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European Kingdoms

Italian Peninsula


Bishops of Rome / Popes (Christian Church / Roman Catholic Church)
AD 42 - Present Day

According to Catholic tradition, Jesus founded the papacy in the first century when he chose St Peter, the leader of the apostles, to be his earthly representative. 'Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church,' he states in chapter 16 of Matthew. 'I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' Those words, which now circle the dome of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, serve as the biblical mandate for the papacy. All bishops of Rome (the title 'pope' was not used until the fourth century) are considered symbolic descendants of Peter and are thought to hold 'Peter's Chair'. Since then, there have been more than 260 occupants of the papal office. The institution has endured through the defining moments of European history, including the split of the Roman empire, the bloodbath of the Crusades, and the rise of the Italian Renaissance.

However, the recently rediscovered gospels (found in Egypt) of Philip and of Mary Magdalene ('Magdalene' perhaps meaning 'The Tower') reveal that Mary herself was much more likely to have been Jesus' choice for the leader of his fledgling movement, rather than Peter. A theory has emerged which suggests that there was a power struggle for leadership between Mary - supported by Jesus' brothers and possibly even other female disciples - and Peter, who could not accept that Jesus could appear to a mere woman instead of his trusted (male) disciples. Had Mary won, the church would have been a very different one from that which emerged. It may have been a far less militant church, but possibly one which was less likely to have survived.

Even so, women still had a much greater role in the early church than later Roman Catholic church leaders would allow (or even admit). The 'lost' gospels hint at another power struggle between the sexes over the ownership of the church, this time in the second century, and it was not a foregone conclusion which side would win. Generally attributed either to St Paul or a close associate, even the book of Corinthians seems to show a degree of ambiguity, or perhaps enforced change, in the role of women in the early church. The final shots were fired at the First Council in AD 325, when the Catholic Church was fully established.

The early sources are the basis for the Catholic Church's official list of popes for the first two centuries, although some sources contradict one another even as far as names and dates. The list was formulated no earlier than about AD 180. Popes during this period did not hold supreme office in the fashion of later holders of the office, but probably led the early church as part of a collective. Anti-popes are shown in red text with shaded backgrounds.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Dana Grohol, from the BBC documentaries, The Lost Gospels and The Dead Sea Scrolls, both first screened in 2006, from Roger II of Sicily: Ruler between East and West, Hubert Houben (Graham A Loud & Diane Milburn, Trans, 2002), from The Normans, Marjorie Chibnall (Wiley & Sons, 2006), and from External Links: Catholic Online, and Liber Pontificalis (The Book of the Popes), available via the Internet Archive, and Early church found place for female bishops (The Telegraph), and History Extra, and The Shroud of Turin, and History and Organization of the Swedish Lutheran Church (dead link), and America colonisation cooled Earth's climate (BBC News).)

AD ? - c.33

Jesus Christ / Jesus of Nazareth

Founder of a new, Christian, church. Descendant of David of Israel.

c.11 - 6 BC

Jesus, the son of Mary and her husband, Joseph the carpenter (whatever his role in the actual conception of the child), is viewed by some of his peers in Judea as the messiah foretold in the Old Testament. The exact dates relating to him are uncertain, but the year of his birth is traditionally accepted as being 11 BC or 7 BC. However, the census of Quirnius is held in 6 BC, which is the event that forces Mary and Joseph to return home when the former is heavily pregnant.

The birth most likely takes place around September, as there is mention of sheep and shepherds being out overnight. In winter the sheep would have been kept indoors overnight so the temperature is clearly too warm for this, and the weather is still convenient for travel. The name of the newborn child is probably more correctly pronounced as Joshua or Yeshua in the original Hebrew, before being passed through Greek, Latin, and English.

Jesus of Nazareth
The teachings of Jesus (whatever his true nature) drew a large following amongst the occupied peoples of Judea and inspired the creation of a new church

c.AD 30 - 33

FeatureGenerally accepted by historians to be a healer, Jesus of Nazareth starts to preach the restoration of God's kingdom (probably meaning a restoration of the church organisation within Judea). He is soon viewed with suspicion by the Jewish authorities, and also by the occupying Romans, and is arrested, tried and executed by crucifixion about AD 33. The operation is ordered by the Jewish government, and is overseen by the Romans.

c.33 - ?

Mary Magdalene ('tower' or 'fortress')

Disciple of Jesus. Theoretical intended head of Jesus' church?

c.33 - 42

Whether the plans of Jesus had included founding an entirely new church or not, this is what happens, although its birth is clouded in obscurity. Looking at the so-called lost gospels which are later discovered in modern Egypt, it seems that Jesus may have intended Mary Magdalene, a disciple (and more controversially, perhaps even his wife - the Gnostic Gospel of Philip describes her as Jesus' 'companion' - which has the same meaning), to head his movement (either to restore the Judean church or to become the focal point of his new church).

Mary is supported by Jesus' brothers, most notably James, but according to the Gnostic writings of the second or third centuries, tensions have long existed between Peter and the male disciples on one side, and Mary and possible other female disciples on the other side. Now that Jesus is not around to keep the peace, a power struggle apparently ensues between them. Ultimately, the group headed by Peter wins. Mary and James and their more inclusive church are sidelined, and a male-dominated, hierarchical church emerges, with Peter at its head.

42 - 67

St Peter / Simon Peter / Simon Cephas

Disciple of Jesus. First official bishop of Rome.


Following several missionary journeys, Peter apparently goes to Rome and overthrows Simon Magus (Simon the Sorcerer or Simon of Gitta). There, he begins to minister to the early Christians within the empire who are brutally persecuted, often being subject to death games in the Coliseum and public burnings.


Peter attends the Council of Jerusalem, which decides to accept Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to the new church. It seems that Peter is the one who opposes the Pharisees in their demands for circumcision and Mosaic law in relation to the Gentiles (according to Acts), although he has been guilty himself of treating Gentiles as inferiors to Jewish Christians in the past (the Incident at Antioch).

In Asia Minor, the Galatians may be on their way to becoming eastern Romans, but they have not entirely forgotten their Gaulish roots. They initially receive St Paul as an angel from heaven but perhaps fail fully to understand the Christian message. Acts (xiii-xiv) indicates that they have to be restrained at Lystra from sacrificing to St Paul, and shortly afterwards they stone 'the Angel of God', and leave him for dead.


Hierotheos the Thesmothete (a junior archon) is reputedly the first head of the Christians of Athens. Instructed by the Apostle Paul, he is baptised and ordained by him about this year. The Roman Church has yet to be established, making this appointment an important one in the spread of the new religion.


Peter is crucified upside down by the Romans under Emperor Nero, in mockery of the execution of Jesus. Later Catholic tradition states that this is Peter's choice, as he sees himself unfit to be executed in the same way as Jesus. He is buried on Mons Vaticanus (Vatican Hill, now underneath the Basilica of St Peter, probably directly beneath the altar). Many of the early popes are buried on the same hill.

Later tradition says that St Paul is also martyred at the same place as Peter and on the same date (29 June), but not necessarily in the same year.

67 - 76

St Linus

Ordained as a bishop by Peter.


Some early sources claim Linus and then Anacletus as the successors of Peter, while others claim Clement as his immediate successor. Anacletus and Cletus are claimed by both the Liberian Catalogue and the Liber Pontificalis as being two different people.

76 - 88

St Anacletus / Anencletus / Cletus

Ordained as a bishop by Peter. Traditionally held to be a Roman.

88 - 97

St Clement I of Rome

Claimed in some early sources as being Peter's official successor.


The earliest church fathers are usually known as the Apostolic Fathers, these being teachers of theology who are influential within the growing church within two generations of the apostles themselves. Clement is one of several such Apostolic Fathers, writing the First Epistle of Clement to the church at Corinth about AD 96. The Second Epistle of Clement is generally accepted to have been written by somebody else. Traditionally, Clement is executed by Emperor Trajan in Rome, who has him tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

97 - 105

St Evaristus / Aristus

Hellenic Jew.

105 - 115

St Alexander I

A Roman.

115 -125

St Sixtus I / Xystus I

A Roman.

125 - 136

St Telesphorus

A Greek. Suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Romans.

132 - 135

The Second Jewish Uprising in Judah is led by Simon Bar Kochba against Roman rule. The Jews are driven out of Jerusalem and a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter is built on the site of the Jewish temple itself. By 136, although the Romans forbid Jews to enter Jerusalem, Christian pilgrims are permitted entrance.

136 - 140

St Hyginus

From Athens.

140 - 155

St Pius I

An Italian and possibly a former slave.


Marcion of Sinope arrives in Rome. He begins to construct a theology which proposes two gods instead of one, the vengeful god of the Old Testament and the god of love in the gospels. He is in favour of destroying the Old Testament altogether, and totally removing the Jewish aspect from Christianity.

He proposes a definitive list of officially sanctioned gospels (a 'canon', from the Greek word which means 'measuring stick'). He also argues that Jesus had been a form of spirit rather than an ordinary man (an idea which is in line with Gnostic thought). His efforts help form the idea of heresy, where theologies which fit the chosen message (and are therefore orthodox) are sanctioned while all others are condemned and banned.

After putting his ides to the first ever council of early church fathers, he is excommunicated, but his ideas live on in a fairly powerful movement of Christians for another two centuries. He is later considered to be one of the greatest heretics of early Christianity.

155 - 168

St Anicetus

168 - 175

St Soterus / Soter

Confirmed Easter as an annual festival in Rome.

175 - 189

St Eleutherius / Eleuterus

Formerly a deacon of the Roman Church.

175 - 189

It is during the pontificate of Eleutherius that the Montanist movement of Asia Minor (especially in Phrygia) emerges as a problem for the Roman Church. Named after its founder, Montanus, the movement preaches a doctrine which differs from Orthodoxy on several key points, enough so that it is soon labelled a heresy and is banned. It survives in some areas until the eighth century and some have found similarities in it to modern Pentecostalism.

178 - 180?

Lucius of Britain (a possible hereditary High King) writes to the Roman Church requesting to become a Christian. He is later credited by British writers as being responsible for introducing Christianity into Britain although, whether through his involvement or not, a British Church does apparently begin to make its presence felt in the country during this century.

189 - 199

St Victor I

First pope from Africa (Africa Proconsularis).

189 - 199

Victor introduces the Latin mass to Rome, where it replaces the typical mass in Greek. He also takes a firmer stand in the growing disagreement about dating the celebration of the Passover and Easter. The Christian church in Asia Minor celebrates it on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan, the day before the Jewish Passover, on whichever day that falls. Rome celebrates Easter only on the Sunday following the fourteenth of Nisan. It is a small difference which is causing increasing friction between the two Christian churches.

Pope St Victor I
The most famous act by the Africa-born Pope Victor I is his excommunication of the leatherworker, Theodotus of Byzantium, for his Adoptionist doctrine ('Dynamic Monarchianism', or 'Adoptionism') which proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth to be non-divine

199 - 217

St Zephirinus / Zephyrinus

202 or 203

The edict of persecution is issued in Rome. It forbids any conversion to Christianity under the severest penalties. This follows a period of relative relaxation in the persecution of early Christians within the empire.

217 - 222

St Calixtus I / Callixtus

A former slave and then deacon to Zephirinus. Martyred.

c.217 - 222

A highly learned theologian, Hippolytus the priest had previously come into conflict with Zephirinus after accusing the bishop of Rome of modalism, a heresy which holds that the names Father and Son are simply different names for the same subject instead of being part of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Now, he is outraged by Calixtus when the bishop extends absolution to Christians who have committed grave sins such as adultery. Hippolytus seems to allow himself to be elected bishop of Rome in opposition to Calixtus.

Arch of Septimus Severus
The Machiavellian Septimus Severus continued to increase the glory of Rome (this surviving arch is named after him) but he continued the imperial practice of Christian persecution

c.217 - 235

Hippolytus (of Rome)

Sometimes considered the first anti-pope.

235 - c.236

Hippolytus is exiled from Rome during the persecution of Emperor Maximinus Thrax (along with Bishop Pontianus). He is apparently reconciled with the Roman Church before his martyrdom, which possibly involves him being tied to two horses moving in opposite directions.

222 - 230

St Urban I

230 - 235

St Pontianus / Pontian

Exiled along with Hippolytus.

235 - 236

St Anterius / Anterus

In office for one month and ten days.


By this time, Christians are assembling in Rome to elect each new head of the Roman Christian Church. Fabianus is a layman who is new to the city, and is apparently chosen after a dove lands on his head, marking him out for special office.

236 - 251

St Fabianus / Fabian / Flavian

Martyred by Emperor Decius.

249 - 251

Fabianus sends out representatives to Christianise Gaul following the dissolution of many small Christian communities there during persecutions by Emperor Decius. However, Decius' next step is to order all citizens within the empire to perform a religious sacrifice while being monitored. Naturally many Christians refuse and are martyred as a result, Fabianus along with them. Decius also bans the election of any replacement. The office is vacant for fourteen months, only being filled when the emperor is forced to leave Rome to fight the Goths. He does not return.


Lutetia Parisiorum, capital of the Parisii tribe in Gaul, receives Christianity according to tradition when St Denis becomes the city's first bishop. Around the middle of the century, St Denis and two of his companions are arrested and decapitated on the hill of Mons Mercurius during the persecutions of Emperor Decius. Roman foundations have been found here by archaeologists, and after this date the hill is better known as Mons Martyrum (Martyrs' Hill). The name survives today as Montmartre.


Chief candidate for office but died during the persecutions.

