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Posts Tagged ‘Louis Duchesne’

As I mention in the “About” page on this blog, I have been working for a long time on a PhD dissertation on the subject of Pope Formosus, who was Pope from 891 to 896, but had a long and very interesting career before that as Bishop of Porto (the port of Rome).   Most people I talk to about this have never heard of Pope Formosus, but if someone has it is always because of what happened to him after his death. I have put it this way in the introduction to several papers I’ve presented on the subject:

“Sometime near the beginning of the year 897, a shocking spectacle took place in Rome, as the sitting Pope put one of his predecessors on trial. That the predecessor was dead was only one unusual fact about the trial. What shocked contemporaries even more was that Stephen VI actually had the body of Formosus removed from its tomb and placed on the papal throne to face the charges against him! The contemporary Annales Fuldenses report the event in spare terms:

‘At Rome pope Formosus died on the holy day of Easter [April 4]; in his place Boniface was consecrated, who was attacked by gout and is said to have survived for barely two weeks. In his place a pope called Stephen [VI] succeeded, a man of notorious reputation, who in unheard-of fashion turned out his predecessor, Formosus from his grave, had him deposed by proxy and buried outside the usual place where popes are buried. (Annals of Fulda, trans. by Timothy Reuter (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), under the year 896, p. 135.’”

When I came upon this event many years ago, I found it interesting enough to investigate further. But I was not satisfied with the existing explanations for the ghastly trial, known commonly as the “Cadaver Synod.” So I began to do more research into the subject, and I determined that one cannot really understand the trial without looking at the entire context, including the long career of Formosus, which no one had done in about a hundred years. Many fine historians had investigated various aspects of the subject, as they related to issues they themselves were studying, such as the deposition of popes, or the question of who might judge a pope, but they always accepted the basic assumptions of a hundred years before (which was a natural thing to do in such cases). Over the past ten years and more, I have presented nine papers on various aspects of the career of Formosus, and on the Cadaver Synod, and have reached very different conclusions. I am currently attempting to stitch these papers (listed below) together into a dissertation, but because I get inquiries about this topic, I would like to present the conclusions I have reached, and how they differ from the earlier assumtions that one generally finds in the literature.

The general story can be found in Wikipedia, much of which is based on the work of Horace Kinder Mann, which was based on the work of Louis Duchesne. Duchesne was a great historian of early Christianity and of the papacy, and his work was extremely good, but suffered from some biases not unusual for his day.    In the next post, I will address how my conclusions differ from the generally accepted story.    Meanwhile, here is a list of the papers I have presented over the years that have brought me to those conclusions.

A Synod of Ravenna Confirming the Cadaver Synod?” Paper presented at the XIV International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Toronto, 5-11 August 2012.     (In publication)

“The Cadaver Synod and the Unmaking of Saints,” A paper presented at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2011.

“The Synod of Ravenna of 898 as a Witness to the Cadaver Synod,” A paper presented at the 45th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2010.

“Renovatio redux: A New Look at the Libellus de imperatoria potestate in urbe Roma,” A paper delivered at the 12th Annual Mediterranean Studies Congress, Università di Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy May, 2009.

“A Failed Crusade? Pope John VIII and the Arabs Reconsidered,” A paper presented at the 41st International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2007.

“The Role of the Latin Missionaries in Ninth-Century Bulgaria,” a paper presented at the 40th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2006.

“Who was Auxilius? Ethnic Identity in Carolingian Italy,” a paper presented at the 38th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2004.

“Invitation or Imitation: The Justification of Arnulf’s Invasion of Italy in 895/896,” a paper presented at the 5th Annual Congress of the Mediterranean Studies Association, Granada (Spain), May 29-June 1, 2002.

“The 898 Synod of Ravenna, and the Rehabilitation of Pope Formosus,” a paper presented at the 37th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2002.

 

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