Pope Formosus

Pope Formosus (c. 816 – 896) was Cardinal-bishop and Pope, his papacy lasting from 6 October 891 to his death in 896. His brief reign as Pope was troubled, marked by interventions in power struggles over the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the kingdom of West Francia, and the Holy Roman Empire. Formosus's remains were exhumed and put on trial in the Cadaver Synod.


Pope Formosus
Papacy began6 October 891
Papacy ended4 April 896
PredecessorStephen V
SuccessorBoniface VI
Personal details
Bornc. 816
Rome, Papal States
Died4 April 896
Rome, Papal States


Probably a native of Rome, Formosus was born around 816.[1] He became Cardinal Bishop of Porto in 864.[2] Two years later, Pope Nicholas I appointed him a papal legate to Bulgaria (866).[1] He also undertook diplomatic missions to France (869 and 872).[3]

Upon the death of Louis II of Italy in 875, the nobles elected his uncle, Charles the Bald, King of the Franks to be the Holy Roman Emperor. Formosus conveyed Pope John VIII's invitation for King Charles to come to Rome to be crowned emperor. Charles took the crown at Pavia and received the imperial insignia in Rome on 29 December. Those who favored the widowed Empress Engelberga or her brother-in-law, Louis the German, did not support the coronation. Fearing political retribution, many of them left Rome surreptitiously. Formosus, sensing he had somehow incurred the papal displeasure, went to Tours.[4] On April 19, John VIII called a synod which ordered Formosus and other papal officials to return to Rome. When Formosus did not comply - he was removed from the ranks of the clergy and excommunicated on the grounds that he had deserted his diocese without papal permission, and had aspired to the position of Archbishop of Bulgaria. Additional charges included the accusations that he had opposed the emperor; "conspired with certain iniquitous men and women for the destruction of the Papal See"; and had despoiled the cloisters in Rome.[4]

The condemnation of Formosus and others was announced in July 872.[5] In 878 the sentence of excommunication was withdrawn after he promised never to return to Rome or exercise his priestly functions.[6]

In 867, while Formosus was serving as legate to the Bulgarian court, Prince Bogoris requested that he be named Archbishop of Bulgaria.[1] Since the canons forbade a bishop to leave his own see to undertake the government of another, the request was denied.[1] As early as 872 he was a candidate for the papacy; Johann Peter Kirsch suggests that the Pope may have viewed the cardinal as a potential rival.[5]

In 883, John's successor, Pope Marinus I, restored Formosus to his suburbicarian diocese of Portus. Following the reigns of Marinus, Pope Hadrian III (884–885) and Pope Stephen V (885–891), Formosus was unanimously elected Pope on 6 October 891.[4]


Shortly after Formosus' election, he was asked to intervene in Constantinople, where Patriarch Photius I had been ejected and Stephen, the son of Emperor Basil I, had taken the office. Formosus refused to reinstate those who had been ordained by Photius, as his predecessor, Stephen V, had nullified all of Photius' ordinations. However, the eastern Bishops determined to recognize Photius' ordinations nonetheless.

Formosus also immediately immersed himself in the dispute between Odo, Count of Paris, and Charles the Simple for the French crown; the Pope sided with Charles, and zealously exhorted Odo (then holding the crown) to abdicate on Charles' behalf, to no avail.

Formosus was deeply distrustful of Guy III of Spoleto, the Holy Roman Emperor, and began looking for support against the Emperor.[6] To bolster his position, Guy III forced Formosus to crown his son Lambert as co-Emperor in April 892. The following year, however, Formosus persuaded Arnulf of Carinthia to advance to Rome, invade the Italian peninsula, and liberate Italy from the control of Spoleto.

In 894, Arnulf's army occupied all the country north of the Po River. Guy III of Spoleto died in December, leaving his son Lambert in the care of his mother Agiltrude, an opponent of the Carolingians. In autumn 895 Arnulf undertook his second Italian campaign, progressing to Rome by February and seizing the city from Agiltrude by force on February 21. The following day, Formosus crowned Arnulf Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter's Basilica. The new emperor moved against Spoleto but was struck with paralysis on the way and was unable to continue the campaign.

During his papacy he also had to contend with the Saracens, who were attacking Lazio.[7]

On 4 April 896, Formosus died.[8] He was succeeded by Pope Boniface VI.[8]

Posthumous trial

Jean Paul Laurens Le Pape Formose et Etienne VII 1870
Jean-Paul Laurens, Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII ("Pope Formosus and Stephen VII"), 1870 (note the latter is now called Pope Stephen VI)

Pope Stephen VI, the successor of Boniface, influenced by Lambert and Agiltrude, sat in judgment of Formosus in 897, in what was called the Cadaver Synod. The corpse was disinterred, clad in papal vestments, and seated on a throne to face all the charges from John VIII. The verdict was that the deceased had been unworthy of the pontificate. The damnatio memoriae, an old judicial practice from Ancient Rome, was applied to Formosus, all his measures and acts were annulled and the orders conferred by him were declared invalid. The papal vestments were torn from his body, the three fingers from his right hand he had used in blessings were cut off and the corpse was thrown into the Tiber (later to be retrieved by a monk).

Following the death of Stephen VI, Formosus' body was reinterred in St Peter's Basilica. Further trials of this nature against deceased persons were banned, but Pope Sergius III (904–911) reapproved the decisions against Formosus. Sergius demanded the re-ordination of the bishops consecrated by Formosus, who in turn had conferred orders on many other clerics, causing great confusion. Later the validity of Formosus' work was re-reinstated. The decision of Sergius with respect to Formosus has subsequently been universally disregarded by the Church, since Formosus' condemnation had little to do with piety and more to do with politics.

