Posted by: ken98 | October 11, 2011

Wild Teenage Popes, Murderous French Brothers, and Graceful Elegant Arabs

Day 760 – Ken here (T)(10-11-2011)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.49, pp.130-140)(pages read: 2170)

a fanciful, poetical Illustration of Harun Al-Rashid from the Thousand and One Nights

a fanciful, poetical Illustration of Harun Al-Rashid from the Thousand and One Nights - supposedly Charlemagne and this the most famous of the Abbasid Caliphs exchanged letters, clocks, and elephants and the key to the holy sepulchre (which must have nettled the Romans to no end had they known)

I’m definitely a little under the weather here today – metaphorically and literally – it must be the beginning of Fall, it’s freezing here – and I’m still thinking through mud, so forgive any lack of cogency and a tendency to wander for extended periods off-topic.

We continue, as we usually do, with the next 10 pages of Gibbon in this, the Grab-bag chapter 49 – a little of everything Western, tangentially Roman (city of Rome), marginally Eastern Roman (the Eastern Empire). We are introduced to the Holy Roman Empire and to the Papacy – as the two (Popes and Western emperors) discover each other, to their mutual benefit and discomfiture.

On the way, we glance briefly at one of the high points of Arab culture – Harun Al-Rashid, Abbasid Caliph, and very, very briefly look at the beginning of the Invasions of the Norsemen, the last great movements of the Migration of Peoples in Northern Europe.

Gibbon, being a good Prostestant, goes out of his way to demonstrate just HOW CORRUPT the Papacy had become in the 900’s and 1000’s after it had broken away from Constantinople – we follow him into the details of John XII’s papacy.

On to… the Sons of Charlemagne…


The Story
Charlemagne’s Neighbors
  • Denmark to the North, Umayyad Emirs in Spain, Harun Al Rashid, and the briefest mention (a tangential sentence) of the Norsemen invaders of the next 2 centuries who methodically disassembled the edges of the Carolingian states (and the Britains)
  • Although Gibbon does make the interesting point that Charlemagne’s conquests in the North and East (esp of the Saxons) removed a kind of absorptive barbarian German nation, exposing the Scandinavians (from which many of the German tribes had wandered South in the migration of people’s in the last 800 years) directly to cities and manors, poss ult bringing on the invasion of the Norsemen

    Charlemagne’s Successors (814-887)
  • Associates his 3 sons, divides (as all good Frankish kings did) his kingdom into parts, warning his sons to work together, ensuring that they wouldn’t – the empire promptly fell apart in civil war – Louis the Pious, Louis II, Lothaire
  • Louis the Pious (814-840) – fought for his father in the South, as emp, fought many civil wars with his brothers and relatives
  • Lothaire I (840-856) – got the middle kingdom – from germany a long middle strip into all italy
  • Louis II (856-875)
  • Gibbon stumbles over/through all the rest of the Carolingians – saying “a tame and uniform crowd of kings deserving of oblivion” – so Gibbon gives it to them

    Otto I (962-973)and the Division of the Empire (888)
  • 888, Charles the Fat having regained the whole empire – Italy, France, Germany – lost it, and each separate region elected its own “kinglet” – the Holy Roman Emp divided into its German/French pieces, not to be joined again, well except somewhat in the EU in the latter part of the 2th cent, 12 centuries later
  • Under the Ottos, the empire spreads into Slavic lands East, and takes back some of the West Frankish lands (along the Meuse and Moselle) were East Frankish or German or Holy Roman Empire
  • Denmark, Poland, Bohemia acknowledge Ottos as vassals
  • Ottos fix the Holy Roman Empire in Germany, he who was elected by the German Diet, and who had recieved his crown from the hands of the Pope
  • Gibbon says from that time onward – late 900’s to the present – the present being 1780, what was left of the Holy Roman Empire disappeared after Bismarck in the late 1800’s and permanently with the end of the Hapsburgs at the end of WWI

