John XII, Pope

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Pontificate: Dec. 16, 955 to May 14, 964; b. Rome, c. 936. Before his death in 954, Alberic II of Spoleto, the undisputed master of Rome, made the nobles swear to elect his only son, Octavian, to the papacy at the death of Agapetus II. As pope, Octavian changed his name to John. Even if this immature pontiff, scarcely 18, were not guilty of all the vices attributed to him by liutprand (Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores 3:340346), there is sufficient unbiased evidence to prove that he was unworthy of his office. In 959, attempting to recover former papal lands from King Berengarius II, John appealed for help to otto i. The German king willingly obliged, and late in 961 his army appeared in Italy. On Feb. 2, 962, John crowned Otto emperor and Otto's wife, (St.) Adelaide, empress, in St. Peter's Basilica, beginning the long association of the imperial title with the German kingdom (see holy roman empire). Otto issued the Privilegium Ottonianum, promising to make the pope the temporal ruler of almost three-fourths of Italy. On the other hand, the pope had to recognize the emperor's suzerainty over the states of the church and agree that future popes were not to be consecrated until they had taken an oath of fealty to the emperor. The pope resented these terms, and when Otto left the city, began to plot against him. The emperor, therefore, returned on November 3, but John escaped to Tivoli with the papal treasury. On November 6, Otto summoned a synod in St. Peter's, and there the pope was accused of gross misconduct; he was ordered to appear in person and clear himself of these charges. When John refused, he was deposed on December 4 and replaced by a Roman lay official, leo viii. Many in Rome opposed this highhanded action and John easily regained control of the city (early 964) after Otto's departure. He punished many of his enemies and declared the acts of Leo VIII null and void. John died suddenly under circumstances that, according to Liutprand, were just as scandalous as his life.

See Also: crescentii.

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[s. mckenna]