Bartolomeo Platina writes that Sergius had the much-abused corpse of Formosus exhumed once more, tried, found guilty again, and beheaded, thus in effect conducting a second Cadaver Synod,[9] while Joseph Brusher says that "Sergius [III] indulged in no resurrection-man tactics himself"[10] and Schaff, Milman,[11]Gregorovius,[12] von Mosheim, [13] Miley,[14] Mann,[15] Darras,[16] John the Deacon of Naples, Flodoard, and others make no mention of this story.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Kirsch 1909, p. 139.
  2. ^ Kirsch 1909, p. 139; Mann 1910, p. 46.
  3. ^ Kirsch 1909, pp. 139–140.
  4. ^ a b c Kirsch 1909.
  5. ^ a b Kirsch 1909, p. 140.
  6. ^ a b Mann 1906, p. 357: "And it is not unlikely that it was because John VIII. saw that Formosus might easily become the tool of designing men – or that at least the faction which had secured his interest might cloak their nefarious plans under the good name of the Bishop of Porto – that he forbade him to come to Rome again."
  7. ^ Wickham 2014, p. 22.
  8. ^ a b Kirsch 1909, p. 141.
  9. ^ Platina 1479, p. 243: "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."
  10. ^ Brusher 1959.
  11. ^ Milman 1867, pp. 287–290.
  12. ^ Gregorovius 1903, pp. 242–248.
  13. ^ Mosheim 1852, pp. 120–121.
  14. ^ Miley 1850, pp. 269–281.
  15. ^ Mann 1910, pp. 119–142.
  16. ^ Darras 1898, pp. 560–564.


Brusher, Joseph (1959). "Sergius III". Popes Through the Ages. Neff-Kane. Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
Darras, Joseph-Epiphane (1898). A General History of the Catholic Church. 2. New York: Excelsior Catholic Publishing House. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
Gregorovius, Ferdinand (1903). The History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages. 3 (2nd ed.). London: George Bell & Sons.
Kirsch, Johann Peter (1909). "Pope Formosus" . In Herbermann, Charles G.; Pace, Edward A.; Pallen, Condé B.; Shahan, Thomas J.; Wynne, John J. (eds.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 6. New York: Encyclopedia Press (published 1913). pp. 139–141. This article incorporates text from this public-domain publication.
Mann, Horace K. (1906). The Lives of the Popes In The Early Middle Ages. 3. London: Keegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
 ———  (1910). The Lives of the Popes In The Early Middle Ages. 4. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
Miley, John (1850). The History of the Papal States From Their Origin to the Present Day. 2. London: T.C. Newby. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
Milman, Henry Hart (1867). History of Latin Christianity. 3 (4th ed.). London: John Murray.
Mosheim, Johann Lorenz von (1852). Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Ancient and Modern. 2. Translated by Murdock, James (5th ed.). New York: Stanford and Swords. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
Platina, B. (1479). The Lives of the Popes from the Time of Our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. 1. London: Griffith Farran & Co. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
Wickham, Chris (2014). Medieval Rome: Stability and Crisis of a City, 900–1150. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-103090-1.

Further reading

Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm (1990). "Formosus, Papst". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (in German). 2. Hamm, Germany: Bautz. cols. 70–71. ISBN 978-3-88309-032-0.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Stephen V
Succeeded by
Boniface VI

The 890s decade ran from January 1, 890, to December 31, 899.

== Events ==

=== 890 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

The Frankish nobles, who have ruled Provence in anarchy (since 887), declare Louis the Blind (a son of the late usurper King Boso) ruler of Lower Burgundy, at an assembly at Valence.

The sovereignty of Svatopluk I, ruler (knyaz) of Moravia, is confirmed in Bohemia. Lusatia becomes a part of his kingdom (approximate date).

====== Britain ======

King Alfred the Great begins to commission and undertake a series of translations into Old English, beginning with his own version of Pope Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care.

Lord Æthelred II and Lady Æthelflæd (a daughter of Alfred the Great) of the Mercians found the Priory of St. Oswald in Gloucester (probably originally dedicated to St. Peter).

Ohthere of Hålogaland, a Norse Viking seafarer, narrates the story of his travels to Alfred the Great, who arranges for it to be written down.

King Anarawd ap Rhodri of Gwynedd makes the first ceremonial visit to an English court (that of Alfred the Great).

King Donald II of Scotland expels the British aristocracy of Strathclyde. They flee south to North Wales.

The town of Kirby Muxloe (in modern-day Leicestershire) is founded in England (approximate date).

=== 891 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

February 21 – Guy III, duke of Spoleto, is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Stephen V. His son Lambert is proclaimed king of Italy, at the capital of Pavia in Lombardy.

Summer – Orso, Lombard prince of Benevento, is deposed after the capture of Benevento by the Byzantines. Benevento becomes the capital of the thema of Longobardia.

Battle of Leuven: Viking raiders on the Dyle River (near Leuven), in modern-day Flanders, suffer a crushing defeat by Frankish forces under King Arnulf of Carinthia.

====== Arabian Empire ======

Muslim forces led by Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Umawi, Umayyad emir of Córdoba, defeat the rebel leader Umar ibn Hafsun at Poley, in Al-Andalus (modern Spain).

June 2 – Al-Muwaffaq, an Abbasid prince, dies at the capital of Baghdad. His son Al-Mu'tadid is recognized as regent, and second heir of the Abbasid Caliphate.

