Pope Leo VIII has been listed as both the 131st Pope and the 132nd Pope. He is also listed as both an antipope and an official Pope. It’s all very confusing. This mess was started when his predecessor Pope John XII(who was terrible)started plotting against Holy Roman Emperor Otto I. Otto marched on Rome and ran John out of town,quickly electing Leo to take his place. Leo wasn’t even a priest,he wasn’t anything really but a layman of the Church(he seems to have been picked out of a crowd randomly). In the span of several hours he was ordained every rank in the Church,from a doorman to a lector to a altar boy to deacon and finally moved up to Bishop of Rome. Once Otto left town,sneaky Pope John XII marched some mercenaries back into Rome and took back his Papacy by force,causing Leo to flee to Otto for help. John was sitting pretty smug on the Chair of Peter when he died suddenly(and scandalously).
With Leo nowhere in sight(and not really missed),the Church elected Benedict V as their new Pope….which infuriated Otto who had planned on having his stooge Leo resume his Papal duties. Leo rode back into the city with Otto and had the Papal vestments stripped off of Benedict and had Benedict’s staff smashed over the poor man’s head. On the bright side,Benedict was allowed to slip off to Hamburg and remain a deacon there for the remainder of his life. Since Benedict and Leo overlap each other,depending on which book you’re checking they could be flipflopped in order.
Pope John XII was a scoundrel,to put it best,and at worst he was said to have “soiled the Chair of Peter for 9 years”. When the ruler of all of Rome,Alberic II,was on his deathbed,he forced all of the clergy to promise to elect his son Prince Octavianus to the Papacy(once the current Pope passed away). Octavianus was all of 18 when he became the Holy Father and if you were to wonder how a spoiled rich child of the most powerful man in Rome would act as Pope,you would not be disappointed.
Whoring,gambling,hunting,drinking,fighting(check,check check..) During his reign,Pope John would be accused of rape,of incest,of blinding his confessor and castrating a Cardinal,basically a demon from Hell. Oddly enough,when he did care about actual Catholic business,he was strangely very serious and dedicated to the growth of the Church in Spain,England and Germany. He appointed many great men to be Bishops in these countries(I guess so they could do the hard work while he played)
Pope John’s downfall came when he personally led armies into northern Italy to reclaim Papal lands stolen by the King of Italy. When his men stumbled he requested aid from King Otto of Germany. King Otto smashed the Italian forces and helped to assure Papal control of the region. All he requested in return of his services was for Pope John to crown him Holy Emperor,which John did. Once this took place Pope John immediately started to plot King Otto’s demise(swell guy!) The offended King Otto promptly marched back into Rome and ran John out of the country. Otto elected a new Pope(Leo VIII)to replace John but the disposed Pope soon gathered reinforcements and set his eyes on reclaiming the Vatican. All out war was brewing between John and Otto when our devious Pope met his end in a most demeaning way. He was having…..let’s say “relations” when he was brutally beaten to death by a jealous husband. Credit due to the Catholic Church in that they never shy away from the darker parts of their history. If we were to somehow ask Pope Francis what his thoughts are on Pope John XIII,he’d for sure acknowledge that yes,that guy was a pain in the ass.
“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.” – Hilaire Belloc
Pope Agapetus II was the lone shining light in the midst of a corrupt Rome. The tyrant Alberic II was the ruler of Rome and was in the business of handpicking his own Popes. The man he picked,Agapetus II,was a virtuous man who was well respected throughout all of Christendom. While Alberic did whatever he pleased in the secular world,Agapetus worked diligently to restore order to the Church and various monasteries throughout the region. When Alberic was close to death,he called the Pope and all other high ranking Church members to his deathbed and ordered them to promise to elect his degenerate son to the Papacy whenever Agapetus passed away,which unfortunately they did. The next Pope,John XII,will go down in history as one of the worst Popes ever.(Argh I hate it when I have to write about bad Popes!)
Pope Marinus II could best be described as a “Fly under the radar” Pope. Alberic II of Spoleto was running all things in Rome,including the Papacy,and he handpicked the new Pope because Marinus wouldn’t so much as cough without Alberic’s permission. The previous Pope,Stephen VIII,tried to have Alberic overthrown,and he paid for it with his being tortured and imprisoned. Fearing for his life during the entire time of his Papacy,Marinus did everything he could to stay in Alberic’s good graces. The most interesting thing about Marinus is that his name often got confused with Pope Martin,so some historians thought there were more Martins then there actually were and we would eventually have a Pope Martin IV who was supposed to be a Martin II.
Pope Stephen VIII was appointed by the ruler of Rome Alberic II of Spoleto. Unlike previous Popes,who did whatever Alberic wanted,Stephen’s relationship with him was a little more strained. Alberic and King of Italy Hugh were constantly quarreling and word soon got to Alberic that the new Pope was actually in league with King Hugh in a plot to overthrow Alberic. Pope Stephen and his cohorts(Bishops)were arrested,tortured and imprisoned for the rest of their lives(which wasn’t very long after).
Stephen’s only other notable action while he was Pope was helping King Louis IV of France put down a rebellion by threatening excommunication to all rebels if they did not back down(which they promptly did).