Pope John XV

John XV and Pope John XV can also refer to Pope John XV of Alexandria.

John XV
Pope John XV Illustration
Papacy beganAugust 985
Papacy endedApril 1 996
PredecessorJohn XIV
SuccessorGregory V
Personal details
Birth nameJohn
BornRome, Papal States
DiedApril 1 996
Rome, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Other popes named John

Pope John XV (Latin: Ioannes XV; born in Rome, died April 1 996) was Pope from August 985 to his death in 996. He succeeded Pope John XIV (983–984). He was said to have been Pope after another Pope John who reigned four months after John XIV and was named "Papa Ioannes XIV Bis" or "Pope John XIVb". This supposed second John XIV never existed, rather he was confused with a certain cardinal deacon John, son of Robert, who was opposed to antipope Boniface VII and is now excluded from the papal lists.

In 993, he was the first pope to proclaim a saint. At the request of the German ruler, he canonized Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg on 31 January 993. Before that time, saint cults had been local and spontaneous.[1]

Early life and elevation to papacy

John XV was the son of Leo, a Roman presbyter. At the time he mounted the papal chair, in August 985, John was cardinal-priest of St. Vitalis.[2]

It has been said that the Pope's venality and nepotism made him very unpopular with the citizens of Rome.[3] However, Joseph Brusher finds this unproven, as John XV had little authority in Rome at that time.[2] Crescentius II, Patrician of Rome, significantly hampered the pope's influence, but the presence of the Empress Theophanu, regent for her son, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III in Rome from 989 to 991 restrained Crescentius' ambition.[3]

He was a patron and protector of the reforming monks of Cluny.[4] Through his legate Leo, he mediated a dispute between King Ethelred the Unready, of England, and Richard, duke of Normandy.[2]

French dispute

During this papacy, a serious dispute arose over the deposition in 991 of Arnulf, Archbishop of Reims, by French churchmen. This affair is sometimes read as an early groundswell of the conflicts between Popes and the new kings of France that came to a head later in the Investiture Controversy.

Hugh Capet, king of France, made Arnulf archbishop of Reims in 988, even though Arnulf was the nephew of the King's bitter rival, Charles of Lorraine. Charles thereupon succeeded in capturing Reims and took the archbishop prisoner. Hugh, however, considered Arnulf a turncoat and demanded his deposition by John XV. The turn of events outran the messages, when Hugh Capet captured both Charles and Archbishop Arnulf and convoked a synod at Reims in June 991, which obediently deposed Arnulf and chose as his successor Abbot Gerbert of Aurillac, afterwards Pope Silvester II.[4]

At this synod, Arnulf, Bishop of Orléans accused John XV:

Are any bold enough to maintain that the priests of the Lord all over the world are to take their law from monsters of guilt like these—men branded with ignominy, illiterate men, and ignorant alike of things human and divine? If, holy fathers, we are bound to weigh in the balance the lives, the morals, and the attainments of the humblest candidate for the priestly office, how much more ought we to look to the fitness of him who aspires to be the Lord and Master of all priests! Yet how would it fare with us, if it should happen that the man the most deficient in all these virtues, unworthy of the lowest place in the priesthood, should be chosen to fill the highest place of all? What would you say of such a one, when you see him sitting upon the throne glittering in purple and gold? Must he not be the "Antichrist, sitting in the temple of God and showing himself as God"?[5]

Church reaction

The proceedings of the Synod of Reims were repudiated by Rome, although a second synod had ratified the decrees issued at Reims. John XV summoned the French bishops to hold an independent synod outside the French king's realm at Aachen to reconsider the case. When they refused, he called them to Rome, but they protested that the unsettled conditions en route and in Rome made that impossible. The Pope then sent a legate with instructions to call a council of French and German bishops at Mousson, where only the German bishops appeared, the French being stopped on the way by Hugh Capet and his son Robert. Through the exertions of the legate, the deposition of Arnulf was finally pronounced illegal. After Hugh Capet's death on 23 October 996, Arnulf was released from his imprisonment and soon restored to all his dignities. As for Gerbert, he set out for the imperial court at Magdeburg and became the preceptor to Emperor Otto III.[4]

At a Roman synod held in the Lateran on 31 January 993, John XV solemnly canonized Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg, an event which the Pope announced to the French and German bishops in a papal bull dated 3 February. This was the first time in history that a solemn canonization had been made by a Pope.[6]

Later life and death

In 996, Otto III undertook a journey to Italy to obtain an imperial coronation from the Pope, but John XV died of fever early in April 1 996, while Otto III lingered in Pavia until 12 April to celebrate Easter. The Emperor then elevated his own kinsman Bruno to the papal dignity under the name of Gregory V.


