John VIII Palaiologos


John VIII Palaiologos
Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
John VIII Palaiologos, by Benozzo Gozzoli
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
PredecessorManuel II Palaiologos
SuccessorConstantine XI Palaiologos
Born18 December 1392
Died31 October 1448(1448-10-31) (aged 55)
Anna of Moscow
(m. 1414; died 1417)

Sophia of Montferrat
(m. 1421⁠–⁠1426)

Maria of Trebizond
(m. 1427; died 1439)
FatherManuel II Palaiologos
MotherHelena Dragaš

John VIII Palaiologos or Palaeologus (Greek: Ἰωάννης Παλαιολόγος, romanizedIōannēs Palaiologos; 18 December 1392 – 31 October 1448) was the penultimate reigning Byzantine Emperor, ruling from 1425 to 1448.


John VIII Palaiologos was the eldest son of Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragaš, the daughter of the Serbian prince Constantine Dragaš. He was associated as co-emperor with his father before 1416 and became sole emperor in 1425.[1]

In June 1422, John VIII Palaiologos supervised the defense of Constantinople during a siege by Murad II, but had to accept the loss of Thessalonica, which his brother Andronikos had given to Venice in 1423. To secure protection against the Ottomans, he visited Pope Eugene IV and consented to the union of the Greek and Roman churches. The Union was ratified at the Council of Florence in 1439, which John attended with 700 followers including Patriarch Joseph II of Constantinople and George Gemistos Plethon, a Neoplatonist philosopher influential among the academics of Italy. The Union failed due to opposition in Constantinople, but through his prudent conduct towards the Ottoman Empire he succeeded in holding possession of the city.

John VIII Palaiologos named his brother Constantine XI, who had served as regent in Constantinople in 1437–1439, as his successor. Despite the machinations of his younger brother Demetrios Palaiologos his mother Helena was able to secure Constantine XI's succession in 1448.

John VIII died at Constantinople in 1448, becoming the last reigning Byzantine emperor to die of natural causes.


John VIII Palaiologos was married three times.[2] His first marriage was in 1414 to Anna of Moscow, daughter of Grand Prince Basil I of Moscow (1389–1425) and Sophia of Lithuania. She died in August 1417 of plague.

The second marriage, arranged by his father Manuel II and Pope Martin V, was to Sophia of Montferrat in 1421. She was a daughter of Theodore II, Marquess of Montferrat, and his second wife Joanna of Bar. Joanna was a daughter of Robert I, Duke of Bar, and Marie de Valois. Her maternal grandparents were John II of France and Bonne of Bohemia.

His third marriage, arranged by the future cardinal, Bessarion, was to Maria of Trebizond in 1427. She was a daughter of Alexios IV of Trebizond and Theodora Kantakouzene. She died in the winter of 1439, also from plague.[3] None of the marriages produced any children.

John was the last Roman Emperor to both have an Empress consort and multiple consorts as the wives of his brother and only successor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, had died before he became emperor in 1449.

Representation in art

John VIII Palaiologos was famously depicted by several painters on the occasion of his visit to Italy.[4] Perhaps the most famous of his portraits is the one by Benozzo Gozzoli, on the southern wall of the Magi Chapel, at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, in Florence. According to some interpretations, John VIII would be also portrayed in Piero della Francesca's Flagellation. A portrait of John appears in a manuscript at the Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula.



See also


  • Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, 1991.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "John VI or VII". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 439.
  1. ^ "John VIII Palaeologus | Byzantine emperor". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  2. ^ Dear John by Diana Gilliland Wright
  3. ^ Steven Runciman, The Fall of Constantinople, 1453 (Cambridge: University Press, 1965), p. 21
  4. ^ Drawings of John VIII Palaiologos Archived 5 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine by Pisanello, Florence 1439

Further reading

  • Harris, Jonathan, The End of Byzantium. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-300-11786-8
  • Kolditz, Sebastian, Johannes VIII. Palaiologos und das Konzil von Ferrara-Florenz (1438/39). 2 Vol., Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann Verlag 2013–2014, ISBN 978-3-7772-1319-4.
  • Lazaris, Stavros, "L’empereur Jean VIII Paléologue vu par Pisanello lors du concile de Ferrare – Florence", Byzantinische Forschungen, 29, 2007, p. 293-324 [1]
  • Nicol, Donald M. (1993) [1972]. The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261-1453. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
John VIII Palaiologos
Palaiologos dynasty
Born: 18 December 1392 Died: 31 October 1448
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Manuel II Palaiologos
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Constantine XI Palaiologos Dragases