251 - 253

St Cornelius

A reluctant candidate for office.

251 - 258

Novatianus / Novatian

Anti-pope. Believed he would be elected instead of Cornelius.

251 - 253

Incensed at being refused for office in favour of Cornelius, Novatianus is consecrated by three bishops, placing him in opposition as anti-pope. The core of his dislike of Cornelius is the latter's refusal to accept rebaptism as a way of welcoming lapsed Christians back into the church. Cornelius has him and his supporters excommunicated, so Novatianus eventually forms his own church, while Cornelius is killed during the persecutions of Emperor Trebonianus Gallus.

253 - 254

St Lucius I

Temporarily exiled from Rome but allowed to return.

254 - 257

St Stephen I

Murdered during Emperor Valerian's persecution.


A fresh wave of persecution sees Stephen beheaded by the troops of Emperor Valerian while celebrating mass with his congregation. His successor is able to repair relations with the Eastern Orthodox and African churches following a breach under Stephen.

257 - 259

St Sixtus II / Xystus II

Martyred during Emperor Valerian's persecution.


Anti-pope Novatianus flees Rome during a period of persecution. His church spreads rapidly and continues to exist for several centuries under the banner of Novatianism, which espouses a form of Puritanism.

259 - 269

St Dionysius

Elected nearly a year after Sixtus' death due to the persecutions.


The accession of the new emperor, Gallienus, brings to an end the wave of persecution that Valerian had triggered. Gallienus issues an edict of toleration which lasts until AD 303 and gives the church legal status.

269 - 275

St Felix I

275 - 283

St Eutychianus / Eutychian


Although Christianity is rapidly spreading throughout Gaul, persistent persecutions and continual conflicts prevent the organisation of the Catholic Church during the first few centuries AD.

FeatureAdopting the administrative divisions of the Roman empire, the Catholic ecclesiastical authorities make Civitas Tungrorum a diocese (bishopric). This is the capital of the Tungri tribe, but will later become the capital of the prince-bishopric of Liège (see feature link).

283 - 296

St Caius

296 - 304

St Marcellinus

Apparently lapsed under persecution and worshipped pagan idols.


Christianity is officially adopted as Armenia's state religion, making it the world's first Christian nation.

304 - 308

The office is vacant during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian, which begin in 303. Christian soldiers are forced to leave the Roman army, and subsequently church books are destroyed and property is seized. Tougher measures follow which include death for Christians who refuse to apostatise (relinquish their faith). One of the most famous martyrs of this period, killed about 304, is Saint Pancras, a Roman citizen aged fourteen. Shortly after converting to Christianity, he is beheaded for his beliefs.

St Lucy
St Lucy, after whom the French named what they originally called the Windward Island, came from a wealthy family, and herself brought food and comfort to poor and needy Christians who were hiding in Rome's catacombs - she was reported to the authorities by her betrothed when he discovered she was giving away her dowry, resulting in her being martyred in AD 304 by a sword thrust into her neck

308 - 309

St Marcellus I

Banished from Rome by the church for severity to the lapsed.

309 or 310

St Eusebius

Banished by Emperor Maxentius for severity to the lapsed.

309/310 - 311

The office is vacant again, either from the date of Eusebius' exile in 309 or his death on 17 August 310.

311 - 314

St Melchiades / Miltiades


Emperor Constantine the Great confers imperial favour on the church with the Edict of Milan. He effectively converts the Roman empire to Christianity, giving it much greater influence and strength than it has ever enjoyed up to this date.


The First Council of Arles is held, in which three bishops from Britain participate: Eborius of York, Restitutus of London, and Adelphius of Lincoln or possibly Colchester. The Council condemns the heresy of Donatism.

314 - 336

St Sylvester I

First bishop of Rome to use the title of 'Pope'.


The first ecumenical Christian council, the 'First Council (Nicaea I)', is held by Constantine the Great in Rome. A new post is created, the bishopric of Jerusalem, and all of the fundamental basics of Catholic Christianity are debated and decided, including which books to include in the Bible (and which to discard because they do not fit the specific message to be broadcast by the church), the date for Easter, and the divinity of Jesus, whereas before he had usually been regarded by his followers as an ordinary (if special) man.

First Council of Nicaea
The First Council of Nicaea, held in Rome in AD 325, decided upon the basic tenants of the Catholic Church, including the contents of the Bible

Arianism is condemned, and the gospels of Peter (which claims that Jesus did not die), Philip, and Mary (which contradict the 'official' line) are banned. Part of their problem is that they had been written a little later than the more popular, accepted gospels, and have not found such popularity and therefore circulation, despite claiming to be written by disciples themselves.

They also muddy the water in terms of the message, a message which even at this stage of the church's existence has to be a clear and strong one for the church to survive. It also has to be clear and strong for Constantine's Roman empire to survive - a single form of Christianity, a soldier's form of Christianity, from which any meaningful female presence around Jesus or in the 'modern' church is erased or sidelined.

326 - 333

Between these two dates the construction of Old St Peter's Basilica is begun under the orders of Emperor Constantine. The site formerly housed the Circus of Nero, and the basilica takes about thirty years to complete. It survives until the sixteenth century. Constantine also begins the construction of other great churches in Rome.

336 - 337

St Marcus / Mark

Credited with founding the Basilica of San Marco in Rome.

337 - 352

St Julius I

Elected four months after the death of Marcus.

352 - 366


353 - 354

The Second Council of Arles is called to support Arianism. The two papal legates present refuse to condemn Arius (died AD 336), a Christian presbyter from Egypt who had refused the concept of the Trinity, preaching instead that God existed before Christ. The following year, Liberius is exiled to Thrace by the emperor and is only allowed to return in 356. With Anti-pope Felix already occupying the Roman See, Liberius waits until he is ejected from the city before he himself returns to office.


Felix II

Anti-pope. Expelled by the Roman people.


The Council of Ariminum (modern Rimini) is held in Italy, and three bishops from the British Church participate. It seems that free travel may be extended to all attendees to the council, along with lodgings.


Damasus succeeds Liberius amid factional violence. He is elected pope at the same time as Ursinus, former deacon to Liberius. Damasus is elected in San Lorenzo in Lucia, supported by the former followers of Anti-pope Felix, while Ursinus is elected in Rome. The latter's supporters are attacked by those of Damasus, and many are slaughtered during a three-day riot. Emperor Valentinian is forced to intervene to restore peace in the city.

366 - 384

St Damasus I

366 - 367

Ursinus / Ursicinus

Anti-pope. Exiled to Gaul. Returned & exiled again. Died after 384.


Ursinus is condemned at a synod and Damasus is confirmed as the true pope. Ursinus continues to press his claim to be the true pope during the election of Siricius in 384.


The Second Council (Constantinople I) is held. Arianism is condemned for the second time, but it still becomes a major division of the Christian church, being adopted by most of the Germanic tribes who are beginning to enter the Roman empire's territory (the notable exception being the Franks). The Council definitively establishes Roman Catholic orthodoxy.

384 - 399

St Siricius


Siricius issues a decree stating that priests should desist from cohabiting with their wives. It is suggested that Siricius himself had left his wife and children upon his election as pope. (The title 'pope' is at this stage used by many leading bishops, most notably that of Alexandria in Egypt. Only from the sixth century does its use begin to be focused exclusively on the bishop of Rome.)

In the same year, in Augusta Treverorum, Emperor Magnus Maximus sentences to death the bishop of Avila, Priscillian, after he and some of his followers have been found guilty of the crime of magic. The charge is the only way that Priscillian's vehement opponents can be rid of the eloquent and learned promulgator of a doctrine that is based on the Gnostic-Manichaean doctrines of an Egyptian called Marcus. Priscillianism is later declared a heresy, but its teachings persist in Iberia and Ariamir, king of the Suevi, is forced to call the First Council of Braga in 561 to deal with it.

399 - 401

St Anastasius I

401 - 417

St Innocent I

Son (disputed).


During the sack of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth, the pagan Germanic people attempt to reintroduce pagan worship into the city. The attempt appears to fail due to public disinterest, suggesting that Rome is now a dedicated Christian city.


FeatureA synod is held in Carthage (the Council of Carthage) in the province of Africa which takes a firm line against the Pelagian 'heresy'. Pelagius (c.354-420/440) is a British ascetic who has allegedly denied the doctrine of original sin and he finds many supporters in Britain, especially amongst the educated classes. He is also the first member of the British Church to be named in any source, perhaps reflecting a school of free-thinking clerics that has developed in the country.

417 - 418

St Zosimus

Deeply involved in the controversy of the Pelagian 'heresy'.


On the death of Zosimus, two candidates are put forward for election, Boniface and Eulatius. Galla Placidia, the empress consort of Constantius III, has both men expelled from Rome, but Eulatius returns the following Easter to perform baptisms. The emperor has him stripped of his rank and banishes him from Rome, leaving Boniface to be elected pope on 28 December.



Unelected pope. Banished.

418 - 422

St Boniface I

Successful rival of Eulatius.

422 - 432

St Celestine I

Former deacon.


St Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus, bishop of Troyes, are sent by Pope Celestine to visit Britain so that they can fight the Pelagian 'heresy'. They meet with a still extant Romano-British aristocracy (the principle proponents of the heresy), probably at Verulamium (Caer Mincip, possibly administered from Caer Colun).


The Third Council (Ephesus) is held. Nestorianism is condemned and the nature of Christ's human and divine forms is discussed. Part of the result is that Mary is confirmed as the 'Mother of God'.

In the same year, after consecrating St Palladius, Celestine send him as the first bishop of the British Church to Ireland. It seems that this Palladius is the 'Deacon Palladius' who urges the visit of Germanus to Britain in 429.

432 - 440

St Sixtus III / Xystus III

'Xystus' is used as an alternate spelling for the first three Sixtus.

440 - 461

St Leo I the Great

First pope to be called 'Great'. A fervent centraliser of the church.


The Roman emperor orders the Gnostic texts (those rejected in 325 for inclusion in the New Testament) to be burnt by fire, although their eventual disappearance is caused more by their ceasing to be published.


The Fourth Council (Chalcedon) is held. Monophysitism is condemned, but the fatal disaffection of Syria and Egypt is effected (the former eventually forms the Syriac Orthodox Church which survives to the present day). Oriental Orthodoxy develops a distinctive flavour of its own under the patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, with the majority of its adherents hailing from Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Armenia. Palestine is also affected by the division.


By this time, the headquarters of Attila the Hun is situated on the west bank of the Danube at Sicambria (Roman Aquincum, and modern Buda). Attila meets Leo I and is persuaded not to attack and destroy Rome, and also to give up slaughtering Christians. Even so, his approach into Italy causes panic, and refugees from Aquileia and other cities escape into the lagoon marshes to form a settlement which becomes Venice. Attila's subsequent withdrawal from Italy and his death the following year are a massive boost for the popularity of the Roman Church, perhaps ensuring its survival and the pre-eminence of the bishop of Rome.


Emperor Maximus rules for only 77 days before being stoned to death by a Roman mob while fleeing Genseric's Vandali on 24 May, after which the Vandali spend fourteen days sacking Rome. In the same year, the British Church alters the date of Easter in line with a Continental change, but another change thirty years later is not followed in Britain. Therefore, contact with the Roman Church is lost during this period.

Genseric's sack of Rome
An interpretation of Genseric's sack of Rome in AD 455 by the Russian artist, Karl Briullov, painted between about 1833-1836, perhaps the key moment in the city's fifth century decline

461 - 468

St Hilarus / Hilarus / Hilary

Former archdeacon under Leo.


The churches of Iberia have generally functioned outside of papal control until this point. The 'Synod of Rome' in this year confirms papal jurisdiction over Hispania following the request of the bishop of Barcelona for the pope to confirm a specific successor to him in his office.

468 - 483

St Simplicius


On 4 September, an Ostrogothic general of the Roman army takes Ravenna, effectively ending the empire and replacing its remains with a Gothic kingdom of Italy. However, the bishop of the Church in Rome is largely left alone.

483 - 492

St Felix III

Reputed to be the great-great-grandfather of Gregory the Great.


A series of revolts take place within Palaestina Prima. They are launched by the Samaritans against the Eastern Roman empire, and both sides exhibit extreme violent tendencies. The first of them is triggered by rumours of the impending removal of the remains of Samaritan heroes. One Justa or Justasas is elected as the Samaritan king before the rebels descend on Caesarea. The Christian church of St Procopius is destroyed and many Christians are killed.

488 - 493

Theodoric leads an Ostrogothic invasion of Italy and kills Odoacer, before setting up a Romanised Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy based at the imperial capital of Ravenna.

492 - 496

St Gelasius I

Subject of Odoacer's Gothic kingdom, and then the Ostrogoths.


A fresco uncovered in the catacomb of San Gennaro, Naples, in the second decade of the twenty-first century shows what very much seems to be the figure of a female bishop of the early church. In the very late fifth century or early sixth century, the Bishop Cerula whose likeness is captured in this fresco is fulfilling the normal duties of a bishop in southern Italy.

It seems that she is not the only female bishop of the early church. However, in 495 Pope Gelasius writes to the bishops in southern Italy to openly point out that women in those communities are ministering at the holy altars and that this should stop. The pope's command is obeyed (see photo below).

496 - 498

Anastasius II



Elected, but stood down. Installed by Ostrogoth king in 502.

498 - 514

St Symmachus

Briefly removed from office in 502-506.

