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Written By Kelechi Oji

July 18, 2021

Bad Popes: Incest, Murder, Vengeance and Horror

After Christ, the Pope represents the standard of morality, spirituality, and piety in the Christian world. This position comes with responsibility, power, and fame. There are approximately 2.38 billion Christians in the world. Catholics make up 1.2 billion of that total. Ideally, 1.2 billion people listen, respect, and honor the Pope, which is more than any public figure or political head except China and India. 

Brown Cathedral Interior


The Roman Catholic church is the earliest church, with Peter the apostle considered as the first pope. The broad job description of the Pope is the head of the catholic church and the Bishop of Rome. The Pope is also the head of the sovereignty state Vatican-city. This implies that the Pope has both religious and political duties. 


Throughout the history of the catholic church, there have been over 260 popes who, in their way, lead the catholic church. However, there are exceptions to this puritanical and moral standard that some popes have defied, and we call them “THE BAD POPES.”


Pope Stephen VI(896 – 897)

When you think of Pope Stephen(VI), you picture vengeance at its zenith. Stephen took revenge on his predecessor, Pope Formosus. Pope Formosus favored the east Frankish king Arnulf as Holy Emperor of Rome over Stephen’s family (Spoleto). Once Stephen was elected into the papacy, he sorts revenge on the late Pope by excavating the dead and buried corpse of Pope Formosus’s body and put it on trial. Pope Stephen dressed up Formosus’s body in his papal clothes for this Grotesque Event. You may find it ludicrous that Pope Formosus was found guilty of perjury after the trial, and his body tossed into the Tiber river; the worst that Pope Stephen could do to a guilty dead body. This event is commonly known as Cadaver Synod.


Pope John XII (955-964)

pope john xii

Coming from the powerful dynasty of Tusculum counts, which dominated the papa; politics for 50 years, one will expect that before taking the papacy position, Pope john VII will be groomed and trained for this position, that wasn’t the case. During his reign, recorded testimonies from the church leaders accused John VII of many crimes such as incest, murder, and assault. He turned his residence into a brothel, gambled with church offerings, and was even accused of castrating a cardinal. He sought king Otto I of Germany’s support and crowned him emperor. However, King Otto later withdrew his support because of John’s countless scandals. The German rulers Otto of Saxony once wrote to the young Pope saying, ” Everyone accuses you, Holiness of homicide, perjury, sacrilege, incest with your relatives, including two of your sister and with having like a pagan invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons.”


Pope Boniface VIII ( 1294-1303)

Boniface VIII

Swore into papacy in 1294, Boniface erected statues of himself all over Rome and even destroyed the city Palestrina over a personal feud. The most ludicrous quote by Boniface is, “Paedophilla was no more problematic than rubbing one had against the other” He had a reputation for stubbornness and a knack for staring fights. Fun fact: Boniface VIII makes an appearance in the eighth circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.”

Source: Royal Scandal


Pope Sixtus IV (1417-1484)

Sixtus IV

He started his reign in 1417 and was known to have a large sexual appetite during his time as Pope. He had six illegitimate children, including one from his sister. He also took a hypocritical approach by creating a tax on prostitutes and charging priests who had a mistress.

Source : The Smart Set 


Pope Innocent VIII(1484-1492)

Pope Innocent VIII

Innocent didn’t quite live up to his name. He was the first pope that publicly admitted his eight illegitimate children. Before revealing to the public, these bastards were known as the Pope’s nephews. He was also known to be a big supporter of witch-hunting, blessing the act in 1484.


Pope Julius II(1503-1513)

Julius II

Julius was known for being domineering, hot-headed, and manic at times. He used to dress up in a silver suit of armor and lead troops up and down Italy, engaging in battles to extend the reach of the church’s territory. But by far, his worst feature was his severe case of syphilis, contracting it through prostitutes, and on Good Friday in 1508, his feet were covered by sores that the faithful could not kiss them. 


Pope Leo X (1513 – 1521)

pope leo x

Leo X is known for selling indulgences that would reduce their sins and buy their way to heaven. This is due to his lavish spending during his reign, becoming a patron of the arts who commissioned the rebuilding of St Peter’s basilica. 


Pope Sergius III (904- 911)

Pope Sergius III

Sergius didn’t just kill Pope before him to get into the papacy’s role, but he also killed the Pope before that. He then used his power to set up his son, Pope John XI, Fathered by his 15-year-old prostitute mistress, to be Pope twenty years after him. 


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Okeoghene Godswill Mba
Okeoghene Godswill Mba
2 years ago

I sat here thinking are there new crimes or things have changed?
But we are all humans in the very end, we are all striving towards perfection.

Okeoghene Godswill Mba
Okeoghene Godswill Mba
2 years ago

I am sat here wondering if there are atrocities to date that we don’t know about.

Well, we are all humans and there are always little foxes that spoil the vineyard, we just have to be better.

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