94. Pope Stephen III 768-772


The birth of the Papal States and the Pope’s new control over much of Italy led to one of the bloodiest Papal elections in history. Nobles of the sections of Italy now controlled by Rome wanted their own guy in office to better serve their personal interests. Duke Toto of Nepi wanted his brother Constantine to become Pope,so he marched an army into Rome and took the Papacy by force. No election was held and Constantine wasn’t even a priest when he began his brief reign as Anti-Pope in 767,while the clergy secretly plotted his doom. Some members of the clergy swore they would not recognize this new “pope” and begged to be let out of the city so they could retire to distant monasteries. Constantine II could care less so he let them leave. This was not his smartest decision. They didn’t go to a monastery,they ran straight to the king of the Lomards and begged him to come get rid of this fake Pope. Always looking for an angle to exploit against Rome for a later date,the king more than happily obliged. He marched his army into Rome,killed Duke Toto and his supporters and then had the Anti-Pope arrested. While this was going on,another fake pope named Phillip was put into place briefly by the Lombard king. Two Anti-Popes later,we finally get to a point when the Church can hold a real election and Stephen III was chosen as our new Pope. Stephen III was a respected priest from Sicily that had worked with several Popes and was even at the bedside of Pope Paul I when he died. The office was finally in good and proper hands.
Anti-Pope Phillip was dismissed and was allowed to return to his monastery in peace,but Anti-Pope Constantine II…..Oh that guy…..that guy paid dearly for trying to steal the chair of St.Peter. Beaten,tortured and paraded around Rome on horseback(on a woman’s saddle!)with heavy weights hanging from his feet,as crowds screamed insults at him and threw things. While he was in jail,his remaining supporters stirred up new trouble,so now Rome officials decided to further punish him for being a symbol of dissent. Constantine was dragged from jail,blinded and had his tongue ripped out of his mouth. He was then left in the street for 24 hours with everyone under strict orders to not help him or even speak to him. The poor man was then excommunicated and shipped off to God knows where. Whether or not Pope Stephen III had anything to do with much of this is still debated.


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