Pope Sergius III

Pope Sergius III

Infobox Pope
English name=Sergius III

term_start=January 29 904
term_end=April 14, 911
predecessor=Leo V
successor=Anastasius III
birthplace=Rome, Italy
dead=dead|death_date=death date|911|4|14|mf=y
deathplace=Rome, Italy

Sergius III was a Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in two intervals (between 897 and April 14, 911). Because Sergius III was allegedly the only pope known to have ordered the murder of another pope and the only pope known to have fathered an illegitimate son who later became pope, his pontificate has been described as "dismal and disgraceful." [Wilkes. 2001, October 31. " [http://www.law.uga.edu/academics/profiles/dwilkes_more/his31_cadaver.html The Cadaver Synod: The Strangest Trial in History] ." "Flagpole Magazine". p. 8.]

His tenure was part of a period of feudal violence and disorder in central Italy, when the Papacy was a pawn of warring aristocratic factions. It was also the dawn of an age of powerful women. Sergius was the son of Benedictus, and came from a noble Roman family.

The pontificate of Sergius III, according to Liutprand of Cremona, was remarkable for the rise of what papal historians saw as a "pornocracy," or rule of the harlots, a reversal of the natural order as they saw it, according to "Liber pontificalis" and a later chronicler who was also biased against Sergius III. This "pornocracy" was an age with women in power: Theodora, whom Liutprand characterized as a "shameless whore... [who] exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man" and her daughter Marozia, the mother of Pope John XI (931–935) and reputed to be the mistress of Sergius III, largely upon a remark by Liutprand (see Brook link below).

Sergius III owed his rise to the power of his patron, the military commander Theophylact, Count of Tusculum who held the position of "vestarius" in control of the disbursements at the top of papal patronage. Sergius III and his party opposed Pope Formosus (891–896), who ordained him bishop of Caere (Cerveteri) – in order to remove him from Rome, as an unsympathetic source records. He was his faction's unsuccessful candidate for the papacy in 896; when Pope John IX (898–900) was elected instead, he excommunicated Sergius III, who had to withdraw from his see at Cerveteri for safety. Elected Pope in 897, Sergius III was forcibly exiled by Lambert, duke of Spoleto, and all the official records were destroyed; consequently most of the surviving documentation about Sergius comes from his opponents.

When antipope Christopher (903–904) seized the seat of St. Peter by force, the Theophylact faction of Romans revolted and ejected him in 903–904. They then invited Sergius III to come out of retirement. His return is marked as January 29 904.

Back in power, Sergius III now annulled all the ordinations of Formosus and demanded all bishops ordained by Formosus be reordained, an unwelcome decision reversed again after his death. Sergius III honoured Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had been responsible for the "Cadaver Synod" that had condemned and mutilated the corpse of Pope Formosus, and placed a laudatory remark on Stephen VI's tombstone. He then reportedly had the much-abused corpse of Formosus exhumed once more, tried, found guilty again, and beheaded, thus in effect conducting a second Cadaver Synod, [ "Nor was he [Sergius III] content with thus dishonouring the dead Pope [Formosus] , but he drags his carcass again out of the grave, beheads it as if it had been alive, and then throws it into the Tiber, as unworthy the honour of human burial." Citation
last = Platina
first = Bartolomeo
authorlink = Bartolomeo Platina
title = The Lives of the Popes From The Time Of Our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII
publisher = Griffith Farran & Co.
location = London
pages = 243
volume = I
url = http://www.archive.org/details/thelivesofthepop01platuoft
accessdate= 2008-01-08.
] although Joseph Brusher, S.J. says that "Sergius [III] indulged in no resurrection-man tactics himself" [cite web
url= http://cfpeople.org/Books/Pope/POPEp120.htm#T1
title= Sergius III
accessdate= 2008-01-02
last= Brusher
first= Joseph
publisher= Neff-Kane
year= 1959
work= Popes Through the Ages
] and Schaff, Milman, [Citation
last = Milman
first = Henry Hart
authorlink = Henry Hart Milman
title = History of Latin Christianity
publisher = John Murray
year = 1867
location = London
pages = 287-290.
volume = III
edition = 4th
] , Gregorovius, [Citation
last = Gregorovius
first = Ferdinand
authorlink = Ferdinand Gregorovius
title = The History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages
publisher = George Bell & Sons
year = 1903
location = London
pages = 242-248
volume = III
edition = 2nd
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=tLk4AAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage
accessdate= 2008-01-08.
] von Mosheim, [Citation
last = von Mosheim
first = Johann Lorenz
authorlink = Johann Lorenz von Mosheim
title = Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern
publisher = Stanford and Swords
year = 1852
location = New York
pages = 120-121
volume = II
edition = 5th
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=RxEQAAAAYAAJ&printsec=titlepage
accessdate= 2008-01-08.
] Miley, [Citation
last = Miley
first = John
authorlink = John Miley
title = The History of the Papal States From Their Origin to the Present Day
publisher = T.C. Newby
year = 1850
location = London
pages = 269-281
volume = II
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=mrsLAAAAYAAJ&printsec=titlepage
accessdate= 2008-01-08.
] Mann, [Citation
last = Mann
first = Horace Kinder
title = The Lives of the Popes In The Early Middle Ages
publisher = Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co., Ltd.
year = 1910
location = London
pages = 119-142
volume = IV
url = http://www.archive.org/details/livesofpopesinea04mannuoft
accessdate= 2008-01-08.
] Darras, [Citation
last = Darras
first = Joseph-Epiphane
authorlink = Joseph-Epiphane Darras
title = A General History of the Catholic Church
publisher = Excelsior Catholic Publishing House
year = 1898
location = New York
pages = 560-564
volume = II
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=oeoQAAAAIAAJ&printsec=titlepage
accessdate= 2008-01-08.
] John the Deacon of Naples, Flodoard, and others make no mention of this story.

His nemeses, Pope Leo V (903) and Antipope Christopher, both died in 904, allegedly strangled in prison on the order of Sergius, [Citation
last = Vulgarius
title = De Causa Formosiana, c. xiv.
] a claim that the Catholic Encyclopedia called "extremely doubtful."

Sergius III restored the Lateran Palace, which had been shattered by an earthquake in 896. He is the first pope to be depicted wearing the triple-crowned papal tiara.


External links

* [http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope0119.htm Catholic Forum.com] : Pope Sergius III
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13729a.htm "Catholic Encyclopedia":] Pope Sergius III
* [http://www.societaschristiana.com/Encyclopedia/P/Pornocracy.html "Societas Christianae Encyclopedia:] The "Pornocracy"
* [http://fmg.ac/FMG/Popes.pdf Lindsay Brook, "Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages"] offers some more specific documentation
* [http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/01_01_0904-0911-_Sergius_III.html Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Latina with anlytical indexes]

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