Popes in a Year
#130 - Pope John XII (bad pope alert...)
Pope from December 16, 955 - May 14, 964
Lived: c. 937 - May 14, 964
Birth name: Octavian
Give me the scoop on John XII.
The son of Alberic II, ruler of Rome and heir of the notorious Rome-ruling Theophylact family, John XII came from famous -- though rather unsavory -- stock. Before his death, Alberic had made Roman officials swear an oath to elect his son, who was very young and already in line to be Alberic’s secular successor, as the next pope. Nepotism apparently wasn’t a thing back then...at least if you had power. In any case, upon his election at Christmastime in 955, the young Octavian took the name John XII, and became the first pope in years to wield both temporal and spiritual power once again.
puts the situation in Rome nicely -- “Rome became the subject of general odium” -- John XII was what the kids call “a player.” A man of loose morals and coarse disposition, John’s reputation as one of the so-called “
” precedes him. At the very least, he did make several key church appointments during his time in office, including installing St. Dunstan as Archbishop of Canterbury in England. John XII died in 964, supposedly after being caught in adultery.
What was he known for?
To prevent this entry from being a total downer, John XII was known for a few positive things as well. He crowned King Otto I of Germany as Holy Roman Emperor, thus putting at the empire’s head the greatest ruler Europe had seen since Charlemagne. The move was widely considered to have helped achieve much-needed peace on the continent.
Ironically, John’s choice to crown Otto not only caused Rome to be removed from the grips of his family, but also afforded Otto the ability to depose the scandalous pontiff in 963. Though John was still technically the rightful pope until his death in 964, the man Otto allowed to succeed him -- Leo VIII, a layman -- was recognized as pope from the time of John’s deposition, through his death, and thereafter (until his own death, of course), despite one hiccup we'll read about tomorrow.
Although precise dates prior to the 15th Century are somewhat unreliable, it’s likely that John XII was the youngest pope in Church history, or at least was very nearly the youngest. It’s estimated that John was between the ages of 18 and 25 when he ascended to the throne. That record, in all reality, will never be broken, considering Canon Law’s age requirement to be ordained a priest is 25, and that the average age of popes since 1400 is 62.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 956, the famed Lighthouse at Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was damaged by an earthquake. By that time, it was over 1200 years old, having been built in Egypt in the 3rd Century B.C.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Leo VIII
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Guruge, A. (2010). The Next Pope. New Hampshire: WOWNH
Pope John XII -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 2:00AM