Tusculan Papacy

The Tusculan Papacy was a period of papal history from 1012 to 1048 where three successive Counts of Tusculum installed themselves as pope.

B Benedikt VIII
Pope Benedict VIII (1012-1024)


Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum, his wife Theodora, and daughter Marozia held great sway over the appointment of popes from 904 to 964. The lovers of Theodora and Marozia, as well as the son and grandson of Marozia, rose to the papacy during this period. However, a Count of Tusculum had not yet attempted to appoint himself as pope until 1012. Their rivals, the Crescentii had taken over the papacy from 974 to 1012.

According to Cushing, "in many ways, increasing respect for papal authority from the mid-tenth century to mid-eleventh centuries can be best viewed through the spectrum of two Roman families: the Crescentians and the Tusculans, whose control of the papacy would have important ramifications for both the control and direction of reform."[1] Both the Crescentii and the Counts of Tusculum were descended from Theophylact I, the former papal vestararius.[1] The Crescentii had cooperated with German empress Theophanu and Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor, who resided in Rome from 999 to 1001.[1]

The Tusculans did not expropriate church property to increase the already substantial holdings of their family; in fact, they appear to have expended their own resources to increase the power of the papacy.[2] According to Luscombe and Riley-Smith, "in contrast to the Crescentians, who had largely relied on the entrenchment of their own dynasty and their supporters in the duchy of Rome as secular magnates and landowners - often at the expense of the temporal power of the Roman church - the Tusculans used their secular power and successes to shore up the standing of the papacy among the Roman nobility. The position of Patrician, so important to Crescentian rule, remained vacant."[3]

Abbot Odilo of Cluny flourished during this period receiving support form Benedict VII and John XIX for monastic immunity.[2] The power of the Tusculan popes derived both from their assertions of papal supremacy and from their ability to balance power between the competing families of Rome.[4]

The Counts of Tusculum were centered at Tuscolo, above Frascati, protected by an ancient fortress in Borghetto; their principle monasteries were Grottaferrata and Subiaco; they also controlled many churches and religious houses in and around Rome.[5]


Benedict VIII

In 1012, Rome saw a violent political upheaval then ended Crescentii domination and elevated Theophylact, the son of Gregory I, Count of Tusculum, as Pope Benedict VIII (1012-1024).[2] Benedict VIII was a layman until his election.[2] However, during his papacy he was a strong proponent of papal supremacy and frequently interfered in ecclesiastical matters on the Italian peninsula outside Rome.[2] Benedict VIII's brother, Romanus, was the city prefect ("Senator of all the Romans".[2][5] His other brother, Alberic, was a Consul and Senator ("consul et dux").[5][6] Alberic was responsible for overseeing courts of justice in the Imperial Palatinate, near Santa Sabina.[7]

Gregory I had been a figure in the court of Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor as the "naval prefect" and Alberic had been the "master of the imperial palace."[5] Other Roman families still held important offices: the Stefaniani family held the prefecture of Rome and the Ottaviani retained the rectorate of Sabina.[8]

Among Benedict VIII's first acts as pope was a military campaign against the strongholds of the Crescentii around Rome.[2] The Crescenzi fortresses in Sabina were demolished.[8] The Crescentii faction set up a rival to Benedict VIII: Antipope Gregory VI (1012).[9] John Crescentius still remained the Prefect of Rome, but was soon dispossessed of much of his property.[6]

Benedict VIII was an ally of Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor; he called upon the emperor to visit Rome, which he did in late 1013 (spending Christmas in Pavia).[5][7] A synod convoked by the emperor deposed the archbishop of Ravenna, who was replaced with Arnulf, a half-brother.[5] Benedict VIII and the emperor met in Ravenna, and then proceeded to Rome (with the emperor arriving later).[10]

Benedict VIII confirmed his privileges at Bamberg and crowned him on February 14, 1014 as emperor, in a ceremony in Old Saint Peter's Basilica.[2][10] These twelve people calling themselves the Senate of Rome had doubtlessly consented to the coronation before it occurred.[11] Benedict VIII visited Henry II in Bamberg in 1020 (where he celebrated Easter), and the emperor came to Italy the following year.[12][13] In Bamberg, Henry issued the Henricianum, which repeated the Diploma Ottonianum, which itself had repeated donations of land which date back to the Frankish Papacy.[3] The Henricianum, as much as the forged "Donation of Constantine", played a central role in papal territorial and sovereignty claims in the coming centuries.[3]

