Pope John XIV was handpicked by Holy Roman emperor Otto II. Otto was German and as we’ve seen from previous Popes,the Italians did not like having their Holy Fathers picked out by foreigners,regardless if the Pope was Italian or not. Because of this,poor John was unpopular from the start and once Otto II passed away(in the Pope’s arms!),the Roman nobles once again plotted to remove the German’s Pope. Enter Anti-pope Boniface VII. Boniface weaseled his way into the Papacy by murdering Pope Benedict VI a decade earlier and he had been on the run avoiding the emperor ever since. Seeing that Pope John was now vulnerable with the emperor dead,Boniface made his move. Marching a militia back into Rome,he threw John into prison and retook his throne as the sham head of the Church. Shortly after,Boniface had John XIV strangled,making this the second Pope that he was responsible for murdering. The non-noble Roman people were disgusted by all of this and most of all disgusted by Boniface. When he passed away a few months later(natural causes? Poison?)the people took his body,stripped it naked and then dragged it through the streets. His corpse came to rest in front of the Lateran Palace,where the angry mob proceeded to mutilate and dismember it. Boy,when Romans decide to turn on you,they didn’t screw around.
Pope John XIV’s real name was Peter,but since that name is forever off limits in honor of our first Pope,he decided to go with John,which to date,has been the most often used Pope name. (I somehow made John look like Bill Murray but he’s Catholic so it’ll work!)
Pope Conon had the distinction of being the only Pope elected because he was incredibly handsome. The Pope at this time was basically in charge of the Roman army,so the soldiers now decided that they wanted a say as to who should occupy the throne of Peter. The clergy and the army went back and forth and could not come to an agreement,but then they all looked at Father Conon. He was simple,he was wise and he was Holy. He was also the son of a general. The clergy liked his holiness and the army liked the fact that he came from military blood. On top of all this is the fact that he was just an incredible presence to behold. Numerous sources talk up his appearance. This is all very weird,and it reminds me of the story of how the Continental Congress chose George Washington to lead them because he was the tallest man in the room and he looked incredible in his tailored uniform. So anyway,we have our new Pope,but there’s one thing they didn’t think through…….Pope Conon may have been the most handsome Pope ever,but he was also incredibly OLD. O-L-D old,like even old by Pope standards old. He barely lasted a year. His lasting legacy,other than his dashing good looks,was sending missionaries into Germany,at that time called Franconia. Oh if only he spelled his name with an A we could have been so close to having a Pope CONAN. Oh well,we do have a Pope Lando coming later so there’s that…..
Angry Pope Theodore I was the next in the line for Popes having to constantly battle the eastern Church over the nature of Jesus. Monothelitism is the belief that Jesus only had one will,a Divine one,as opposed to our Catholic belief that Jesus had both a human and Divine will. This back and forth between the western and eastern Churches over this had been going on for….(forever it seems since this is all I’ve written about on this blog for weeks now). Pope Theodore refused to recognize the new patriarch of Constantinople,Paul,because the previous guy(Pyrrhus)still believed in the Jesus of only one nature when he passed away,which Paul never corrected. Pope Theodore was still irritated because Pyrrhus had once come to Rome and denounced Monothelitism to the Pope’s face,then after leaving town flip-flopped back. This made the Pope so freaking mad that he supposedly wrote out the excommunication of Pyrrhus using consecrated wine on the tomb of St Peter as his desk. Supposedly(I doubt it was this dramatic but it’s still a cool image). On and on went the battle of wills between the two Churches over the nature of our Lord. The emperor of Constantinople was so sick of hearing about it that he jailed a Papal ambassador when the sensitive subject came up. Pope Theodore was sick of all of this too and called for the Lateran Council of 649 to condemn the issue and hopefully put it to rest once and for all. Unfortunately he passed away before the Council could meet and it would be the next Pope(Saint Martin I),who would bear the full brunt of this strife between the two Churches. This wouldn’t be settled for another 40 years after Theodore(six more weeks for me),so maybe by then I’ll learn to spell “Monothelitism” without the spellcheck correcting me.
Pope Boniface III was elected in the year 606 but voting shenanigans prevented him from taking office for nearly a year. After a lengthy investigation to make sure he was elected properly,Boniface went to work on reforming the election process to prevent any further shady elections. Well,that didn’t work out,but give the man credit for trying. Among the election rules that he laid down was that it was now forbidden for anyone to discuss who the next Pope might be while the current Pope was still alive. This rule is still basically in effect even today and it is also why Papal elections are the least annoying elections…..as opposed to say,Presidential elections. His other major election rule was that you had to wait three days after the death of a Pope before voting to elect the new Pope could start. It’s been lengthened to around 15 days now,but this is mainly to give Cardinals enough time to get to Rome for the vote(they’re a lot more spread out nowadays).
Boniface’s other major contribution was having the emperor of Constantinople declare “The See of Blessed Peter the Apostle should be the head of all the Churches”. This lofty title was in response to the patriarch of Constantinople calling himself the “Ecumenical Patriarch”. The Popes since Gregory I had issues with this title and under Boniface III it was finally put to rest as to who was the boss of who(in relation to the West and East Churches). I based the image off of an old drawing of Boniface but it looks like I just drew an ancient version of Doctor Strange. Hmmmm,maybe Steve Ditko(creator of Dr.Strange)was a fan of ancient Papal vestments….By the Hoary hosts of Hoggoth!!
