Born of a noble Roman family,Pope Adrian’s Papacy began under a dark cloud. A very dark and terrible cloud. When Adrian was younger and before becoming a priest,he was married and had a daughter. When he separated from his wife,Adrian entered into the clergy and moved his way up the ranks from Deacon to Cardinal and was finally(reluctantly)elected Pope in 867. Repercussions from the recent past came storming back to the Papacy when Eleutherius,the brother of disgraced Anti-Pope Anastasius,saw an opportunity to pay back Rome for all the trouble his family had been put through. Eleutherius took revenge in the worst way possible,by kidnapping and murdering the former wife and the daughter of Pope Adrian II. Awful. Just awful. Although it’s not known if he was involved,Anastasius was excommunicated(again),and his brother was put to death. Pitiful Pope Adrian went on to continue the work started by previous Pope Nicholas and eventually died five years to the day that he was elected.
Benedict III was a native Roman and Cardinal unanimously voted into the Papacy following the death of Pope Leo IV. Holy Roman emperor Louis II did not like this choice and instead wanted an excommunicated priest named Anastasius to be the new Pope. He decided to install his man by force. Imperial troops marched into Rome,arrested Benedict and had him imprisoned while Anastasius took his position on the chair of Peter. The Roman people,who all favored Benedict,reacted immediately by attacking the troops and instigating bloody riots throughout the city. Roman Bishops even bravely refused to consecrate Anastasius as their new Pope. All of this mess forced Louis II to concede his attempt to steal the Papacy. Benedict was released on the condition that he be merciful on Anastastius and any others who plotted against him. This whole incident further weakened the hold the Holy emperor had on the Pope and the elections that choose him.
Pope Benedict III had a busy three years as Pope. He mediated between squabbling Kings,restored damaged Churches and reasserted his primacy over the Churches in Constantinople. Benedict even hosted the young prince of England and gave the boy a grand tour of the Vatican. The young prince went on to be King Alfred the Great,who put down two Viking invasions of England and was instrumental in keeping the British isles Christian against that pagan menace.
Pope Anastasisus was born in Rome to a man named Maximus. Maximus! I love early Roman names! Anastasius was a advocate of asceticism,(severe self-discipline in all things),in your daily life,and during the Mass he instituted a new rule that priests and bishops had to stand with bowed heads during the readings of the Gospels. He also happened to be good friends with St. Augustine,which to non-Catholics would be like saying you were friends with Batman. I mean it must have been awesome is what I’m saying. He died suddenly and was buried in the Catacombs of Pontian. His tomb was discovered in 1618 and it was found next to the tomb of his successor,Pope Innocent I,who also happened to be Anastasius’ son. The end. Wait! What?? Hold on,chill out,there’s nothing tawdry or salacious going on. Innocent was born before Anastasius became Pope,and probably even before he became a priest. You couldn’t marry after you were ordained a priest but a previous marriage would not have held up the ordination to the priesthood or even election to the Papacy. Celibacy of priests was always encouraged but it wasn’t mandatory until the year 1075. Pope Anastasius’ feast day is December 19th.