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Marozia Crescentii (885–938)

Marozia Crescentii (885–938)

Ruler of Rome who for four years controlled the papal court . Name variations: Marotia; Marozia the Senatrix. Reigned from 928 to 932. Born in 885 in Rome; died in 938 in Rome; daughter of Theophylact Crescentii also known as Theophylacte (governor of the Roman senate) and Theodora of Rome; married Alberic I of Spoleto, margrave of Camerino and prince of Rome (d. 928); married Marquis Guido also known as Guido of Tuscany and Guy of Tuscany (d. 932); married Hugo also known as Hugh of Provence, king of Italy (r. 926–932); children: at least two sons, Alberic II, prince of the Romans, and John, later Pope John XI, and a daughter Bertha.

Marozia Crescentii was born in 885, the daughter of Theophylacte, governor of the Roman senate, and Theodora of Rome . Upon her father's death around 920, Marozia became head of the household and assumed the titles senatrix and patrician, becoming the omnipotent ruler of Rome. The Italian noblewoman married three times, was reputed to have had numerous lovers, and outlived each of her husbands. Marozia reportedly was also the long-term mistress of the pope Sergius III, who granted her authority in Rome. Around 908, she had given birth to their son John. Through her close connections with many of Italy's most powerful men, Marozia gained power in her own name, supported by the wealth she had inherited from her husbands.

After the death of her first husband Alberic I of Spoleto in 928 and with the help of her stepson and her new husband Marquis Guido of Tuscany, she overthrew and imprisoned Pope John X and took control of the papacy. Until her son John was prepared to succeed, Marozia was instrumental in electing two stopgap popes: the short-lived Leo VI and Stephen VII. She then installed her own son as John XI (931)—a political triumph for a man whose mother was lambasted across Italy for her flagrant adulteries and abuses of power.

Highly intelligent and gifted with a keen mind for politics, Marozia used her other son Alberic II's position to back up her authority. In the summer of 932, now a widow for a second time, she married Guido's half-brother Hugh of Provence, king of Italy (r. 926–932), who was then at the height of his power. But the Romans were unhappy with her marriage to a brother-inlaw, and suspicious of foreign rule. In December 932, incited by her son Alberic II, an armed mob stormed the Castel Sant'Angelo. King Hugh escaped, but Alberic imprisoned his mother and brother John XI, and declared himself prince of Rome. Hugh was eventually exiled in France, John was released and kept under tight ecclesiastical thumb, and Marozia had to exchange the seat of Roman power for a small cell in a convent. She died in isolation about age 52.


Echols, Anne, and Marty Williams. An Annotated Index of Medieval Women. NY: Markus Wiener, 1992.

Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane, ed. A History of Women in the West, vol. II: Silences of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard, 1992.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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