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 a wealthy and noble Roman family,Pope Pelagius was the second of the Popes handpicked by the emperor of Constantinople. The previous Pope had been slowly tortured by emperor Justinian into accepting heretical positions. The new Pope decided to go along in order to get along. Pelagius himself did not believe in these heretical ideas and the Christians of Rome were not made to change their beliefs. Pelagius agreed to support Justinian in order to bring about peace and maybe get Justinian’s troops out of Rome. Rome had been the battleground for both the soldiers of Constantinople and of the Goth King of Italy. As a result,it was devastated by the fighting,which left many people homeless in the aftermath of the destruction. Pelagius hoped his compromise could help bring about peace to Rome,but instead it alienated him from the Romans,who thought he had sold out,and it alienated him from northern Italy and Gaul(present day France),who thought he was the puppet of Constantinople’s emperor. No matter. Pope Pelagius put his head down and went to work. Pelagius did his best to generate future revenue for the Church,root out abuses in the clergy and used his OWN vast fortune to build homes and clothe and feed the poor in Rome and various other lands. Pope Pelagius was known as the “Father of the poor and of his country”. He is buried in St.Peter’s basilica.
I tried to get fancy with this Pope’s picture and I inadvertently made it look like he’s made out of chocolate. D’oh! Oh well,just in time for Easter I guess…….
Pope Vigilius was not a great Pope. He lied,schemed and swindled his way to the Papacy,and he may have even had a hand in the death of the previous Pope,Silverius. Like I said. Not a great Pope. Vigilius was the first of the Byzantine Popes,basically that means Popes nudged into office under the influence of Constantinople Emperors. The main controversy of his Papacy was the various heresies of the day and the different push and pulls of the kings or emperors trying to assert their beliefs by force. Eastern emperor Justinian condemned writings known as “The Three Chapters”,which denounced one set of heresies while it supported another. Justinian demanded that the Pope approve this condemnation of these writings,and it was a “damned if you,damned if you don’t” situation that Vigilius was forced to take part in. To his credit,he refused. He couldn’t condemn these documents,because it would show validation to another heresy that The Church did not approve of. Vigilius was a weasel,but he was a devout weasel. Justinian lost patience with him eventually and had his goons seize the Pope in the middle of Mass. He was forcibly brought to Constantinople and made to sweat it out until he agreed to the emperor’s demands. Vigilius was kept in custody for nearly a decade,which explains his long Papacy when the average Pontiff term at this time was just a few years. He was stubborn at first,declaring that “You may keep me in captivity, but the blessed Apostle Peter will never be your captive.” Defiant words,but eventually he was worn down and he regrettably submitted to the emperor’s demands. Pope Vigilius was finally released,but unfortunately died in Sicily on his way back to Rome.
Attila the Hun,the scourge of God,was on a rampage. The most feared enemy of the Roman empire had plundered the Balkans,invaded France and conquered much of the Eastern empire when he crossed into Italy in 452. Attila wanted the sister of the Roman emperor as a trophy and he murdered and destroyed all that stood between him and Rome. His invasion was slowed due to lack of resources and diease,so the emperor saw an opportunity to perhaps buy some time by sending in the Pope to ask for mercy. Pope Leo rode into Attila’s camp unarmed(!)and got his meeting with the barbarian. No record of what was said,or offered,or begged,but when the meeting was over,Attila simply packed up and retreated home. What in the world did the Pope say?? It’s true that Attila’s forces were weakened,but he was an uncompromising monster that was hot for the emperor’s sister,with little in the way of taking her and Rome and he simply leaves with no excuses?? No wonder the Romans started calling Leo “The Great” afterwards.
Leo was a brilliant aristocrat that had influence over both secular and Church matters and he was a very powerful force against heresies. Monophysitism was an Eastern heresy that claimed Jesus had only one nature(divine),as opposed to the Church’s position that Jesus was fully divine and fully human. The Tome of Leo was a mic drop letter to all Eastern Bishops that had any doubts as to his position on the matter or to his authority over all Christians in the world. Basically what Leo said went. Pope Leo the Great is buried in St.Peter’s basilica and his feast day is November 10th.
Pope Sylvester I was in office for over 20 years and he was the longest reigning Pope at the time of his death. Emperor Constantine had just legalized Christianity and it really helps the job security of being Pope when the Roman Emperor isn’t always trying to martyr you. There is not very much known of Sylvester,as his time in office was pretty drama-free. What is known is that many churches were built during his time,including the original version of the most famous church in the world; St. Peter’s Basilica. When Jesus told Peter that he would be the “Rock upon which my Church is built”,he was speaking figuratively and now,literally,as St.Peter’s was built directly on top of the tomb of Peter. This version of the Church would last for over a thousand years until the present St. Peter’s was built in it’s place. Apostle burial grounds are much more accepting of having things built on top of them,as opposed to the Native American kind……..
One of the most famous legends concerning Pope Sylvester was the baptizing of Emperor Constantine. The Emperor was suffering from leprosy and when the baptizing waters flowed over him,he was miraculously healed. When the Pope mounted his horse to ride back to the Lateran Palace,the grateful Constantine took the bridle and humbly walked the Pope’s horse back home in front of all the Roman people. Pope Sylvester’s feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death on December 31.
Pope Sixtus,or wait,is his name Xystus? The earliest texts refer to Pope Sixtus(and the next three Popes named Sixtus),as Pope Xystus. Xystus is derived from a Greek word meaning “shaved”,or “Polished”. Was he baldheaded? Clean-shaven? Was this just a term used to describe a Bishop whose name has been lost to time? The name Sixtus sounds fishy also. He’s the sixth Bishop of Rome after Peter sooooo,yeah,I’m guessing he’s got a made up name. Anyways,Pope Sixtus I is credited with several things,like allowing only the sacred ministers to touch the sacred vessels,like the gold cup that holds the sacred wine. He also introduced to the Mass the Sanctus,which goes “Holy,Holy,Holy,Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest,Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest”. Praising our Lord in the highest,in my favorite hymn during Mass(the word Hosanna just begs to be sang loudly),all due to our man Xystus. I mean Sixtus. Potato Potahto……