Gregory was born in in 540 in Rome, Italy the son of Gordianus, a Roman senator. Gregory came from a family of saints, his mother being St. Silvia of Rome, his aunts Sts. Emilia and Tarsilla, and his great-grandfather Pope St. Felix III (who entered the priesthood following the death of his wife).
Gregory began his adult life by following his father in a political career. He served as prefect of Rome for a year before discerning a religious vocation. Upon this realization he sold all his worldly possessions and entered the Benedictine monastery of St. Andrew. He was eventually selected to be abbot of St. Andrew's. The Holy Father also recognized Gregory's talents and named him one of the seven deacons of Rome along with appointing him papal legate and sending him on a diplomatic mission to Constantinople where he remained for five years.
Upon the death of Pope Leo the Great in 590 Gregory was unanimously elected to be the next successor of Peter. Gregory, the first monk ever to be selected as pope, desired nothing more than to remain in his monastery but, after much prayer, he discerned that this was the Lord's will and accepted the invitation to ascend to the chair of Peter. This ascension occured on September 3, 590.
As Pope, Gregory had to deal with civil, as well as spiritual, matters, due to the helplessness of the Byzantine empire. In this role he negotiated a "separate peace" with the Lombards, a tribe of barbarians set on invading Rome and appointed governors to Italian cities. Gregory used the material possessions of the Church to relieve the sufferings of the poor and sent missionaries to France, Spain, Africa, and Britain which he had been particularly devoted to since witnessing the sale of English children in the Roman forum. Gregory insisted on the primacy of the Pope and promoted devotion to the liturgy especially sacred music. From this emerged a style of music known as Gregorian chant.
Gregory also composed numerous theological writings for which, after his death, he was declared one of the four great doctors of the Church.
Pope Gregory I passed away in Rome on March 12, 604 of natural causes. He is the patron saint: against gout; against plague; of choir boys; of educators; of England; of Kercem, Malta; of the diocese of Legazpi, Philippines; of masons; of Montone, Italy; of musicians; of the papacy; of Popes; of San Gregorio nelle Alpi, Italy; of schoolchildren; of singers; of stone masons; of stonecutters; of students; of teachers; and of the West Indies.