====== Japan ======

February 25 – Fujiwara no Mototsune, a Japanese statesman, dies. In his lifetime, he had forced the resignation of Emperor Yōzei and become head of the Fujiwara clan.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

September 14 – Pope Stephen V dies after a 6-year reign. He is succeeded by Formosus, former cardinal bishop of Portus, as the 111th pope of the Catholic Church.

=== 892 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Summer – Poppo II, duke of Thuringia (Central Germany), is deposed by King Arnulf of Carinthia. East Frankish forces and their Magyar (Hungarian) allies invade Great Moravia.

Vladimir, ruler (knyaz) of the Bulgarian Empire, signs a military alliance with Arnulf of Carinthia of the East Frankish Kingdom. This alliance works against the pro-Byzantine policy of his father.

====== Britain ======

Autumn – A Viking force with a fleet of 250 longships arrives at the river mouth of the settlement of Lympne (East Kent). They attack the small fortification (called Eorpeburnan).

Viking raiders (80 ships) under Hastein arrive in the Thames Estuary, and set up camp at Middleton. King Alfred the Great decides to position his army in the Wealden Forest.

====== Arabian Empire ======

April – Al-Mu'tadid, the de facto regent of the Abbasid Caliphate, removes his cousin Al-Mufawwad from succession. He becomes caliph himself, after the death of Al-Mu'tamid, returning the capital from Samarra to Baghdad.

May – Ibrahim II, Aghlabid emir of Ifriqiya, sends a large army to Palermo, to impose Arab authority from Kairouan. After an uprising, the Sicilians make a bid for independence.

Summer – The Persian nobility installs Isma'il ibn Ahmad, the former governor of Transoxiana, as ruler (emir) of the Samanid Empire, after the death of his brother Nasr I.

====== Asia ======

Former Silla general Gyeon Hwon seizes the cities of Wansanju and Mujinju, taking over the territory of Baekje. He wins the support of the people, and declares himself king.

=== 893 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Vladimir, ruler (knyaz) of the Bulgarian Empire, is dethroned by his father Boris I ,with help from loyal boyars. He is blinded, and succeeded by his brother Simeon I, as prince of Bulgaria; the capital is moved from Pliska to Preslav. Simeon makes an alliance with the Pechenegs (or Patzinaks), a semi-nomad Turkic tribe from the Central Asian steppes.

An East Frankish expeditionary force under Zwentibold, the eldest son of King Arnulf of Carinthia, crosses the Alps into Friuli. He makes junction at Verona, with the army of the deposed king Berengar I, and proceeds to lay siege to Pavia. After a three-month campaign, Zwentibold receives orders to head back to Bavaria, in case of a Magyar intervention.

The 13-year-old Charles III (the Simple), the posthumous son of Louis the Stammerer, is crowned king of the West Frankish Kingdom at the Reims Cathedral—though he is not recognized as such by King Odo (or Eudes) until 898.

King Alfonso III repopulates the city of Zamora with Mozarabs (Iberian Christians who have lived under Moorish rule) from Toledo in Al-Andalus--modern Spain).

Galindo II Aznárez succeeds his father Aznar II Galíndez as count of Aragon (until 922).

====== Britain ======

Spring – Prince Edward, the son of King Alfred the Great, defeats the Danish Viking raiders at Farnham, and forces them to take refuge on Thorney Island. At the same time, Danes from East Anglia sail around the Cornish coast, and besiege Exeter.

Spring – A Viking army under Hastein moves to a fortified camp at Benfleet (Essex). The Danish camp is captured by the Saxons, while the army is out raiding. Hastein is forced to retreat to Shoebury.

Summer – Battle of Buttington: A combined Welsh and Mercian army under Lord Æthelred besieges a Viking camp at Buttington in Wales. The Danes escape with heavy losses, and take their families to safety in East Anglia.

Autumn – Danish Vikings under Hastein take the city of Chester, after a rapid march from East Anglia. Alfred the Great destroys the food supplies, forcing them to move into Wales.

Asser, bishop of Sherborne, writes his Life of King Alfred in Wessex. He studies for 6 months each year in Alfred's household.

====== Arabian Empire ======

Spring – Caliph Al-Mu'tadid recognizes Khumarawayh as autonomous emir over Egypt and Syria, in exchange for an annual tribute of 300,000 dinars. The Jazira provinces of Diyar Rabi'a and Diyar Mudar are returned to the Abbasid Caliphate. Muslim forces recover direct control of Mosul (modern Iraq) from the Shayban.

====== Eurasia ======

December 28 – An earthquake destroys the city of Dvin in Armenia.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Council of Preslav: The Byzantine clergy is expelled from Bulgaria, and the Greek language is replaced with Old Bulgarian (also known as Old Church Slavonic), as an official language.

King Yasovarman I (called the Leper King) of the Khmer Empire (modern Cambodia) dedicates the Lolei Temple of the Roluos group to the god Shiva and the royal family.

=== 894 ===

==== By place ====

====== Byzantine Empire ======

Byzantine–Bulgarian War: Stylianos Zaoutzes, leading minister and basileopator, convinces Emperor Leo VI (the Wise) to move the Bulgarian market from Constantinople to Thessaloniki. This affects the commercial importance of Bulgarian trade. Simeon I, ruler (khan) of the Bulgarian Empire, mobilizes his Bulgarian forces and invades Byzantine territory, ravaging the countryside.

====== Europe ======

Spring – King Arnulf of Carinthia invades Italy at the head of an East Frankish expeditionary army, joining up with the deposed king Berengar I at Verona. He conquers Brescia after little resistance, and sacks Bergamo after a one-month siege. The cities of Milan and Pavia open their doors to Arnulf. Emperor Guy III escapes from Pavia, to hide in the mountains of Spoleto (Umbria).

