This is the Wild Middle Ages: the 5 most sinful popes in the history of Rome

This is the Wild Middle Ages: the 5 most sinful popes in the history of Rome

Categories: History

There is nothing more dangerous than a fool with power. There are dozens, if not hundreds of madcap monarchs left in history, whom absolute power has corrupted to an inhuman state. Yes, what monarchs, even if some pontiffs in the Middle Ages allowed themselves such that after centuries it is difficult to believe it.

Pope Stephen VI: 896-897

Stephen VI ascended the throne after the death of Boniface VI, who had been pope for only two weeks, and before him was ruled by Formosus, who died under unclear circumstances. Formoz hindered the influence of noble families on the church and, in particular, oppressed the Guidonid family, to which Stephen belonged. The disagreements, apparently, were extremely tough, since, once in power, Stefan ordered the exhumation of Formosa's body and put him on trial.

This is the Wild Middle Ages: the 5 most sinful popes in the history of Rome

Painting by Jean-Paul Laurent "Pope Formosus and Stephen VI", 1870

The half-decomposed corpse was dressed in formal clothes, put on a throne and interrogated. The deacon, hiding behind the throne, spoke for Stefan. As a result, the defendant was found guilty of violating church rules and oaths, and all his significant reforms were invalidated. Stefan pronounced curses over the body and cut off three fingers with which the sign of the cross was made. Formosa's naked body was dragged through the streets and buried in a mass grave.

Sergius III: 904-911

Immediately after the enthronement (papal coronation ceremony), Sergius III strangled two of his predecessors — Christopher and Leo V. But he was not "famous" for this. Sergius became the first pope of the pornocracy period (literally, "the power of whores"), when the pontiffs were influenced by two women who had a reputation for harlots.

This is the Wild Middle Ages: the 5 most sinful popes in the history of Rome

In his spare time, Sergius took the fashion to have fun with the 15-year-old Marozia, and appointed her mother Theodora as the keeper of the papal treasures. "The influence of these two whores, Marozia and Theodora, was based on their beauty and wealth. They rewarded their most persistent lovers with papal tiaras. And the Holy See was subsequently occupied by the illegitimate son and grandson of Marozia. A rare genealogy for the vicars of St. Peter on earth," wrote the English historian Edward Gibbon.

John XII: 955-963

Pornocracy ended with the death of Marozia's grandson John XII. He was enthroned at the age of 18 and ruled for eight years, dealing more with women than politics. Actually, history does not know a more immoral pontiff.

It was said about John that he turned the Lateran Basilica into a brothel and raped women in St. Peter's Cathedral. During the dice game, the pope called out to the pagan gods, and when he was drunk, he toasted to the glory of Satan. According to one version, he died during sex from apoplexy. According to another— he was beaten to death by the insulted husband of one of his mistresses.

This is the Wild Middle Ages: the 5 most sinful popes in the history of Rome

The Death of Pope John XII, illustrated by Franco Cesati

Benedict IX: 1032-1044, 1045, 1047-1048

Benedict IX, to give him his due, did not neglect his direct duties. In particular, he held several councils to resolve conflicts between bishops. But he also committed an unprecedented sin — he sold the Holy See.

This is the Wild Middle Ages: the 5 most sinful popes in the history of Rome

The only pope in history was forced to resign his post three times in 1044, after his family was defeated in an armed struggle for power over Rome. But soon the situation changed, and Benedict returned to the throne. However, a month later he sold the title to his godfather. They say, in order to marry a cousin. Two years later, he became pope again and was eventually excommunicated for simony (selling church posts), as well as numerous rapes, homosexuality and participation in orgies.

Alexander VI: 1492-1503

The Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia paved the way to the Holy See occupied by the Italians with intrigues and bribery. After becoming Pope Alexander VI, he proved himself a skilled diplomat and administrator. At the same time, he was the father of at least seven illegitimate children, whom he supported with money from church donations.

This is the Wild Middle Ages: the 5 most sinful popes in the history of Rome

Apparently, Alexander was in an intimate relationship with his daughter Lucrezia. In a letter to his master, the ambassador of the Duchy of Ferrara, who was present at Lucrezia's divorce trial, reported: "Lucrezia's husband categorically objected when asked if the pope's statement about his inability to carry out marital duties and that the marriage was essentially fictitious was true. On the contrary, he had frequent intercourse with his wife. However, the pope took Lucretia away from him in order to use it himself."

Keywords: Sins | Catholicism | Pope | Church

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