Pope Leo VII was either a Cardinal or a Benedictine monk,according to various sources. Leo was handpicked by the ruler of Rome,Alberic II of Spoleto. Alberic was running all things in Rome,including the Papacy,and he needed someone he could both boss around and someone knowledgeable enough about the Church that could answer any questions that Alberic needed answered. Being the Pope was the last thing Leo wanted but it’s assumed that he was forced into the position. Leo was mostly concerned with keeping the peace between various rulers in the area and with monastery reforms in France. A huge negative during his time as Pope was his signing off on allowing the Archbishop of Mainz,Germany to run Jews out of the city if they would not convert to Christianity. Pope Leo did not want them forced into conversion though soooo……still not great.
A virtuous man that was elected in the midst of political chaos,very little is remembered about Pope Romanus. Besides having an awesome Pope name,he was the nephew of Pope Marinus I and was the Cardinal of St. Peter ad Vincula before he was elected to the Papacy. During his four months as Pope,the most lasting thing Romanus did was to void all the actions of his insane predecessor,Pope Stephen VI,who if you’ll remember,dug up the dead body of Pope Formosus and proceeded to scream at it.
Political pressure from the King and vocal supporters of crazy Pope Stephen managed to get Pope Romanus disposed. He “retired” to a monastery and died shortly afterwards. Probably murdered.
Pope Formosus was a brilliant diplomat,a gifted missionary and a Pope beloved by his people,but sadly,his legacy is forever tarnished by the vicious and morbid actions of one of his successors and a vindictive emperor. Holy Roman Emperor Guy III of Spoleto demanded that his son,Lambert,be crowned by the Pope to be King of Italy and co-emperor. Pope Formosus did not trust Lambert and secretly plotted to have him overthrown,which he nearly succeeded in doing before passing away due to a stroke. King Lambert and his mother were nearly driven out of Italy by the Pope’s actions and now that he was dead,they decided to take their revenge,whether he was alive or not. The King plotted with Pope Stephen VI(who may have actually been insane)to dig up the corpse of Formosus and humiliate his memory by putting his dead body on trial for supposed “crimes” against The Holy Church. The rotting body of Formosus(he had been dead for a year)was dressed in Papal vestments and placed on his throne while Pope Stephen screamed questions and vulgarities at his body. To “defend” himself against the charges,a Deacon crouched behind Formosus and answered for him. This disturbing scene played out by Formosus being found guilty(Shocking verdict….)The dead Pope’s vestments were then stripped from him and then three fingers of his blessing hand were cut off. His dismembered body was then dragged outside and thrown into the Tiber River. A monk secretly fished his body out of the river and hid it until this insanity calmed down. Lay Romans and clergy were horrified at all of this and rebelled against Pope Stephen VI. He was thrown into prison where he was later strangled. King Lambert was assassinated two years later. It helps to know that Romans were as disgusted by all of this then, just as much as I was when I first read about this. When the dust cleared and saner heads returned to power,Pope Theodore II had Pope Formosus buried in St Peter’s Basilica with full honors due to this fine Pope.
Pope Donus’s…..Donus’…?….Papacy lasted one year,five months and ten days. Nothing of much consequence happened during his reign. Donus was active in renovating St.Peter’s basilica and other Roman Churches. The only exciting thing that appears to have happened to him is that a group of Syrian Nestorian monks were discovered secretly living in a Roman monastery. Nestorians believed,and still believe,that Jesus had dueling natures,like he was either human or either divine at any given time,but not both at the same time. This is not what the Catholic Church teaches us about his nature and so Pope Donus sent these monks on their way to wherever and gave the monastery to Roman monks. “Donus” is a unique name for a Pope,and the only one to date. We’ve settled into a pattern of various Popes named Benedict,Leo and Pius,but I doubt we’ll ever see another Donus.
Adeodatus II was born in Rome and before becoming Pope he was a member of the Order of Saint Benedict. The Benedictines were known as the Black Monks because of the color of their habits. He was an elderly man when he was elected to the Papacy,and little is actually known of him. We do know that he was a kind man,he was generous to the poor and he helped set up rules for different monasteries. Wikipedia describes his Papacy as not contributing a large amount to society. Ouch. That’s pretty harsh Wikipedia. I’m really not sure what else to write……..the “Black Monk” seems like a cool nickname so he’s got that going for him.
Pope Sabinian’s short Papacy had the bad luck of following Pope Gregory the Great’s. In fact,Sabinian’s legacy is directly tied to his predecessor. The Lombards had an on again/off again relationship with Rome in that they liked to show up every few years and try to starve the Romans out of their gates. They were a very “siege-y” bunch of people. When this happened under Pope Gregory(The Great. Don’t forget),he opened up the Vatican granaries and let the people have whatever they needed to keep their families fed. He did this for free. Pope Gregory was a charitable kind of guy. Probably why he’s referred to as “The Great”, but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that or not. Now when the Lombards showed up under Pope Sabinian,he did the same thing Gregory did. Only this time he charged the people for the grain and not only that,he charged them extra. Yeah,that pretty much did it for him with the Roman people. A legacy as a profiteering cheapskate is always going to be a hard thing to shake off. When Pope Sabinian passed away suddenly,his funeral procession had to take alternate routes to St Peter’s to avoid angry mobs of apparently hungry Romans. His Papacy wasn’t a total loss though,he filled Church positions with lay people as opposed to Gregory filling them with his monk friends……so that’s….something.
Born to an extremely wealthy and powerful family,Gregory was made a prefect(a kind of governor)of Rome due to the influence of his father. He excelled at his job but once his father passed away,Gregory gave away every dime his family had and soon turned the family mansion into a monastery. He became a monk and devoted himself to an ascetic life of Christian devotion and study. His solitude was soon disturbed when Pope Benedict I came calling for his intellect and influence. Gregory was reluctantly made a deacon and brilliantly served under two Popes. With the death of Pope Pelagius, Gregory retreated back to his precious peace and quiet at his monastery. Not so fast…..the clergy of Rome knew a good thing when they saw it and unanimously elected him to the Papacy. Gregory begged them to reconsider but the Church would have none of it,and so a legendary Papacy began. He was tireless in Church reform,writings,charity and missionary work. He set in motion the re-conversion of England(after Pagans ran amok)and he helped refine the Mass which he loved so dearly. The Gregorian chant was named for him, although he had nothing to do with the music itself. He was one of three Popes referred to as “The Great”,but Gregory,being the humble monk he was at heart,preferred the title of “Servant of the Servants of God”. To emphasize what a great man Gregory was,John Calvin,a passionate Protestant pastor during the Reformation,said that Pope Gregory was “the last good Pope”. Well,we know that wasn’t the case but it’s high praise from someone who was no friend to The Catholic Church or to the Popes. Gregory the Great is a Doctor of the Church and is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers. He is recognized as a Saint in not only the Catholic Church,but also in the Eastern Orthodox Church and in some Lutheran churches! Mister the Great’s feast day is September 3rd and of course he is buried in St.Peter’s Basilica.