498 - 506

Laurentius and Symmachus are both elected pope on the same day, the former by a minority faction with Byzantine sympathies. Symmachus is supported by Theodoric, the Ostrogothic king of Italy, but in 502 the pope's character is stained by trumped up charges laid by one of Laurentius' supporters. Laurentius is installed by Theodoric and remains pope for four years, until his Byzantine leanings become too much for the king and Symmachus is recalled.

Bishop Cerula
The fifth century fresco of Bishop Cerula in the San Gennaro catacomb, Naples, destroys the myth that only men ministered to the faithful in the early church and instead adds support to the theory that women played a vital role in the church's early success

502 - 506


A Eastern Roman supporter. 'Temporary pope' until removed in 506.

514 - 523

St Hormisdas


A breach with the Church of Constantinople which had opened in 484 is healed by Hormisdas.

523 - 526

St John I

Arrested and imprisoned by Ostrogoth king Theodoric and died.

526 - 530

St Felix IV

Theodoric's favoured successor.

526 - 530

It is during the pontificate of Felix than an imperial edict is passed which rules that cases against members of the clergy should be heard by the pope himself. At the same time, from 529, rebels in Palestine take Neapolis. The bishop of Neapolis is murdered along with many of his priests, while local Christians are persecuted and churches destroyed.



Elected. Died 22 days later. Consecrated simultaneous to Boniface.

530 - 533

Boniface II

The first Germanic pope, an Ostrogoth. Never elected.

533 - 535

John II Mercurius

First pope to adopt a new name when elected. Born Mercurius.


The last known decree to be issued by the Roman Senate concerns the practice of preferment, the purchase or sale of church offices, which is rife. The practice is banned under Boniface's pontificate and confirmed by the Ostrogoth king, Athalaric.

535 - 536

St Agapetus I

Fell ill and died shortly after the Eastern Roman capture of Rome.

536 - 537

St Sylverius / Silverius

Son of Hormisdas. Deposed and eventually exiled.

536 - 537

General Belisarius of the Eastern Roman empire enters Rome shortly before it is besieged by the Ostrogoth King Vittigis. The city suffers starvation until the siege is lifted and Belisarius pursues his opponents. Before he does this he is ordered by Empress Theodora in Constantinople to depose Pope Sylverius in favour of her choice, Vigilius.

Byzantine Popes (Christian Church / Roman Catholic Church)
AD 537 - 752

The authority of the Eastern Roman empire had been playing an ever more prominent role in influencing the actions of the papacy, perhaps from as early as 475 and the official termination of the Western Roman empire. However, with the freeing of Rome by General Belisarius from Ostrogoth rule in 537, the Byzantine emperors now demanded the final say in electing the pope.

Many popes of this period were appointed from the apocrisiarii, the papal liaison to the emperor. In later years the task of selecting the pope would be delegated to the exarchate of Ravenna, the city through which the Byzantine empire controlled Italy. It was only when Byzantine authority in Italy began to decline during the eighth century that papal authority was able to reassert itself.

537 - 556


First of the popes to be under Eastern Roman domination.

542 - 544

The 'Plague of Justinian' strikes Constantinople with the arrival of bubonic plague, and it quickly spreads to Italy. The Eastern Roman empire is devastated by it, and critically weakened at the point at which it is about to conquer all of Italy from its base at Ravenna and bring it under the rule of one Roman emperor for the first time since 395.

546 - 552

The Ostrogoths recapture Rome under the leadership of Baduila. An attempt to relieve it by the much larger Eastern Roman forces narrowly fails and it is sacked by the otherwise merciful and disciplined Ostrogoth It takes until 552 for the Byzantine empire to regain control over the city, and an exarchate is set up at Ravenna (the seat of the late Western Roman emperors) to govern Italy.

Byzantine coins of Justin I
Typical coins issued under Justin I and Justinian I, who were responsible for a resurgence in the power of Roman emperors in the east


The Fifth Council (Constantinople II) is held. Monophysitism is condemned again, this time by Vigilius. Empress Theodora in Constantinople (now deceased) had helped him to the papacy on the understanding, supported by cash, that he would be a supporter of Monophysitism.

556 - 561

Pelagius I


King Ariamir of the Suevi in Iberia calls the First Council of Braga to deal with the continuing problem of the Priscillianism heresy and to decide various other matters related to the Roman Church. Priscillian had been a late fourth century Iberian Roman who developed a doctrine based on the Gnostic-Manichaean doctrines of an Egyptian called Marcus. His work had been declared heresy after his death in 385. Following the successful council, Priscillianism soon dies out.

561 - 575

John III

Pope during the Lombard invasion and poorly recorded.

568 - 572

The Lombards invade northern Italy. Rome is temporarily isolated during this period and records are destroyed, leaving little information about the pontificate of John III. The pontificate is vacant for eleven months following his death as communications with the Eastern Roman empire are extremely difficult.


King Theodemar of the Suevi in Iberia (or possibly Miro, his successor) convenes the First Council of Lugo to increase the number of dioceses in his kingdom, possibly because parts of it are under the religious administration of bishops whose seats are in the Visigoth kingdom. It would appear that several new dioceses are in fact created as these are represented in the Second Council of Braga in 572.

575 - 579

Benedict I / Bonosus

Died during a famine which followed the Lombard attacks.

575 - 579

Benedict had been born into the Roman nobility in 480. He lives as a mountain hermit before founding the famous Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy. He founds eleven more monasteries and survives an attempted assassination by blessing a poisoned cup. Elected as the 62nd Pope, his four year reign is troubled by war and famine.

579 - 590

Pelagius II

Son of Winigild, probably of Ostrogothic descent. Plague victim.


Eastern Roman Emperor Tiberius II reorganises the surviving Roman territories in Italy into five provinces which are given the Greek name eparchies. The new provinces are the Annonaria in northern Italy around Ravenna, Calabria, Campania, Emilia and Liguria, and the Urbicaria around the city of Rome (Urbs). To the north, the duchy of Venice remains nominally under the service of the Eastern Romans.


About this year, the Visigoths and their Romano-Hispanic subjects are led by King Recared to abandon Arian Christianity in favour of the Roman Church.

590 - 604

St Gregory I the Great / Gregorius

Also known in the east as Gregory Dialogus.

590 - 591

Theodelinda, daughter of Garibald I of Bavaria, rules the Lombard kingdom of Italy briefly upon the death of her husband. She is a Nicene Christian, an adherent of the Roman Church, and is very important in terms of increasing the importance and reach of the Catholic church in Italy over Arian Christianity. Thanks in large part to her efforts in winning converts the church at Rome is able to secure its primacy in Italy and can begin to focus its attention on making fresh converts elsewhere.

Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I was one of the most important and influential figures for the early papacy, spreading Christianity to new outposts such as Corsica, Sardinia, and England


The pagan Prince Ospitone of Sardinia is reprimanded for his attacks on Christians on the island by Pope Gregory I in a letter entitled Dum enim Barbaricini omnes ut insensata animalia vivant, deum verum nesciant, ligna autem et lapides adorent ('Living, all like irrational animals, ignorant of the true God and worshiping wood and stone'). The prince is soon convinced by Gregory to convert to Christianity, perhaps due in part to the situation regarding his ongoing conflict with the Eastern Roman Dux Zabarda. His followers are not so easily convinced. The prince is ostracised for a short period before his people accept conversion under the Christian missionaries, Felix and Ciriaco.


Augustine is sent by Pope Gregory to England to establish the Catholic church and Christianise the Anglo-Saxons. He is cautiously received in Kent, thanks to King Ethelbert's Christian wife, and establishes the archbishopric at Canterbury.

In the same year, the pope writes to Bishop Peter of Alaria on the island of Corsica, which suggests that Christianity has already entered the island, at least to a degree. The bishop is instructed to recover converts who have lapsed (a regular process in newly-converted regions), and to convert more of the island's pagans. Bishop Peter is also sent funds for the purchase of additional baptismal robes. The result of the bishop's work is unclear, as Alaria is left unattended by ecclesiastical authority in 601.


The first meeting takes place between the Roman Church in the form of St Augustine of Canterbury, and the Celtic Church (the descendant of the former British Church of the Roman period). A church organisation seems to have survived intact from prior to the Saxon takeover of some regions of the country, and the meeting goes favourably for Augustine.

A second meeting is quickly arranged, although perhaps not in the same year. It is attended by seven bishops of the Celtic Church, along with many learned monks, but the Britons are not impressed with Augustine's imperious manner and the meeting ends in disappointment for the Roman envoy, with no agreements of cooperation or unity being reached between the two churches, especially in regard to the important question of the calculations for Easter and evangelising the pagan English.

604 - 607

Sabinianus / Sabinian

607 - 608

Boniface III

Elected successor but remained in Constantinople for almost 1 yr.

608 - 615

St Boniface IV

Succeeded after a vacancy of nine months.


Under Boniface IV, the Pantheon in Rome is converted from a pagan temple into a Christian church, the first such instance of this in the city.

615 - 619

St Deusdedit / Adeodatus I / Deodatus I


Tradition accords Pope Deusdedit with the honour of creating the papal bull, when he uses lead seals ('bullae' in Latin) to sign off on papal documents.

619 - 625

Boniface V

Succeeded after a vacancy of over a year.


Working hard to help establish Christianity amongst the pagan Angles and Saxons of England, Boniface V also establishes churches as places of refuge for criminals.

619 - 620

Following growing discontent with the Eastern Roman masters of the exarchate of Ravenna, Exarch Eleutherius notes that the emperor's focus is on fighting the Sassanids and takes the opportunity to declare himself emperor. In 620 he marches on Rome, intent on making it his capital, but he is murdered by his own troops.

625 - 638

Honorius I

638 - 640

Despite being elected as the successor to Honorius, Pope Severinus is unable to assume his office thanks to delays by the Eastern Roman emperor in confirming his appointment, part of the ongoing disagreements about the divine and human nature of Jesus which have been rumbling on for decades.



Succession delayed by over 18 months. In office for 2 months.

640 - 642

John IV

640 - c.641

Slavs which include the Croats are invited by Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The Croats receive their present-day lands to settle as a reward but the Slav presence in Dalmatia and Istria leads to the destruction of churches, and Pope John IV, a Dalmatian, is forced to pay large sums of money to free prisoners. The relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints are interred in Rome.

642 - 649

Theodore I

649 - 653

St Martin I

Not approved by Constantinople. Arrested, died in exile in Crimea.

652 - 653

Pope Martin's election has not been referred to Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II for approval. Constans orders Olympus, exarch of Ravenna, to remove him from office, but Olympus is continually frustrated in his efforts to do this. Instead, he switches his allegiance. Now supporting the pope, he declares himself emperor. In the same year he marches into Sicily, although who he is about to fight, the Roman strategos or the Arabs, is not clear. Instead he is struck down by disease and dies. His replacement is Exarch Theodore, who enters Rome so that his soldiers can drag the pope from the Lateran. Martin is packed onto a ship and sent into exile in Crimea, but it takes a year before the Romans to elect a new pope.

654 - 657

St Eugenius I

657 - 672

St Vitalianus / Vitalian


An English priest, Wighard, is selected to be archbishop of Canterbury by the new king of Kent, Egbert I, perhaps with support from Oswiu of Northumbria. He is sent to Rome to receive consecration from Pope Vitalianus, but is killed by bubonic plague before the act can be carried out.

In the same year, and also in Britain, the Synod of Whitby sees Oswiu accept the Catholic church of Rome and its representative at Canterbury in preference to the Celtic Church based at Iona, thereby sidelining the latter.

672 - 676

Adeodatus II / Deodatus II

672 - 676

In this period, Adeodatus II grants Venice the right to select its own doge, although the office appears not to be introduced for another two decades.

676 - 678

Domnus (I) / Donus

678 - 682

St Agathon / Agatho

The first of the 'Greek Popes' (678-752).

678 - 690

The English Bishop Wilfred arrives in Frisia and the Anglo-Saxon Christianisation of the Germanic lands begins, although the first mission is quickly aborted as the fiercely pagan Redbad gains the throne and enmity against the Merovingian kings increases. A second attempt in 690 proves much more successful and for the best part of a century churchmen and monks crisscross the Channel or North Sea, intent on spreading the Christian faith amongst their Germanic cousins who border the Merovingian Frankish kingdom. There is special interest in the conversion of the German Saxons, whom the English consider their kinsfolk.

680 - 681

The Sixth Council (Constantinople III) is held. The Monotheletism which is supported by Constantinople is condemned and suppressed, despite the pope's failure to win the emperor over to Orthodoxy. The Council heals the growing rift between Rome and the patriarch of Constantinople.

The Sixth Council
The Sixth Council was held during the period of Byzantine influence in Rome, but it did not prevent the Catholic church from condemning the religious practices of the emperor

682 - 684

St Leo II


Following the short-lived declaration of independence by the archbishop of Ravenna (about 670-678), the independence of the see of Ravenna is suppressed. Rome's rights over the see are confirmed by Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine IV.

683 - 684

During his short papacy, Leo moves the relics of a number of martyrs from the catacombs under Rome into churches, apparently to protect them from Lombard raids. He also dedicates the newly-built churches of St Paul, and St Sebastian & St George.

684 - 685

St Benedict II

685 - 686

John V

First Eastern Roman pope elected without imperial consent.

686 - 687


Confirmed by Eastern Roman Exarch Theodore II at Ravenna.

687 - 701

St Sergius I

His arrest was ordered but the Italian garrison refused.


