Stephen VI (VII), Pope

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Pontificate: May or June, 896 to July or August 897;b. Rome. Although already bishop of Anagni, Stephen was elected pope, contrary to the current law, which forbade the transfer of a bishop from one see to another. Victim of the political factions of his day, Stephen cooperated with lambert of spoleto in the posthumous trial of his predecessor, Pope formosus, who, after crowning Lambert as Emperor in 892, had subsequently bestowed the same honor upon the Frankish ruler, Arnulf of Carinthia. Nine months after his death, Formosus' body was disinterred from the papal crypt and arraigned for trial before a "cadaveric" council, at which Stephen presided. The deceased pope was accused of inordinate ambition for the papal office and all his acts were declared invalid because he had been excommunicated under john viii and had previously held the episcopal See of Porto. The corpse was stripped of pontifical robes; the fingers of the right hand were amputated, and the mutilated body was eventually cast into the Tiber. The Holy Orders conferred by Formosus were pronounced void; by this declaration Stephen's prior appointment as bishop of Anagni was invalidated and he was thus freed from the irregularity of transferring from one see to another. Within a few months a violent reaction ended the pontificate of Pope Stephen; he was deprived of the pontifical insignia, imprisoned, and strangled. He was succeeded by ro manus, then theodore ii (897) and john ix (898).

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[p. j. mullins]

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Stephen VI (VII), Pope

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