  1. ^ Luscombe, David and Riley-Smith, Jonathan. 2004. New Cambridge Medieval History: C.1024-c.1198, Volume 5. p. 12.
  2. ^ a b c Brusher S. J., Joseph. "John XV - the Scholarly Pontiff", "Popes Through the Ages"
  3. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "John XV." . Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 435.
  4. ^ a b c Kirsch, Johann Peter. "Pope John XV (XVI)." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 27 September 2017
  5. ^ Schaff, Philip; Schley Schaff, David (1885). History of the Christian Church. Charles Scribner & Sons. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  6. ^ Luscombe, David and Riley-Smith, Jonathan. 2004. New Cambridge Medieval History: C.1024-c.1198, Volume 4.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope John XV (XVI)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.

Further reading

  • Franz Xaver Seppelt: Geschichte der Päpste. Vol. 2. 2nd edition, Kösel Verlag, Munich, 1955, pp. 381ff.
  • Michael Tilly (1992). "Pope John XV". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 3. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 213–214. ISBN 3-88309-035-2.
  • Wolfgang Huschner: Giovanni XV (985-996). In: Massimo Bray (ed.): Enciclopedia dei Papi, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Vol. 2  (Niccolò I, santo, Sisto IV), Rome, 2000, OCLC 313581688, pp. 102–107

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John XIV
Succeeded by
Gregory V

Year 989 (CMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


The 990s decade ran from January 1, 990, to December 31, 999.


Year 991 (CMXCI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Year 993 (CMXCIII) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


Year 996 (CMXCVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

Arnulf (archbishop of Reims)

Arnulf (also Arnulph or Arnoul) was archbishop of Reims and the illegitimate son of King Lothair of France.

Archbishop Adalberon wanted Gerbert of Aurillac to succeed him, but King Hugh Capet accepted the elected Arnulf, a Carolingian, in March 989. In September of that year, Arnulf supported an attempt to place his uncle Charles, duke of Lower Lorraine, on the throne. Charles briefly held Rheims and Laon. In 990, Arnulf refused to attend a synod at Senlis and he and Charles were imprisoned (March 29).

In June, 991, Seguin, Archbishop of Sens presided over a Synod of Reims in the Basilica of Saint Basle, which deposed Arnulf for alleged high treason in favour of Gerbert, later Pope Sylvester II.

This deposition was much opposed, however. Pope John XV sent Leo, abbot of Saints Boniface and Alexius at Rome, as legate to preside over a synod at Mouzon, June 2, 995. Gerbert was suspended from the episcopum. A second synod, held July 1, declared the whole process of deposition and elevation to be illegal and invalid. Thus, Arnulf was reinstated.

He crowned Hugh, the son of Robert II, co-king in the Capetian tradition in 1017. At this time, any resistance to the new dynasty had died in him.

He held the see until his death in 1021, then the only direct male line descendant of the Carolingian family in the eldest living branch.

Congress of Gniezno

The Congress of Gniezno (Polish: Zjazd gnieźnieński, German: Akt von Gnesen or Gnesener Übereinkunft) was an amical meeting between the Polish Duke Bolesław I the Brave and Emperor Otto III, which took place at Gniezno on 11 March 1000. Scholars disagree over the details of the decisions made at the convention, especially whether the ruler of Poland was pledged the king's crown or not.

Crescentius the Younger

Crescentius the Younger (or Crescentius II) (died 998), son of Crescentius the Elder, was a leader of the aristocracy of medieval Rome. During the minority of Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, he declared himself Consul (or Senator) of Rome (Patricius Romanorum) and made himself de facto ruler of Rome. After being deposed, he led a rebellion, seized control of Rome, and appointed an antipope, but the rebellion failed and Crescentius was eventually executed.

Dagome iudex

Dagome iudex is one of the earliest historical documents relating to Poland. Although Poland is not mentioned by name, it refers to Dagome and Ote (Mieszko I and his wife, Oda von Haldensleben) and their sons in 991, placing their land (called "Schinesghe") under the protection of the Apostolic See. The document's name derives from its opening words.

Hugh Capet

Hugh Capet (c. 939 – 24 October 996) was the King of the Franks from 987 to 996. He is the founder and first king from the House of Capet. He was elected as the successor of the last Carolingian king, Louis V. Hugh was a descendant in illegitimate descent of Charlemagne through his mother and paternal grandmother.

