Saeculum obscurum

Saeculum obscurum (Latin: the Dark Age) is a name given to a period in the history of the Papacy during the first two-thirds of the 10th century, beginning with the installation of Pope Sergius III in 904 and lasting for sixty years until the death of Pope John XII in 964. During this period, the popes were influenced strongly by a powerful and corrupt aristocratic family, the Theophylacti, and their relatives.

Periodization

The saeculum obscurum was first named and identified as a period of papal immorality by the Italian cardinal and historian Caesar Baronius in his Annales Ecclesiastici in the sixteenth century.[1] Baronius's primary source for his history of this period was a contemporaneous writer, Bishop Liutprand of Cremona. Baronius himself was writing during the Counter-Reformation, a period of heightened sensitivity to clerical corruption. His characterisation of the early 10th-century papacy was perpetuated by Protestant authors. The terms "pornocracy" (German: Pornokratie, from Greek pornokratiā, "rule of prostitutes"), hetaerocracy ("government of mistresses") and the Rule of the Harlots (German: Hurenregiment) were coined by Protestant German theologians in the nineteenth century.[2]

Historian Will Durant refers to the period from 867 to 1049 as the "nadir of the papacy."[3]

10th-century popes

The Theophylacti family originated from Theophylactus. They held positions of increased importance in the Roman nobility such as Judex, vestararius, gloriosissimus dux, consul and senator, and magister militum.[4] Theophylact's wife Theodora and daughter Marozia held a great influence over the papal selection and religious affairs in Rome through conspiracies, affairs, and marriages.[5]

Marozia became the concubine of Pope Sergius III when she was 15 and later took other lovers and husbands.[6] She ensured that her son John was seated as Pope John XI according to Antapodosis sive Res per Europam gestae (958–62), by Liutprand of Cremona (c. 920–72). Liutprand affirms that Marozia arranged the murder of her former lover Pope John X (who had originally been nominated for office by Theodora) through her then husband Guy of Tuscany possibly to secure the elevation of her current favourite as Pope Leo VI.[7] There is no record substantiating that Pope John X had definitely died before Leo VI was elected since John X was already imprisoned by Marozia and was out of public view.

Theodora and Marozia held great sway over the popes during this time. In particular, as political rulers of Rome they had effective control over the election of new popes. Much that is alleged about the saeculum obscurum comes from the histories of Liutprand, Bishop of Cremona. Liutprand took part in the Assembly of Bishops which deposed Pope John XII and was a political enemy of the Roman aristocracy and its control over papal elections. Lindsay Brook writes:

We must be especially circumspect about the writing of Liutprand of Cremona, perhaps the most polemical of the tenth century chroniclers, who had his own agenda to promote the revived western Roman Empire.[8]

It would be misleading to portray all, or even most, of the popes of the era as worldly and corrupt. Surviving documents (and there are obvious lacunae) make it clear that many were competent administrators, and skilful diplomats in difficult and dangerous times. Some were even reformers, keen to root out discreditable practices such as simony. Others ordered the rebuilding and restoration of Rome's churches and palaces... Rather, it is the manner of the election of many of them and their symbiotic relationship with the Roman aristocracy that has earned their regime the designation pornocracy."[8]

List of Popes during the saeculum obscurum

Family tree

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum
864–924
 
Theodora
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hugh of Italy
887-924-948
(also married Marozia)
 
Alberic I of Spoleto
d. 925
 
 
Marozia
890–937
 
 
Pope Sergius III
Pope 904–911
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alda of Vienne
 
Alberic II of Spoleto
905–954
 
David or Deodatus
 
Pope John XI
Pope 931–935
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gregory I, Count of Tusculum
 
Pope John XII
Pope 955–964
 
Pope Benedict VII
Pope 974-983
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pope Benedict VIII
Pope 1012–1024
 
Alberic III, Count of Tusculum
d. 1044
 
Pope John XIX
Pope 1024–1032
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Peter, Duke of the Romans
 
Gregory II, Count of Tusculum
 
Gaius
 
Octavianus
 
Pope Benedict IX
Pope 1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048

The Tusculan Papacy, 1012–1059

After several Crescentii family Popes up to 1012, the Theophylacti still occasionally nominated sons as Popes:

Pope Benedict IX went so far as to sell the Papacy to his religious Godfather, Pope Gregory VI (1045–46). He then changed his mind, seized the Lateran Palace, and became Pope for the third time in 1047–48.