March – Arnulf of Carinthia proceeds to Piacenza, and from there invades central Italy. After a successful campaign, he calls the invasion off and returns to Pavia – probably because Duke Rudolph I of Burgundy was threatening to invade Lorraine. Arnulf has himself proclaimed King of Italy at Pavia, leaving Berengar I as his vice-regent in Italy.

Arnulf of Carinthia returns to Germany through the Alps, harried by militias dispatched by Rudolph I of Burgundy and margrave Anscar I of Ivrea. Only with much difficulty is Arnulf able to get his army through the Aosta Valley and through St. Moritz, back into Germany. Guy III descends from the Apennines, and re-seizes the Italian kingdom.

December – Guy III dies after a 4-year reign, and is succeeded by his 14-year-old son Lambert, already associated as co-emperor since 892. At the pleading of Archbishop Fulk of Reims, Pope Formosus reconciles with the young emperor. Lambert proceeds from Spoleto to Pavia, where he is acclaimed and crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

Svatopluk I, ruler (knyaz) of Great Moravia, dies after a 34-year reign, in which he has united the Slav tribes in his kingdom. He is succeeded by his eldest son Mojmir II. The Principality of Nitra (modern-day Slovakia) is given as an appanage to his brother Svatopluk II.

Árpád, head of the confederation of the Hungarian tribes, comes to an agreement with the prince of the Moravians, Svatopluk II, that Hungarian and Moravian armies will together expel the Eastern Franks from Pannonia.

Prince Petar of Serbia defeats his revolting cousin Bran; he is captured and blinded (according to a Byzantine tradition that meant to disqualify a person to take the throne).

====== Britain ======

The Vikings in Northumbria and East Anglia swear allegiance and hand over hostages to King Alfred the Great, but promptly break their truce by attacking the south-west of England. A Viking force returns from Exeter and sails along the coast, in an attempt to plunder Chichester. They are defeated by the Saxon garrison, losing many ships and men.

King Anarawd of Gwynedd's shaky alliance with the Vikings collapses. His kingdom is ravaged by the Norsemen. Anarawd is forced to ask for help from Alfred the Great and submits to his overlordship. Alfred imposes oppressive terms and forces Anarawd's confirmation in the Christian Church, with Alfred as 'godfather'.

Autumn – Battle of Benfleet: Danish Viking forces retire to Essex, after being deprived of food by Alfred the Great (see 893). They draw their longships up the Thames and into the Lea, entrenching themselves at Benfleet.

====== Japan ======

Emperor Uda orders commercial relations (called Imperial Japanese embassies to China) to cease with China (approximate date).

=== 895 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

The Magyars are expelled from southern Russia, and settle in the Carpathian Basin, under the leadership of Árpád (The traditional date of 896 held during the 20th century has proved to be erroneous). Emperor Leo VI (the Wise) seeks aid from the Magyars, and after crossing the Danube on Byzantine ships, they ravage Bulgarian territory.

Simeon I (the Great), ruler (khan) of the Bulgarian Empire, seeks refuge in the fortress of Drastar, while the Magyars reach the outskirts of the capital Preslav. Facing a difficult situation with war on two fronts, Simeon calls for a truce. Leo VI sends the diplomat Leo Choirosphaktes to Bulgaria, to negotiate the terms.

King Odo (or Eudes) takes a large army against Rheims, and forces anti-king Charles the Simple to flee to Germany. King Arnulf of Carinthia, throwing off his agreements with Odo, charges his son Zwentibold to invade the West Frankish Kingdom, and re-install Charles on the throne.

May – Arnulf of Carinthia summons the Imperial Diet in his residence at Worms. Angered by the non-appearance of Charles the Simple, he again supports Odo's claim to the throne of the West Frankish Kingdom. In the same assembly, he crowns Zwentibold as king of Lotharingia.

Guy IV, duke of Spoleto, conquers Benevento (after the Byzantines have moved the capital of Byzantine Italy from Benevento to Bari). Guy makes himself prince, thereby uniting the two Italian states. The Byzantines attempt to retake Benevento, but are defeated by Lombard troops.

December – Arnulf of Carinthia invades Italy, at the head of an East Frankish expeditionary army. He arrives in Pavia and reorganizes the Lombard state. Arnulf partitions the northern part of the kingdom: the western half (March of Lombardy) and the eastern half (March of Verona).

Arnulf of Carinthia crosses the Po River and divides his army in two: one corps (Swabian) proceeds to Florence (via Bologna), while the other corps (Franks) moves through the Lunigiana to the precincts of Rome.

Spytihněv I, duke of Bohemia, together with the Slavník prince Witizla, breaks away from Great Moravia, and swears allegiance to Arnulf of Carinthia in Regensburg.

====== Britain ======

King Anarawd of Gwynedd is supplied with English troops, to assist in his reconquest of Seisyllwg (Wales). He is successful, and his brother Cadell is finally able to take his rightful place on the Seisyllwg throne.

Autumn – King Alfred the Great blockades the Lea River and builds fortifications, trapping the Danes Vikings at Hertford. They abandon their longships and escape to Bridgnorth, located in the Severn Valley.

====== Arabian Empire ======

Hamdan ibn Hamdun, a Taghlibi Arab chieftain, is defeated and captured by Caliph Al-Mu'tadid at the fortress of Mardin (near modern Cizre). Hamdan's son Husayn enters Abbasid service, beginning the rise of the Hamdanid Dynasty.

