Before Pope Stephen IX died,he left strict instructions to his Cardinals not to elect a new Pope until they were all there in one place to convene. While they waited,impatient Roman nobles rushed to elect a Pope of their own,Benedict X. The senior Cardinals fled Rome and then finally got together to elect the Bishop of Florence as the new Pope,who took the name Nicholas II. Backed by the army of Duke Godfrey of Lorraine,Nicholas marched back into Rome and ran the anti-pope Benedict out of town. Once officially installed,Nicholas called a synod to set up new and strict rules for elections. In the previous thousand years Popes were elected in any number of ways,sometimes shady,sometimes not. The new rules only allowed Cardinals to elect the Pope,in secret,and without influence from lay people or nobles or from any various royalty from different places. These rules for the Papal election would go through various streamlining changes,even until now,but they were basically laid down with Nicholas II. While reading up on this I came across the meaning of the word “Cardinal”. It’s derived from a Latin word meaning “hinge”,as in the hinge of the door is very important for it to work,so a Cardinal is a very important part of the Church in order for it to function properly. The red that they wear symbolizes that they will shed their blood to protect the Church if they have to. When settlers first arrived in North America they nicknamed the red birds that they saw after the Catholic Cardinals……(“Catholic Cardinals” sounds like a good name for a Catholic school sports team)
Pope Stephen IX was another of the great reforming Popes,dispatching his cardinals to different parts of Europe to enforce his rules about clergy celibacy and simony. Stephen was dying when he was elected,so he brought about new rules to insure an independent and canonical election for his successor. Feeling that his end was drawing near,Stephen made his cardinals promise that if he died,they would wait until all of them were present before they elected the new Pope. His election plans were unfortunately thrown out the window after his death,causing some anti-Pope shenanigans that we’ll discuss next week.
Pope Victor II was the next in line of the reforming Popes. Victor II took his name from Victor I,who was our first African Pope. Often times when a new Pope is elected,they choose a name to let the world what kind of tone their Papacy will take. Victor II, and his successors,Pope Damasus II and Leo IX,each choose their retro Pope names to call back to the early days of the office when more virtuous men were in the chair of Peter. The most interesting thing about Pope Victor II was that when he passed away,his body was being transported back to Germany for burial but it only made it as far as Ravenna,Italy. That’s where a mob of heavily armed people forcibly took Victor’s body and buried in their local Church. Very strange. Huge fans of Pope Victor? Maybe hunting a local economy boost from Pilgrims that want to see a Pope’s tomb? Probably the latter. His body is still there,at The Church of Santa Maria Rotunda. All the more strange considering the next Pope named Victor(Victor III,1086-1087),would also have burial troubles as his dead body moved from Church to Church to Church until finally finding rest as late as 1963.
Pope Saint Leo IX was a strict reformer and one of our warrior Popes,leading armies against the Normans in southern Italy. He began his career as a reforming Bishop in Germany and was handpicked by Emperor Henry III to be the new Pope. Being a stickler for rules,Leo only accepted his new position if the clergy and people of Rome actually wanted him(they did). Leo set about reforming the Papacy(and the Universal Church)in many ways,combating simony(disposing Bishops elected by bribery),fixing the Vatican’s finances and condemning priests that were not celibate. Leo took his reforms on the road and traveled to Churches in other parts of Italy,Germany and France to make sure every one was on the same page in this effort to clean up the Church.
The Eastern Church begged Leo to help with Norman(Vikings!)invaders in Southern Italy(which was under their jurisdiction),so Leo himself led a ragtag Papal army south to rid the area of the invaders. The leader of the Normans was horrified that he would have to fight,and possibly kill,the Pope,so he tried every effort to compromise but to no avail. The Pope’s army was crushed(because…Vikings!)and Leo was taken prisoner. The respectful Normans apologized to him probably everyday for the next nine months that he was their captive. Leo passed away shortly after being released in 1054. For his moral character and his efforts for reform,he was Canonized in 1082. His feast day is April 19,which is the same day my family and I were baptized and joined the Catholic Church!
Pope Damasus II has the 7th shortest time as Pontiff,only reigning for 24 days. Pope Damasus also has one of the greatest real names for any Pope;Poppo de’ Curagnoni! POPPO! You gotta say that name with dramatic Italian hand gestures(even though Poppo was actually German). Handpicked by German Holy Roman Emperor Henry III,Damasus was briefly held up on his way to Rome by that pesky disposed Pope(and troublemaker),Benedict IX. Benedict kept leaving and returning to Rome,and this time he was marched,by military force on orders from the emperor,out of Rome for good so Pope Damasus could take his rightful place. It was mid-July by this point and Rome happened to be under an awful heat wave. The elderly Damasus contracted malaria and passed away shortly after.
Filling in on art duties this week is my 10 year old son Brody,and I think he did a great job! My lazy butt will return to drawing Popes next week.