The Tusculan Papacy was finally ended by the election of Pope Nicholas II, who was assisted by Hildebrand of Sovana against Antipope Benedict X. Hildebrand was elected Pope Gregory VII in 1073 and introduced the Gregorian Reforms, increasing the power and independence of the papacy.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Dwyer, John C. (1998). Church history: twenty centuries of Catholic Christianity. Mahwah, USA.: Paulist Press. p. 155. ISBN 0-8091-3830-1.
  2. ^ Paolo Squatriti, "Pornocracy", in Christopher Kleinhenz (ed.), Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 (New York and London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 926–27.
  3. ^ Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972. p. 537
  4. ^ Poole, Reginald L (1917). "Papal chronology in the eleventh century". English Historical Review. 1917a41 (32): 204–214.
  5. ^ Fedele, Pietro (1910 & 1911). "Ricerche per la storia di Rome e del papato al. sec. X". Archivo della Reale Società Romana di Storia Patria, 33: 177–247; & 34: 75–116, 393–423.
  6. ^ Ide, Arthur Frederick (1987). Unzipped: The Popes Bare All : A Frank Study of Sex and Corruption in the Vatican. Austin, USA.: American Atheist Press. ISBN 0-910309-43-4.
  7. ^ Stark, Rodney (2004). For the glory of God. Princeton, USA.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-11950-2.
  8. ^ a b Brook, Lindsay (2003). "Popes and Pornocrats: Rome in the early middle ages". Foundations. 1 (1): 5–21.

References

Dark Ages (historiography)

The "Dark Ages" is a historical periodization traditionally referring to the Middle Ages, that asserts that a demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration occurred in Western Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire.The term employs traditional light-versus-darkness imagery to contrast the era's "darkness" (lack of records) with earlier and later periods of "light" (abundance of records). The concept of a "Dark Age" originated in the 1330s with the Italian scholar Petrarch, who regarded the post-Roman centuries as "dark" compared to the light of classical antiquity. The phrase "Dark Age" itself derives from the Latin saeculum obscurum, originally applied by Caesar Baronius in 1602 to a tumultuous period in the 10th and 11th centuries. The concept thus came to characterize the entire Middle Ages as a time of intellectual darkness between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance; this became especially popular during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.As the accomplishments of the era came to be better understood in the 18th and 20th centuries, scholars began restricting the "Dark Ages" appellation to the Early Middle Ages (c. 5th–10th century), and now scholars also reject its usage in this period. The majority of modern scholars avoid the term altogether due to its negative connotations, finding it misleading and inaccurate. The original definition remains in popular use, and popular culture often employs it as a vehicle to depict the Middle Ages as a time of backwardness, extending its pejorative use and expanding its scope.

List of popes (graphical)

This is a graphical list of the popes of the Roman Catholic Church.

While the term pope (Latin: Papa, 'Father') is used in several churches to denote their high spiritual leaders, in English usage, this title generally refers to the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Holy See. The title itself has been used officially by the head of the Church since the tenure of Pope Siricius.

There have been 266 popes, as listed by the Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook) under the heading 'I Sommi Pontefici Romani' (The Supreme Pontiffs of Rome). Some sources quote a number of 267, with the inclusion of Stephen II, who died four days after his election but before his episcopal consecration. However, only 264 (or 265) men have occupied the chair of Saint Peter, as Benedict IX held the office thrice on separate occasions in the mid–11th century.

The pope bears the titles

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of Godand is officially styled 'His Holiness'.

Since the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the pope's temporal title has been Sovereign of the Vatican City State.

Orvieto Papacy

Orvieto, Umbria, Italy, was the refuge of five popes during the 13th century: Urban IV (1261–1264), Gregory X (1271–1276), Martin IV (1281–1285), Nicholas IV (1288–1292) and Boniface VIII (1294–1303). During this time, the popes took up residence in the Papal Palace of Orvieto (also known as Palazzo Soliano), which was adjacent to the Orvieto Cathedral and expanded onto the bishop's residence. None of these popes died in Orvieto, and thus no papal elections took place in there, nor are there any papal tombs.

Political and strategic reasons motivated the frequent moves of the pope and Roman Curia during this period, and other destinations include Viterbo and Perugia. Urban IV and Martin IV resided in both Viterbo and Orvieto. During the period from the reign of Nicholas IV to Benedict XI (1303–1304), Orvieto hosted the pope more frequently than Rome.

Art historian Gary M. Radke notes that "the papal palaces in Viterbo and Orvieto are the most extensive thirteenth-century papal palaces to survive to our own day." He dates the frescoes in the palace to the 1290s, during the reign of Nicholas IV or Boniface VIII. They display naturalistic impulses in the Gothic style.

