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Cadaver Synod: The Exhumed Corpse of Pope Formosus That Was Put on Trial

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 18:02
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Cadaver Synod: The Exhumed Corpse of Pope Formosus That Was Put on Trial

The 9th and 10th centuries A.D. were turbulent years for the papacy of Rome. Caught up in the political machinations of Europe, the Vatican saw a rapid succession of popes come and go. The situation reached the peak of absurdity with the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Pope Formosus in January 897, an event commonly referred to as the Cadaver Synod or the Cadaver Trial. Nine months after Formosus died, his body was exhumed and made to sit on a throne so that he could face the charges levied against him by the then Pope Stephen VI. Dressed in all the fineries of papal vestments, Formosus faced accusations of perjury, coveting the papacy as a layman, and violating church canons while he was pope. Defended by a mere deacon and obviously incapable of defending himself, the dead Pope was found guilty on all counts.

Formosus was born around 816 A.D. in the papal state of Ostia. Given the deplorable record keeping of those days, little is known about his life before becoming a Cardinal Bishop in 864. For the next decade or so, he worked as a missionary in Bulgaria and France. In 872, he was considered for the papacy but did not obtain the position. He was then asked by the Bulgarians to be the Archbishop of Bulgaria but he was denied this post by Pope Nicholas I. Sick of the all the politics of Rome, Formosus decided to leave the city for good. Before he left, he convinced Pope John VIII to have the King of the Franks, Charles the Bald, crowned the Holy Roman Emperor. (Charles II, as he became, ruled for two years in an ill-fated venture against the Saracens).

Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor

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