Just as Henry II was promising the pope this territory, the pope was being deprived of nearly all of his temporal power by the armies of John Patricius, and competing hereditary counts had "sprung up on both sides of the Tiber."[14] While the Tusculans remained strong in the Latin mountains, the Counts of Segni controlled Campagna, the Crescentii held Sabina, the Counts of Galeria controlled Tuscany, and Thrasmundus, Berardus, and Oderisius retained the Marsian territory as far as Subiaco.[15] According to Gregorovius, "of the dominions founded for them by the Carolingians the popes possessed little beyond the yellowed deeds of gift in their archives."[15]

In 1016, a Pisan and Genoese fleet defeated the Arabs, in a victory which Benedict VIII may have something to do with; he also possibly schemed with the Normans against the Byzantines in southern Italy.[13] Benedict VIII himself led an allied force against Mussetus, who escaped after the battle of Luni.[16] However, in 1018, Melo, the leader of the rebellion against the Greeks was defeated.[13] The Germans honored the Henricianum in 1022 by sending their own army to southern Italy.[13]

In 1022, Benedict VIII held with Henry II a council in Ravenna which issued stringent prohibitions against clerical concubinage.[2]

John XIX

Benedict VIII's brother Romanus succeeded him as Pope John XIX (1024-1032).[2] John XIX did not resign his secular titles ("senatorial dignity") upon his election as pope; documents would refer to him not as "Senator" but as "Count Palatine and Consul."[17] According to Cushing, John XIX was "somewhat less adept" than his brother in cooperating with Henry II's successor, Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor but was "by no means a puppet."[2]

John XIX was open to rapprochement with Byzantine emperor Basil II and was willing to declare the patriarch of Constantinople an ecumenical bishop; the Italian bishops and congregation of Cluny, however, opposed such moves.[18]

Benedict IX

Pope Benedict IX (1032-1044, 1045, 1047-1048) was the nephew of Benedict VIII and John XIX.[2] Norwood Young calls Benedict IX the "Nero of the Tusculan Papacy. Absolute power appears to paralyse the brain if applied at an early age."[19] According to Cushing, "the report of [his] crimes and deviance became ever more squalid as the latter reformers grew in power" but was for the first 12 years of his papacy "adequate and credible, if not perhaps immensely pious."[2] Another interpretation of his first twelve years is provided by successor Victor III:

Leading a life so shameful, so foul, so execrable that he shuddered to describe it. He ruled like a captain of banditti, rather than a prelate. Adulteries, homicides perpetrated by his own hand, passed unnoticed, unrevenged; for the patrician of the city, Gregory, was the brother of the Pope; and another brother, Peter, an active partisan [...] The oppressed people at length grew weary of his robberies, murders, and abominations. They rose and drove him from the city, and proceeded to the election of John Bishop of Sabina, who took the name Silvester III.[20]

By Autumn 1044, the position of Benedict IX was "seriously threatened" by the creation of Pope Silvester III (1045).[4] In May 1045, Benedict IX resigned the papacy in favor of John Gratian, who became Pope Gregory VI (1045-1046).[4] Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor met Gregory VI in 1046 and received him favorably.[4] By December, however, Henry III had changed his mind and ordered Benedict IX, Silvester III, and Gregory VI to appear before him in a synod in Sutri.[4] Gregory VI was the only one to show up, and he was declared guilty of simony and deposed on December 20.[4] Silvester III had long since given up being pope and returned to acting as Bishop of Sabina but he too was deprived of his orders and forced to retire to a monastery.[4]

Three days later, in Rome, Benedict IX was excommunicated for simony and Henry III's candidate, Bishop Suidger of Bamberg, was installed as Pope Clement II (1046-1047).[4]

Heinrich III. (HRR) Miniatur

Henry III deposed

Pope clement II

and installed Clement II.


