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Saeculum obscurum (Latin: the Dark Age) is a name given to a period in the history of the Papacy during the first half of the 10th century, beginning with the installation of Pope Sergius III
Pope Sergius III
in 904 and lasting for sixty years until the death of Pope John XII
Pope John XII
in 964. During this period, the Popes were influenced strongly by a powerful and corrupt aristocratic family, the Theophylacti, and their relatives.

Contents

1 Periodization 2 10th-century popes 3 List of Popes during the saeculum obscurum 4 Family tree 5 The Tusculan Papacy, 1012–59 6 See also 7 Notes 8 References

Periodization[edit] The saeculum obscurum was first named and identified as a period of papal immorality by the Italian cardinal and historian Caesar Baronius in his Annales Ecclesiastici
Annales Ecclesiastici
in the sixteenth century.[1] Baronius' primary source for his history of this period was a contemporary writer, Bishop Liutprand of Cremona. Baronius himself was writing during the Counter-Reformation, a period of heightened sensitivity to clerical corruption. His characterisation of the early 10th-century papacy was perpetuated by Protestant authors. The terms Pornocracy (German: Pornokratie, from Greek pornokratiā, "rule of prostitutes"), Hetaerocracy ("government of mistresses") and the Rule of the Harlots (German: Hurenregiment) were coined by Protestant German theologians in the nineteenth century.[2] Historian Will Durant
Will Durant
refers to the period from 867 to 1049 as the "nadir of the papacy."[3] 10th-century popes[edit] Main article: Papal selection before 1059 The Theophylacti
Theophylacti
family originated from Theophylactus. They held positions of increased importance in the Roman nobility such as Judex, vestararius, gloriosissimus dux, consul and senator, and magister militum.[4] Theophylact's wife Theodora and daughter Marozia held a great influence over the papal selection and religious affairs in Rome through conspiracies, affairs, and marriages.[5] Marozia became the concubine of Pope Sergius III
Pope Sergius III
when she was 15 and later took other lovers and husbands.[6] She ensured that her son John was seated as Pope
Pope
John XI according to Antapodosis sive Res per Europam gestae (958–62), by Liutprand of Cremona (c. 920–72). Liutprand affirms that Marozia arranged the murder of her former lover Pope
Pope
John X (who had originally been nominated for office by Theodora) through her then husband Guy of Tuscany possibly to secure the elevation of her current favourite as Pope
Pope
Leo VI.[7] There is no record substantiating that Pope
Pope
John X had definitely died before Leo VI was elected since John X was already imprisoned by Marozia and was out of public view. Theodora and Marozia held great sway over the popes during this time.[citation needed] In particular, as political rulers of Rome
Rome
they had effective control over the election of new popes. Much that is alleged about the saeculum obscurum comes from the histories of Liutprand, Bishop of Cremona. Liutprand took part in the Assembly of Bishops which deposed Pope John XII
Pope John XII
and was a political enemy of the Roman aristocracy and its control over papal elections. Lindsay Brook writes:

We must be especially circumspect about the writing of Liutprand of Cremona, perhaps the most polemical of the tenth century chroniclers, who had his own agenda to promote the revived western Roman Empire.[8]

It would be misleading to portray all, or even most, of the popes of the era as worldly and corrupt. Surviving documents (and there are obvious lacunae) make it clear that many were competent administrators, and skilful diplomats in difficult and dangerous times. Some were even reformers, keen to root out discreditable practices such as simony. Others ordered the rebuilding and restoration of Rome's churches and palaces... Rather, it is the manner of the election of many of them and their symbiotic relationship with the Roman aristocracy that has earned their regime the designation pornocracy."[8]

List of Popes during the saeculum obscurum[edit]

Pope Sergius III
Pope Sergius III
(904–911), alleged lover of Marozia Pope
Pope
Anastasius III (911–913) Pope
Pope
Lando (913–914) Pope
Pope
John X (914–928), alleged lover of Theodora (the mother), allegedly killed by Marozia Pope
Pope
Leo VI (928–928) Pope
Pope
Stephen VII (928–931) Pope
Pope
John XI (931–935), son of Marozia, alleged son of Pope
Pope
Sergius III Pope
Pope
Leo VII (936–939) Pope
Pope
Stephen VIII (939–942) Pope
Pope
Marinus II (942–946) Pope
Pope
Agapetus II (946–955) Pope John XII
Pope John XII
(955–963), grandson of Marozia, by her son Alberic II of Spoleto.