After Pope Benedict IX made a holy mess of the Papacy,causing three Popes at once,King Henry III made his way from Germany to Rome to try to set things right. Accompanying him on his journey was the Bishop of Bamberg,Suidger von Morsleben. Popes Sylvester III,Pope Benedict IX and Pope Gregory VI all laid claim to the Papacy(thanks to that rotten Benedict and all of his shenanigans). Henry called a synod and immediately disposed Sylvester(who didn’t want it) and Bendict(who didn’t deserve it),and Gregory(who bought it)was forced to resign. In their place,Henry elected his Bishop(who we already mentioned)to the Papacy. Now we had one Pope and one Pope only and he took the name Clement II. Clement’s first act was to crown Henry III the new Holy Roman emperor. Clement was a reforming Pope and he enacted degrees against simony(looking at you,Pope Gregory VI). Sadly,he didn’t live very long as he soon died from poisoning from lead sugar,but we don’t know if it was murdered or if the lead sugar was used as some sort of medicine. Clement’s body was transferred back to Bamberg,Germany and he is the only Pope buried north of the Alps.
Since I’m falling behind on my weekly Popes,I’ve enlisted my children to help me draw my Popes. This week’s guest artist is my 12 year old son Jack! I paid him in peanut butter cups and Dr Pepper for his trouble.
Many men have bribed their way into the Papacy but Pope Gregory VI literally bought the office. Like bought. From another Pope.(This is all terrible)
Pope Benedict IX was all of 20 when he became Pope and he’s the chief culprit for causing a mess of the Papacy from 1032 to around 1048. Benedict IX was Pope three different times and one of those times,he left the office to marry a girl. Benedict went to his godfather for advice of what to do and his godfather,John Gratian, the Archpriest of St. John by the Latin Gate,suggested he abdicate. Benedict agreed,in exchange for money for his upcoming wedding,which was gladly paid so Rome could hopefully be rid of him. His wealthy godfather paid him the money and promptly made himself the new Pope in his stead,taking the name Gregory VI. Trouble was that the was still another man claiming to be Pope(Sylvester III),and once Benedict tired of marriage,he returned to Rome assuming he could take up where he left off. This meant a possible three Popes at once and this required the Holy Roman emperor,Henry III,to enter Rome in order to call a synod to clear up all of this mess. Henry III disposed both Sylvester and Benedict,and ordered Gregory to resign,on charges of simony. With these three gone,Henry would appoint his own pick,a German Bishop who took the name Clement II.
Sylvester III was briefly Pope during the huge mess that was caused by his predecessor,Pope Benedict IX. When the Romans grew sick of Benedict and his tawdry ways,they ran him out of town and quickly elected Giovanni de’ Crescenzi,the Bishop of Sabina,who took the name Sylvester III. Sylvester was by all accounts a very devout and holy man who didn’t even want to be the Pope,but he stepped up to the plate to try to help bring order to the chaos caused by Benedict. Unfortunately,Benedict didn’t stay gone long and returned with a force to reclaim his title. Sylvester was confined to a monastery and later on he was officially disposed by Holy Roman emperor Henry III. Due to the massive confusion caused by Benedict’s three separate terms as Holy Father(!),Sylvester was sometimes thought to be an anti-Pope but he’s still officially listed as a rightful Pope.
Pope Benedict IX left the Papacy to marry a girl,and this would have been very romantic in any other story but Benedict also happened to be miserable little snot that actually sold the office to pay for said marriage. Ugh. This guy. I’ve been dreading this guy. Put on the chair of Peter by his influential family(his Uncles had been Popes),Benedict was all of about 20 years old when he was elected and you can guess how this plays out. Every awful thing that you could accuse a 20 year old of,Benedict was accused of(and probably guilty of). Eventually the Roman people ran him out of town and replaced him with Pope Sylvester III. Nothing if not persistent,Benedict returned with an army and forced poor Sylvester into a monastery. Benedict “Poped” for a year before he grew bored and decided to marry. He agreed to basically sell the Papacy to his Godfather(who becomes Pope Gregory VI)in exchange for money to marry and off he went(again). Benedict soon changed his mind and returned to claim his Papacy,but Gregory wasn’t budging and now Sylvester was poking his nose back into Papal business. Three Popes,we had three Popes and this was just two Popes too many so King Henry III of Germany decided to intervene. Henry called a synod to set things right. Sylvester and Gregory stepped down but Benedict refused to appear and refused to set down. No matter,Henry elected a German Bishop and this became Pope Clement II. Clement crowned Henry Holy Roman Emperor and apparently…..apparently(!)this resolved this mess. Nope. Clement passed away a year later and look who’s back….Yes,it’s Benedict again(Are you still following any of this?). Emperor Henry sent a force into Rome to permanently remove Benedict once and for all in favor of Pope Damasus II. Benedict was brought up on charges of simony(the selling of Church offices)and he was finally excommunicated. He would live through three more Popes before dying in 1055.
When Pope Benedict VIII passed away,he was followed by his younger brother Romanus. Romanus was a secular politician and also a layman. On being “elected” Pope he was ordained in all the offices of the Church up to Bishop in a single day. Pope John XIX did his very best to help along the coming split with the Eastern Church when the Patriarch of Constantinople essentially bribed John to recognize the Patriarch as head of all Christians in the East. John accepted the gifts and was going to go along with this idea until other leading Churchmen and even the Holy Roman emperor told the Pope this was a horrible idea(This would have made the Patriarch of the East equal with the Bishop of Rome). John quickly changed his mind…….but kept all the loot he had been bribed with(the countdown to schism with the Eastern Church inches closer and closer)
The goofy numbering of Popes named John takes another detour after this Pope because after XIX,the number XX is completely skipped for some reason.