The rivalry between the two candidates for the papacy - Paschal and Theodorus - erupts into open conflict before a third candidate, Sergius, is elected. Theodorus quickly changes his position to recognise Sergius' better-supported claim, but Paschal offers the exarch of Ravenna, John II Platinus, gold in exchange for military support. The exarch arrives to collect his gold, and does so by looting St Peter's (Old) Basilica, before departing back to Ravenna. Paschal is arrested and confined to a monastery on charges of witchcraft.



Anti-pope. Confined to a monastery.


Theodorus / Theodore

Anti-pope. Recognised Sergius I in 687 and gave way.


Sergius ordains Bishop Willibrord as the bishop of the Frisians. The bishop is a Northumbrian missionary and a follower of Bishop Wilfred, one of a wave of English Christians to enter Germanic lands in this period in order to bring them into the faith. Willibrord becomes the first bishop of Utrecht.

701 - 705

John VI


Gisulf of Benevento marches on the cities of Arce, Arpino, and Sora, and after taking them ventures as far as Horrea, plundering and burning along the way. With the Campanian region lying devastated behind him, and his forces encamped near Rome, he is persuaded through the receipt of gifts by John VI to withdraw in peace.

705 - 707

John VII



Held office for about three weeks.

708 - 715

Constantine I

Brother? Last pope to visit Eastern Roman Constantinople.

715 - 731

St Gregory II

726 - 728

The Lombards take control of the exarchate of Ravenna. As a result, Eastern Roman imperial authority is temporarily unrecognised in Italy, marking a break in Constantinople's control over the papacy.

731 - 741

St Gregory III

Appealed to the Franks for help against the Lombards.

741 - 752

St Zachary / Zacharius

Last pope of the Eastern Roman papacy.


The Carolingian mayor of the palace, Pepin III, deposes the last Merovingian king with the blessing of the pope, and takes the throne for himself. Through this despicable act, the pope expects greater Frankish support against the threat of Lombard raids in Italy.


The exarchate of Ravenna is recaptured by the Lombards, permanently ending Eastern Roman influence in Italy. Rome is reduced to her ancient territory from Viterbo to Terracina, and from Narni to the mouth of the Tiber. From this point forwards, the papacy looks to the Franks for protection.

Frankish Popes (Christian Church / Roman Catholic Church)
AD 752 - 857

Declining Eastern Roman power in the face of multiple threats along its vulnerable land borders led to a general loss of influence in Italy, especially in the face of the increasing power of the Germanic Lombards, who were settling in large areas of the country. Instead, the papacy sought protection from the powerful Franks who by now dominated most of central and western Europe north of the Alps. Within half a century of its enforced break with Constantinople, the papacy recognised Charlemagne as the Frankish emperor of the west, turning its back on the weakening east and heralding the beginning of the Carolingian hegemony of Western Europe.


Stephen II

Suffered a stroke shortly after election. 'Un-recognised' in 1962.

752 - 757

Stephen III (II)


Rome is delivered from Lombard attack by Pepin III, king of the Franks. This fulfils his role as the ordained protector of the church following Pope Stephen's visit to Paris, during which he re-consecrated the Frankish king. The ex-Eastern Roman exarchate of Ravenna is transferred to the pope in the form of the Papal States.

Charles Martel at Tours
Charles Martel's defeat of the Moors in 732 established the position of the Carolingian Franks as a major power in Europe, and the papacy turned to them for support

755 - 756

Following a brief resurgence by the Lombards in 755, the Carolingians are forced to reconquer them. The ex-Eastern Roman exarchate of Ravenna is handed back to the pope as the Papal States and northern Italy becomes part of the Carolingian empire, although the Papal States are autonomously controlled by the archbishops of Ravenna until 1218.

757 - 767

St Paul I



During the last days of Paul I, Constantine III, a layman, is selected as his replacement. He is quickly ordained and elevated to the papal office, but in 768 is taken prisoner in the monastery of San Saba and is subsequently killed by Lombards. Philip is the Lombard candidate of choice, but his accession is cut short by the papal chancellor, Christophorus, who then oversees the elevation of Pope Stephen III.

767 - 768

Constantine II

Anti-pope. Killed by Lombards.



Anti-pope, for one day.

768 - 772

Stephen IV (III)

772 - 795

Adrian I / Hadrian I

Died aged 95.


Desiderius, king of the Lombards, invades the papal territories, and Adrian is forced to call upon Charlemagne, king of the Carolingian Franks, for support and aid. Charlemagne enters Italy and breaks the Lombards. Taking the title of 'king of the Lombards' for himself, Charlemagne confirms the 'Donation of Pepin' of 754, and Rome also gains part of the Lombard duchy of Benevento.

787 - 803

The Seventh Council (Nicaea II) is held. Iconoclasm is condemned under the guidance of Eastern Roman Empress Irene. Adrian also consents to the elevation of the bishopric of Lichfield as England briefly pays host to a third archdiocese under the control of Offa of Mercia. It lasts until 799 and is officially terminated in 803, with full authority being returned to Canterbury.

795 - 816

St Leo III


Leo III crowns King Charlemagne of the Carolingian Franks as 'Roman Emperor', which gives the papacy a basis for claiming sovereign rights over the later Holy Roman Emperors.

Map of the Frankish Empire in AD 800
Under Charlemagne's leadership, the Franks greatly expanded their borders eastwards, engulfing tribal states, the Bavarian state and its satellite, Khorushka, and much of northern Italy, with the Avars now an eastern neighbour (click or tap on map to view full sized)

816 - 817

Stephen V (VI)

Ordered Rome to swear fidelity to Frankish Emperor Louis I

817 - 824

St Paschal I

824 - 827

Eugenius II / Eugene II

100th (Official) pope.



Candidate of the plebeians but refused by Lothar I of Francia Media.


Valentinus / Valentine

Pope for between 30-40 days.

827 - 844

Gregory IV


Gregory initially recognises the supremacy of the Frankish Roman Emperor, Louis 'the Pious', but the subsequent quarrels between him and his sons, Lothar (later ruler of Middle Francia), Charles 'the Bald' (later to rule in Western Francia), and Louis the German (Eastern Francia), changes matters. Gregory sides with Lothar in the hope of providing a peaceful resolution to the wars, but this merely serves to annoy the Frankish bishops. Gregory responds by insisting on the primacy of the office of pope over the emperor, laying the grounds for much future conflict between the Holy Roman Emperors and the papacy.

844 - 847

Sergius II

Consecrated without Frankish imperial approval in Italy.



Proclaimed by the masses but suppressed by the nobility.


An Aghlabid fleet sails up the River Tiber and attacks Rome. The residents at the foreign schools - Franks, Saxons, Lombards and Frisians - help defend the fortifications, but further Saracen raids are to come.

847 - 855

St Leo IV

Consecrated without Frankish imperial approval in Italy.


A further Saracen incursion threatens Rome and other Italian coastal cities, so the pope organises the creation of a defensive league. The league, under the command of Caesar, son of Sergius I of Naples, sails out to meet the Saracen fleet at the Battle of Ostia. A storm divides the participants halfway through the fight and the Italians return safely to port while the Saracens are scattered. Their remnants are easily picked off or captured afterwards and the successful defence of Italy is celebrated. After the raid, the construction of a high wall begins around the basilicas of St Peter and its vicinity, which is completed in 852. The enclosed area is known as the Leonine City.

855 - 858

Benedict III

The preferred candidate of Lothar II, king of Lotharingia.



Initial choice of the masses but refused.


Anastasius 'Bibliothecarius'

Anti-pope. Possibly same man as the later Head of Archives.


Upon the death of the Frankish King Lothar of Italy, Francia Media is divided between his three sons. Louis II receives Italy and the imperial crown, Charles receives Provence, and Lothar II the remainder - the Rhine corridor from Burgundy up to the North Sea, which is called Lotharingia. Northern Italy falls under the command of Louis II, but the domination of the papacy by the Franks is ended with this fragmentation of their power.

Feudal Popes (Christian Church / Roman Catholic Church)
AD 857 - 1049

This was a period in which little central authority existed in Europe. The Franks were badly divided, and their former empire was fracturing into regional kingdoms. Italy and Iberia were subject to Muslim attacks and domination respectively, and Northern Europe was suffering under the onslaught of increasingly powerful Viking raids. During this uncertain time, after the papacy of Nicholas the Great, the office of pope itself was brought to its lowest point by officials and the nobility using their influence and money to control it. Also during this period, the divisions between the eastern and western churches, Constantinople and Rome respectively, became more concrete. The two played out their growing rivalry in their attempts to Christianise the emerging Bulgarian nation, with Constantinople emerging the victor.

858 - 867

St Nicholas I / Nicholas the Great

Last powerful pope in this period.


Louis II, Frankish king of Italy, is constantly challenged by independent Lombard dukes and by the Arab Aghlabid invaders of southern Italy, but he supports his brother Lothar II, king of Lotharingia, in a dispute with the pope, and in this year he briefly occupies Rome. He subsequently submits to the pope.


The papacy plumbs its lowest depths following the death of Nicholas the Great. His successor is a weak pope who achieves little of positive note and paves the way for the office to fall under the control of various political factions. He is assigned a 'guardian' in the form of Arsenius, bishop of Orte, and the bishop's nephew, Anastasius 'Bibliothecarius' (the anti-pope of 855). It is the latter's brother, Eleutherius, who abducts the pope's wife and daughter from the Lateran Palace in 868, and then murders them.

Lateran Palace
The Lateran Palace was originally owned by the Roman patrician Laterani family, who were accused by Nero of plotting against him. The building was confiscated, and between the fourth and fifteenth centuries it was the pope's official residence

867 - 872

Adrian II / Hadrian II

Last pope to be married.

869 - 870

The Eighth Council (the Fourth of Constantinople) is held. This patches up the filioque and other differences, but is later repudiated by the East, and is the last Ecumenical Council recognised by the West which includes the Eastern Church. At the same council, the conversion of Bulgaria is announced by the Eastern Church.

872 - 882


Failed to expel Aghlabids from Italy and paid tribute.


Pope John is painted as a somewhat effeminate and weak man. Later critics joke about this, enhancing the claims ever more until the legend of a female Pope Joan is born. According to that legend, she is eventually discovered and her papacy is erased from all records.

882 - 884

Marinus I (Martin II)

Bishop of Caere.


Pope Marinus is mistakenly counted as a 'Martin' by the church upon the election of Pope Martin IV (1281). In fact Marinus I and II are both counted as 'Martins', making Martin IV and all subsequent holders of that name advance their numbering by two. Their correct numbering is shown in parenthesis.

884 - 885

St Adrian III / Hadrian III

885 - 891

Stephen VI (V)

Crowned Wido of Spoleto as HRE in 891.

891 - 896

Fromosus / Formosus

Opposed by (later Pope) Sergius III and his supporters.


Boniface VI

In office for 15 days.

896 - 897

Stephen VII (VI)

Backed by the Spoleto family. Murdered.


Perhaps acting under pressure from the powerful Roman Spoleto family, Pope Stephen convenes the Cadaver Synod, in which the corpse of Pope Fromosus is disinterred, dressed in papal robes, and tried on various charges. He is found guilty of being unworthy of the office, the robes are torn from him, three fingers of his right hand are lopped off (which he would have used for consecrations) and his body thrown into the Tiber. The act causes a scandal and Stephen is imprisoned and strangled. The body of Fromosus, recovered from the water by a monk, is re-interred under Pope Theodore II.

Pope Fromosus, disinterred and on trial
The trial of the late and fairly decomposed Pope Fromosuses scandalised Rome and resulted in his accuser, Pope Stephen VII, being imprisoned and murdered



Deposed by a rival faction in Rome.


Sergius III

Elected and immediately exiled by Lambert of Spoleto.

897 - 898

Theodore II

Died after 27 days in office.

898 - 900

John IX

Backed by the Spoleto family.

900 - 903

Benedict IV


Leo V

Dethroned by Anti-pope Christopher. Strangled in prison, 904.


Leo V is dethroned by Christopher, who seizes the papal office. While this pope is included in some official lists, others claim him as an anti-pope, including the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

903 - 904


Anti-pope. Strangled in prison, maybe ordered by Sergius III.

904 - 911

Sergius III

Fathered an illegitimate son (Pope John XI).


This is a period in which powerful women of the nobility play politics and influence papal rule. Senator Theophylact, count of Tusculum, and his wife, Senatrix Theodora, are the parents of Marozia. She is reputedly the concubine of Pope Sergius and gives birth to a son (the later Pope John XI). Sergius himself has long been a player (or a pawn) in the politics of the day, attempting to attain the papal office in 891 (in opposition to Pope Fromosus), and 897 (when he had been elected and immediately removed from office), but it is Theophylact who is the power behind the 'throne'. As well as Sergius, he also controls his successors in a period which is later known as the saeculum obscurum, or dark age, referring to the almost total lack of independence of the popes in this century (904-964). These popes are shown in green text.

Tusculum amphitheatre
This romantic painting shows the amphitheatre of the Italian city of Tusculum, native territory of the influential counts of Tusculum

911 - 913

Anastasius III

Sometimes claimed as the illegitimate son of Sergius III.

913 - 914

Lando / Landus

In office for about 6 months.

914 - 928

John X

Crowned Tomislav, first king of Croatia.


