate of the combined
see of Armagh and Tuam, although in the end this did
not come to pass.
Malachy traveled through England, Scotland, and Ireland,
even making a second pilgrimage to Rome. On the return journey
to Ireland, he died at Clairvaux, which had made such an
impression on him.
Malachy had a great reputation as a prophet during his own
lifetime. When the son of King David of Scotland was critically
ill, Malachy sprinkled him with holy water and predicted that
the boy would survive. He did. When one individual tried to
prevent the building of an oratory, Malachy correctly foretold
his early death. According to St. Bernard, Malachy even predicted
the date, place, and circumstances of his own death.
The papal prophecies seem to be extraordinarily apt, beginning
with Celestine II (1143) and continuing through to modern
times. The first pope was indicated by the motto Ex Castro
Tiberis (from a castle on the Tiber); Celestine II came from
Tuscany, where the Tiber rises, and his family name was Catello.
The next pope was indicated by the motto Inimicus Expulsus
(the enemy driven out); it transpired that his family name
was Caccianemici, which combines cacciare (to drive out) and
nemici (enemies). The next pope had the motto Ex Magnitudine
Montis (from the great mountain); he was born in
Montemagno (the great mountain).
Some scholars believe the prophecies to be sixteenthcentury
forgeries. Nevertheless, some of the mottos predicted
for later popes have still been surprisingly apt, e.g., Flos
Florum (flower of flowers) for Pope Paul VI (1963) seems validated
by the fact that the pope had three fleur-de-lys on his armorial
According to the Malachy prophecies, the line of popes will
end after the successor to Pope John Paul II. The last pope will
be Petrus Romanus (Peter the Roman), and after that Rome
will be destroyed and the world will be purified by fire. Some
believe that these will be the final days of the Last Judgment,
others that there will be a cleansing of the world and the commencement
of a new cycle of life.
Bander, Peter. The Prophecies of St. Malachy. Gerrards Cross,
England Colin Smythe, 1969.
Dorato, M. Gli ultimi papi e la fine del mondo nelle grandi profezie.
Rome n.p., 1950.