Church History:  The 900s


What happened in this century?

  • This century witnessed two extremes:  the low point in the papacy at the beginning and middle and a subsequent rise of the spiritual authority of the monastery at Cluny and Cluniac Reform at the end. 

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2011  Mark Nickens

  **Notice the short reign of popes in this century.  Also notice the popes who were elected at a young age or were killed in office.

900-903        Reign of Pope Benedict IV.

903        Pope Leo V; pope for 30 days.  He was murdered, possibly strangled by Christopher, a man who also claimed to be pope, or on orders of Sergius III, who became pope. 

904-11        The pontificate of Pope Sergius III.  He is considered to be the beginning of the pornocracy, that period of great decline in the moral authority of the popes.  The record of his rule contains many inconsistencies, which would lead one to conclude that at the very least it was a tumultuous time. 

910        The Benedictine Abbey at Cluny was founded.  Berno was placed in charge of the Abbey and he gave the Benedictine monks a more strict form.  This was an attempt to reform Benedictine monasticism.  One innovation was to develop offshoots of the main Abbey yet each was connected to the Abbey; previously Benedictine monasteries had been independent.  The Cluny reform grew quickly in the latter half of this century and into the next century as new monasteries were founded and existing monasteries joined the movement.  By the early 1100s, Cluny was a major center of Christianity in Europe, second only to Rome, and had 314 monasteries. 

The Big Picture:  The Cluny Reform

The Cluny Reform grew quickly and concurrently with the downgrading of the papacy in this century.  In some aspects, the Cluny Reform provided that which the papacy often did not in this century:  a moral grounding and spiritual leadership.  Its influence was so great that it produced four popes:  Gregory VII (1073-1085), Urban II(1088-1099)(the pope who called for the First Crusade), Paschal II (1099-1118), and Urban V (1362-1370).

911-913        Reign of Pope Anastasius III; pope for 2 years.

913-914        Reign of Pope Lando; pope for 1 year.

914-928        Reign of Pope John X.  He was one of the first popes to lead an army into battle, in 916.  He was eventually placed in prison due to a political situation involving a noble family and died in prison.

928        Reign of Pope Leo VI; pope for less than 1 year.

929-931        Reign of Pope Stephen VII; pope for 3 years.

931-935        Reign of Pope John XI.  He became pope when he was around 20 years old. 

936-939        Reign of Pope Leo VII; pope for 4 years.

939-942        Reign of Pope Stephen VIII; pope for 4 years.

942-946        Reign of Pope Marinus II; pope for 4 years.

946-955        Reign of Pope Agapetus II.  His pontificate last longer than many other popes in this time period; he is considered a "good" pope as opposed to others who did not last long because of the intrigues of their offices. 

955-964        Reign of Pope John XII.  He became pope at 18 years of age.  During his pontificate he committed adultery so often that his palace was called a "whorehouse."  He was accused of killing a subdeacon.  The Emporer Otto I deposed John XII, but before he could find him, John died.

962        St. Bernard opens a hospice (place for travelers) in the Alps.  Eventually the St. Bernard dog would be used to rescue travelers who became lost in the snow.  Read more here.

964        Reign of Pope Benedict V; pope for 1 year.  The Emperor Otto I did not approve of his papacy, so he was demoted to a deacon and died in 966.

964-965        Reign of Leo VIII; pope for 1 year.

965-972        Reign of Pope John XIII.  During his pontificate, he became so disliked in Rome that he was banished from 965-966. 

973-974        Reign of Pope Benedict VI; pope for 1 year.  He was strangled to death.

974-983        Reign of Pope Benedict VII.  His pontificate is considered to be a successful one with no intrigue. 

983-984        Reign of Pope John XIV; pope for 1 year.  He was either starved to death or poisoned while in prison.

985-996        Reign of Pope John XV.  His pontificate is considered to be a successful one with no intrigue.  See entry below. 

993        The first official canonization of a saint by the Catholic Church was performed when Ulrich of Augsburg was made a saint by Pope John XV.  Prior to this act, individual bishops had canonized saints, but since this led to confusion the practice began to be institutionalized in the Catholic Church.  (This does not mean that no saint comes from a time prior to 993, for many canonizations which still stand occurred prior to 993.)  In 1170 Pope Alexander III declared that only the Catholic Church could declare someone a saint. 

996-999        Reign of Pope Gregory V.  His pontificate is considered to be a successful one with no intrigue. 

999        By the end of the century, the papacy had begun to regain its moral footing.  The Cluny Reform continued to grow in size and influence. 


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