Family tree[edit]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum 864–924

 

Theodora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hugh of Italy 887-924-948 (also married Marozia)

 

Alberic I of Spoleto d. 925

 

 

Marozia 890–937

 

 

Pope
Pope
Sergius III Pope
Pope
904–911

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alda of Vienne

 

Alberic II of Spoleto 905–954

 

David or Deodatus

 

Pope
Pope
John XI Pope
Pope
931–935

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gregory I, Count of Tusculum

 

Pope
Pope
John XII Pope
Pope
955–964

 

Pope
Pope
Benedict VII Pope
Pope
974-983

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope
Pope
Benedict VIII Pope
Pope
1012–1024

 

Alberic III, Count of Tusculum d. 1044

 

Pope
Pope
John XIX Pope
Pope
1024–1032

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter, Duke of the Romans

 

Gregory II, Count of Tusculum

 

Gaius

 

Octavianus

 

Pope
Pope
Benedict IX Pope
Pope
1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048

The Tusculan Papacy, 1012–59[edit] Main article: Tusculan Papacy After several Crescentii
Crescentii
family Popes up to 1012, the Theophylacti still occasionally nominated sons as Popes:

Pope
Pope
Benedict VIII, son of Count Gregory I; (1012–24) Pope
Pope
John XIX, son of Count Gregory I, (1024–32) Pope
Pope
Benedict IX, son of Alberic III; (1032–44; 1045; 1047–48) Antipope
Antipope
Benedict X, son of Alberic III (1058–59); driven out of Rome
Rome
after a small war.

Pope
Pope
Benedict IX went so far as to sell the Papacy to his religious Godfather, Pope
Pope
Gregory VI (1045–46). He then changed his mind, seized the Lateran Palace, and became Pope
Pope
for the third time in 1047–48. The Tusculan Papacy
Tusculan Papacy
was finally ended by the election of Pope
Pope
Nicholas II, who was assisted by Hildebrand of Sovana against Antipope
Antipope
Benedict X. Hildebrand was elected Pope
Pope
Gregory VII in 1073 and introduced the Gregorian Reforms, increasing the power and independence of the papacy. See also[edit]

List of sexually active popes Pope
Pope
Joan (legendary, fictional; legends about her may have stemmed from stories about the Pornocracy) Papal appointment

Notes[edit]

^ Dwyer, John C. (1998). Church history: twenty centuries of Catholic Christianity. Mahwah, USA.: Paulist Press. p. 155. ISBN 0-8091-3830-1.  ^ Paolo Squatriti, "Pornocracy", in Christopher Kleinhenz (ed.), Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 (New York and London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 926–27. ^ Durant, Will. The Age of Faith. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972. p. 537 ^ Poole, Reginald L (1917). "Papal chronology in the eleventh century". English Historical Review. 1917a41 (32): 204–214.  ^ Fedele, Pietro (1910 & 1911). "Ricerche per la storia di Rome
Rome
e del papato al. sec. X". Archivo della Reale Società Romana di Storia Patria, 33: 177–247; & 34: 75–116, 393–423. ^ Ide, Arthur Frederick (1987). Unzipped: The Popes Bare All : A Frank Study of Sex and Corruption in the Vatican. Austin, USA.: American Atheist Press. ISBN 0-910309-43-4.  ^ Stark, Rodney (2004). For the glory of God. Princeton, USA.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-11950-2.  ^ a b Brook, Lindsay (2003). "Popes and Pornocrats: Rome
Rome
in the early middle ages". Foundations. 1 (1): 5–21. 