====== Mexico ======

Birth of Topiltzin, future emperor of the Toltec Empire, in Michatlauhco, modern-day Morelos (approximate date).

==== By topic ====

====== Music ======

The Musica enchiriadis is composed, marking the beginning of western polyphonic music (approximate date).

=== 896 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

February – King Arnulf of Carinthia invades Italy at the head of an East Frankish expeditionary army. He storms Rome (the Leonine City), and has himself crowned Holy Roman Emperor by pope Formosus at St. Peter's. Arnulf sets out to establish his authority in Spoleto, but suffers a stroke; he is forced to call off the campaign, and returns to Bavaria.

March – King Lambert II proceeds to re-conquer Italy. Heading north, he captures western Lombardy, and decapitates count Maginulf of Milan. In the meantime, the deposed king Berengar I recovers Verona (March of Friuli) from Arnulf's candidate, count Walfred of Verona, who dies in office with "great fidelity to the emperor".

Battle of Southern Buh: Bulgarian forces under Simeon I (the Great) defeat the Magyars, near the banks of the Southern Buh river (modern Ukraine). The Magyars withdraw from Bulgaria, and are forced to migrate to new pastures. Led by Árpád, they settle in the Carpathian Basin (modern Hungary).

Summer – Battle of Boulgarophygon: Simeon I invades the Theme of Thrace (in the south-eastern Balkans). The Byzantines transfer a new army to Europe, to deal with the Bulgarian threat. The armies clash at Boulgarophygon (modern Turkey); the Byzantines are completely destroyed in battle.

November – Lambert II and Berengar I agree to sign a treaty at Pavia. Berengar receives the realm between the Adda and the Po, while the rest stays under the control of Lambert (including the March of Tuscany). They share Bergamo, and Lambert pledges to marry Gisela, Berengar's daughter.

Prince Klonimir, pretender to the throne of the Serbian Principality, is defeated by his ruling cousin, Petar. He is recognized as sole ruler of Serbia by Simeon I, resulting in a 20-year peace and alliance (approximate date).

====== Britain ======

Summer – King Alfred the Great orders the building of English warships (almost twice as long as the longships) on the Itchen at Southampton, against the Danish Viking raiders in Wessex.

A Viking pirate army under Hastein (a son of Ragnar Lodbrok) ravages the Welsh kingdoms of Brycheiniog and Gwent (approximate date).

====== Arabian Empire ======

Kharijite Rebellion: The Kharijite uprising against the Abbasid Caliphate in Jazira is ended. Caliph Al-Mu'tadid reunifies the entire province under central government, and installs his son and heir, Al-Muktafi, as governor.

====== China ======

Emperor Zhao Zong appoints Li Keyong, a Shatuo military governor (jiedushi), as Prince of Jin. He becomes the first ruler of Jin (see 907) following the collapse of the Tang Dynasty.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

April 4 – Pope Formosus dies at Rome, after a four-year reign. He is succeeded by Boniface VI, as the 112th pope of the Catholic Church.

April – Boniface VI dies (probably murdered), after a pontificate of 15 days. He is succeeded by Stephen VI, as the 113th pope of Rome.

=== 897 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Spring – King Lambert II travels to Rome with his mother, Queen Ageltrude and brother Guy IV, Lombard duke of Spoleto, to meet Pope Stephen VI to receive reconfirmation of his imperial title. Guy is murdered on the Tiber by agents of Alberic I, a Frankish nobleman with political interests. He seizes Spoleto (possibly at the instigation of King Berengar I) and sets himself up as duke.

====== Britain ======

English warships (nine vessels from Alfred's new fleet) intercept six Viking longships in the mouth of an unknown estuary on the south coast (possibly at Poole Harbour) in Dorset. The Danes are blockaded, and three ships attempt to break through the English lines. Lashing the Viking boats to their own, the English crew board the enemy's vessels and kill everyone on board. Some ships manage to escape, two of the other three boats are driven against the Sussex coast. The shipwrecked sailors are brought before King Alfred the Great at Winchester and hanged. Just one Viking ship returns to East Anglia.

====== Arabian Empire ======

Caliph Al-Mu'tadid recovers control of the Cilician Thughur (Southern Anatolia) and of northern Syria, during the turmoil in the Tulunid government (approximate date).

Al-Hadi ila'l-Haqq Yahya, an Arab religious and political leader, becomes the first Zaidiyyah imam to rule over portions of Yemen.

====== Japan ======

Emperor Uda abdicates the throne after a ten year reign. He is succeeded by his 12-year-old son Daigo, as the 60th emperor of Japan.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

January – The Cadaver Synod: Lambert II orders Stephen VI to exhume the nine-month-old cadaver of former pope Formosus, to redress him in papal robes, and have him put on trial while seated in a chair at St. Peter's. Formosus is 'convicted' of several crimes, his fingers of consecration are cut off, and the body is stripped of his vestments.

August – Stephen VI is removed from office, imprisoned and strangled in his cell. He is succeeded by Romanus as the 114th pope of the Catholic Church.

December – Romanus is deposed and succeeded by Theodore II as the 115th pope of Rome, but dies twenty days later.

=== 898 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

January 1 – King Odo I (or Eudes) dies at La Fère (Northern France) after a 10-year reign. His rival, the 18-year-old Charles the Simple in Laon, gains sovereignty and becomes ruler (with no real authority) of the West Frankish Kingdom. This puts an end to five years of civil war between the Frankish nobles.