As the latest in a series of conflicts with the Saracens, the forces of the new Eastern Roman strategos of Bari, one Nicolaus Picingli, assemble alongside those of various other southern Italian princes in the Christian League. It includes Landulf I of Benevento, John I and Docibilis II of Gaeta, Gregory IV and John II of Naples, Pope John X, Guaimar II of Salerno, and Alberic I of Spoleto. The allied Byzantine-Lombard army fights and defeats the Fatamids at the Battle of Garigliano, a drawn-out combination of fights and a siege. The Saracens find themselves in a worsening situation and eventually attempt to flee, only to be captured and killed. It is a militarily significant victory in the fight against Islamic advances in Italy.


The pope himself is killed through the machinations of Lady Marozia, daughter of Senator Theophylact.


Leo VI

In office for just over 7 months.

928 - 931

Stephen VIII (VII)

Elected by Lady Marozia.

931 - 935

John XI

Illegitimate son of Pope Sergius III and Marozia?


The power of Lady Marozia, daughter of Senator Theophylact, and her mother over the papal office is succeeded by that of Marozia's son, Alberic II, who elects several popes in succession.

936 - 939


Elected by Alberic II, senator of the Romans.


A massive invasion is conducted by the Magyars as they sweep around in a giant circle through central and Southern Europe. They begin from their base in Pannonia to enter into and ravage Bavaria, Swabia, Saxony, Franconia, and Thuringia within the East Frankish kingdom.

From the Aachen area, the Magyars advance deep into the West Frankish kingdom, the kingdom of Provence, and then the territory of the Middle (Italian) Franks. They attack Tuscany and the Papal States as far south as Naples, before returning to their adopted Hungarian homeland.

939 - 942

Stephen IX (VIII)

Elected by Alberic II, senator of the Romans.

942 - 946

Marinus II (Martin III)

Elected by Alberic II, senator of the Romans.

946 - 955

Agapetus II

Elected by Alberic II, senator of the Romans.

Agapetus is a surprisingly strong-willed pope for this period. He appeals to the king of the Saxons, Otto I, to end the stranglehold of Senator Alberic II over the papacy. The appeal has little immediate effect, until after Otto becomes Holy Roman Emperor.

955 - 964

John XII

Son of Alberic II. Also Duke Octavianus, prince of Rome.

962 - 963

The Saxon king, Otto, is crowned Roman Emperor by John after he defeats the Magyars. This is in return for John's pledge of allegiance to him in the hope of protection against his enemies, some of whom have recently conquered parts of his territory. Otto guarantees the independence of the Papal States, the first guarantee of its kind, and one which sets a precedence. However, John subsequently conspires against Otto, so the emperor has him accused in an ecclesiastical court in 963. The pope is deposed and replaced, but in his other guise as Octavianus, son of Senator Alberic II, he is powerful enough to have Otto's representatives mutilated and himself reinstated.



Anti-pope. Layman, elected by Otto I HRE. Fled from John XII.

963 - 964

John XII

Restored by force of arms but died suddenly.


Benedict V

Deposed by Leo VIII after just a month. Died 966.

964 - 965


Restored after deposing Benedict V. Accepted as pope this time.

965 - 973


A compromise pope.

965 - 966

John XIII is accepted by Holy Roman Emperor Otto I but not by Rome. A revolt against him sees him temporarily banished from the city between December 965 to November 966. His successor is also supported by Otto, but not by the most powerful family of Rome, the descendants of Senator Theophylact, count of Tusculum.

973 - 974

Benedict VI

Strangled on the order of Consul Crescentius I.


Benedict's untimely death is apparently at the hands of Anti-pope Boniface, on the orders of Consul Crescentius. Boniface flees to the Eastern Roman capital at Constantinople following the subsequent public outcry. The Crescentii are able to offer their own replacement, Benedict VII, son of David, who himself is the brother of Consul Alberic II. He is elected by the imperial representative of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II along with the clergy and people of Rome.


Boniface VII

Anti-pope. Excommunicated.


Domnus (II) / Donus

A mistaken entry in earlier lists. Domnus is from 'dominus'.

974 - 983

Benedict VII

Nephew of Consul Alberic II.

983 - 984

John XIV

Murdered. Also the John XIVb incorrectly attributed in 11th century.

984 - 985

Boniface returns to Rome in 984, and murders the unpopular Pope John XIV. He seizes the papal office for a short period before he himself seems to fall victim to assassination in 985. Little is known of this period in Rome, reflecting the political uncertainty in the region following the death of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II. However, the presence in Rome of Empress Theophanu, mother and regent of Otto III, helps to stabilise the situation during the office of John XV.

984 - 985

Boniface VII

Anti-pope for the second time. Assassinated?

985 - 996

John XV

Died of fever.

996 - 999

Gregory V

Bruno of Kärnthen, son of Otto I of Bavaria & Carinthia.

996 - 997

John XVI

Anti-pope. Captured and mutilated. Died 1013.

996 - 997

John XVII is elected by Consul Crescentius II and the nobles of Rome in opposition of the wishes of the young Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. The emperor marches on Rome, forcing John to flee, but he is captured, and his nose, ears and tongue are removed. He survives the ordeal and is sent to a monastery for the remainder of his life. Crescentius II, at bay in the Castel Sant'Angelo, is captured after a siege and is hanged from the castle walls.

With his papacy secured, Gregory V is the first truly German pope. He is well aware of the pagans along Germany's north-eastern shores, and in this year he sends St Adalbert of Prague into Prussian lands to convert the pagans on the Baltic coast.

999 - 1003

Sylvester II / Silvester II

First French pope. Re-introduced lost Roman discoveries via Arabs.


The next two popes, both named John, are elected by the consul and patrician of Rome, John Crescentius, son of Crescentius II. Despite Pope John XVI (996-997) being an anti-pope, he is still included in official numbering, the mistake never having been corrected. The third pope elected by John Crescentius, Sergius IV, shows some signs of resisting his domination, possibly by supporting an opposing faction.

Pope Sylvester II
Pope Sylvester II began the process whereby much of that which had been lost since the fall of the Roman empire, including mathematics and medicine, was now reintroduced from territories which were presently controlled by the Islamic empire

1003 - 1004


Died after less than six months in office.

1004 - 1009


Elected by Consul John Crescentius. Abdicated.

1009 - 1012

Sergius IV

Elected by John Crescentius. Died within a week of his patron.

1012 - 1024

Benedict VIII

Born Theophylactus of the counts of Tusculum and Rome.


Gregory VI

Anti-pope. Expelled from Rome.


Benedict is opposed by Gregory VI and a small opposition faction and is forced to flee Rome. He is returned to office by Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, and the latter is subsequently crowned by the grateful pope. Benedict also manages to subdue the powerful Crescentii, leading nobles and consuls in Rome for over a century.

1024 - 1032

John XIX

Brother of Benedict VIII.


The pope condones the elevation of the duchy of Poland to a kingdom, fifty-nine years after Christianity is introduced to the Poles.

1032 - 1044

Benedict IX

Born Theophylactus, son of Consul Alberic III.

1036 - 1044

Benedict is briefly forced to flee Rome. His entire period of office is reputed to be one involving immorality, adultery, rape and murder, with the Catholic Encyclopaedia calling him a disgrace. In this instance he is restored by Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II. At the end of 1044 he is again forced to leave the city, with his opposition electing Sylvester III (who is sometimes shown as an anti-pope, although he is included in official lists).


Sylvester III

Former bishop of Sabina, and again from 1045 (until at least 1062).


Benedict returns to office three months later, excommunicating Sylvester (who returns to his bishopric and apparently remains there, un-excommunicated, for the rest of his life).


Benedict IX

Second term of office.


Benedict resigns to pursue marriage and, in one of the most outrageous acts of any pope, sells the office to his godfather, Father John Gratian, who assumes office as Gregory VI. However, Benedict almost immediately regrets his decision and usurps Gregory, although the latter continues to be recognised as pope.

1045 - 1046

Gregory VI



Sylvester III

Restated his claim without actively pursuing it.


Holy Roman Emperor Henry III convenes the Council of Sutri in December 1046 to sort out the mess that is the papal office. Benedict and Sylvester are declared to be deposed, and Gregory is asked to resign. The office is granted to Clement II.

1046 - 1047

Clement II


Pope Clement's death allows Benedict to seize the Lateran Palace, although he is forced out by troops of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1048 and is subsequently excommunicated.

1047 - 1048

Benedict IX

Third term of office.

1048 - 1049

Damasus II

In office for less than a month before his death.

Medieval Popes (Christian Church / Roman Catholic Church)
AD 1049 - 1304

The selection of Pope Leo IX triggered significant and much-needed reform in the church of Rome. Already a powerful secular ruler in central Italy, Leo was a relative of Conrad II the Salian, and he was elected in a rare display of unity by Conrad's successor, Holy Roman Emperor Henry III and the Roman delegates at an assembly at Worms. Not content with that, he insisted on being freely elected by the clergy and people of Rome, and immediately set about reforming the church, reasserting the requirement for celibacy. Unfortunately, his reforms were derailed by his defeat and capture at the hands of the Normans in southern Italy, and then by the schism of 1054 which fractured the church on an east-west basis. Even so, the church in Rome reached the very height of its power, becoming independent of direct control, capable of declaring wars (the Crusades), and also becoming extremely wealthy.

1049 - 1055

St Leo IX

An important German reformist member of the church.

1051 - 1052

At a synod in Benevento in July 1051, Leo IX beseeches Guaimar of Salerno and Drogo of Apulia to stop Norman incursions onto church lands. However, Drogo is soon assassinated, probably thanks to Eastern Roman conspiracy. The following year, on 3 June 1052, Guaimar is also assassinated, by his wife's brothers at the harbour in his own capital. The assassins are eventually captured and put to death by the Normans in a show of their loyalty to Guaimar even after his death.

1053 - 1054

In 1053 the pope is defeated and captured by the count of Apulia. This leads to almost a year of imprisonment in Benevento. The following year, the patriarch of Constantinople, Michael I Cærularius, refuses to acknowledge the primacy of the apostolic successor to Peter. Leo sends a legatine mission under Cardinal Humbert to Constantinople to discuss the church in the troublesome south of Italy, but Humbert promptly excommunicates the patriarch. In return the patriarch excommunicates Humbert. This point is officially recognised as the start of the 'Great Schism' between the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) churches based in the Constantinople of the Eastern Roman empire and in Rome respectively.

1055 - 1057

Victor II

Another German reformist.

1056 - 1057

The papacy take a turn at governing Spoleto as part of the Papal States.

1057 - 1058

Stephen X (IX)


Pope Benedict X is elected by the count of Tusculum in Rome, but some cardinals suggest that votes have been bought. Stephen's election is generally opposed and a new pope, Nicholas II, is elected at Siena. He proceeds to Rome, declaring Benedict's excommunication at Sutri. Open warfare ensures between the supporters of either pope, and a campaign in the regions around Rome leads to Benedict renouncing his claim of office.

1058 - 1059

Benedict X

Anti-pope, although not officially such until later. Jailed until death.

1059 - 1061

Nicholas II

A highly important reformist.


As one of the pope's reforms of the church, a decree is proclaimed for the election of popes by a college of Cardinals, taking the decision out of the hands of the manipulative counts of Tusculum, consuls of Rome, and other Roman nobles. This is the beginning of the papal heyday, with increasing power and authority being gained by the office.

College of Cardinals
The Catholic Church's college of cardinals (seen here in 1922) was formed in Rome in 1061 to elect the pope, one of the highly important reforms which were enacted by Pope Nicholas II

In the same year, and with fresh-found blessing from Pope Nicholas II as the best way of ridding Sicily of the Muslims (and curbing Constantinople's influence in Italy), Duke Robert Guiscard of Apulia and Calabria invades the island in 1061. He captures Bari, the last Eastern Roman city in Italy, in 1071, and his brother, Roger, takes Palermo on Sicily in 1072.

1061 - 1073

Alexander II


The election of Alexander by the new method of convening the College of Cardinals is not recognised by the imperial court in Germany under Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, which elects Honorius. He marches to Rome, but is unable to dislodge Alexander, and his support is eventually withdrawn. He is excommunicated in 1063, but persists with his claim until his death.

1061 - 1072

Honorius (II)



Barisone I of the giudice of Logudoro on Sardinia asks Desiderius of Benevento, abbot of Monte Cassino, to send twelve monks to establish a Benedictine abbey on Sardinia. However, the archdiocese of Pisa is determined to retain its religious monopoly over the island, so the monks are attacked at sea off the coast of the island of Giglio. Four of them are killed and the others return to Monte Cassino. Pope Alexander II excommunicates the Pisans for the assault, and in 1065 two more monks are sent. Barisone gives them Santa Maria di Bonarcado and Sant'Elia di Montesanto.


Alexander meets Duke William of Normandy and gives his blessing for the Norman invasion of England.

1073 - 1085

St Gregory VII

Another great reformist.


As part of his reformation of the Catholic church, Gregory VII excommunicates married priests in a bid to impose strict clerical celibacy, just one step in a series which makes the Roman church more independent and stronger.

1076 - 1122

A long-running investiture controversy is triggered when the pope challenges the authority of European monarchs to control appointments (investitures) for church officials in their own countries (such as deciding who to appoint as a bishop). It is another step in restoring the power of the church and one that is not resolved until a compromise is reached under the terms of the Concordat of Worms in 1122.

1077 - 1090

Conflict between the rival nobles on Corsica has become such a serious issue that the general population request that overlordship and administration be transferred from the Holy Roman empire to the Papacy. This apparent solution is short-lived, with the papacy transferring control of Corsica to the powerful republic of Pisa in 1090. The long running struggle for supremacy in the Mediterranean between Pisa and Genoa soon spreads from Sardinia to engulf Corsica.