According to John Cowdrey, "the decline of the Tusculans and Crescentians was to a limited extent balanced by the emergence of newer families which were to provide valuable support for Gregory VII and the popes that followed him," including the Frangipani family and Pierleoni family.[21]


The Tusculan Papacy "shaped other aspects of papal policy far beyond the reigns of the Tusculan popes themselves."[3] The Chancery underwent important changes, and the filoque clause was introduced.[3] A synod following Henry II's coronation in 1014 agreed to adopt the Frankish custom of reciting the Nicene Creed along with other prayers at mass on Sundays and other Holidays.[22]


  1. ^ a b c Cushing, 2005, p. 61.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Cushing, 2005, p. 62.
  3. ^ a b c d e Luscombe and Riley-Smith, 2004, p. 10.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Cushing, 2005, p. 63.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Partner, 1972, p. 102.
  6. ^ a b Milman, 1872, p. 353.
  7. ^ a b Gregorovius, 1896, p. 16.
  8. ^ a b Partner, 1972, p. 103.
  9. ^ Milman, 1872, p. 352.
  10. ^ a b Gregorovius, 1896, p. 17.
  11. ^ Gregorovius, 1896, p. 20.
  12. ^ Milman, 1872, p. 354.
  13. ^ a b c d Partner, 1972, p. 104.
  14. ^ Gregorovius, 1896, p. 18.
  15. ^ a b Gregorovius ,1896, p. 19.
  16. ^ Gregorovius, 1896, p. 25.
  17. ^ Gregorovius, 1896, pp. 31-32.
  18. ^ Gregorovius, 1896, p. 32.
  19. ^ Young, 1901, p. 180.
  20. ^ Milman, 1872, pp. 357-58.
  21. ^ Herbert Edward John Cowdrey. 1998. Pope Gregory VII, 1073-1085. p. 7.
  22. ^ Luscombe and Riley-Smith, 2004, p. 11.


Counts of Tusculum

The counts of Tusculum were the most powerful secular noblemen in Latium, near Rome, in the present-day Italy between the 10th and 12th centuries. Several popes and an antipope during the 11th century came from their ranks. They created and perfected the political formula of noble-papacy, wherein the Pope was arranged to be elected only from the ranks of the Roman nobles. The Pornocracy, the period of influence by powerful female members of the family, also influenced papal history.

The counts of Tusculum remained arbiters of Roman politics and religion for more than a century. In addition to the papal influence, they held lay power through consulships and senatorial membership. Traditionally they were pro-Byzantine and anti-German in their political affiliation.

After 1049, the Tusculan Papacy came to an end with the appointment of Pope Leo IX. In fact, the Tusculan papacy was largely responsible for the reaction known as the Gregorian reform. Subsequent events (from 1062 onwards) confirmed a shift in regional politics as the counts came to side with the Holy Roman Emperors against the Rome of the reformers. In 1059 the papal-decree of Pope Nicholas II established new rules for the Papal election, therefore putting an end to the noble-papacy formula.


The Crescentii clan (in modern Italian Crescenzi) — if they were an extended family — essentially ruled Rome and controlled the Papacy from 965 until the nearly simultaneous deaths of their puppet pope Sergius IV and the patricius of the clan in 1012.

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 selection before 1059

There was no fixed process for papal selection before 1059. Popes, the bishops of Rome and the leaders of the Catholic Church, were often appointed by their predecessors or secular rulers. While the process was often characterized by some capacity of election, an election with the meaningful participation of the laity was the exception to the rule, especially as the popes' claims to temporal power solidified into the Papal States. The practice of papal appointment during this period would later give rise to the jus exclusivae, a veto right exercised by Catholic monarchies into the twentieth century.

The lack of an institutionalized process for papal succession was prone to religious schism, and several papal claimants before 1059 are currently regarded by the Church as antipopes. Furthermore, the frequent requirement of secular approval of elected popes significantly lengthened periods of sede vacante and weakened the papacy. In 1059, Pope Nicholas II succeeded in limiting future papal electors to the cardinals with In nomine Domini, creating standardized papal elections that would eventually evolve into the papal conclave.

Pope-elect Stephen

Pope-elect Stephen (d. 26 March 752) was a Roman priest elected pope in March 752 to succeed Zachary; he died of a stroke a few days later, before being consecrated a bishop. Therefore, he is not listed as a pope in the Annuario Pontificio.

In 745, Pope Zachary had made him a cardinal-priest, with the titulus of San Crisogono, the same titulus later held by Cardinal Frederick of Lorraine, who became Pope Stephen IX.

Pope Adrian I

Pope Adrian I (Latin: Hadrianus I d. 25 December 795) was Bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 1 February 772 to his death in 795. He was the son of Theodore, a Roman nobleman.

