Wednesday, February 13, 2013

All The Papacy Related Weirdness You Can Shake A Scepter At

So, the Pope resigned! Coincidentally, my parents are actually going to Italy today, and I cannot help but think that these things are related. It is possible that their impending visit put him on the run. Or something. Anyway, because I'm festive, I thought I'd compile a list of other strange incidents related to the Holy See.

Pope Stephen VI (896-897)- The Necromancer Pope

(A painting of the Cadaver Synod, in which Pope Stephen yells at the bedazzled corpse of Pope Formosa)

As you can see from the dates above, this guy was only pope for a year, and for good reason. During that year, he had some people dig up the nine month old corpse of his predecessor, Pope Formosa, and put him on trial for a festive variety of crimes, including having illegally obtained his papal position. So, they dressed him up in his little pope outfit, propped him up on a chair and hired a local deacon to speak on his behalf in what was called the "Cadaver Synod". Throughout the "trial", Stephen ranted and raved at the dead body for hours on end, like it was a real person or something. Not surprisingly, Pope Formosa was found "guilty", so they stripped him of his papal attire and hacked off his three "blessing fingers" and reburied him. Then they dug him up again and threw his body into the Tiber. The whole thing caused quite a scandal and ended with Steve-O himself getting thrown in jail, where he got strangled to death.

Pope Joan- The Non-Existent LadyPope

Ok, so Pope Joan was not so much a real person as a medieval legend, but the whole thing is pretty interesting. There are a couple different versions of the story of the "first female pope", but the most famous one is of a learned woman who, at the behest of her Athenian lover, who must have been especially progressive, changed her name to John Angelicus, dressed herself up in men's clothes, became a monk, then a curial secretary, then a cardinal and eventually the Pope. 

According to the legend, her secret was discovered when she gave birth while riding on a horse in some kind of procession. Instead of celebrating the incident as the best episode of "I didn't Know I was Pregnant" ever, the people of Rome bound her feet to the horses tail, where she was dragged through the streets while being stoned to death. And then all of her doings as pope were erased from the record and she was never spoken of again. Except that there is supposedly a rule that all "real popes" must turn their heads away when passing the street where she died.

Pope Michael I (1990-Present)

I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but there is a dude in Kansas who thinks he is the "real" pope, and he is amaaaaaazing. He is just the best. While there have always been a number of conclavist antipopes (people who claim that they are the real pope rather than whoever is running shit in Rome at the time), David Bawden is one-in-a-million. Elected to the papacy by a group of six lay people- three of whom were himself and his parents- he has been claiming to be the legitimate Pope since about 1990. His parents have been totally supportive of this, which is kind of awesome. As great as my parents are, I am not sure that they would be totally behind me if I decided to declare myself Pope. There is an amazing documentary on this guy that you can and should watch on the YouTube if you have a chance:

Pope Paul II (1464-1471)

Ok, so there are two competing theories as to how this guy died. One is that he died while banging some dude, which I guess should be the more scandalous of the two, given that Popes are supposed to be celibate-- but the other is that he died from indigestion from eating too many melons. Personally, I am way more interested in the latter. What kind of melons were these? HOW MANY MELONS IS TOO MANY MELONS? As an avid fan of both cantaloupe and watermelon, should I be concerned? Am I risking death by enjoying cantaloupe smiles for breakfast every day? Inquiring minds want to know.

Also, apparently this guy was super, super vain and insisted upon wearing the most elaborate and expensive papal tiara ever, and had to be talked out of wearing rouge always.

Pope Alexander VI, Only Because Someone Will Point it Out if I Don't Mention Him, Because They've Seen "The Borgia's" on Showtime (1492-1503)

Yes. Pope Alexander VI (aka Rodrigo Borgia) was probably the most notorious/ scandalous pope of all time. He ran the first "crime family", hosted crazy orgies, and supposedly had an incestuous relationship with his illegitimate daughter, Lucrezia Borgia. And then he died from severe intestinal bleeding, which seems like a really bad time. 

Pope Benedict IX (1032-1045, April-May of 1045, 1047-1048)

SO. Not only is Pope Benedict XVI not the first Pope to resign, he's not even the first Pope Benedict to do so. In fact, Benedict IX is best known for having served three terms as Pope, and also for his "many vile adulteries and murders" and for "feasting on immorality". Oh, and for actually selling the papal seat one time to Pope Gregory VI. Like Alexander up there, he was also apparently very fond of orgies.