Clement (III)

Anti-pope. Not recognised by any other than HRE Henry IV.

1080 - 1085

Clement is appointed by an exasperated Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV. The emperor has already been excommunicated twice by Gregory VII for opposing his reforms which will involve a loss of established imperial power over the papacy. In 1084, Henry IV enters Rome, forcing Gregory to retire to Castel Sant'Angelo where he is besieged. Clement is installed as pope in his place. Gregory's death in 1085 solves nothing, as Henry IV and Clement have been driven from Rome by Duke Robert Guiscard of Apulia and Calabria. Clement maintains his claim on the papacy during the period in which the office is vacant, in 1085-1086, and during the terms of office of the next three legitimate popes.

1084 - 1100

Clement (III)

Anti-pope for the second time, established in Rome by Henry IV.

1086 - 1088

Victor III

Formerly Desiderius of Benevento, abbot of Monte Cassino.

1088 - 1099

Urban II

1095 - 1099

During a momentous speech in Clermont-Ferrand in France, Urban II proclaims the First Crusade to reclaim sacred Christian sites from Islamic hands. Starting in 1096, the First Crusade finds a divided Islamic empire governed by the Seljuq Turks, and quickly and forcefully carves a large swathe of territory out of it. However, King Philip I of France takes no part in the Crusade to Outremer, and loses the opportunity to become involved in the creation of the kingdom of Jerusalem.

1099 - 1118

Paschal II


Following the death of Henry of Portugal, Paschal II hails his young widow as queen of Portugal for her defence of Coimbra. During his term of office, Paschal also appoints the first bishop of America, better known at this time as Vinland, along with Greenland.

1100 - 1101


Anti-pope. Elected as the replacement for Clement III. Exiled.


Albert / Adalbert / Aleric

Anti-pope. Successor to Theodoric. Exiled to a monastery.

1105 - 1111

Sylvester IV

Anti-pope. Submitted to Paschal once his usefulness was over.

1118 - 1119

Gelasius II

1118 - 1121

Gregory (VIII)

Anti-pope. Elected by the imperial opposition party.

1119 - 1124

Calixtus II

1122 - 1123

The investiture controversy which was triggered in 1076, and which has seen the election of six anti-popes, is finally resolved under the terms of the Concordat of Worms in 1122. The Holy Roman empire, the main papal opponent in the dispute, is permanently weakened by it. Mostly notably, it removes once and for all the right of the emperor to select the pope. Instead, the College of Cardinals handles this duty, a process which survives to the present. The First Lateran Council is held in the following year, confirming the terms of the Concordat of Worms.


Celestine II

Anti-pope (for one day). Submitted to Honorius II.

1124 - 1130

Honorius II


Anacletus is elected by a select number of cardinals the day following the death of Honorius II. His election is disputed and Innocent is selected instead. However, the latter is forced to flee north of the Alps, and for a time Anacletus is accepted as the official pope, supported by Roger II, duke of Apulia and Calabria and count of Sicily. Innocent eventually gains popular support in Europe but is only able to claim his office when Anacletus dies in 1138. By this time Roger has already been crowned king of Sicily.

1130 - 1138

Anacletus II

Anti-pope. Not canonically elected.

1130 - 1143

Innocent II

Effectively anti-pope himself during Anacletus' lifetime.


Innocent II divides Sardinia between the two sees of Genoa (newly created) and Pisa. Naturally this creates a further excuse for warfare between the two great rivals, but on the island, only Comita of Gallura supports the Genoese.


Victor IV

Anti-pope. Successor to Anacletus. Submitted to Innocent III.


The Second Lateran Council is held by Innocent II. His ardent enemy, Roger II, king of Sicily, is excommunicated, and after a period of strife within the church and multiple anti-popes, peace is at last restored. More conflict with Roger II follows during which Benevento becomes an outlying possession of the Papal States.

1143 - 1144

Celestine II

In office for five months and thirteen days before his death.


Pope Celestine II avoids the thorny issue of the recently declared independence of Portugal by recognising its first king, Alfonso, as Dux Portugallensis.

Alfonso I of Portugal
The issue of just how to recognise the de facto independence of Portugal was a tricky one for the papal office, as it could not be seen to be offending Spanish sensibilities

1144 - 1145

Lucius II

Died of injuries sustained in the 'Battle of the Forum'.


Pope Lucius' dealings with Roger II, duke of Apulia and Calabria, lead to a peace of sorts between the Papal States and the Normans in southern Italy, but supply the Roman Senate with the opportunity to reassert its ancient rights. A republic is re-established in Rome which seeks to control the Papal States, although the nobility remain neutral in the matter. A precedent has already been established during the pontificate of Innocent II, who had enjoyed virtually no temporal power at all. The Commune of Rome is established. Lucius attempts to force the issue and the Forum is used as a battlefield in which the pope receives a fatal injury. His successor is unable to enter Rome for much of his term in office.

1145 - 1153

Eugenius III / Eugene III

Under the strong influence of Bernard of Clairvaux.

1147 - 1149

The Second Crusade takes place in Outremer. When Edessa falls to the Saracens in 1145, Eugenius calls upon Louis VII of France to play his part in defending the Holy Land. The king embarks for Jerusalem in 1147.

1153 - 1154

Anastasius IV

A peacemaker in relations with HRE Frederick I Barbarossa.

1154 - 1159

Adrian IV / Hadrian IV

The only English pope, Nicholas Breakspear.


Pope Adrian issues the Laudabiliter, a papal bull which apparently issues King Henry II Plantagenet with the authority to invade and secure Ireland. The papal intent is that the Georgian church reforms can be enforced there. In the event, Ireland is indeed invaded but successive English kings site Adrian's successor, Alexander III, as the issuer of their title and authority in Ireland.

1159 - 1181

Alexander III

FeatureLaid the foundation stone for Notre Dame de Paris.


A minority of the cardinals elect a cardinal priest named Octavian as pope, restarting a series of anti-popes after twenty years of unity within the church. The anti-popes are supported by the Holy Roman Emperor, but after 1177 he finally recognises Alexander III.


Victor IV

Anti-pope. Supported by HRE Frederick I Barbarossa.

1164 - 1168

Paschal III

Anti-pope. Successor to Victor IV. Never recognised.


Almost as soon as it is founded, the Lombard League of northern Italy becomes the 'last man standing' in the fight against Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. His defeat of Pope Alexander III at the Battle of Monte Porzio knocks the Papal States out of the conflict, but the Pope continues to support the Lombard League quite heavily.


Calixtus (III)

Anti-pope. Successor to Paschal III. Submitted to Alexander III.


Venice offers hospitality to Pope Alexander III and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and the republic arbitrates the peace between them following Barbarossa's defeat at Legnano the year before (29 May 1176). Barbarossa renounces his claim to Roman territory and recognises the pope as the city's sovereign prince on 1 August 1177.


The Third Lateran Council of the Catholic church calls a crusade against Cathar heretics in Toulouse. Pope Alexander III also recognises Alfonso I as king of an independent Portugal.

1179 - 1180

Innocent (III)

Anti-pope. Elected by opponents of Alexander III but imprisoned.

1181 - 1185

Lucius III

Spent much of pontificate in exile at Velletri, Anagni & Verona.

1185 - 1187

Urban III

Continued papal exile at Verona.


Gregory VIII

In office for less than two months.


Learning of the fall of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem to the Ayyubid sultan, Saladin, Gregory calls for a Third Crusade to regain the holy city. However, his brief stay in office means that he is unable to do any more than initiate the call to arms.

1187 - 1191

Clement III

1189 - 1192

Continuing Pope Gregory's work in this sphere at least, Clement pursues Henry II of England and Philip II of France to take part in the Third Crusade in Outremer, which also sees Cyprus conquered from the Eastern Roman empire.


The number of senatores (senators) in Rome is reduced to one in a thorough reformation of the process of governing the city. From this point on, civil government in Rome is handled by the senators rather than the nobility or the papacy.

1191 - 1198

Celestine III

1198 - 1216

Innocent III

1198 - 1222

The Papal States resume control of Spoleto, this time for a longer period, under this powerful and influential pope.


FeatureIn the Hospital of the Holy Ghost in Sassia in Rome, Innocent III officially establishes the Roman Catholic religious order known as the Order of the Holy Ghost, founded by Guy de Montpellier in Provence for running hospitals throughout Europe. One of the Order's buildings, the Church of the Holy Ghost in Tallinn, Estonia, survives to this day.

1202 - 1204

The Fourth Crusade, decreed by the pope himself, goes badly wrong when Crusaders in the employ of Venice capture Constantinople, causing the first break in the line of Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperors. A somewhat fragile Latin kingdom is created there instead.


The pope recognises the Danish claim to the overlordship of North Estonia and the islands. He also quashes the election of Reginald to the position of archbishop of Canterbury in England.

1209 - 1229

Innocent III announces a crusade against the Albigensian Cathar and Vaudois 'heresy' in the Languedoc region of southern France. In 1226, Louis VIII of France joins in, invading the Languedoc and campaigning against the towns and lords who support the Albigensians.

Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade witnessed outright warfare and genocidal levels of murder in southern France as opposing theologies clashed, with brutal force being shown by the eventual victors


The Fourth Lateran Council is held, the most important of the Middle Ages. One of the decisions reached is that Jews should no longer be given access to public office where Christians might be subordinate to them.

1216 - 1227

Honorius III

1216 - 1223

During his term of office, Honorius sanctions the creation of the Dominican order (1216) and the Franciscans (1223), and approves the Rule of St Dominic (1216) and that of St Francis (1223).

1217 - 1221

The Fifth Crusade (First Expedition) is decreed by Honorius in order to recover Outremer and the Holy Land. The pope also initiates a spiritual reform of the entire church.

1227 - 1241

Gregory IX

Nephew of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216).

1228 - 1229

When the Fifth Crusade (Second Expedition) is decreed, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II is excommunicated both for not taking part and then for going and negotiating the possession of Jerusalem (until 1244). To rub salt into the wound, Pope Gregory IX invades his territories while he is away, and it is probably this invasion which regains control of Spoleto for the Papal States. Relations between the pope and the emperor steadily decline thereafter, to the point where they are constantly at war with one another.


Gregory establishes the Papal Inquisition to deal with what he sees as a serious problem of heresy, although he does not condone the use of torture.


The pope endorses the Northern Crusades to Christianise the Baltic peoples, including the Pomeranians, Prussians, Lithuanians, Couronians, Samogitians, Lats, Estonians, Osilians, and Finns. In this year he asks the Order of the Knights of the Sword to aid the semi-Christianised Finns in their fight against the Orthodox Rus of the Novgorod republic.


The Third Council of Arles opposes the Albigensian heresy in southern France. This had reared its head from 1143 under the name of Catharism, a sect with the view that the Earthly life of a man is merely a prelude to his true life in the hereafter, during which he must renounce any connection with power and pursue a path of love. There are variants of Cathar (meaning 'pure one') with slightly differing methodologies, and the Catholic church is determined to stamp it out.


North Estonia is returned to the Danes under the terms of the Treaty of Stensby, which is mediated by the pope.


Celestine IV

In office for 17 days, and died of age and the stress of the election.

1241 - 1243

The papal office remains vacant while the Cardinals endlessly debate which candidate to select. One camp prefers a hard line to be taken with the ongoing problem of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and his seizure of parts of the Papal States, while another camp prefers a more moderate line. The moderates win with Innocent IV, but negotiations with Frederick soon stall.

1243 - 1254

Innocent IV


The papal legate, William of Modena, oversees the creation of the three dioceses of Culm, Ermland, and Pomerania within the recently conquered Prussian territories which are now governed by the Teutonic Knights.


Due to the agents of the Holy Roman Emperor acting in the Papal States, Innocent is forced to leave Rome in disguise and make his way to Lyon in France (via Savoy, thanks to the influence of the future Count Philip I who is granted the archbishopric of Lyon as a result). Pope Innocent gathers together all the bishops who can make their way there and holds the First Council of Lyon. The emperor is excommunicated (again) and declared deposed, relieving his subjects of their allegiance to him. This sends shockwaves throughout Europe, and Innocent's life is only spared from retribution by the death of the emperor in 1250.

1248 - 1254

The Sixth Crusade takes place in Outremer, under the leadership of St Louis IX of France. He invades Ayyubid Egypt in 1249 and occupies Damietta while the Ayyubids are seriously disorganised.

1254 - 1261

Alexander IV

Nephew of Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241).

1261 - 1265

Urban IV


The Fourth Council of Arles condemns the doctrines of the twelfth century monk and mystic known as Joachim of Fiore. He had been responsible for founding the monastic order of San Giovanni in Fiore (modern Jure Vetere).

1265 - 1269

Clement IV

A widowed father of two daughters before taking orders.

1269 - 1271

Clement's death is something of a shock, and the papal office remains vacant for three years while the Cardinals fail to agree on a suitable successor. It quickly becomes the longest-running papal election process in history.


The Seventh Crusade under St Louis IX of France gets no further than Tunisia, without papal blessing this time.

1271 - 1276

Gregory X


As soon as Gregory takes office, having spent time on Crusade with King Edward I of England, he convenes the Second Council of Lyon. The council is called so that the pope can attempt to act upon a pledge made by Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palæologus to reunite the eastern and western churches. Despite the apparent intention of both sides to agree to reunification, the Byzantine people are staunchly against it, and any agreement is soon abolished by the son of Michael VIII. Pope Gregory X himself dies following the council, as he is travelling back from Lyon to Rome, removing another supporter from the cause.


