Pope Formosus

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Formosus (c. 816 – 896) was Pope of the Catholic Church from 891 to 896. His brief reign as Pope was troubled, and his remains were exhumed and put on trial in the notorious Cadaver Synod.



Born at Ostia, he became Cardinal Bishop of Portus in 864. He undertook diplomatic missions to Bulgaria (866) and France (869 and 872), and he persuaded Charles the Bald, King of France, to be crowned as emperor by the Pope in 875.

As early as 872 he was a candidate for the papacy, but due to political complications he left Rome and the court of Pope John VIII that year. John convened a synod, and Formosus was ordered to return, or be excommunicated on charges that he had aspired to the Bulgarian Archbishopric and the Holy See, had opposed the emperor and had deserted his diocese without papal permission, had despoiled the cloisters in Rome, had performed the divine service in spite of the interdict, and had "conspired with certain iniquitous men and women for the destruction of the papal see"[citation needed]. The condemnation of Formosus and others was announced in July 872. In 878 the sentence of excommunication was withdrawn after he promised never to return to Rome or exercise his priestly functions.

In 883 John's successor, Pope Marinus I, restored Formosus to his suburbicarian diocese of Portus. Following the reigns of Marinus, Pope Hadrian III (884–885) and Pope Stephen V (885–891), Formosus was elected Pope on October 6, 891.

Supporters of Guy II of Spoleto forced Formosus to crown him as a Roman Emperor in April 892. Other immediate issues were that in Constantinople, the Patriarch Photius had been ejected and Stephen, the son of Emperor Basil I, had taken the office. There was a quarrel between the Archbishops of Cologne and Hamburg concerning the Bishopric of Bremen. In the contest between Odo, Count of Paris and Charles the Simple for the French crown, the Pope sided with Charles.

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