Dearest readers, what better way to begin your bleary-eyed Saturday mornings than with a strong cup of coffee for your overworked bloodstream, and a cup of knowledge for your mindbelly: an only slightly belated super topical post about dirty Popes!
Now please internet, this is not to say that we here at for shame! are in any way accusing Pope Benedict XVI of doing any of the things we’re about mention—in fact, every one of these holy perpetrators lived in my own very favorite times, the Medieval Times ™, and as we’ve established, anything goes before the Renaissance, heyo!
Also, most of this is probably totally bullshit, and anyway, to err is human, etc., etc.
Alsoalso, it wasn’t 100% completely mandatory for someone in holy office to be celibate until 1139, but let’s just say it was a pretty good idea if you weren’t dipping your wick in very saucy inkpot that came along.
Thricealso, MRG has already touched on the beauty of beatific sin, so you should probably read that too because it’s excellent.
Quadralso, all of these men have been dead for a reaaaaally long time, and no further defamation can been brought upon their reputations that hasn’t already been set down in a textbook you were maybe probably definitely supposed to read for your intro to religion class in freshman year but were too busy making desperate eyes across the library floor at the junior field hockey bros. Ha, turned that shit back around, now didn’t I!
So be quiet, sit back, and enjoy a list (because there’s a lot here, and I’m just as tired as you this aftermorningnightnoon) in which we bring you history’s most scandalous papal authorities. More like Holy LOVEsee, amirite???!!?!?
Pope Sergius III (904-911)—the father of Pope John XI, but NBD, they did that a lot though in the early Middle Ages. Oh, those wacky papal dynasties! The better bit involves Sergius’ ladylove, Marozia, a Roman nobelwoman and senatrix—that’s right Latinfans, a lady senator! Marozia was John XI’s mother, BUT, after Sergius died, she started sleeping with his sucessor…..
Pope John X (914-928)—he gave Marozia the title of senatrix. She was seen by many historians as the power behind the papal throne, and probably an inspiration for the legend of Pope Joan (which, unfortunately so soon after International Lady’s Day, I have to debunk as medieval myth—take my word for it, I’m an historian.).
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!
So while John X was fooling around with Marozia, HE WAS ALSO SLEEPING WITH HER MOM, THEODORA!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!111!!!!!11!! She was characterized by a contemporary chronicler, Liutprand of Cremona as being a “shameless whore… [who] exercised power on the Roman citizenry like a man.” Which, is actually kind of a compliment. Own it Theodora, own it. Through her powerful poonnections, Theodora got Marozia married off to Alberic I, duke of Spoleto in 909, whose supah riches didn’t stop him getting killed in 924.
At some point, Marozia turns against John X, and after Alberic dies, marries John’s archnemesis, Guy of Tuscany. They then attack Rome, arrest John (Guy smothers him with a pillow, #goodnightsweetpope), and Marozia sets up two puppet popes, Leo VI and Stepehen VII until her son, John XI comes of age in 931 and can be made head of all Christendom from 931-935.
Guy dies in 929, and in 932 Marozia marries her halfbrother, Hugh of Arles (more like Ewwww of Arrghdonttouchme!!!!1! Ahh, shit, I’m on fire today.), King of Italy. Marozia’s son, Alberic II, from her marriage with Alberic is NOT into this, and instead of sending a polite decline to the wedding invite, he brings an army to their wedding, imprisons his mom, chases his stepdadhalfuncle out of Rome.
She dies probably in 936, but still, woman did werk. Check this: Her other son with Alberic, David, was father of Pope Benedict VII (974-983). Alberic II was father to Pope John XII (955-964), and a kid named Gregory, who would father both Pope Benedict VIII (1012-1024), and Pope John XIX (1024-1032), and another son called Alberic III who would father Pope Benedict IX (1012-1055) (he was an antipope, but it totally still counts).
Phew, so I know that was a lot, but to sum up, Theodora and Marozia either slept with, controlled, or directly or indirectly sired 8, count ’em, 8 popes, arguably the most powerful position of authority in medieval Europe.
I, on the other hand, haven’t gotten out of bed today. Hey, different strokes.
The others are far less complicated, but no less interesting. Please stand by for further popesex in 5, 4, 3, 2,
Pope John XII (955-963, son of Alberic II)—was described as having has a collection of women, and making the sacred palace into a whorehouse, and living the lifestyle much more suited to a secular prince than, you know, a pope. He apparently had a thing for adultery, sleeping with (according to our old, reliable friend, Luitprand), “the widow of Rainier, with Stephana, his father’s concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece.” Some historian I’d never heard of calls him “the Christian Caligulia,” which is a fine bit of alliteration, if I do say so myself, sir! Also, his mistress could be another progenitrix for the Pope Joan myth (It doesn’t really matter, because either way, the medieval people were just hellafraid of a ladypope. I get it, I mean, she probably would have redecorated all that gilt and incense and heavy velvet and made everything sooooo gaudy.). Apparently John died Downtown-Abbey style, after being stricken with paralysis during sex. That, or he was murdered moste fowlee by a jealous husband—either works for me.
Pope Benedict IX (1032-1044, 1045, 1047-1048, and son of Alberic III. These guys are everywhere!)—he was ousted twice in favor of other, probably less shitty popes, as you will see. Apparently, he was between 18 and 20 (or maybe even 11 or 12) when he became pope, and had no actual qualifications other than family connections. An actually holy man, St. Peter Damian, described him as “feasting on immorality” (which, in my mind, is like a chocolate fountain with the insane calories as a proverbial stand-in for sin). He was probably homosexual, but it also just seems like he slept with anything that moved. There’s intimations that he also killed and raped people, which seems like a fast escalation from “orgy,” but then again, if the Middle Ages were anything like a Starz show, then he was probs burying bodies like erryday.
Pope Paul II (1464-1471)—alleged by some to have died from indigestion because he ate too many melons. That’s “science,” and I don’t understand it, so I’m going to go with the rumor that he actually died while having the secks with another man.
Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484)—handed out papal offices in return for blahjays. Jeanyus.
Pope Julius III (1550-1555)—had a hugely scandalous relationship with Cardinal Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte, who he took in as a ward from the street, then made cardinal when he became Pope. Innocenzo was totally unsuited to the responsibility he was given, but the two openly shared a bed, and nobody could really tell him to GTFO, and it was just a PR nightmare for the Church at the time. When he died, nobody was all that sad.
So on that note, the end!