Benedict IV


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Formosus (c. 816—896)


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(May/June 900–Aug. 903)

An upper-class Roman, son of Mammolus, he succeeded John IX at a time when Rome was still racked by internecine strife between devotees and haters of the posthumously condemned Formosus. The paucity of records, the result mainly of the prevailing turbulence, makes the circumstances and date of his election uncertain. Apart from the fact that, like John IX, he had been ordained by Formosus and counted as a Formosan, only a handful of scraps of isolated information survive about his reign. Thus, following the line taken by his predecessor, he held a synod in the Lateran on 31 Aug. 900 at which he confirmed Argrinus as bishop of Langres (he had been deposed by Stephen VI but restored by John IX) and ratified the grant of the pallium made to him by Formosus. Again, he formally excommunicated the murderers of Fulk, archbishop of Reims (d. 17 June 900), and exhorted the French bishops to concur in this sentence. He intervened energetically to support the election of Stephen, formerly bishop of Sorrento, as archbishop of Naples on the death of the controversial Athanasius II (d. 898). He also generously took up the cause of Maclacenus, bishop of Amasea (Amasya) in Cappadocia, who had been driven from his see by the Saracens (in fact, the Turks), furnishing him with letters recommending him to the care and protection of all Christians.

Benedict was inevitably conscious of the political void created by the death without male heir of Lambert of Spoleto on 15 Oct. 898; Formosus had crowned Lambert emperor, and John IX had made arrangements with him which seemed to secure the papacy. Berengar I of Friuli (c. 850–924), king of Italy since 888, might have taken his place, but he was disastrously defeated by the Magyars in 899, and then found his supremacy in Italy disputed by the young king Louis ‘the Blind’ of Provence (887–928), grandson of Emperor Louis II (855–75). Encouraged by Louis's initial successes, Benedict crowned him emperor in Feb. 901. But fortune's wheel turned swiftly; Berengar recovered the upper hand, defeated Louis in Aug. 902, and forced him to recross the Alps after swearing never to set foot in Italy again. The result was that, without an imperial protector, Rome again lapsed into the anarchy of party strife.

Benedict was a moderate pope who was praised by the chronicler Flodoard of Reims (d. 966) for his generosity to the destitute. It has been conjectured that he was murdered by agents of Berengar, but no contemporary evidence supports this.

Further Reading

PL 131: 39–44LP ii. 233JW i. 306Flodoard, De Chr. trium. 14. 7 (PL 135: 831)MGSS xiii. 624 f.Auxilius, Lib. in defens. Steph. episcopi, ed. E. Dümmler (Leipzig, 1866)DHGE viii. 27–31 (F. Baix)Levillain i. 154–5 (K. Herbers)NCE ii. 239–40 (S. McKenna)Brezzi 98 f.DBI viii. 337–42 (O. Bertolini)Mann iv. 103–10Seppelt ii. 345 f.

Subjects: Christianity.

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