Pope Sergius III was technically elected to the Papacy in 898,but the Holy Roman Emperor despised him and drove him into exile in favor of Pope John IX. Once the people involved in his exile were out of the picture,Sergius came roaring back into Rome,assisted by the military might of Duke Alberic of Spoleto. The Papacy was already in turmoil with the imprisonment of current Pope Leo V and with Anti-Pope Christopher running the show. Sergius promptly had them both strangled,just to tie up lose ends and avoid confusion as to who exactly was Pope(what a swell gesture). The government of Rome was now mostly run by the husband and wife team of Theophylact and Theodora. These two pulled the strings of Sergius,mostly by use of their equally scheming daughter,Marozia,who is reported to have given birth to the bastard son of Pope Sergius,(he would later go on to be Pope John XI….Good Lord)
Pope Benedict XVI once remarked that the Catholic Church can’t be anything but Divine,because how else could the Church have survived 2000 years in spite of attacks from the outside,and in spite of terrible behavior of Catholics(like Sergius III)
I based his image on Telly Savalas,because this Pope seems like a character that Savalas would have played in a Biblical movie from the 1960s (Also,Pope Sergius was bald…)
Saeculum obscurum. That’s Latin for “The Dark Age” and it’s the name historians have given to the time of the 10th century Papacy. Pope Leo V marks the beginning of the dark age,but it is through no fault of his own. Leo was in office for maybe 30 days when Cardinal Christopher declared a Holy coup and took the Chair of Peter for his own. Pope Christopher tossed Leo into prison,but Leo never relinquished his position so Christoper would be forever relegated to Anti-Pope status. This was all for naught anyway because Sergius III arrived back on the scene soon and had Anti-Pope Christopher thrown into prison along with poor Pope Leo V. Sergius was elected Pope back in 898 but was driven out of Rome by Emperor Lambert in favor of Pope John IX. Sergius laid in wait for his moment and with the help of the new Roman military commander,Theophylact I,Count of Tusculum,took back the Vatican with force. Pope Sergius’ first order of business was having Anti-Pope Christopher and Pope Leo V strangled in their prison cells,and with that,the reign of one of the worst Popes ever would begin. I can tell already that these Dark Age Popes are going to give me a headache…..(you can never say that Catholic history is boring though)
Pope Benedict IV had a relatively quiet time in office compared to previous Pontiffs. In his first year he crowned a new Holy Roman Emperor,Louis of Provence. Benedict also had to step in and excommunicate Count Baldwin of Flanders(modern day Netherlands). The Count was having a property dispute with the local Archbishop over the ownership of an Abbey in Flanders. When the matter couldn’t be resolved to anyone’s liking,the Count had the Archbishop murdered,which is always a surefire way to earn an excommunication. The Count was himself murdered shortly after that. Pope Benedict was buried in front of the old St Peter’s Basilica when he passed away in 903.
Look out,we’ve got a Pope that actually lasted more than a few weeks! Pope John IX was Pope for two whole years,which at this point in history,was a minor miracle,especially considering the reign of the four Popes in front of him barely amounted to an entire year combined. Before John was elected,supporters of a Bishop named Sergius stormed the Lateran Palace and installed their man into office. Holy Roman Emperor Lambert would have none of that so he had imperial guards forcefully removed Sergius before he could be officially sworn in. Sergius was a patient man though,and he would hide away in exile,biding his time(he will eventually reach the Papacy in six years)
The imperial guard made sure that a Bishop favorable to the Emperor was elected and once elected,John made sure to do his best to try and bring stability to Rome and the Church which had been lacking since Pope Formosus. John achieved this by calling various synods that both helped in strengthening ties with the Empire and by further cleaning up the messes caused by insane Pope Stephen VI.
Theodore II was only Pope for twenty days but managed to get a great deal done in such a short time. Not much is known about Theodore before he became the Pope except that he was a supporter of Pope Formosus. Formosus,if you recall,had his rotting dead body dug up by insane Pope Stephen VI. The corpse was then placed on trial for supposed crimes against the Church,this was later known as the Cadaver Synod. Crazy Pope Stephen VI ruled that Formosus was guilty and was declared an invalid Pope,meaning that all the clergy or Bishops that he appointed were now null. These Holy men remained in a clerical limbo until Pope Theodore took office and undid all the damage that Stephen had wrought. In record time(for Rome)Theodore called a new synod to undo Stephen’s cadaver synod. Formosus was declared a valid Pope and all appointments and declarations that he had made were now ruled legal. When Formosus had been found guilty in his sham trial,his body was mutilated,dragged outside and then thrown into the Tiber river. A monk later secretly fished out the body and had been keeping it safe this entire time. Pope Theodore recovered the body and after a grand funeral,entombed Formosus in St.Peter’s Basilica where he could finally rest in peace. Pope Theodore II passed away virtually days afterwards.