Pope Benedict IX left the Papacy to marry a girl,and this would have been very romantic in any other story but Benedict also happened to be miserable little snot that actually sold the office to pay for said marriage. Ugh. This guy. I’ve been dreading this guy. Put on the chair of Peter by his influential family(his Uncles had been Popes),Benedict was all of about 20 years old when he was elected and you can guess how this plays out. Every awful thing that you could accuse a 20 year old of,Benedict was accused of(and probably guilty of). Eventually the Roman people ran him out of town and replaced him with Pope Sylvester III. Nothing if not persistent,Benedict returned with an army and forced poor Sylvester into a monastery. Benedict “Poped” for a year before he grew bored and decided to marry. He agreed to basically sell the Papacy to his Godfather(who becomes Pope Gregory VI)in exchange for money to marry and off he went(again). Benedict soon changed his mind and returned to claim his Papacy,but Gregory wasn’t budging and now Sylvester was poking his nose back into Papal business. Three Popes,we had three Popes and this was just two Popes too many so King Henry III of Germany decided to intervene. Henry called a synod to set things right. Sylvester and Gregory stepped down but Benedict refused to appear and refused to set down. No matter,Henry elected a German Bishop and this became Pope Clement II. Clement crowned Henry Holy Roman Emperor and apparently…..apparently(!)this resolved this mess. Nope. Clement passed away a year later and look who’s back….Yes,it’s Benedict again(Are you still following any of this?). Emperor Henry sent a force into Rome to permanently remove Benedict once and for all in favor of Pope Damasus II. Benedict was brought up on charges of simony(the selling of Church offices)and he was finally excommunicated. He would live through three more Popes before dying in 1055.
The son of a priest,Marinus was groomed from very early for big things in the Church. Moving to Rome and entering into the Papal court when he was only 12,he worked his way up to be a trusted legate to several Popes. When he became Pope he pardoned several priests and Bishops that had been excommunicated by his predecessor Pope John VIII. One of those Bishops was named Formosus,who will become Pope in 891 and will be a part of the most bizarre scene in Papal history…..but we’ll get to that in three more weeks. (oh boy is it weird…..)
When researching the history of the Papacy,historians often mixed up the names of Pope Marinus and Pope Martinus(or Martin). Popes Marinus II and III were listed as Martins by mistake and so when French Bishop Simon de Brion became Pope in 1281 he took the name Martin IV when he should have been Martin II. File this under useless Papal trivia.
Pope Saint Nicholas the Great is the perfect symbol of what a Pope should be to our world. He is our final arbiter in matters of faith and morals. The spiritual buck stops with the Holy Father and Nicholas was more than ready to fulfill these duties even against the threat of death. King Lothair II of Lotharingia(basically what is now parts of Germany,France and Belgium)wanted to abandon his queen and marry some new tramp he picked up at a renaissance fair somewhere. Local councils were called to address the legality of this and the indifferent Bishops of the region signed off on the divorce and sent the new couple on their way. When the Bishops reported what they had done to Pope Nicholas,he excommunicated them on the spot for supporting bigamy. He excommunicated the bishops,he excommunicated all who took part in the council and he excommunicated the King and his new “wife”. What God has joined together,let no one separate and it’s the Pope’s job to make sure that this commandment holds strong. King Lothair was furious and he pleaded with his brother,Holy Royal emperor Louis II,to march into Rome and make the Pope heel. Nicholas barricaded himself behind Vatican defenses as imperial troops stormed Rome. He would not wavier in his decision and Louis knew he would have to kill the Pope in order for his brother to remarry,which was just not an option(nor was his brother worth the trouble). The emperor stood down and ordered his brother to honor his commitment before God and stay married to his queen. Pope Nicholas was adamant that no secular ruler,no matter who he was,had any authority over the Church or her doctrines and he was prepared for whatever came his way in defense of this position.
Pope Nicholas I is also famous for wanting an image of a rooster placed on every church,whether as a weather vane or on a steeple. The rooster serves as a reminder of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus and to remind the clergy to stay vigilant at all times in their faith.
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.