    Relations Between the Western (Carolingian) and Eastern Roman Empires
  • Gibbon relates the tedious (and predictable) course of diplomatic wrangling between Constantinople and Charlemagne’s sons over the imperial title of Emperor
  • After that it is a constant – Greek Derision towards all things Frankish (Barbarian to them – you just have to read Anna Comnenus’s Alexiad to see HOW DEEP and WIDE was the Greek Scorn)

    The Election of the Popes(800-1060)
  • Originally the Popes as bishops of Rome were elected by the various Catholic potentates of the city – the 28 Cardinal Priests of the Parishes of Rome, the 7 Deacons of the Hospitals, the 7 Palatine Judges of the Lateran – directed by the 7 Cardinal Bishops of the Dioceses of the Roman Province – they were chosen by the Cardinals, subject to ratification by the Emperor – which is AS IT WAS IN EVERY CITY IN THE EMPIRE – the emperor had a say in who was elected bishop – remember the Bishops had much temporal power also, so they were partly civil officials also (justice, hospitals, the poor, widowed, etc)
  • Often these “elections” were disputed by different parties, and much rioting and blood was spilt – 800’s, 900’s – often Roman Senators, Marks of Tuscany, Counts Tusculum held the office
  • Example of John XII(955-965) – who ruled as a temporal lord of 10th cent Italy – however with Otto I, John XII signed a guarantee that pledged the defense of the Papacy to the Holy Roman Emperor – beginning of the German Emperors special relationship of protection with the Popes
  • German Emperors made and unmade Popes at will, of course until Castle at Canossa (in 1077) – to which the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV was forced to walk
  • Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) began the reform of the Papacy, including the aforementioned enforced-emperor-Canossa-walk


    Photo of the ruins of Castle of Canossa in the Romagna

    Photo of the ruins of Castle of Canossa in the Romagna, the place the German Emperor Henry IV in 1077 was forced to walk to in penance to the Pope - a kind of sweet revenge by the Papacy for a century of subservience to German Emperors


    Louis the Pious, contemporary depiction from 826

    Winner of many civil wars within his own family - Louis the Pious, contemporary depiction from 826 as a miles Christi (soldier of Christ), with a poem of Rabanus Maurus overlaid - from WIKI


    Last Word…


    Traditional portrait of John XII - that it CANNOT LOOK AT ALL LIKE JOHN XII is I guess beside the point

    Traditional portrait of John XII - that it CANNOT LOOK AT ALL LIKE JOHN XII is I guess beside the point (John was 27 when he died, he was made Pope at 19)- perhaps that is why its good to know the truth about such ivory-towered, be-pedestal-ed personages such as Popes -


    The Wild Times of Pope John XII


    The influence of two sister prostitutes, Marozia and Theodora, was founded on their wealth and beauty, their political and amorous intrigues: the most strenuous of their lovers were rewarded with the Roman mitre, and their reign may have suggested to the darker ages the fable of a female pope.

    The bastard son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of Marozia, a rare genealogy, were seated in the chair of St. Peter, and it was at the age of nineteen years that the second of these became the head of the Latin church. His youth and manhood were of a suitable complexion; and the nations of pilgrims could bear testimony to the charges that were urged against him in a Roman synod, and in the presence of Otho the Great. As John XII. had renounced the dress and decencies of his profession, the soldier may not perhaps be dishonoured by the wine which he drank, the blood that he spilt, the flames that he kindled, or the licentious pursuits of gaming and hunting. His open simony might be the consequence of distress; and his blasphemous invocation of Jupiter and Venus, if it be true, could not possibly be serious.

    But we read, with some surprise, that the worthy grandson of Marozia lived in public adultery with the matrons of Rome; that the Lateran palace was turned into a school for prostitution, and that his rapes of virgins and widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor. The Protestants have dwelt with malicious pleasure on these characters of Antichrist; but to a philosophic eye, the vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues.

