Pope Saint Leo IX was a strict reformer and one of our warrior Popes,leading armies against the Normans in southern Italy. He began his career as a reforming Bishop in Germany and was handpicked by Emperor Henry III to be the new Pope. Being a stickler for rules,Leo only accepted his new position if the clergy and people of Rome actually wanted him(they did). Leo set about reforming the Papacy(and the Universal Church)in many ways,combating simony(disposing Bishops elected by bribery),fixing the Vatican’s finances and condemning priests that were not celibate. Leo took his reforms on the road and traveled to Churches in other parts of Italy,Germany and France to make sure every one was on the same page in this effort to clean up the Church.
The Eastern Church begged Leo to help with Norman(Vikings!)invaders in Southern Italy(which was under their jurisdiction),so Leo himself led a ragtag Papal army south to rid the area of the invaders. The leader of the Normans was horrified that he would have to fight,and possibly kill,the Pope,so he tried every effort to compromise but to no avail. The Pope’s army was crushed(because…Vikings!)and Leo was taken prisoner. The respectful Normans apologized to him probably everyday for the next nine months that he was their captive. Leo passed away shortly after being released in 1054. For his moral character and his efforts for reform,he was Canonized in 1082. His feast day is April 19,which is the same day my family and I were baptized and joined the Catholic Church!
After Pope Benedict IX made a holy mess of the Papacy,causing three Popes at once,King Henry III made his way from Germany to Rome to try to set things right. Accompanying him on his journey was the Bishop of Bamberg,Suidger von Morsleben. Popes Sylvester III,Pope Benedict IX and Pope Gregory VI all laid claim to the Papacy(thanks to that rotten Benedict and all of his shenanigans). Henry called a synod and immediately disposed Sylvester(who didn’t want it) and Bendict(who didn’t deserve it),and Gregory(who bought it)was forced to resign. In their place,Henry elected his Bishop(who we already mentioned)to the Papacy. Now we had one Pope and one Pope only and he took the name Clement II. Clement’s first act was to crown Henry III the new Holy Roman emperor. Clement was a reforming Pope and he enacted degrees against simony(looking at you,Pope Gregory VI). Sadly,he didn’t live very long as he soon died from poisoning from lead sugar,but we don’t know if it was murdered or if the lead sugar was used as some sort of medicine. Clement’s body was transferred back to Bamberg,Germany and he is the only Pope buried north of the Alps.
Since I’m falling behind on my weekly Popes,I’ve enlisted my children to help me draw my Popes. This week’s guest artist is my 12 year old son Jack! I paid him in peanut butter cups and Dr Pepper for his trouble.
Many men have bribed their way into the Papacy but Pope Gregory VI literally bought the office. Like bought. From another Pope.(This is all terrible)
Pope Benedict IX was all of 20 when he became Pope and he’s the chief culprit for causing a mess of the Papacy from 1032 to around 1048. Benedict IX was Pope three different times and one of those times,he left the office to marry a girl. Benedict went to his godfather for advice of what to do and his godfather,John Gratian, the Archpriest of St. John by the Latin Gate,suggested he abdicate. Benedict agreed,in exchange for money for his upcoming wedding,which was gladly paid so Rome could hopefully be rid of him. His wealthy godfather paid him the money and promptly made himself the new Pope in his stead,taking the name Gregory VI. Trouble was that the was still another man claiming to be Pope(Sylvester III),and once Benedict tired of marriage,he returned to Rome assuming he could take up where he left off. This meant a possible three Popes at once and this required the Holy Roman emperor,Henry III,to enter Rome in order to call a synod to clear up all of this mess. Henry III disposed both Sylvester and Benedict,and ordered Gregory to resign,on charges of simony. With these three gone,Henry would appoint his own pick,a German Bishop who took the name Clement II.
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.
Pope Benedict VII was elected as a compromise to appease both Roman nobles and German Holy Roman emperor Otto II. Benedict had a quiet Papacy that was unusually peaceful for the time,given the riots and murders that plagued the reigns of previous Popes. Benedict promoted reforms on monasteries and fought simony in the clergy and he also officially excommunicated anti-pope Boniface VII,who was still lurking in the margins,waiting for his chance to reclaim the Papacy.