Summer – Adalbert II, margrave of Tuscany, revolts (pushed by his wife Bertha) against his cousin, Emperor Lambert II. The Tuscan army proceeds against the Lombard capital of Pavia. Lambert with his forces at Marengo defeats Adalbert at Borgo San Donnino, taking him, as a prisoner, to Pavia.

October 15 – Lambert II dies from falling off his horse while hunting — or is killed (possibly assassinated by supporters of Maginulf of Milan). After the death of Lambert, his rival Berengar I gains recognition as king of Italy. He releases Adalbert II and receives homage from the Italian nobles.

====== Britain ======

King Alfred the Great makes his eldest son Edward the Elder co-ruler of Wessex in preparation for his accession to the English throne.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

January – Pope John IX is consecrated and succeeds Theodore II as the 116th pope of the Catholic Church. His rival Serguis III (a Spoletan ally of Lambert II) is excommunicated and takes refuge at the court of Adalbert II.

John IX holds councils at Rome and Ravenna to rehabilitate the late Pope Formosus. He condemns the Cadaver Synod of the late Pope Stephen VI, and restores the clergymen who were deposed by Stephen's faction.

=== 899 ===

==== By place ====

====== Europe ======

Summer – King Arnulf of Carinthia enlists the support of the Magyars to raid northern Italy. They overrun the Lombard plain all the way to Pavia. King Berengar I assembles a large army against the Magyars and confronts them near the Adda River. Daunted at the strong force, Árpád (head of the confederation of the Hungarian tribes) offers to make peace and restore much of what they've taken, if they are permitted to leave Italy unmolested. Berengar refuses and the Magyars withdraw to the Brenta River. Árpád renews his offer, offering to leave all his booty and even some hostages. Again Berengar refuses, and awaits their crossing of the Brenta River for a final battle.

Battle of the Brenta: The Magyar forces, consisting of 5,000 men, take a circuitous route through the mountains, crossing the Brenta River and proceed south to fall upon the encamped Lombard army (15,000 men) at Cartigliano. The Magyars massacre much of Berengar's unprepared army. He himself manages to escape to Pavia, changing his dress with the clothing of one of his soldiers. Árpád renews the offensive and heads across Lombardy, pillaging the countryside around Treviso, Vicenza, Bergamo and other towns all the way to Vercelli. He turns south and heads down the Aemilian Road, sacking Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna.

December 8 – Arnulf of Carinthia dies from paralysis following a stroke and is entombed in St. Emmeram's Abbey at Regensburg (Bavaria). He is succeeded by his 6-year-old son Louis III (the Child) as ruler of the East Frankish Kingdom. Arnulf's counselor Hatto I, archbishop of Mainz, becomes regent and guardian of the young king. Louis (possibly at the instigation of Hatto) claims Lotharingia from his half-brother Zwentibold and with the support of the East-Frankish nobles he provokes a civil war. The Lombard throne is left temporarily vacant.

Winter – The Magyars turn back north towards the shores of the Venetian Lagoon. They pillage Chioggia and Pellestrina, and advance towards Malamocco. Their advance into the lagoon is checked by the assembly of the Venetian fleet under doge Pietro Tribuno, which defeats the Magyar's river-crossing vessels at Albiola, causing them to pull back. This close-call with the Magyars prompts the Venetians to initiate the fortification of the Rialto and the building of protective chains over the Grand Canal.

====== Britain ======

October 26 – King Alfred the Great dies after a 28-year reign in which he has forced invading Danish Vikings to withdraw, consolidated England around Wessex, divided parts of Mercia into shires, compiled the best laws of earlier kings, encouraged learning by bringing famous scholars to Wessex and made his own translations of Latin works. He is succeeded by his eldest son, Edward the Elder as king of Wessex.

Winter – Æthelwold's Revolt: Following the death of Alfred the Great, Æthelwold (youngest son of the late king Æthelred I) disputes the succession of Edward the Elder. He seizes the royal estates at Wimborne, the ancient symbolic burial place of West Saxon kings, and Christchurch. Edward set up its army camp at Badbury Rings. Æthelwold first declares that he will 'live or die' at Wimborne, but then flees to Northumbria.

====== Arabian Empire ======

Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Shaybani, Muslim ruler of Diyar Bakr, surrenders at the besieged capital of Amid (modern Turkey) to Caliph Al-Mu'tadid in exchange for clemency. Al-Muktafi, the son of Al-Mu'tadid, is installed as governor of the Jazira (Upper Mesopotamia), ending the semi-independent Shaybanid Dynasty, which has ruled in Diyar Bakr since the 870s.

The Qarmatians, led by Abu Sa'id al-Jannabi, capture Bahrain's capital of Hajr and Al-Hasa (Eastern Arabia). Abu Sa'id makes it his residence and establishes a religious utopian republic.

==== By topic ====

====== Religion ======

Regino of Prüm, a Benedictine churchman, is expelled from Prüm and becomes abbot of St. Maximin's Abbey (which is destroyed by the Vikings) in Trier.


Year 896 (DCCCXCVI) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Year 897 (DCCCXCVII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Ageltrude (also spelled Agiltrude) (died 27 August 923) was the Empress and Queen of Italy as wife and mother respectively of Guy (reigned 891–94) and Lambert (reigned 894–98). She was the regent for her son and actively encouraged him in opposing her archenemies, the Carolingians, and in influencing papal elections in their favour.

