9 Most Evil Popes In History That You Might Not Know About

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Religions teach people to do good things, and the leaders of each religion are role models for their people. As for Christianity, some evil popes became the leader of this big religion and did bad things. At some point, it is not always about the religion alone; the people themselves also need to know what’s good and bad. So Pope aka the Supreme Pontiff is the leader of worldwide Catholic Church. There have been countless popes since the beginning of Christianity from the first millennium till now which is the third millennium. However, we only talk about 9 most evil popes today so let’s see who they are and what they did.

1Pope Damasus I

Papacy: 1st October, 366 – 11th December, 384

It was unfortunate for those who had to go through bitter days during the reign of Pope Damasus I. Back then, women and children were bought and sold as sex slaves to increase funding for the church at Damasus’ design. He would even sell nuns if there were people to look for nuns. As for those who opposed him, he dealt with them in a brutal manner by torturing or murdering those who got in his way.

His methods of killing including burning alive right after he seized their lands for church designated purposes. There were actually 44 bishops who abhorred the acts of Pope Damasus I and had found him guilty of adultery. However, the office of the pope was a strong central figurehead so the pope got away with it easily. After the charge had passed, all 44 bishops were murdered at the order of Damasus I. His reign of cruelty finally finished when he died, and he left bad memories to the people of Vatican back then.

2Pope Stephen VI

Papacy: 22nd May, 896 – August 897

Despite the reign was in a short period of about a year, Pope Stephen VI made quite a reputation for being evil. That was because he was responsible for one of the most bizarre and notorious incidents in papal history. He never got along well with Pope Formosus who was the pope before him, and he definitely knew how to hold a grudge.

When he rose to power, he had the remains of his predecessor Formusus exhumed so that the corpse could stand trial. Rather than just re-excommunicate the deceased pope, Stephen VII undertook what would become known as the Cadaver Synod. In another words, synod means an ecclesiastic trial and cadaver means a dead body; you know what that means right?

evil popes
image: Wikimedia Commons

Stephen VII dug up Formosus, hauled his corpse onto the papal throne, and sought to put it on trial for its crimes. He represented the prosecution while a teenage deacon hiding behind the throne voiced Formosus defended himself. Stephen VII would scream and read out charges, stomping around the throne and playing to the audience. When he would stop screaming, the teenage deacon would speak from behind the throne in Formusus’s voice and deny charges.

So Formosus was found guilty, and Stephen VII ordered his fingers cut off, his body stripped of papal vestments dressed in rags. Then the corpse re-entered in a pauper’s grave. Stephen VII soon thought it was not enough for the grudge so he had the corpse dug up again. Then tied the corpse with stones, and thrown into the Tiber River, but a monk rescued the corpse. Geez.

We all think that he was completely insane, and people of Rome also thought the same. So they boiled riots after what happened led to him stripped off his vestment, imprisoned, and strangled. It took 3 synods to vindicate Formosus, and no popes will take his name to this day. Well after what happened, and a variety of name choices, that is understandable.

3Pope Sergius III

Papacy: 29th January, 904 – 14th April, 911

He was the eldest son of a noble Roman family, but his reign was the darkest period in the history of papacy. First, he killed Pope Leo V and Pope Christopher in order to obtain the throne. As a matter of fact, he was the only pope to order another Pope’s death to get into power. He also allegedly fathered an illegitimate son whose name was John who later became Pope John XI. His affair was with Marozia who was the daughter of Theophylactus which brought him more power during his reign. His main concerns during his reign were his power and sex life, and his era known as the pornocracy. Thankfully, those dark moments ended after 7 years because of his death.

4Pope John XII

Papacy: 16th December, 955 – 14th May, 964

The people of Vatican have surely experienced the worse of the world with their evil popes. Pope John XII was among them but with more libido than any of his contemporaries. He became pope when he was only 18 years old, and immediately developed a reputation of rape and deviant sexual activity. He allegedly raped his two sisters regularly, obtained a 10-year-old bishop, and refused to make the sign of the cross. He even invoked pagan gods when gambling.

Pope John XII also took particular enjoyment in having sex around the Vatican’s most holy sites like the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul. He had sex with women and men in the papal palace, and he held massive orgies wherever he wanted. When visitors refused his attentions, he went ahead and raped them anyway. Apart from raping, he also castrated and then murdered a cardinal as well as blinded and murdered his confessor.

His 9 years of reign ended after his death when an outraged husband caught him in bed with his wife. He had a son who became Pope John XIII who died the exact same way. Like father , like son perhaps?

