The POPE Encyclopedia

by Matthew Bunson

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Pope from 891 to 896, who in death earned lasting  fame  for
his participation in the gruesome Cadaver Synod. Born around
816, Formosus was probably a native of Rome, first receiving
mention  in history when he was appointed bishop of Porto in
864 by Pope Nicholas I. Winning the confidence of the  pope,
he  was  sent  to Bulgaria as a legate. His association with
the ruler of Bulgaria, King Boris I (r. 852-889)  proved  so
amicable  that  the king petitioned Nicholas and then Adrian
II to appoint Formosus the archbishop of  Bulgaria.  Neither
pope was willing to acquiesce, and Formosus remained in Rome
as a servant of tbe popes.
Under Pope John VIII, he was ordered to offer  the  imperial
crown to Charles II the Bald (r. 875-877), but this move was
opposed by many servants in the court of the  pope.  Fearing
possible  reprisals,  some  officials  in Rome fled from the
city. For this act,  and  perhaps  owing  to  some  personal
dislike,  John  excommunicated  Formosus  and deposed him as
bishop in April 876.  In  878,  Formosus  was  pardoned,  in
return for his promise to remain in exile (he lived in Sens)
and not  to  pursue  his  old  see.  This  peculiar  set  of
circumstances  ended  with  the  accession of Pope Marinus I
(882-884) who recalled him to Rome and  reappointed  him  as
bishop of Porto. He remained in Rome and served both Marinus
and Stephen V (VI) (885-891) without apparent  incident.  On
October 6,891, he succeeded Stephen as pope.
While  advanced in years, he proved quite active in two main
areas: dealing with the Eastern  Church  and  attempting  to
destroy  the  ruthless  Guido  (or  Guy) III of Spoleto. His
efforts at healing the poor relations  with  the  Byzantines
came  to nothing, his hopes for a peaceful end to the schism
that had developed failing to find appeal with  the  Greeks.
Far  more  troublesome was his relationship with Guido. This
nobleman had forced Stephen to crown him emperor and in  892
compelled  Formosus to crown his son Lambert co-emperor. The
Spoletans, however, proved so violently  unpredictable  that
Formosus  appealed  to  the king of the East Franks, Arnulf,
for help. After the death of Guido in  894,  Arnulf  invaded
Italy,  seizing  Rome  in  896  and  receiving coronation by
Formosus  as  emperor.  His  hopes  of  finishing  off   the
Spoletans  were wrecked by the sudden bout of paralysis that
struck Arnulf.  The  emperor  departed  Italy,  leaving  the
ailing  Formosus  to  his own devices. The pontiff soon fell
seriously  ill,  dying  on  April  4,  896.  His   immediate
successor,  Boniface  VI, lasted only fifteen days. The next
pope, Stephen VI  (VII),  was  a  supporter  of  Lambert  of
Spoleto.  He executed the grotesque revenge of the Spoletans
upon the deceased pontiff by convening the Cadaver Synod  in
January  897--arguably the lowest point in the history of the
papacy--by exhuming Formosus's rotting body and placing it on
trial.  Condemned  on various charges, Formosus's corpse was
abused and thrown into the  Tiber.  A  hermit  gathered  the
remains  out  of  the water and placed it back in its proper
tomb in St.  Peter's.  Successor:  Boniface  VI.  (See  also
Cadaver Synod.)

(sebelum, sesudah)

Published by Crown Trade Paperbacks
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New York 10022, USA
ISBN 0-517-88256-6

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