5 of the Most Scandalous Popes in History
For centuries the papacy was considered the highest office in Christendom; even Kings bowed to the Pope. Unfortunately many popes throughout history have abused their powers committing heinous acts ranging from sexual dalliances to murder.
Stephen VI is most infamous for the Cadaver Synod of 897. Stephen VI held such a grudge against the former pope Formosus that even nullifying all of his acts could not satify him. After his ninth month in the papacy Stephen VI had Formosus dug up and put his rotting corpse on trial.
Stephen VI interrogated the corpse for hours and found him guilty of every charge. For the deceased pontiff’s punishment three of his fingers were cut off, his body was dragged through the streets of Rome and then thrown into the Tiber river.
Stephen VI was later stripped of his office, imprisoned and strangled.
Sergius III is most famous for being the only pope to order the execution of another pope. Antipope Christoper was strangled to death under his orders, as was Leo V. It is also speculated that Sergius III may have been the father of another Pope, John XI mothered by Marozia the daughter of a powerful count.
Sergius III also honored pope Stephen VI by once again annulling all acts performed by Pope Formosus and forcing all Bishops ordained by Pope Formosus to be reordained.
Sergius III did however restore the LateranPalace which had been destroyed in an Earthquake during the year 896.
John XII became Pope at the ripe old age of 18, he was the son of the Lady Marozia and possible former pope Sergius III.
John XII was a notorious womanizer who practically turned the Vatican into a brothel. He had slept with his mother’s concubine, Stephana, with the widow of Rainer, and even his own niece among countless other women.
John XII also allegedly blinded his confessor; a cardinal deacon named Benedict. He is also said to have murdered and castrated a cardinal deacon by the name of John.
It was the German Emperor Otto who called together a synod to removed John XII from the Papacy for sacrilege,simony, perjury, murder, adultery, and incest. John XII refused to acknowledge the synod and had all participants excommunicated. It was of little use though he was found guilty, and his ordination declared invalid.
He is said to have died 8 days after being stricken with paralysis during an act of adultery, however that cannot be proved.
The French were not happy when Urban VI was elected to the office of Pope and many French Cardinals fled Rome out of fear. His papacy was actually the beginning of the Great Western Schism.
While Urban VI’s intention of limiting the lavish lifestyles cardinals had come to enjoy was with good intention his practice of doing so was not. He often had people murdered, tortured, and imprisoned at will.
During the Great Western Schism there was an antipope Clement VII, French, who excommunicated Urban VI and his patroness Joan of Naples had long since abandoned him.
The cause of Urban VI’s death is disputed. Some say it was caused by injuries sustained during a fall, others speculate he may have been poisoned.
Alexander VI, born Rodrigo Borgia bought his way into the papacy. He was not content with money, Alexander VI wanted power; power beyond power really.
Alexander VI is certainly not remembered for his purity nor his piety. He had four children with his mistress Vannozza Catanei , including a daughter Lucrezia whom he married off three times to increase his political ambitions. Alexander VI also raised members of his own family and of Vannozza’s family to high ranking offices.
When Alexander VI was not practicing nepotism it is said he would be arranging orgies, and the occasional murder. Alexander VI was also however a great patron of the arts commissioning much of Michelangelo’s work for the Vatican.