    (DEF III, vol.5, ch.49, pp.138-139)

    The vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues? A little Protestant proselytizing strategy for Catholic countries? It sounds like we’re overhearing a comment of the Republican National Committee discussing a strong Democratic candidate.

    and what’s more (just to show that Gibbon isn’t entirely out there on the fringe) here’s what WIKI says about John XII:

    Pope John XII (c. 937 – May 14, 964), born Octavianus, was Pope from December 16, 955, to May 14, 964. The son of Alberic II, Patrician of Rome (932–954), and his stepsister Alda of Vienne, he was a seventh generation descendant of Charlemagne on his mother’s side.
    Before his death, Alberic administered an oath to the Roman nobles in St. Peter’s, that on the next vacancy of the papal chair his only son, Octavianus, should be elected pope. He succeeded his father as Patrician of Rome in 954, at only seventeen years of age. After the death of the reigning pontiff, Agapetus II, Octavanius, then eighteen years of age, was actually chosen his successor on 16 December, 955. His adoption of the apostolic name of John XII was the third example of taking a regnal name upon elevation to the papal chair, the first being John II (533–535) and the second John III. Pope John XII was depicted as a coarse, immoral man in the writings which remain about his papacy, whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the subject of general disgrace.

    An account is given in Patrologia Latina of the charges leveled against him:
    Then, rising up, the cardinal priest Peter testified that he himself had seen John XII celebrate Mass without taking communion. John, bishop of Narni, and John, a cardinal deacon, professed that they themselves saw that a deacon had been ordained in a horse stable, but were unsure of the time. Benedict, cardinal deacon, with other co-deacons and priests, said they knew that he had been paid for ordaining bishops, specifically that he had ordained a ten-year-old bishop in the city of Todi… They testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father’s concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse. They said that he had gone hunting publicly; that he had blinded his confessor Benedict, and thereafter Benedict had died; that he had killed John, cardinal subdeacon, after castrating him; and that he had set fires, girded on a sword, and put on a helmet and cuirass. All, clerics as well as laymen, declared that he had toasted to the devil with wine. They said when playing at dice, he invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons. They even said he did not celebrate Matins and the canonical hours nor did he make the sign of the cross.

    Enemies defeated him in battle and occupied lands that belonged to the popes. In order to protect himself against the intrigues in Rome and the power of Berengar II of Italy (950–963), John made a deal with Otto I, king of the Germans. He pledged allegiance to Otto and crowned him emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on February 2, 962. In return, Otto promised to recognize only John as pope. Ten days later, the pope and emperor ratified the Diploma Ottonianum, under which the emperor became the guarantor of the independence of the papal states. This was the first effective guarantee of such protection since the Carolingian Empire. After Otto left Rome and reconquered the Papal States from Berengar, however, John became fearful of the emperor’s power and sent envoys to the Magyars and the Byzantine Empire to form a league against Otto. His intrigues were discovered by Otto I, who, after defeating and imprisoning Berengar II, returned to Rome. Otto I subsequently summoned a council which deposed John XII, who was in hiding in the mountains of Campania, and elected Pope Leo VIII (963–965) in his stead.

    An attempt at a revolt was made by the inhabitants of Rome even before Otto I left the city. Upon his departure, John XII returned at the head of a formidable company of friends and retainers, thus causing Leo VIII to seek safety in immediate flight. The Emperor determined to make an effort in support of Leo VIII, but before he reached the city John XII had died.

    Pope Benedict V (964) soon succeeded him but was successfully deposed by Leo VIII.
    Onofrio Panvinio, in the revised edition of Bartolomeo Platina’s book about the popes, added an elaborate note indicating that the legend of Pope Joan may be based on a mistress of John XII: Panvinius, in a note to Platina’s account of pope Joan, suggests that the licentiousness of John XII, who, among his numerous mistresses, had one called Joan, who exercised the chief influence at Rome during his pontificate, may have given rise to the story of “pope Joan

    (from John XII, WIKI)

    Researching our friend Pope John XII, I found this interesting list of “Sexually Active Popes” – which seems a little provocative to say the least – but I guess there’s a list for everything – who knew?

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