A monk that was put into the Papacy by Holy Roman emperor Otto I,Pope Benedict would have a short and tragic reign. The nearly year long gap between Popes was because Otto I needed to sign off on Benedict before he could begin his term. Pope Benedict enjoyed the protection of the German emperor against the plotting of Roman nobles,but when Otto I passed away,it left Benedict vulnerable to his enemies. Resentful of German interference of Rome,various noble families seized the opportunity to take power. A militia took the Pope prisoner and locked him away in the fortress of Castel Sant’Angelo. The new emperor,Otto II,was busy with his own uprising in Germany,so he was of no help to poor Benedict. The rebels in Rome had elected their own Pope(or anti-pope),Boniface VII,so as to have the Church in Roman control again. When Otto II was finally able to send an army to free Benedict,anti-pope Boniface ordered the imprisoned Pontiff to be strangled in his cell while he himself stuffed as much Vatican loot into his pants before he fled for the hills(by hills I mean Constantinople). We have not heard the last of anti-pope Boniface VII,as his sorry tail will make more appearances during the reigns of the next two Popes(one of which ends terribly because of him)
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).
Pope Stephen VI is always included in the lists of worst Popes ever,for the simple reason that digging up the corpse of a Pope and desecrating his body will nearly always get you included on any “worst of anything” list. All of this mess started when Holy Roman Emperor Guy of Spoleto demanded that Pope Formosus crown Guy’s son Lambert co-emperor and King of Italy. Formosus reluctantly obeyed him but quickly went to work secretly raising up an army to overthrow the new King. Pope Formosus passed away before King Lambert could be overthrown but Lambert would never forget how close the Pope came to running him out of Italy,or maybe even killing him. Stephen VI was a bitter enemy of Pope Formosus,and a loyal supporter of King Lambert,which is why this relatively unknown Bishop was elected to the Papacy in 896. Oh,and he may have been legitimately insane. The King now had his partner in revenge to enact his horrible retribution to the dead Formosus. Pope Stephen VI ordered that the dead Pope be dug up,dressed in Papal vestments and placed on the stand for his “trial”. For the next few hours,under the watchful devious glare of the King,Pope Stephen VI ranted,raved and screamed at Formosus’ dead body. A deacon cowered behind Formosus and answered(for Formosus)to Stephen’s charges of crimes against the Church. When the trial was over,Stephen ruled that all of Formosus’ actions as Pope were void,he had the blessing hand of Formosus dismembered and then his body was thrown into the Tiber river(a monk secretly recovered the body and hid it away). All of these hysterics were just too much for the Romans and Stephen himself was removed from office and imprisoned,where he was he was later found strangled. King Lambert was assassinated soon afterwards. The next Pope,Romanus,overrulled the findings of this sham trial and the Pope after him,Theodore II,had the body of Pope Formosus reburied with full honors in St Peter’s Basilica.