Boniface VII, Antipope

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Pontificate: JuneJuly 974; summer 980March 981; April 984July 20, 985. Born into a Roman family and named Franco (his father's name was Ferrucius), he was a cardinal deacon when Crescentius I de Theodora led a revolt against Pope Benedict VI (97374). Benedict was imprisoned in the Castel Sant' Angelo, and Franco was consecrated Pope Boniface VII. The imprisoned pope had the support of Emperor Otto II (97383), who sent Count Sicco from Spoleto to demand the pope's release. Boniface had Benedict VI strangled in order to maintain his position. This led to riots in the city and Boniface had to retreat to the Castel Sant' Angelo. He escaped with part of the papal treasury and fled to Byzantine-controlled southern Italy before Sicco could take him. The antipope was excommunicated at a synod (October, 974) called by the new pope, Benedict VII (974983). Thus ended Boniface's first attempt at being pope. Boniface, however, kept his eyes on Rome. In the summer of 980, while Benedict was not in the city, he brought about another coup and installed himself in the Lateran. Benedict appealed to Otto and returned in March 981 with troops led by the emperor himself. Boniface fled to Constantinople, ending his second reign as antipope.

Pope Benedict's successor, John XIV (98384), was not popular in Rome, and after the death of Otto, Boniface took the opportunity to return yet again. Financed by the Byzantines, and with the help of Crescentius' sons, John and Crescentius II, Boniface had Pope John deposed and imprisoned in April of 984. In August the pope was murdered, which again made Boniface the only remaining pope. Little is known of his reign, except that he died suddenly on July 20, 985. Assassination is a possibility, but one that cannot be confirmed in the sources. There was, however, obviously strong factionalism within the city. Some referred to the antipope as "Malefatius" (a play on his Latin name Bonifatius) and as a "horrendum monstrum." Additionally, upon his death, Boniface's corpse was dragged through the streets and mutilated. Finally it was left in front of the Lateran Palace, to be buried the next morning.

Bibliography: l. duchesne, ed. Liber Pontificalis (Paris 188692; repr. 195557) 2.25560. p. jaffÉ, Regesta pontificum Romanorum (Leipzig 188588; repr. Graz 1956) 1.485; 2.707, 747. j. f. bÖhmer, Regesta Imperii (Graz, Vienna, Cologne 1969) 21156. b. platina, De vita Christi ac omnium pontificum 139(138), ed. g. gaida, in Rerum italicarum scriptores 3.1, ed. l. a. muratori (Città di Castello and Bologna 191332) 17273. h. k. mann, The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages (London 190232) 4.33942. f. baix, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1937) 9.90004. p. brezzi, Roma e l'impero medioevale, 7741252 (Bologna 1947) 14857. f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (Munich 195459) 2.37883. h. zimmerman, Papstabsetzungen des Mittelalters (Graz, Vienna, Cologne 1968) 99103. h. zimmerman, Das dunkle Jahrhundert (Graz, Vienna, Cologne 1971) 20227. j. n. d. kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 13031. r. schieffer, Lexikon des Mittelalters (Munich 1982) 2.414.

[p. m. savage]