She was the daughter of Prince Adelchis of Benevento and Adeltrude. She married Guy in the early 880s, when he was still just the duke and margrave of Spoleto and Camerino.In 894, she accompanied her 14-year-old son, Lambert, to Rome to be confirmed as emperor by Pope Formosus, who supported the Carolingian claimant Arnulf of Carinthia. In 896, she and her son were holed up in Spoleto when Arnulf marched into Rome and was crowned in opposition to Lambert. Arnulf was soon paralysed by a stroke and Formosus died. Ageltrude quickly interfered to assert her authority in Rome and have elected her candidate as Pope Stephen VI. At her and Lambert's request, the body of Formosus was disinterred and tried, convicted and hurled into the Tiber in the Cadaver Synod. Lambert became Lambert II of Spoleto.


Argrim (French: Argrin, Latin: Argrimus) was one of the rival bishops of Langres following the disputed election of 888. He was the uncontested bishop after 899 until his retirement in 910. Before becoming bishop he was a monk of Saint-Bénigne de Dijon.The death of bishop Geilo of Langres on 28 June 888 after the death of the Emperor Charles III in January resulted in the election of the bishop's successor taking place amidst political upheaval. Argrim was elected by the people in accordance with canon law, and was consecrated by archbishop Aurelian of Lyon. Despite the legality of the entire procedure, archbishop Fulk of Reims, a partisan of Carolingian legitimist claimant Charles III, opposed it and tried to install a rival bishop, Theutbald II. Although Pope Stephen V sided with Fulk, Aurelian refused to consecrate Theutbald and Argrim remained in power at Langres. During this time, Argrim had the support of King Odo of France, who issued a diploma to him on 19 December 889.After two years and three months, in the autumn of 890, Argrim was forced to flee Langres and Theutbald was installed as bishop. According to the Annales Vedastini, in late 894 Theutbald was assassinated and Argrim returned to power. Pope Formosus immediately anathematised the assassins, but granted the pallium to Argrim. In 896, Pope Stephen VI, who had been an enemy of Formosus, declared Argrim deposed. Argrim went to Rome to protest, and in 899 John IX revoked the deposition. His successor, Benedict IV, confirmed the revocation. In 910 Argrim resigned and returned to Saint-Bénigne de Dijon. His tombstone is preserved in the museum of Chalon-sur-Saône. It reads:





Arnulf of Carinthia

Arnulf of Carinthia (c. 850 – December 8, 899) was the duke of Carinthia who overthrew his uncle, Emperor Charles the Fat, became the Carolingian king of East Francia from 887, the disputed King of Italy from 894 and the disputed Holy Roman Emperor from February 22, 896 until his death at Regensburg, Bavaria.


Auxilius was a Roman cognomen. It can refer to several people:

Auxilius of Ireland (died 459), Irish saint, brother of St. Seachnaill

Auxilius (5th century), monk of Lérins, and later a martyr under Euric, Arian King of the Visigoths

Auxilius of Naples (9th-century–10th-centuryth century), writer who was a contemporary of Pope Formosus

Auxilius of Naples

Auxilius of Naples (which has been considered a pseudonym) was an ecclesiastical writer. To him are attributed a series of writings that deal with the controversies concerning the succession and fate of Pope Formosus (891-896), and especially the validity of the orders conferred by him. Auxilius was a Frank, who was ordained a priest, or perhaps only a deacon, in Rome by Formosus, and lived later in southern Italy, apparently at Naples.

Cadaver Synod

The Cadaver Synod (also called the Cadaver Trial; Latin: Synodus Horrenda) is the name commonly given to the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January 897. The trial was conducted by Pope Stephen VI (sometimes called Stephen VII), the successor to Formosus' successor, Pope Boniface VI. Stephen had Formosus' corpse exhumed and brought to the papal court for judgment. He accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null.

Eugenius Vulgarius

Eugenius Vulgarius (Italian Eugenio Vulgario; fl. c. 887–928) was an Italian priest and poet.

Eugenius' epithet may allude to a Bulgar heritage, and he may have been a descendant of the horde of Alzec that settled in the Molise in the seventh century and were still distinguishable by their language in the late eighth century. The ethnonym was sometimes rendered as Vulgares in Latin. Knowledgeable of Latin and Greek, he was also deeply learned in the Classics and displays familiarity with Virgil, Horace, and the tragedies of Seneca.

Around 907, when he was a presbyter and teacher of rhetoric and grammar at the episcopal school in Naples, Eugenius wrote a pamphlet defending Pope Formosus, who had given him holy orders, from the attacks of the reigning Pope Sergius III. He produced a second treatise on this same subject in dialogue form. In these, entitled De causa Formosiana and Eugenius Vulgarius Petro Diacono fratri et amico, he denies the authority of the Holy See and proclaims that only a deserving man can ever truly be pope. Sergius ordered him imprisoned in a monastery, probably that of the monks of Montecassino at Teano, where his compatriot, the defender of Formosus called Auxilius (a pseudonym meaning "defender"), was also protected. Sergius soon reversed his decree and summoned him to Rome for trial. Eugenius responded to the threat posed by this with a series of fawning verses of praise for Pope Sergius and the city of Rome, aurea Roma ("golden Rome"), to which the pope (he claimed) had brought renewed glory. He even went so far as to declare the pope's lover, Theodora, "full of virtue".

Eugenius composed three different pattern poems eulogising the Byzantine emperor Leo VI; one (no. XVI) is in the shape of a pyramid. He credits Leo with victories over barbarians in both Europe and Africa. Eugenius also praised Atenulf I of Benevento for his victories over the Saracens of the Garigliano. Among his other works are some glosses on Martianus Capella and a poem about nature, the arrival of springtime, and the hymn of the birds. Eugenius also produced metrical calendars.