Papal renunciation

A papal renunciation (Latin: renuntiatio) occurs when the reigning pope of the Catholic Church voluntarily steps down from his position. As the reign of the pope has conventionally been from election until death, papal renunciation is an uncommon event. Before the 21st century, only five popes unambiguously resigned with historical certainty, all between the 10th and 15th centuries. Additionally, there are disputed claims of four popes having resigned, dating from the 3rd to the 11th centuries; a fifth disputed case may have involved an antipope.

Additionally, a few popes during the saeculum obscurum were "deposed", meaning driven from office by force. The history and canonical question here is complicated; generally, the official Vatican list of popes seems to recognize such "depositions" as valid renunciations if the pope acquiesced, but not if he did not. The later development of canon law has been in favor of papal supremacy, leaving no recourse to the removal of a pope involuntarily.The most recent pope to resign was Benedict XVI, who vacated the Holy See on 28 February 2013 at 19:00 UTC. He was the first pope to do so since Gregory XII in 1415.

Despite its common usage in discussion of papal renunciations, the term abdication is not used in the official documents of the church for renunciation by a pope.

Peter, Duke of the Romans

Peter was a mediaeval Roman noble. Like his fathers, he carried the illustrious title of Romanorum patricius, consul, dux et senator ("Patrician, consul, duke, and senator of the Romans"), implying his secular command over Rome and its militia. He was the son of Alberic III, Count of Tusculum. As a result, he was a descendant of Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum.

Historians use the term Saeculum obscurum to describe the period when the Papacy was under the direct control of the Roman nobility, in particular when it was under the domination of the family of Theophylact, which later became the Colonna family

Pope Agapetus II

Pope Agapetus II (died 8 November 955) was Pope from 10 May 946 to his death in 955. A nominee of the Princeps of Rome, Alberic II, his pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope Benedict V

Pope Benedict V (Latin: Benedictus V; died 4 July 965) was Pope from 22 May to 23 June 964, in opposition to Pope Leo VIII. He was overthrown by emperor Otto I. His pontificate occurred at the end of a period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope John X

John X redirects here. It can also refer to John X of Antioch.

Pope John X can also refer to Pope John X of Alexandria.Pope John X (Latin: Ioannes X; d. 28 May 928) was Pope from March 914 to his death in 928. A candidate of the Counts of Tusculum, he attempted to unify Italy under the leadership of Berengar of Friuli, and was instrumental in the defeat of the Saracens at the Battle of Garigliano. He eventually fell out with Marozia, who had him deposed, imprisoned, and finally murdered. John’s pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope John XI

Pope John XI (Latin: Ioannes XI; d. December 935) was Pope from March 931 (at the age of 20) to his death in December 935.

Pope Lando

Lando (also known as Landus) was Pope from c. September 913 to his death c. March 914. His short pontificate fell during an obscure period in papal and Roman history, the so-called Saeculum obscurum (904–64). He was the last pope to use a papal name (in his case, his birth name) that had not been used previously until the election of Pope Francis in 2013.According to the Liber pontificalis, Lando was born in the Sabina, and his father was a wealthy Lombard count named Taino from Fornovo. The Liber also claims that his pontificate lasted only four months and twenty-two days. A different list of popes, appended to a continuation of the Liber pontificalis at the Abbey of Farfa and quoted by Gregory of Catino in his Chronicon Farfense in the twelfth century, gives Lando a pontificate of six months and twenty-six days. This is closer to the duration recorded by Flodoard of Reims, writing in the tenth century, of six months and ten days. The end of his pontificate can be dated to between 5 February 914, when he is mentioned in a document of Ravenna, and late March or early April, when his successor, John X, was elected.Lando is thought to have been the candidate of Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum, and his wife, Theodora, who were the most powerful persons in Rome at the time. The Theophylacti controlled papal finances through their monopoly of the office of vestararius, and also controlled the Roman militia and Senate. During Lando's reign, Arab raiders, operating from their stronghold on the Garigliano river, destroyed the cathedral of San Salvatore in Vescovio in his native diocese. No document of Lando's chancery has survived. The only act of his reign that is recorded is a donation to the diocese of Sabina mentioned in a judicial act of 1431. Lando made the large personal gift in order to restore the cathedral of San Salvatore so that the clergy who were then living at Toffia could return.