List of cardinals created between 904–985

List of the cardinals attested in the contemporary sources during the period of pornocracy (904 – 964) and later until the election of Pope John XV in August 985. It certainly contains only small part of all cardinals living at that time because only small number of documents and other accounts useful for the reconstruction of that list have been preserved to our times.

The dates in the parentheses mark the first and last time when the cardinal appears in the sources.

Manso I of Amalfi

Manso I (Italian: Mansone) (died 1004) was the duke of Amalfi (966–1004) and prince of Salerno (981–983). He was the son of Duke Sergius I and the greatest independent ruler of Amalfi, which he controlled for nearly half a century. He is sometimes numbered Manso III.

When his father Sergius, of the Musco Comite family, assumed the Amalfitan throne in 958, he immediately associated his young son Manso with him. In 966, Manso succeeded to the full dukedom. He was even granted the Byzantine title patricius. From the start he had designs on the Principality of Salerno. In 977, he associated his own son John with him as co-duke.

In 973, Manso conspired with Landulf of Conza and Marinus II of Naples to depose Gisulf I of Salerno. In 974, Gisulf was reinstated by Pandulf Ironhead. In 981, Manso took advantage of the youth of Pandulf II of Salerno and invaded that principality, removing him from office. Emperor Otto II, who was then in Italy fighting the Byzantines and the Saracens and in need of allies, gave Manso the imperial recognition he desired. Manso associated John with him in the rule, but the Amalfitans were tyrannical and unpopular. In 983, they were overthrown by the people, who elected the exiled count of the palace, John Lambert.

Exiled from Salerno, Manso did not find refuge in Amalfi, where his brother Adelfer had begun to reign in opposition to him. Though Manso succeeded in reestablishing himself in Amalfi by 986, it seems that Adelfer and his other brothers, Ademarius and Leo, continued to claim co-authority until at least 998. Nevertheless, Manso continued to rule Amalfi until his death. He built the cathedral of S. Andrea Apostolo and succeeded in getting Pope John XV to make Amalfi an archiepiscopal see (987). When he died, he was succeeded by his adult son.

According to the Arab traveller Ibn Hawqal, writing in 977, described Amalfi as:

...the most prosperous Lombard city, the most noble, the most illustrious for its conditions, the most wealthy and opulent. The territory of Amalfi borders that of Naples; a beautiful city, but less important than Amalfi.

Oda of Haldensleben

Oda of Haldensleben (c. 955/60 – 1023) was a German noblewoman and by marriage Duchess of the Polans.

She was the eldest child of Dietrich of Haldensleben, Margrave of the North March.

Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor

Otto III (June/July 980 – 23 January 1002) was Holy Roman Emperor from 996 until his early death in 1002. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto III was the only son of the Emperor Otto II and his wife Theophanu.

Otto III was crowned as King of Germany in 983 at the age of three, shortly after his father's death in Southern Italy while campaigning against the Byzantine Empire and the Emirate of Sicily. Though the nominal ruler of Germany, Otto III's minor status ensured his various regents held power over the Empire. His cousin Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, initially claimed regency over the young king and attempted to seize the throne for himself in 984. When his rebellion failed to gain the support of Germany's aristocracy, Henry II was forced to abandon his claims to the throne and to allow Otto III's mother Theophanu to serve as regent until her death in 991. Otto III was then still a child, so his grandmother, the Dowager Empress Adelaide of Italy, served as regent until 994.

In 996, Otto III marched to Italy to claim the titles King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor, which had been left unclaimed since the death of Otto II in 983. Otto III also sought to reestablish Imperial control over the city of Rome, which had revolted under the leadership of Crescentius II, and through it the papacy. Crowned as Emperor, Otto III put down the Roman rebellion and installed his cousin as Pope Gregory V, the first Pope of German descent. After the Emperor had pardoned him and left the city, Crescentius II again rebelled, deposing Gregory V and installing John XVI as Pope. Otto III returned to the city in 998, reinstalled Gregory V, and executed both Crescentius II and John XVI. When Gregory V died in 999, Otto III installed Sylvester II as the new Pope. Otto III's actions throughout his life further strengthened imperial control over the Catholic Church.

