Pope John XI was the son of Senatrix Marozia,the ruler of the Papal States,and his father also happened to have been Pope Sergius III(904-911). Since the death of Sergius,Marozia patiently waited until their son was old enough to be “elected” to the Papacy. John was supposedly 25 years old when he ascended to the Chair of Peter,but he was mostly just window dressing as Marozia was the one actually running The Church. Things were running fairly smoothly until Marozia married for a third time,and this is where her empire ran off the rails. Her new man,King Hugh of Italy,insulted Duke Alberic II,who was her son from her first marriage. Things escalated until the Duke raised an army to run King Hugh out of Italy. Many of Hugh’s men were killed as the King fled for the hills. No love lost for his mother,Duke Alberic stripped her of all of her titles and forced her into a monastery. Pope John was placed under house arrest and from then on,until his death,he did whatever his half-brother the Duke ordered him to do,which was mostly to trot himself out for ceremonial duties.
Pope Stephen VII was another stop-gap elected by Marozia,the ruler of the Papal States. Marozia had previously appointed Leo VI to the Papacy and now she’s chosen another elderly Pope to buy time until her son(by Pope Sergius III!)was old enough to fill the chair of St Peter(scandal!). Although he was not properly elected,Stephen was nonetheless a superstar in his own right,having belonged to one of the oldest,most prominent families in Rome,descended from great soldiers,statesmen and one emperor. Barely anything is known about Stephen other than his strict moral code and his wrath when his priests did not follow it. One Greek writer stated that this Pope was the first to not have a beard. I’ve drawn several beardless Popes already so this is information that could’ve been useful YESTERDAY(to quote Adam Sandler)
Pope Leo was a filler Pope that was handpicked by Roman noblewoman Marozia. Senatrix Marozia was the ruler of the Papal States,and just so happened to be the mother of an illegitimate child by previous Pope Sergius III. After she had Pope John X imprisoned,she still needed more time for her son to be an appropriate age so that she could then make him Pope. Pope Leo VI was sufficiently elderly enough that she could not count on him sticking very long(which he did not). A mere three years and one more elderly Pope later(Stephen VI),her young son would become The Holy Father. I should put that in quotations…..”The Holy Father”
War Pope! Muslim invaders had overrun Sicily and were now running wild throughout southern Italy. In a sort of crusade prequel,Pope John X personally supervised a coalition of Christian armies from Italy and Constantinople in destroying all of the invaders and securing the Italian countryside. The victorious Pope was riding high and used his new clout to appoint his brother Peter the new Duke of Spoleto and also made gestures towards a pact with the King of Italy. Marozia,leading noblewoman of Rome and basically the ruler of the Papal States,felt threatened over this Pope’s continuing quest for power. She waited until the Pope was without his bodyguards and then marched a military force into the Lateran Palace,taking John and his brother hostage. Marozia had the Pope’s brother murdered in front of him and then exiled John to a monastery while she installed a puppet Pope that could be more easily controlled. Marozia was buying time until her own son,by earlier Pope Sergius III,was old enough to take the chair of Peter,which would happen in 931 with the “election” of John XI. Poor Pope John X was eventually smothered in his sleep with a pillow. 10 Popes to go until I reach the half-way point of my Pope countdown! Two and a half years to go until I reach Pope Francis(I’ll have a paid off Honda when I’m finished!)
Pope Lando is very unique in that he’s the last Pope that uses a name that has never reappeared through the rest of Papal history. He’s also the last Pope prior to our current Pope Francis to use a name that was not a previously used Pope name. (Pope John Paul I’s name may slip in on a technicality but he’s actually combining the names of two of his immediate predecessors)
The only known action of Pope Lando was that he donated his own personal funds to rebuild the Cathedral of San Salvatore that had been destroyed during an Arab raid. Ha!I got through his whole bio without mentioning Star Wars once!(crap)
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.