A Brief History
On November 6, 963, Holy Roman Emperor Otto I called a council in Rome to depose the current Pope, John XII, on charges of leading an armed rebellion against Otto, as well as conducting his secular affairs in a corrupt and immoral manner.
Pope John XII was born in Rome to a rich and powerful family, and in what would seem strange today, became Pope when he was either in his late teens or early twenties! In a time when the Pope was expected to rule as a secular leader as well as providing spiritual guidance to the Catholic Church, John led his Papal force in battles and allied the Papal States and himself with Otto I of Germany, eventually crowning Otto as Holy Roman Emperor.
Infamous for his coarse nature and allegedly running the Vatican like a “brothel,” John, born Octavian, drew the ire of many of his critics in the nobility. Convoluted games of thrones ensued, and John ended up on the wrong side of Otto who was irked by a lack of loyalty on John’s part. During the power struggles John did not hesitate to have his enemies mutilated and tortured, a not quite “Christian” practice!
John died in 964 while only about 30 years old after a reign of 9 years, allegedly during sexual intercourse from an attack of apoplexy! Or alternately at the hand of an irate husband of his lover…
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For more information, please see…
Matthews, Rupert. The Popes: Every Question Answered. Thunder Bay Press, 2014.
Wilson, Peter. Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire. Belknap Press, 2020.:
The featured image in this article, a photograph by User:Kolossos of statues of Otto I, right, and Adelaide in Meissen Cathedral, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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