Pope Leo V

Pope Leo V (d. February 904) was Pope from July 903 to his death in 904. He was pope during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum. He was thrown into prison in September 903 by the Antipope Christopher, and was probably killed at the start of the pontificate of Pope Sergius III. If his deposition is not considered valid (as in the modern Vatican list), then his papacy may be considered to have ended with his death in 904.

Pope Leo VI

Pope Leo VI (880 – 12 February 929) was Pope for just over seven months, from June 928 to his death in February 929. His pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope Leo VIII

Pope Leo VIII (died 1 March 965) was the head of the Catholic Church from 23 June 964 to his death in 965; before that, he was an antipope from 963 to 964, in opposition to Pope John XII and Pope Benedict V. An appointee of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I, his pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope Pelagius II

Pope Pelagius II (d. 7 February 590) was Pope from 26 November 579 to his death in 590.

Pope Romanus

Pope Romanus (died November 897) was Pope from August to November 897.

Pope Stephen VII

Pope Stephen VII (Latin: Stephanus VII; d. 15 March 931) was Pope from February 929 to his death in 931. A candidate of the infamous Marozia, his pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope Stephen VIII

Pope Stephen VIII (Latin: Stephanus VIII; d. October 942) was Pope from 14 July 939 to his death in 942.

Pornocracy

Pornocracy (from Greek πόρνη "female prostitute" + -κρατία "-cracy" a suffix indicating government or rule) is a government ruled by prostitutes or by corrupt officials (who metaphorically "prostitute" themselves for power).

It may also refer to:

Saeculum obscurum, a period in the Catholic church often referred to as Pornocracy

Pornocrates, a Flemish painting referred to as Pornocracy

Anatomy of Hell, a 2004 movie based on a 2001 book called Pornocracy

La Pornocratie, ou les Femmes dans les temps modernes, a book called Pornocracy by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Vestararius

The vestararius was the manager of the medieval Roman Curia office of the vestiarium (cf. the Byzantine imperial wardrobe and treasury, the vestiarion), responsible for the management of papal finances as well as the papal wardrobe. The vestiarium is mentioned as the papal treasury as early as the seventh century, during the period of Byzantine cultural hegemony in the West called the "Byzantine Papacy", but the vestararius itself is attested to only from the eighth century.Along with the highest financial officers arcarius and the sacellarius, the vestararius was one of the three most important staff officials of the Lateran Palace (the palatini). By the ninth century the vestararius was a member of the papal household second only to the seven judges, while the other two offices figured among the "seven judges of the palace" who constituted the core of the papal court. While the other offices were responsible for the collection and dispensation of papal assets, respectively, the vestararius was responsible for guarding the wealth, possibly depositing in the wardrobe along with the papal vestiments. The vestararius was also responsible for the written financial archives and accounts, and may have received and distributed some sums independently of the other offices.By 813, the vestararius was seated beside the pope in the Palace in giving judgement and in 875 was sent as an embassy to the Holy Roman Emperor. Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum, who for all intents and purposes ran the temporal affairs of the papacy during the saeculum obscurum of the first half of the tenth century, was a holder of the office of vestararius. His wife, Theodora, held the extraordinary position of vestararissa.The financial administration of the papacy as a whole began to be referred to as a camera in 1017, but the name change may not have been of any real significance. The last known reference to the office of vestararius appears in 1033. There is no concrete evidence of continuity between the vestararius and the camerarius, which is referred to for the first time in 1099, although their functions are nearly the same. Either office (or both) may have existed during this period, or the responsibilities may have fallen to some third office, often hypothesized to have been filled by Hildebrand.

1st–4th centuries
During the Roman Empire (until 493)
including under Constantine (312–337)
5th–8th centuries
Ostrogothic Papacy (493–537)
Byzantine Papacy (537–752)
Frankish Papacy (756–857)
9th–12th centuries
Papal selection before 1059
Saeculum obscurum (904–964)
Crescentii era (974–1012)
Tusculan Papacy (1012–1044/1048)
Imperial Papacy (1048–1257)
13th–16th centuries
Viterbo (1257–1281)
Orvieto (1262–1297)
Perugia (1228–1304)
Avignon Papacy (1309–1378)
Western Schism (1378–1417)
Renaissance Papacy (1417–1534)
Reformation Papacy (1534–1585)
Baroque Papacy (1585–1689)
17th–20th centuries
Age of Enlightenment (c. 1640-1740)
Revolutionary Papacy (1775–1848)
Roman Question (1870–1929)
Vatican City (1929–present)
21st century
History of the papacy

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