Innocent V

In office for 5 months.


Adrian V

Nephew of Pope Innocent IV. In office for just over a month.


Upon the death of Adrian, his successor is elected as John XXI rather than John XX. He makes this choice in order to correct a perceived mistake in the numbering for previous popes of the same name which had occurred in the eleventh century, following the papacy of John XIX. The entry for Pope John XIV (983-984) in the Liber Pontificalis had been misread to produce a Pope John XIV and a John XIVb. In skipping the use of the name John XX, Pope John XXI assumes the mistake in numbering has been corrected.

Liber Pontificalis
This beautifully-penned and illustrated medieval version of the Liber Pontificalis covers the lives of the popes from St Peter to the fifteenth century

1276 - 1277

John XXI

The only Portuguese pope. In office for about 8 months.

1277 - 1281

Nicholas III

Formerly Cardinal Giovanni Gaetano Orsini.

1281 - 1285

Martin IV (II)

(For numbering of Pope Martin, see note on Pope Marinus I in 882).

1285 - 1288

Honorius IV

1288 - 1292

Nicholas IV

Elected after a ten month vacancy.

1292 - 1294

The office is vacant during the last papal election not to be convened in a papal conclave, where the Cardinals are locked into a room until they make a selection. Unfortunately their selection abdicates just five months into his term of office. Once Boniface VIII has been selected as a replacement, the question of appointing a prince-bishop to the similarly empty seat of Liège can be tackled.


St Celestine V

In office for 5 months. Abdicated. Died 1296.

1294 - 1303

Boniface VIII

Famous for his feuds with Dante and King Philip of France.

1295 - 1296

Despite abdicating to return to his beloved life of solitude, former Pope Celestine V is not allowed any peace. He is sent for by Pope Boniface VIII, and, after trying to escape, is captured and imprisoned. Ten months later, Celestine dies, and the cause may not be the dank air of the prison. Historians believe he may be murdered by Boniface, and his skull bears a hole that seems suspicious. Boniface goes on to make the most exaggerated claims for the mediaeval papacy, but he is humiliated by Philip the Fair of France when the king urges the canonisation of Celestine.


Shortly after taking office, Boniface VIII sweeps all existing agreements and treaties aside with his proclamation of a 'Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica' that will, naturally, be a fief of the papacy itself. Boniface offers the fief to James II of Aragon along with papal support should he wish to abandon his territory on Sicily in exchange for invading Pisan-supported Sardinia. James does not immediately take up the offer.


The culmination of his ongoing feud with Philip the Fair of France sees Boniface captured and tortured at the hands of the king. His execution is almost ordered, but instead he is released, and dies shortly afterwards, partly from kidney stones but perhaps also partly through shock.

1303 - 1304

Benedict XI

Perhaps murdered by the minister of Philip of France, but unproven.

Great Schism Popes (Roman Catholic Church)
AD 1304 - 1449

The Great Schism was made up of two periods in which the Catholic Church was badly disrupted by dual claims to the office (and even triple claims). The first period, sometimes known as the Babylonian Captivity (1309-1377), saw the papacy moved to Avignon, where it fell under the domineering control of the kings of France. The second period, beginning in 1378, was known as the Western Schism. This saw the papacy restored to Rome and the subsequent election of a series of anti-popes at Avignon, all of whom fell under the domination of the French kings.

The Great Schism was finally healed between 1414-1418 when the three popes who claimed office by this time all voluntarily resigned or were removed from office and a single successor selected. However, this did not prevent the further selection of a short-lived line of weak anti-popes at Avignon, until the last of the anti-popes resigned in 1449.

1305 - 1314

Clement V

At Avignon. A Frenchman who showed no sign of independence.


On Friday 13 October Philip the Fair of France leads the destruction of the Knights Templar in that country, under agreement with the French Pope installed at Avignon. The order's riches are confiscated and the grand master of the Temple, Jacques Molay, is arrested and tortured (and burned at the stake in 1314).

1309 - 1377

After residing at Poitiers for the first four years of his papacy, Clement moves the papacy to an enclave in Avignon (now in France but at this time part of the lands of Frederick I, king of Sicily), in a period known as the Babylonian Captivity.

1311 - 1312

The Council of Vienna is held which refuses to convict the Knights Templar of heresy. The pope orders them abolished anyway.

1314 - 1316

The death of Clement V leads to two years in which the papal office is vacant. The Cardinals are split into two equally balanced factions which refuse to compromise. It takes Philip V of France to organise a conclave in Lyon which finally selects a successor.

1316 - 1334


At Avignon.


FeatureEdward II's defeat at Bannockburn by the Scottish under Robert the Bruce sees the start of a period in which the certainty of Scottish independence from England become more and more established. The drawing up of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 involves Pope John XXII in negotiations.

1320 - 1322

In an escalation of the continuing conflict between Guelfs and Ghibellines in Italy, Pope John XXII ensures that Matteo, lord of Milan, is charged with necromancy for attempted papicide. Matteo refuses to appear before the papal court and is found guilty in his absence in 1321. The charge spreads to Galeazzo, Matteo's son, and in 1322 the papal legate, Cardinal Bertrand du Poujet, proclaims a holy crusade against the Visconti. With the stakes escalating further, Matteo stands aside in favour of his son (and dies a month later).


John XXII has already opposed Louis IV of Bavaria as Holy Roman Emperor, so the Bavarian king invades Italy and sets up Nicholas V as a short-lived anti-pope. Fortunately, the successor of Pope John is much more conciliatory.

1328 - 1330

Nicholas (V)

Anti-pope at Rome. The last to be elected by the HRE (Louis IV).

1331 - 1335

Azzone, lord of Milan, allies himself with Theodore I, marquess of Montferrat. Their common enemy is Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, and Azzone is keen to reclaim his possessions in north-western Italy. The following year, he takes Bergamo and Pizzighettone. Further conquests in 1335 include Crema, Cremona, Lodi, and Vercelli, along with other territories in Lombardy that had ceded control to the Papal States.

1334 - 1342

Benedict XII

At Avignon. A reforming pope who attempted to curb monasteries.

1342 - 1352

Clement VI

At Avignon.

1347 - 1350

The Black Death rips through Europe, killing about a third of its population. This has a major effect on the economy and on working practices, especially in England where the decimated peasant workforce is now able to demand freedom and pay for its services. The Jews are popularly blamed for the epidemic, but Clement issues two papal bulls and urges the clergy to protect Jews.

1352 - 1362

Innocent VI

At Avignon.

1362 - 1370

Urban V

At Avignon. briefly returned to Rome.

1371 - 1372

With Urban V leaving Rome again shortly before his death, having failed to fully establish himself in the city, a second period of banderesi government takes control.

1370 - 1378

Gregory XI

At Rome. 200th (Official) pope.


Gregory XI ends the 'Babylonian Captivity' by restoring the papacy to its traditional seat in Rome. His death the following year leads to the Roman mob breaking into the College of Cardinals to insist on the election of an Italian pontiff.

Pope Gregory XI
Pope Gregory XI ended the 'Babylonian Captivity' by bringing the papacy back to Rome from its temporary home at Avignon where it had been dominated by the kings of France

1378 - 1389

Urban VI

At Rome. The first Italian pope of this period.


Poor relations between Urban VI and various of the Cardinals creates the Western Schism, in the second of the two periods known overall as the Great Schism. The Cardinals are egged on by the French king to return to Avignon and elect another French pope, which they do, selecting Clement VII. He is forced to retire permanently to Avignon after failing to establish himself in Italy, and becomes dependant on the French court. Unlike the popes of the Babylon Captivity, he and his successors are not regarded by later ages as legitimate popes, but at the time the fact that two popes have been created by the same Cardinals leads to much confusion and turmoil amongst the faithful.

1378 - 1394

Clement (VII)

Anti-pope at Avignon. Elected in opposition to Urban VI.

1389 - 1404

Boniface IX

At Rome.

1394 - 1423

Benedict (XIII)

Anti-pope at Avignon until 1403. Successor to Clement.


The French church withdraws its support of the Avignon papacy, weakening it. Avignon is besieged by Geoffrey Boucicaut, the start of a five year siege, but Benedict XIII manages to escape in 1403.

1404 - 1406

Innocent VII

At Rome.

1406 - 1415

Gregory XII

At Rome. Elected on condition he would renounce if Benedict did.


Talks between Anti-pope Benedict and Pope Gregory to resolve the dual-papacy stall. The Council of Pisa, designed to sort out the situation, instead witnesses a third pope being elected. Alexander V, who is based at Pisa (these Pisa-based popes are shown in green text), is selected for a seat that is presumed to be vacant. The status of these popes as anti-popes has not been confirmed to date by the Catholic Church, but while the numbering of Alexander in the general sequence has been included, that of John has not.

1409 - 1410

Alexander V

At Pisa.

1410 - 1415

John (XXIII)

At Pisa.

1414 - 1418

The Council of Constance is called by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. Gregory XII and John XXIII both resign voluntarily (initially, although John flees and has to be excommunicated), and Benedict XIII is also excommunicated when he refuses entirely. A papal interregnum in 1415-1417 resolves the Great Schism, but the principle of the Council is a threat to papal authority.

1417 - 1431

Martin V (III)

The first post-Great Schism pope. A Colonna of Alba.


Due to danger from marauding bands, the canons of the church of St Mary of Lirey in France hand over the Shroud of Turin to Humbert of Villersexel, count de la Roche, for safe-keeping. He keeps it in his castle of Montfort near Montbard. Later it is kept at St Hippolyte sur Doubs, in the chapel called des Buessarts. According to seventeenth century chroniclers, annual expositions of the shroud are held at this time in a meadow on the banks of the river Doubs called the Pré du Seigneur.


One of Pope Martin's most notable acts is to issue a bull excommunicating Hussites and Wycliffites, along with other heretics in Bohemia. He effectively initiates the Hussite Wars. He also bans the sale of Christian slaves to non-Christian owners.

1423 - 1429

Clement (VIII)

Anti-pope at Avignon. Weak successor to Benedict (XIII).

1430 - 1437

Benedict (XIV)

Anti-pope at Avignon. Weak successor. Voluntarily abdicated.

1431 - 1447

Eugenius IV / Eugene IV

Venetian Cardinal Priest of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere.

1431 - 1445

With Pope Martin V having called for the Council of Basel a few weeks before his death, the council is confirmed and convened by Eugenius. Two major problems are discussed: the question of papal supremacy and the Hussite heresy, the latter being followers of the Bohemian religious reformer, Jan Hus. Despite intending to foster the reintegration of the eastern Orthodox church, the council instead descends into bickering and loss of prestige, before it excommunicates the pope himself and proposes a fresh anti-pope in Felix V.


The old senatorial arrangement in Rome is finally abandoned. The papacy assumes what is effectively direct control of the city's governance. Day-to-day administrative duties are delegated mostly to the College of Cardinals and various papal departments. This arrangement manages to survive until the invasion of French General Napoleon Bonaparte at the end of the eighteenth century.

1439 - 1449

Felix V

Anti-pope. Formerly Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy (1416-1434).


Abdicating voluntarily, Felix is the last anti-pope in the traditional sense. The church faces other opposition down the years, but none who can claim a rival papacy. Nicholas V is now sole, unopposed pope during the early years of the Renaissance.

Renaissance Popes (Roman Catholic Church)
AD 1449 - 1513

With the Great Schism firmly behind it, and cultural changes beginning to arrive in Italy, soon to spread around Europe, Pope Nicholas V was the first to accept the spirit of the Renaissance. After reinforcing Rome's fortifications, he set about rebuilding the city so that it was worthy of its role as the capital of the world's Christianity. The Borgo and Vatican districts were rebuilt, and work was begun on taking down the old St Peter's Basilica in preparation for a new version, laying down the roots for the surroundings of the modern papacy. Nicholas also founded a library containing approximately nine thousand volumes, and was a man of intense learning himself, a true herald of the Renaissance.

1447 - 1455

Nicholas V

The Renaissance begins in this period.


Nicholas V is Genoese, so as an attempt to bring stability to Corsica he grants all of his personal rights and papal holdings there to Genoa. However, the south of the island remains dominated by the counts of Cinarca, who are nominally subservient to Aragon, and the Terra di Comune, which is effectively controlled by Galeazzo da Campo Fregoso.


Constantinople, capital and heart of the fading Byzantine empire, is captured by Mahomet II of the Ottoman empire, and Greece becomes an Ottoman province. The loss is viewed as a disaster for the Christian world, despite Rome's frequent differences with the Orthodox church in Constantinople over the centuries, and with its emperors.

Fall of Constantinople
The fall of Constantinople not only ended the last vestiges of the Roman empire, now dating back almost two millennia in its many forms, but it also opened up south-eastern Europe to the Ottoman Turks

In the same year, Margaret de Charny, widow of Humbert of Villersexel, count de la Roche, receives the castle of Varambon and revenues from the estate of Miribel near Lyon for 'valuable services' to Duke Louis of Savoy. These services are believed to be the bequest of the Shroud of Turin, which remains with the Savoyard dukes, and their descendant kings of first Savoy and then all of Italy until the ending of the monarchy in 1946. For her pains, Margaret de Charny is excommunicated in 1457 for not returning the shroud to the canons of Lirey. The canons are compensated for their loss, and the excommunication is lifted in 1459.

1455 - 1458

Calixtus III

An Aragonese cardinal elected as a compromise pope.


