John VI and VII
John VI and VII
Popes, both Greeks by birth, were quite insignificant occupants of the papal throne. The former was consecrated October 10, 701, and buried January 10, 705. He was defended by Roman soldiers against the exarch Theophylact, who was ordered to drive him from the apostolic see. In a council which he held at Rome he acquitted Wilfred, archbishop of York, of several charges brought against him by the English clergy. The latter (consecrated March 1, 705, buried Oct. 18, 707) is described as weak and spiritless. The happiest illustration of the weakness of the Roman see at this time is afforded us in the action of this pope, who did not dare to venture to express an opinion on the Trullan canon, submitted to his examination by the emperor Justinian II, for fear of giving offence to somebody; and we do not wonder that an able ecclesiastical writer of our day (Butler, in his Ch. History, 1, 359) says that the whole period from Gregory I to Gregory II "may be briefly designated as that in which the popes were under subjection to the emperors of the East and their lieutenants, the exarchs of Ravenna." See the Vite in Anastasius; Bower, History of the Popes, 3, 159 sq., 167 sq.; Riddle, Papacy, 1, 305 sq.
Pope (styled the ninth by those who believed in the story of pope Joan [q.v.], whom they style John VIII), a native of Rome, succeeded Adrian II Dec. 14, 872. He displayed much tact, and harbored great schemes, but was destitute of noble motives, and the spirit displayed during his administration is in keeping with the ideas of the pseudo-lsidorian collection, to which his predecessor Nicholas I had first ventured to appeal. John's designs, however, found but a tardy response in the little minds with which he had to deal, and the prevalence of general anarchy was not more auspicious to their execution. The pope, as well as the clergy, in the strife after power, actuated only by worldly ambition, knew no other arms than cunning and intrigue, and with these they were neither able to control the rude powers which sapped the foundations of the Carlovingian monarchy, nor to erect on its ruins the fabric of ecclesiastical dominion. When Louis II died, 875, without an heir to his land and crown, Charles the Bald marched hastily into Italy, and took possession of the Italian dominions. Then he proceeded to Rome, and accepted (Christmas, 875), as a boon of the chair of St. Peter, the imperial crown, to which he had no lawful claim. Some Church annalists claim that the two then entered into a compact by which the emperor ceded to the pope the absolute and independent government of Rome, a confirmation and amplification of Pepin's donation; but documental proof (and that of an ambiguous kind) can be deduced only for the surrender of Capua (compare Mansi, Concil. 17, 10). By this alliance not much was directly gained by either party, for Charles, having once secured his coronation, cared but little for the papal interests; "yet eventually the manner in which Charles had become possessed of the empire and of Italy increased very materially the papal power, especially when, in a moment of fear for his throne, Charles the Bald suffered the pope to declare that to him had been intrusted the imperial diadem by the only power on earth that could claim its disposal the vicar of Rome.' 'The emperor,' however, failed to protect the papal dominions from the attacks of the Saracens. It is true he at one time led an army against the infidels (877), but his sudden death cut off all further hope of relief, especially after Athanlsius's (bishop-duke of Naples) double-handed game of pleasing the pope and forming alliances with the Saracens became known at Rome, and we do not wonder that the plundering of Campania and the exactions of John make Milman say of the pope's difficulties from this score that "the whole pontificate of John VIII was a long, if at times interrupted, agony of apprehension lest Rome should fall into the hands of the unbeliever" (Latin Christianity, 3, 84). Much more precarious became the condition of the Roman pontiff after the death of Charles the Bald, whose son and successor in the West Frank dominion, Louis the Hammerer, engaged in warfare with the Normans, found himself neither in a position to be an aspirant for the imperial crown, nor to afford assistance to the vicar of Christendom. The only one from whom the pope really received any assurances of succor was Carloman, who at this time, with an army in Upper Italy, and just recognised as king at Pavia, was aiming at the imperial throne against the French line. But, finding the