From the beginning of his reign, Otto III faced opposition from the Slavs along the eastern frontier. Following the death of his father in 983, the Slavs rebelled against imperial control, forcing the Empire to abandon its territories east of the Elbe river. Otto III fought to regain the Empire's lost territories throughout his reign with only limited success. While in the east, Otto III strengthened the Empire's relations with Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary. Through his affairs in Eastern Europe in 1000, he was able to extend the influence of Christianity by supporting mission work in Poland and through the crowning of Stephen I as the first Christian king of Hungary.

Returning to Rome in 1001, Otto faced a rebellion by the Roman aristocracy, which forced him to flee the city. While marching to reclaim the city in 1002, Otto suffered a sudden fever and died in Castle Paterno in Faleria at the age of 21. With no clear heir to succeed him, his early death threw the Empire into political crisis.

Pope John

Pope John may refer to:

Pope John I (523–526)

Pope John II (533–535)

Pope John III (561–574)

Pope John IV (640–642)

Pope John V (685–686)

Pope John VI (701–705)

Pope John VII (705–707)

Antipope John VIII (844)

Pope John VIII (872–882)

Pope John IX (898–900)

Pope John X (914–928)

Pope John XI (931–935)

Pope John XII (955–964)

Pope John XIII (965–972)

Pope John XIV (983–984)

Pope John XV (985–996)

Antipope John XVI (997–998) (no longer recognized as a legitimate pope)

Pope John XVII (1003)

Pope John XVIII (1003–1009)

Pope John XIX (1024–1032)

Pope John XX (not an actual pope)

Pope John XXI (1276–1277)

Pope John XXII (1316–1334)

Antipope John XXIII (1410–1415)

Pope John XXIII (1958–1963)Another 19 Popes John in the List of Coptic Orthodox Popes of Alexandria

Pope John XV of Alexandria

Pope John XV of Alexandria (Abba Yoannis El-Mallawany) (died 7 September 1629) was the 99th Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. Originally from Mallawi, he was a monk in the Monastery of Saint Anthony before being consecrated Patriarch on the 7th day of Thout, 1336 A.M. (September 18, 1619 A.D.). Known for his great modesty and piety, John XV was devoted to ministry, prayer, and worship. He exemplified zeal in guiding the Coptic church and in showing compassion to his priests, the poor, and strangers.

In 1623 A.D., John visited and ministered in Upper Egypt, which was suffering under a devastating plague. In 1629 A.D., another severe epidemic spread through the land, prompting the Pope to make a second trip to Upper Egypt in the second year of the epidemic. During his return journey to Cairo he stayed in the city of Abnub. While staying in a house John reportedly rebuked the owner for keeping concubines. He then became ill, possibly from being poisoned by his host. John died shortly afterward and was buried in the monastery of the Saint Anba Bishih in El-Bayadia, Egypt. He was patriarch for nine years, eleven months and twenty-two days.

Pope John numbering

The numbering of Popes John does not occur in strict numerical order. Twenty-one popes have used the name "Pope John", but the latest was Pope John XXIII, not John XXI. These discrepancies in regnal numbers are due in part to a now discounted belief in another Pope John between John XIV and John XV, and the antipapacy of John XVI.

(As well as twenty-one popes, three antipopes have used the name, but by convention antipopes are ignored in the numbering of later popes.)

Pope John of Alexandria

John has been the papal name of several Coptic Popes.

Patriarch John II (I) of Alexandria (496–505)

Patriarch John III (II) of Alexandria (505–516)

Pope John III of Alexandria (677–688)

Pope John IV of Alexandria (776–799)

Pope John V of Alexandria (1147–1166)

Pope John VI of Alexandria (1189–1216)

Pope John VII of Alexandria (1261–1268, 1271–1293)

Pope John VIII of Alexandria (1300–1320)

Pope John IX of Alexandria (1320–1327)

Pope John X of Alexandria (1363–1369)

Pope John XI of Alexandria (1427–1452)

Pope John XII of Alexandria (1480–1483)

Pope John XIII of Alexandria (1483–1524)

Pope John XIV of Alexandria (1573–1589)

Pope John XV of Alexandria (1621–1631)

Pope John XVI of Alexandria (1676–1718)

Pope John XVII of Alexandria (1727–1745)

Pope John XVIII of Alexandria (1769–1796)

Pope John XIX of Alexandria (1928–1942)

Ulrich of Augsburg

Saint Ulrich of Augsburg (893 – 4 July 973), sometimes spelled Uodalric or Odalrici, was Bishop of Augsburg in Germany. He was the first saint to be canonized not by a local authority but by the Pope.

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