Adrian and his predecessors had to contend with periodic attempts by the Lombards to expand their holdings in Italy at the expense of the papacy. Not receiving any support from Constantinople, the popes looked for help to the Franks. Adrian's tenure saw the culmination of on-going territorial disputes between Charlemagne and his brother Carloman. The Lombard king Desiderius supported the claims of Carloman's sons to their late father's land, and requested Pope Adrian crown Carloman's sons "Kings of the Frank". When the Pope failed to do so, Desiderius invaded Papal territory and seized the Duchy of the Pentapolis. Charlemagne besieged Pavia and took the Lombard crown for himself. He then restored the Pentapolis to the Papacy as well as some of the captured Lombard territory.

Pope Anacletus

Pope Anacletus (died c. 92), also known as Cletus, was the third Bishop of Rome, following Saint Peter and Pope Linus. Anacletus served as pope between c. 79 and his death, c. 92. Cletus was a Roman, who during his tenure as Pope, is known to have ordained a number of priests and is traditionally credited with setting up about twenty-five parishes in Rome. Although the precise dates of his pontificate are uncertain, he "...died a martyr, perhaps about 91". Cletus is mentioned in the Roman Canon of the mass; his feast day is April 26.

Pope Benedict IX

Pope Benedict IX (Latin: Benedictus IX; c. 1012 – c. 1056), born Theophylactus of Tusculum in Rome, was Pope on three occasions between October 1032 and July 1048. Aged approximately 20 at his first election, he is one of the youngest popes in history. He is the only man to have been Pope on more than one occasion and the only man ever to have sold the papacy.

Benedict was the nephew of his immediate predecessor, Pope John XIX. In October 1032, his father obtained his election through bribery. However, his reputed dissolute activities provoked a revolt on the part of the Romans. Benedict was driven out of Rome and Pope Sylvester III elected to succeed him. Some months later, Benedict and his supporters managed to expel Sylvester. Benedict then decided to abdicate in favor of his godfather, the Archpriest of St. John by the Latin Gate, provided he was reimbursed for his expenses. Gratian then became Pope Gregory VI. Benedict subsequently had second thoughts and returned, and attempted to depose Gregory. A number of prominent clergy appealed to Henry, King of the Germans to restore order. Henry and his forces crossed the Brenner Pass into Italy, where he summoned the Council of Sutri to decide the matter. Benedict, Sylvester, and Gregory were all deposed. Henry then nominated the bishop of Bamberg, Suidger von Morsleben, who was consecrated and became Pope Clement II in December 1046, thus clearing the way for Henry to be immediately crowned Holy Roman Emperor by a Pope recognized as legitimate.

While Benedict IX has an execrable reputation as pope, R.L. Poole suggests that some of the calumnies directed against him be understood in the context that they were perpetrated by virulent political enemies.

Pope Boniface II

Pope Boniface II (Latin: Bonifatius II; d. 17 October 532) was the first Germanic pope. He reigned from 17 September 530 until his death in 532. He was born an Ostrogoth.

Pope Conon

Pope Conon (d. 21 September 687) was Pope from 21 October 686 to his death in 687. He had been put forward as a compromise candidate, there being a conflict between the two factions resident in Rome— the military and the clerical. On his death, Conon was buried in the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter. He consecrated the Irish missionary Kilian a bishop and commissioned him to preach in Franconia.

Pope John I

Pope John I can also refer to Pope John (Talaia) I of Alexandria.

Pope John I can also refer to Pope John I (II) of Alexandria.Pope John I (Latin: Ioannes I; d. 18 May 526) was Pope from 13 August 523 to his death in 526. He was a native of Siena (or the "Castello di Serena", near Chiusdino), in Italy. He was sent on a diplomatic mission to Constantinople by the Ostrogoth King Theoderic to negotiate better treatment for Arians. Although relatively successful, upon his return to Ravenna, Theoderic had the Pope imprisoned for allegedly conspiring with Constantinople. The frail pope died of neglect and ill-treatment.

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 Linus

Linus ( (listen); died c. AD 76) was the second Bishop of Rome, and is listed by the Catholic Church as the second pope.

His papacy lasted from c. AD 67 to his death. Among those to have held the position of pope, Peter, Linus and Clement are specifically mentioned in the New Testament.Linus is mentioned in the closing greeting of the Second Epistle to Timothy as being with Paul in Rome near the end of Paul's life.

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.

Popes during the Age of Revolution

The modern history of the papacy is shaped by the two largest dispossessions of papal property in its history, stemming from the French and its spread to Europe, including Italy.

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.

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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