Unholy Reign of Whores


Bishop Liutprand of Cremona, whose Antapodosis treats papal history from 886 to 950, left a remarkable picture of the vice of the popes and their Episcopal colleagues, maybe with a little jealousy:

"They hunted on horses with gold trappings, had rich banquets with dancing girls when the hunt was over, and retired with these shameless whores to beds with silk sheets and gold-embroidered covers. All the Roman bishops were married, and their wives made silk dresses out of the sacred vestments."

Their lovers were the leading noble ladies of the city, and "two voluptuous Imperial women", Theodora and her daughter Marozia, "ruled the papacy of the tenth century" (Antapodosis, ibid.). Renowned Vatican historian Cardinal Caesar Baronius (1538—1607) called it the "Rule of the Whores", which "really gave place to the even more scandalous rule of the whoremongers" (Annales Ecclesiastici, folio iii, Antwerp, 1597).

All that Bishop Liutprand reveals in detail about Theodora is that she compelled a handsome young priest to reciprocate her passion for him and had him appointed Archbishop of Ravenna. Later, Theodora summoned her arch-Episcopal lover from Ravenna and made him Pope John X (pope 914—928, d. 928).


John X is chiefly remembered as a military commander. He took to the field in person against the Saracens and defeated them. He indulged in nepotism, and his conduct prepared the way for a deeper degradation of the papacy. He invited the Hungarians, who at this time were still half-civilized Asiatics, to come and fight his enemies and thus he brought a new and terrible plague upon his country.

He had no principles in his diplomatic, political or private conduct. He spurned Theodora and enticed the charming young daughter of Hugh of Provence into his papal bedroom. Spurned, Theodora then married Guido, Marquis of Tuscany, and together they carried out a coup d’état against John X. Theodora died suddenly by suspected poisoning, and John X entered into a bitter quarrel with Marozia and the leading nobles of Rome. John had brought his brother Peter to Rome, raised him to the rank of nobility, and heaped upon him the profitable offices which the elder nobles had come to regard as their preserve. It was an internal struggle for power.

The nobles, led by Marozia, drove Peter, Pope John and their troops from the city. The pope and his brother increased their army and returned to Rome, but a body of Marozia’s men cut their way into the Lateran Palace and murdered Peter before the pope’s eyes. John was captured, declared deposed in May 928 and smothered to death with a pillow in the Castel Sant’ Angelo.

Marozia and her faction then appointed Leo VI (928) the new pope, but replaced him seven months later with Stephen VIII (VII). He ruled for two years and then Marozia gave the papacy to her son, John XI (c. 910—936; pope 931—35). He was illegitimately fathered by Pope Sergius III, as "confirmed by Flodoard, a reliable contemporary writer" (The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, ibid., p. 162).

Sergius had previously taken the papacy by force with the help of Marozia’s mother, Theodora. Both Theodora and Sergius took a leading part in the earlier outrage on the corpse of Formosus, and Sergius was later accused of murdering his two predecessors. The Church defended itself, but in doing so revealed that he wasn’t the only pope sexually involved with Marozia:

"It is commonly believed that Pope Sergius, although a middle-aged man, formed a union with the young Marozia and by her had a son, the future Pope John XI. Most of the information we have on the career of Marozia and the Roman scandals in which she and a series of popes were involved is derived from hostile sources and may be exaggerated."

With sacerdotal dictatorship, Marozia ruled Christianity for several decades from the papal castle near St Peter’s, and dealt with everything Christian except routine matters. She could not sign her own name, yet she was the head of the Christian Church—a fact known to historians who have at least an elementary acquaintance with the papal record. She was amorously aggressive, callous, densely ignorant and completely unscrupulous. She appointed ruthless warrior-bishops to strengthen her factions, and she triumphed in her rule over opponents.

To translate the words of the Roman people literally, they called her "The Pope’s Whore" and she was directly responsible for selecting and installing at least four popes. Modern-day apologists say her promotions were "scandalous", but those popes are now accepted by the Church as "legitimate" successors of St Peter. At the time, however, large bodies of good folk deeply resented the obscene farce the papal religion had become and turned upon it with disdain and anger.

Later in his papacy, Pope John XI took ill and Marozia temporarily installed an elderly monk in the papal chair. He subsequently refused to resign and was forcibly removed to a prison cell to be starved to death. John XI then resumed his position and exhausted his remaining wealth hiring soldiers to restore order in Rome. The city was heavy with a feeling of revolt against the Church and the appalling clerical morals that existed throughout Italy. John XI then set out to recover and secure the rich temporal domains of the papacy, but in 936 he died. Thus, in this condensed description, we learn with amazement of the days when loose women ruled the Holy See and a Christian doctrine had not yet been developed.

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  1. Posted February 10, 2011 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    have you been spending time with the DOODcast?

  2. Posted February 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Oh I have checked it out more than a few times… I never thought about the fact that it may have steered me in the direction of these cannabis-addled heathens, but it may well have…

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