References[edit]

Church and Society in a Crisis Age: Tenth and Eleventh Century Europe by Harlie Kay Gallatin. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Liutprand of Cremona

v t e

Popes of the Catholic Church

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graphical canonised

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extant non-extant

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emeritus

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1st–4th centuries During the Roman Empire (until 493) including under Constantine (312–337)

Peter Linus Anacletus Clement I Evaristus Alexander I Sixtus I Telesphorus Hyginus Pius I Anicetus Soter Eleutherius Victor I Zephyrinus Callixtus I Urban I Pontian Anterus Fabian Cornelius Lucius I Stephen I Sixtus II Dionysius Felix I Eutychian Caius Marcellinus Marcellus I Eusebius Miltiades Sylvester I Mark Julius I Liberius Damasus I Siricius Anastasius I

5th–8th centuries Ostrogothic Papacy
Ostrogothic Papacy
(493–537) Byzantine Papacy
Byzantine Papacy
(537–752) Frankish Papacy
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(756–857)

Innocent I Zosimus Boniface I Celestine I Sixtus III Leo I Hilarius Simplicius Felix III Gelasius I Anastasius II Symmachus Hormisdas John I Felix IV Boniface II John II Agapetus I Silverius Vigilius Pelagius I John III Benedict I Pelagius II Gregory I Sabinian Boniface III Boniface IV Adeodatus I Boniface V Honorius I Severinus John IV Theodore I Martin I Eugene I Vitalian Adeodatus II Donus Agatho Leo II Benedict II John V Conon Sergius I John VI John VII Sisinnius Constantine Gregory II Gregory III Zachary Stephen II Paul I Stephen III Adrian I Leo III

9th–12th centuries Papal selection before 1059 Saeculum obscurum (904–964) Crescentii
Crescentii
era (974–1012) Tusculan Papacy
Tusculan Papacy
(1012–1044/1048) Imperial Papacy (1048–1257)

Stephen IV Paschal I Eugene II Valentine Gregory IV Sergius II Leo IV Benedict III Nicholas I Adrian II John VIII Marinus I Adrian III Stephen V Formosus Boniface VI Stephen VI Romanus Theodore II John IX Benedict IV Leo V Sergius III Anastasius III Lando John X Leo VI Stephen VII John XI Leo VII Stephen VIII Marinus II Agapetus II John XII Benedict V Leo VIII John XIII Benedict VI Benedict VII John XIV John XV Gregory V Sylvester II John XVII John XVIII Sergius IV Benedict VIII John XIX Benedict IX Sylvester III Benedict IX Gregory VI Clement II Benedict IX Damasus II Leo IX Victor II Stephen IX Nicholas II Alexander II Gregory VII Victor III Urban II Paschal II Gelasius II Callixtus II Honorius II Innocent II Celestine II Lucius II Eugene III Anastasius IV Adrian IV Alexander III Lucius III Urban III Gregory VIII Clement III Celestine III Innocent III

13th–16th centuries Viterbo (1257–1281) Orvieto (1262–1297) Perugia (1228–1304) Avignon Papacy
Avignon Papacy
(1309–1378) Western Schism
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(1378–1417) Renaissance Papacy
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(1417–1534) Reformation Papacy
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(1534–1585) Baroque Papacy
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(1585–1689)

Honorius III Gregory IX Celestine IV Innocent IV Alexander IV Urban IV Clement IV Gregory X Innocent V Adrian V John XXI Nicholas III Martin IV Honorius IV Nicholas IV Celestine V Boniface VIII Benedict XI Clement V John XXII Benedict XII Clement VI Innocent VI Urban V Gregory XI Urban VI Boniface IX Innocent VII Gregory XII Martin V Eugene IV Nicholas V Callixtus III Pius II Paul II Sixtus IV Innocent VIII Alexander VI Pius III Julius II Leo X Adrian VI Clement VII Paul III Julius III Marcellus II Paul IV Pius IV Pius V Gregory XIII Sixtus V Urban VII Gregory XIV Innocent IX Clement VIII

17th–20th centuries Revolutionary Papacy (1775–1848) Roman Question
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21st century

Benedict XVI Francis

History of the papacy

Antiquity and Early Middle Ages

During the Roman Empire (until 493)

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Ostrogothic Papacy
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(756–857) Saeculum obscurum (904–964) Crescentii
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era (974–1012)

High and Late Middle Ages

Tusculan Papacy
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Early Modern and Modern Era

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