Guy III of Spoleto

Guy of Spoleto (died 12 December 894), sometimes known by the Italian version of his name, Guido, or by the German version, Wido, was the Margrave of Camerino from 880 (as Guy I or Guy II) and then Duke of Spoleto and Camerino (as Guy III) from 883. He was crowned King of Italy in 889 and Holy Roman Emperor in 891. He died in 894 while fighting for control of the Italian Peninsula.

Guy was married to Ageltrude, daughter of Adelchis of Benevento, who bore him a son named Lambert.

Hatto I

Hatto I (c. 850 – 15 May 913) was archbishop of Mainz (Mayence) from 891 until his death.

Hatto belonged to a Swabian family, and was probably educated at the monastery of Reichenau, of which be became abbot in 888. He was also abbot of Ellwangen Abbey.

Hatto soon became known to the German king, Arnulf, who appointed him archbishop of Mainz in 891, and he became such a trustworthy and loyal counsellor that he was popularly called the heart of the king. He presided over the important synod at Tribur in 895 and accompanied the king to Italy in 894 and 895, where he was received with great favor by Pope Formosus. In 899, when Arnulf died, Hatto became regent of the Empire and guardian of the young king, Louis the Child, whose authority he compelled Zwentibold, duke of Lorraine, an illegitimate son of Arnulf, to recognize.

During these years Hatto did not neglect his own interests, for in 896 he secured for himself the abbey of Ellwangen and in 898 that of Lorsch. He assisted the Franconian family of the Conradines in its feud with the Babenbergs for supremacy in Franconia; after the battle of Fritzlar on September 9 906 between the Babenbergs and Conradines he arranged for the capture and execution of Count Adalbert of Babenberg, breaking his promise of safe conduct. Hatto retained his influence during the entire reign of Louis the Child and on the king's death in 911 was prominent in securing the election of Conrad, duke of Franconia, to the vacant throne. When trouble arose between Conrad and Henry the Fowler, duke of Saxony, afterwards King Henry I, the attitude of Conrad was ascribed by the Saxons to the influence of Hatto, who wished to prevent Henry from securing authority in Thuringia, where the see of Mainz had extensive possessions. He was accused of complicity in a plot to murder Henry, who in return ravaged the archiepiscopal lands in Saxony and Thuringia.

Hatto died on 15 May 913, one legend saying he was struck by lightning, and another that he was thrown alive by the devil into the crater of Mount Etna. His memory was long regarded in Saxony with great abhorrence, and stories of cruelty and treachery gathered round his name.

The legend of the Mouse Tower at Bingen is connected with Hatto I and Hatto II, who was archbishop of Mainz from 968 to 970. This latter Hatto built the church of St. George on the island of Reichenau, was generous to the see of Mainz and to the abbeys of Fulda and Reichenau, and was a patron of the chronicler Regino, abbot of Prum.

Lambert of Italy

Lambert (c. 880 – 15 October 898) was the King of Italy from 891, Holy Roman Emperor, co-ruling with his father from 892, and Duke of Spoleto and Camerino (as Lambert II) from his father's death in 894. He was the son of Guy III of Spoleto and Ageltrude, born in San Rufino. He was the last ruler to issue a capitulary in the Carolingian tradition.


Plegmund (or Plegemund; died 2 August either 914 or 923) was a medieval English Archbishop of Canterbury. He may have been a hermit before he became archbishop in 890. As archbishop, he reorganised the Diocese of Winchester, creating four new sees, and worked with other scholars in translating religious works. He was canonised after his death.

Pope Boniface VI

Pope Boniface VI (Latin: Bonifatius VI; 806 – April 896) was Pope in April 896. He was a native of Rome. His election came about as a result of riots soon after the death of Pope Formosus. Prior to his reign, he had twice incurred a sentence of deprivation of orders as a subdeacon and as a priest. After a pontificate of fifteen days, he is said by some to have died of the gout, by others to have been forcibly ejected to make way for Stephen VI, the candidate of the Spoletan party.At a synod in Rome held by John IX in 898, his election was pronounced null and void.

Pope Stephen V

Pope Stephen V (Latin: Stephanus V; died 14 September 891) was Pope from September 885 to his death in 891. He succeeded Pope Adrian III, and was in turn succeeded by Pope Formosus. In his dealings with Constantinople in the matter of Photius, as also in his relations with the young Slavic Orthodox church, he pursued the policy of Pope Nicholas I.

Pope Stephen VI

Pope Stephen VI (Latin: Stephanus VI; d. August 897) was Pope from 22 May 896 to his death in 897.

He had been made bishop of Anagni by Pope Formosus, possibly against his will.

Pope Theodore II

Pope Theodore II (Latin: Theodorus II; 840 – December 897) was Pope for twenty days in December 897. His short reign occurred during a period of partisan strife in the Catholic Church, which was entangled with a period of feudal violence and disorder in central Italy. His main act as pope was to annul the "Cadaver Synod" of the previous January, therefore reinstating the acts and ordinations of Pope Formosus, which had themselves been annulled by Pope Stephen VI. He also had the body of Formosus recovered from the river Tiber and reburied with honour. He died in office in late December 897.

The Bad Popes

The Bad Popes is a 1969 book by E. R. Chamberlin documenting the lives of eight of the most controversial popes (papal years in parentheses):

Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber.

Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.

Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048), who "sold" the Papacy.

Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), who is lampooned in Dante's Divine Comedy.

Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured .

Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), a Borgia, who was guilty of nepotism and whose unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin.

Pope Leo X (1513–1521), a spendthrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7 of his predecessors' reserves on a single ceremony.

Pope Clement VII (1523–1534), also a Medici, whose power-politicking with France, Spain, and Germany got Rome sacked.

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