5Pope Urban II

Papacy: 12th March, 1088 – 29th July, 1099

Compared to other evil popes in the list, Pope Urban II took no children as lovers and he was relatively light on corruption. However, he was still among the evil popes because of his burning desire to initiate the First Crusade. It was the first of conflicts between Christianity and Islam whose ramifications still echo today. He also made the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades. He did so by calling all Christians in Europe to war against Muslims in order to reclaim the Holy Land.

evil popes
image: Wikimedia Commons

Pope Urban II apparently had some serious oratory skills since he managed to convince the entire Council of Clermont to sign off on the First Crusade. By giving every murderer, rapist, and thief a last ditch chance at entering the kingdom of God, he guaranteed a sizable army. The army that would be ready and willing to invade the holy land and bring it back to the Christians. The First Crusade led to military success with the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 while the project for union failed. He also died the same year despite many problems that were still unsolved.

6Pope Benedict IX

Papacy: October 1032 – September 1044,

April 1045 – May 1045,

November 1047 – July 48

As you can see, he was the only man to have been Pope on more than one occasion. That was not all, he became pope when he was less than 20 which made him one of the youngest popes in history. Pope Benedict IX was also the only man to ever have sold the papacy, and of course, one of the most evil popes. In case you wonder how he became pope, he father obtained his election through bribery.

If you look for a pope with a Bartlett’s full of nasty quotes from critics, he’s your man. St. Peter Damian accused him of feasting on immortality while described him as a demon from hell in disguise of a priest. As for Bishop Benno, he accused the pope of many vile adulteries and murders. That was just a short description, Pope Benedict IX was more than that.

Benedict IX was deposed and regained the throne with the help of Conrad I, then was forced out. He then returned with an army to take the throne back again before he sold the papacy to his godfather for a fortune. Eventually, he regretted selling the papacy so he came back with another army to take the throne but failed. He then came back two more times, but failed both so he finally retired the obscurity.

After going back and forth like that, he later died as a normal and unreasonably rich man.

7Pope Alexander VI

Papacy: 11th August, 1492 – 18th August 1503

Came from a wealthy merchant family, Rodrigo Borgia bought his way into Pope Alexander VI in 1492. Once he became pope, he celebrated his new title by hosting the most elaborate orgies the Vatican had ever seen. There were 50 prostitutes crammed into a single hall where the pope and his members of his clergy ran wild on them. He was never a religious man as he ignored all the rules and traditions of the church. He married, had children, and sired countless children outside of marriage.

He also used his attractive daughter Lucrezia, whom he might have had an affair with, as a bait for wealthy merchants. When a rich merchant prince would visit Rome, he would introduce his daughter then have her seduced them. He then marry his daughter off to the merchant for a vast dowry and took the money from the rich guy. Then he declared the marriage null and void when there would be a wealthier merchant visit Rome.

After 11 years of his hellish reign, one of the many assassins hired to kill him finally succeeded in their attempts. He died of poison, and according to the source, his last words were ‘Wait a minute.’

8Pope Paul III

Papacy: 13th October, 1534 – 10th November, 1549

He was actually Julius III’s immediately predecessor, and his reign had significantly less child rape but more murders. The first people he killed was his own mother and his niece with the purpose to inherit the family fortune. That was before he became Pope, and there were more murder when he got into power. He would execute anyone who annoyed him by strangulation and immolation, well just in case you know.

His most ruthlessness famous anecdote revolved around a theological dispute between two cardinals and a Polish bishop. When the argument wore on, Paul III had all three men hacked to death with swords to end the dispute. For the finance, he took control of 45,000 Roman prostitutes then took a cut of their earnings. As for his lover, he had an affair with an attractive young lady named Constanza Farnese.

She was his own daughter.

9Pope Julius III

Papacy: 7th February, 1550 – 23rd March, 1555

After a career as a distinguished and effective diplomat, Giovanni Maria Ciocchi Del Monte became Pope Julius III by election. A conclave of 47 cardinals elected Del Monte as their next pontiff after the death of Pope Paul III. He was 62, and he took the name of Julius III in honor of the pope whom he had worked as chamberlain.

When he assumed the office, the pope devoted himself to only a life of personal pleasure which led to his bad reputation. He loved pleasure, banquets, gambling, masked balls, and hunting, and he even picked up a teenage boy off the street. Eventually, he made the boy his lover. Julius III was so smitten with this boy he ended up making him his adopted nephew so that he could promote him.

The boy’s name was Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, and he became a cardinal while he was still an adolescent. The boy’s scandal outraged the other cardinals so much that it has become the defining feature of his entire papal reign. On top of that, he spent a great deal of papal money on entertainments at the Villa Giulia. You know what the worse part was? He asked Michelangelo to decorate his home with sculptures of young boys having sex with each other. Looks like discretion was not his forte.

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With enormous passion for writing, research has been done every day to provide new topics and interesting things for her readers every day. This little writing maniac is always happy to see the number of audience increasing, and thanks to you awesome people from different parts of the world who visit this blog. P.S: I am also a freelance writer, you know how to contact me!

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