pope more favorably inclined towards the French, he suddenly departed, and left to his nobles the disposition of the pope's case. Lambert, duke of Spoleto, and Adelbert, count of Tuscany, immediately made themselves masters of Rome, and, after imprisoning the pope, compelled the clergy and the nobles to swear allegiance to Carloman. But no sooner had Rome been cleared of Carloman's friends than the pope himself set out for France, determined no longer to conceal his desire to create for himself an emperor whom all the world should recognise as absolutely indebted for the crown to the see of Rome only. Arrived in France, the pope made Provence his refuge. Everywhere he was received with great respect, but especial deference was paid him by one Boso duke of Lombardy, connected with the imperial house by marriage, possessed of greats influence and wealth, and an aspirant for the imperial purple. He succeeded in winning the good graces of the Roman pontiff, and was designated for the vacant throne (comp. the letter in Mansi, 17, 121). Boso was, however, only made king of Burgundy, as Charles the Fat proved too fast for the pope; he had marched with a preponderating force into Italy, and the pope, foreseeing that the prince would not be likely to await his decision as to the rights oft the Carlovingians to the throne, hastened to meet him at Ravenna, and reluctantly (though contriving to avoid the appearance of constraint) placed the crown upon the head of Charles the Fat. But, if John failed in placing upon the throne his own favorite, he certainly succeeded even now in exalting, as he had done under Charles the Bald, the pope above the emperor. To this, as well as to his efforts to make the clergy independent of the temporal princes, may be ascribed his popularity as a pope, and the magnificent reception he enjoyed on his visit to France. "At the Council of Ravenna in 877, and again at another at Troyes, which he convened in the following year, during his stay in France, he propounded several decrees, to the astonishment of the bishops themselves, claiming for them various rights and privileges which they had not themselves hitherto ventured to demand. This proceeding produced upon their minds the greater impression, inasmuch as they had long been desirous of advancing their social position. Never until now had they been made aware of the points at which they ought to aim in order to secure for themselves the highest rank and influence in the state, and the pontiff who gave them powerful assistance in this weighty affair could not but be highly popular among them. It was perhaps by this measure that John principally contributed to the strengthening of the papacy to such an extent that it remained without any considerable loss during a long succession of unworthy, or impotent and inactive popes, who occupied and disgraced the see during the troubles which shook Italy for more than half a century" (Riddle, Papacy, 2, 31, 32). The controversy with the Eastern Church on the question of ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Bulgaria was continued under John. At first he inclined to favor Photits (q.v.), and acknowledged him as patriarch of Constantinople, but he was afterwards obliged to excommunicate him, as the Latin party severely condemned his tourse. Ffoulkes (Christendom's Division, 2, p. 7) says that the fable of pope Joan must have originated with the Latin party of this time, and that it was aimed against John VIII, "not because his theology was defective, or his life immoral, or his rule arbitrary, but solely because he had had the courage, the manliness, to appreciate the abilities and desire to cultivate the friendship of the great patriarch his brother." But his excommunication of Photius was by no means the only one he pronounced. Indeed, "no pope was more prodigal of excommunion than John VIII. Of his letters, above 300 (found in Mansi, Concilia, vol. 16), it is remarkable how large a proportion threaten. inflict, or at least allude to this last exercise of sacerdotal power" (Milman, Lat. Christianity, 3, 92 sq.). John found his death, as the Annales Fuldenses relate, through a conspiracy of his own curia. The assassins first tried poison; when this did not operate quick enough, they slew him with a hammer, Dec. 15, 882. See Milman, Lat. Christ. bk. 50 ch. 3; Bower, History of the Popes, 5, 36 sq.; Riddle, Papacy, 2, 27 sq.; Reichel, Rom. See in the Middle Ages, p. 109 sq.; Gieseler, Eccles. Hist. 2, 347; Giesebrecht, Gesch. der deutschen Kaiserzeit, 1, 139 sq.; Herzog, Real- Encyklop. 6, 754; Muratori, Scriptt. 3, pt. 3. (J.H.W.)