Tag: controversial Pope

No 3 of Top 10 Controversial Catholic Popes: Alexander VI

No 3 of Top 10 Controversial Catholic Popes: Alexander VI

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Number three on our list of top ten controversial Catholic Popes is Alexander VI. Corrupt, controversial and by some accounts wicked, Alexander VI was not a picture of papal purity.

A member of the prominent and wealthy Borgia family, he bought his way into St. Peter’s. Once there, he appointed family members to powerful positions, including his sons and family members of his mistress, Vannozza Catanei.

While some of the controversy surrounding Alexander VI is well-founded, other scandalous details may just be rumors, like his arranging murders or hosting wild orgies inside the papal palace.

He did, however, bear four children by Catanei. He made his daughter Lucrezia into a political pawn — marrying her off three times in the hope of securing alliances and power. Some even speculate that Alexander VI fathered one of Lucrezia’s children.

He did have one redeeming quality: his patronage of the arts. He persuaded Michelangelo to draw up plans for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica, embellished the Vatican palaces and restored the Castel Sant’Angelo — all of which he is remembered for today.

No 2: Pope Urban VI

No 4: Pope Pius XII

No 1 of Top 10 Controversial Catholic Popes: Pope Stephen VI

No 1 of Top 10 Controversial Catholic Popes: Pope Stephen VI

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Number one on our list of top ten controversial Popes is Pope Stephen VI (also sometimes known as Stephen VII). Talk about holding a grudge. Pope Stephen VI despised his predecessor, Pope Formosus, so much that even his death could not satisfy him — he wanted defamation.

In the Cadaver Synod — what has been called “the strangest and most terrible trial in human history” and “one of the grisliest events in papal history” — Stephen VI had Formosus’ rotting nine-month-old corpse dug up, redressed in his papal vestments and seated on the throne so he could be tried.

Somehow the corpse hadn’t built much of a defense, and Formosus was found guilty of what were likely bogus charges. As punishment, three of Formosus’ fingers were cut off (the three fingers on the right hand used to give blessings).

The corpse was then stripped of his sacred vestments, dressed as a layman, dragged through the streets and dumped in the Tiber River — where he was finally able to rest in peace.

No 2: Pope Urban VI

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