During his short term of office, Calixtus is notable for raising two of his nephews to cardinals. One of these, Roderic de Borgia, will soon become infamous for his term of office as Pope Alexander VI.

1458 - 1464

Pius II

Formerly prince-bishop of Warmia.


Pius II is notable for writing Commentaries, the only autobiography by a reigning pope. The work is first published in 1584 by a distant relative, Cardinal Francesco Bandini Piccolomini.

1464 - 1471

Paul II

Venetian nephew of Pope Eugenius IV.

1471 - 1484

Sixtus IV

1481 - 1484

Venice is at war against Ferrara at the insistence of Sixtus IV. Rovigo and Polesine are annexed, but the pope is under pressure on all sides to end the hostilities that he has started, so in 1483 he places Venice under interdict.


The first mass is held in the Sistine Chapel, built as a restoration of the old Cappella Magna between 1477-1480 by Sixtus, and named after him as the official residence of the pope in Vatican City. Today it is best known for being the place in which papal conclaves are held.

1484 - 1492

Innocent VIII


FeatureDuring what becomes known as the Little Ice Age in Europe, Innocent VIII instigates harsh measures against witches and warlocks. It is his response to freezing weather, lost crops, general starvation, and intense hardship in Central Europe which lead to accusations of witchery from amongst the sufferers. He orders witches to be persecuted. This abrupt climate change may in part (but clearly not exclusively) be caused by the later mass depopulation of Native Americans by European colonists.

1492 - 1503

Alexander VI Borgia

Aragonese. Formerly bishop of Urgel, joint sovereign of Andorra.


The election of Rodrigo Borgia (Roderic de Borja) to the papacy begins one of the lowest points in the history of the office. Borgia's name becomes a by-word for debauchery, bribery, nepotism, and scandal, and this period severely weakens the moral authority of the Roman Catholic church. He shows few scruples about enriching members of his family at the expense of the church, and fathers at least four children by his married mistress, Vannoza dei Cattani. Two of those, Cesare Borgia (Archbishop of Valencia) and Lucrezia Borgia, became almost as infamous as their father for their ruthlessness and avariciousness.


An alliance is formed between Naples, the pope, Milan, Venice, and the Emperor in order to defend Italy from Charles VIII of France.


Pius III

A compromise pope. In office for 28 days.

1503 - 1513

Julius II

Nephew of Pope Sixtus IV.

1506 - 1512

Construction begins in 1506 of the Late Renaissance Basilica of St Peter in Rome, which still stands today at the centre of Vatican City. In 1508, Pope Julius commissions the artist Michelangelo to paint the vast ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, work which takes him until 1512 and is considered to be his greatest effort. He himself sees it as little more than serving the pope's quest for grandeur (memorably shown in the 1965 feature film, The Agony and the Ecstasy).

1508 - 1509

The League of Cambrai is formed with France, Castile, Hungary, the Papal States, the Holy Roman empire, and Ferrara against Venice. Venice is defeated at Agnadello, with the loss of all the Dry Land Dominion - essentially its territories in Italy.


The archbishopric of Warmia becomes exempt, removing it from regional Polish control and placing it under the direct jurisdiction of the pope.

1512 - 1517

Julius II recovers by combat all of the Papal States. The Fifth Lateran Council is held and, at its end, in 1517, German theologian Martin Luther publishes his '95 theses', sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Early Modern Popes (Roman Catholic Church)
AD 1513 - 1700

With the Late Renaissance period witnessing the completion of the Basilica of St Peter in Rome, there was change in the air for the start of the early modern age in Europe. The Protestant Reformation emphasised the removal of the overly elaborate ceremony of the Catholic rite and the imperial structure of the Catholic church in favour of a simple, unadorned worship (in modern terms, a 'People's Church'). It swept through Northern Europe following Martin Luther's proclamation of his '95 theses' in 1517.

The Protestants, or 'protesters' created new churches governed by new church organisations, most notably those of the Lutherans in Germany and the northern Baltics, and the Anglican Church in Britain (not necessary Protestant at first, it was more of a moderated Catholicism, finding something of a middle way between the two extremes). The Roman church suffered a tremendous loss of authority in the north, but soon struck back with the Counter-Reformation, which regained some territory, especially in southern and central areas of Germany, mostly through warfare.

1513 - 1522

Leo X Medici

The Reformation begins at this time.


Largely due to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the Edict of Worms on 25 May condemns Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther as an outlaw and heretic. Duke Frederick III of Saxe-Thuringen protects Luther at his castle of Wartburg. Leo X also grants Henry VIII of England the title 'Defender of the Faith' for a tract defending Catholicism.

1522 - 1523

Adrian VI

In office for 18 months.

1523 - 1534

Clement VII

Cousin of Pope Leo X.


The French are defeated at the Battle of Pavia, leaving Holy Roman Emperor Charles V dominant in Italy. Newly-installed Duke Francesco Sforza of Milan joins the League of Cognac against the emperor along with Florence, France, the Pope, and Venice. This backfires when the emperor takes military action against Milan.


Sweden's part in the Reformation is to remove its church organisation from the control of Rome. The Church of Sweden is founded by Gustav Vasa, with the king as its head. Over the next few years the king oversees the appointment of bishops and the country's archbishop. On a more pragmatic level, the move is ideal for solving Gustav's budget crisis, with the Crown heavily in debt following the costly wars to remove Danish dominance.


Pope Clement has sided with France to ward off domination of the papacy by the Holy Roman empire. With the French having been defeated in Italy, and the Imperial/Spanish troops remaining unpaid, they rebel and sack Rome. Amongst the destruction wrought on the city, the tombs of Sixtus IV and Julius II are destroyed.

Sack of Rome in 1527
In the struggle for political domination in Europe the pope sided with France, with the result that the Habsburg army sacked Rome in 1527, as painted by Johannes Lingelbach


The English Reformation had gained political support when Henry VIII of England wanted his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled. Under pressure from Catherine's nephew, Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, the annulment is refused by Clement VII, the latest point in an ongoing conflict of authority between England and Rome. Henry, although theologically a Catholic, decides to become Supreme Head of the Church of England to ensure the annulment of his marriage.

1534 - 1550

Paul III

Triggered the Catholic fightback against Protestantism.

1535 - 1536

Feature The first English translation of the entire Bible is printed, with translations by Tyndale and Coverdale. In 1536, the dissolution of the monasteries begins in England, and Catholic decorations in churches are removed or whitewashed over.


The duchy of Parma is created out of a portion of territory that had belonged to the duchy of Milan - an area to the south of the River Po that is centred around the city of Parma. The new duchy is for Pope Paul III's illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese. As the duchy's overlord, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V soon invests his own son with the title.

1545 - 1563

The Council of Trent is convened, being the nineteenth Ecumenical Council. The church changes its view on the existence of a soul in women, now allowing for such a possibility. Previously the claim, 'mulier tota in utero', - the woman is totally compromised within her uterus - had made it clear what the role of women (including the wives of kings) should be; to ensure the existence of descendants. The council also serves to establish the Counter-Reformation (or Catholic Reformation), Rome's reply to the Protestant Reformation.

1547 - 1553

Protestantism is established for the first time in England (more as a simplified form of Catholicism than the Protestantism practised in Northern Europe), and Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, implements the Book of Common Prayer.

1550 - 1555

Julius III

Indolent and devoted to personal pleasure.


Marcellus II

Last pope to retain his own name. In office for 22 days.

1555 - 1559

Paul IV

Formerly archbishop of Naples.


Although Italy does not possess the political cohesiveness to replicate Spain's general expulsion of 1492, various anti-Semitic acts are perpetrated in the middle of this century. Members of the Jewish Diaspora in Italy gradually head north as the south becomes increasingly inhospitable to them. Then conditions in Rome worsen after 1556 and in the Venetian republic in the 1580s.

1559 - 1566

Pius IV Medici

A distant, and poorer, relative of the powerful Medicis.

1560 - 1562

A massacre of Protestants by Catholics near Paris in 1562 ignites the first of eight French Wars of Religion. Reforms have already been introduced in French Navarre and Bearn in line with the Calvinist beliefs of the ruling countess of Foix, co-ruler of Andorra.

1566 - 1572

St Pius V

1568 - 1571

The peace of Longjumeau of 23 March 1568, ends the Second French War of Religion but almost immediately the Third French War of Religion begins in September 1568.

The Battle of Jarnac on 12 March 1569 kills the prince of Condé, the Protestant leader, and Henry of Navarre is appointed the new political leader while military leadership is in the hands of Gaspard de Coligny. On 8 August of 1570 the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is signed.


Arranged by Pius V, the 'Holy League' of the Papal States, Spain, and Venice routs the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto. This is considered to be a great naval victory, one that is made even more sweet by the killing of the Ottoman admiral, Müezzinzade 'Sofu' Ali Pasha, former governor of Egypt.

Battle of Lepanto 1571
European victory at the Battle of Lepanto was considered the saviour of Europe itself from the advancing Ottoman threat, shown in this 1640 oil by Andries van Eertvelt (1590-1652)

1572 - 1585

Gregory XIII

Pushed through Catholic church reforms.


On 5-15 October 1582 the pope's Gregorian Calendar is instituted in Catholic Europe, but Protestant Northern Europe takes another century before it accepts the change. Great Britain accepts it in 1752, and Russia after the October Revolution of 1917.

1585 - 1590

Sixtus V


Urban VII

Genoese. In office for 13 days.


Despite his short term of office, Urban VII is notable for one very important ruling: he is perhaps the first person in history to impose a public smoking ban, in this case for anyone within the precincts of a church.

1590 - 1591

Gregory XIV

Milanese. In office for 10 months. Suffered from malaria.


On 18 April, Pope Gregory commands that Catholics in the Philippines make reparations to natives who had been forced into slavery. All native slaves are ordered to be set free, under pain of excommunication for owners who disobey the command.


Innocent IX

Former Titular Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. In office for 2 months.

1592 - 1605

Clement VIII

An able and efficient pope who threw off Spanish influence.


Leo XI

In office for 26 days.

1605 - 1621

Paul V


FeatureCatholic plotters, unhappy with the unsympathetic attitude of James I of England towards their faith (which he also shares) decide to try and blow up Parliament at the state opening, thereby leaving the way open for a Catholic takeover of Britain. The plot is foiled and it sours relations between Rome and England thereafter.

1621 - 1623

Gregory XV

1623 - 1644

Urban VIII

The last pope to extend the Papal States by force of arms.


The construction of the Basilica of St Peter in Rome is completed. It boasts the largest interior of any Christian place of worship in the world, a record unbroken today.


Astronomer Galileo Galilei is tried before the Inquisition for teaching that the Earth orbits the sun.

1634 & 1642

Despite the ongoing Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622-1644) in the Americas (and presumably only due to the relatively peaceful relations between English and the Patawomeck tribe) the Jesuit priest, Father Andrew White visits the main Patawomeck village, with the English Captain Henry Fleet as his guide. He makes peace with Archihu, the uncle and guardian of the young Patawomeck chief, Wahanganoche. In 1642 the chief and his family are baptised into the Catholic church by Father Andrew.

1644 - 1655

Innocent X

Great-great-great-grandson of Pope Alexander VI.


The near-constant warfare and rapid change brought about by the Reformation and its papal response, the Counter Reformation, is finally ended by the Peace of Westphalia. Under its terms, Pomerania is carved up, with Sweden losing Further-Pomerania to Brandenburg-Prussia, while retaining Nearer-Pomerania. The northern part of the Netherlands emerges as an independent state under the house of Orange. The bitter Marburger Succession Conflict between Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Darmstadt sees part of Hessen-Marburg ceded to Darmstadt to end the quarrel. Switzerland gains full independence from the Austrian-dominated Holy Roman empire.

The papacy itself has been weakened by the aggressive acquisition of territory under Pope Urban VIII, and saddled with massive debts which severely weakens the options available to subsequent popes in defending the Papal States and maintaining military influence in Europe.

1655 - 1667

Alexander VII

1667 - 1670

Clement IX

In office for 17 months.

1670 - 1676

Clement X

1676 - 1689

Innocent XI


Feeling against the blatantly anti-Protestant James II of England flares up when his second wife, Mary of Modena, gives birth to a Catholic heir (commonly believed to be a changeling). His brother-in-law, William of Orange, lands in Britain with a Dutch army and, such is the state of James' relations with the papacy, it seems that the pope himself provides financing for William's Glorious Revolution.

1689 - 1691

Alexander VIII

Son of the chancellor of Venice. In office for 16 months.

1691 - 1700

Innocent XII


Modern Popes (Roman Catholic Church) / Vatican City State
AD 1700 - Present Day

The papacy in the modern era was very different to that of its heyday in the medieval period. Its military power faded fast, its territories were lost during the revolutionary age until all it retained was Vatican City, and its authority over the world's Catholics was steadily diminished by the rise of rationalism and scientific discovery. Even its last warship had to be sold in the nineteenth century thanks to the lack of a papal harbour. However, the period did see a sensible and much-needed retrenchment, and a stronger office emerged in the late twentieth century which, especially during the long papacy of Pope John Paul II, confirmed the faith of many millions of Catholics around the world.

1700 - 1721

Clement XI

1702 - 1715

Spain is involved in the War of Succession as Austria, Britain, and Portugal dispute the Bourbon accession. The conclusion of the war sees Spain giving up Milan, Naples, Sardinia, and the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium) to Austria, and Sicily to the duchy of Savoy. The Papal States are forced to hand over the territories of Parma and Piacenza to Austria, a definite blow to the papacy's prestige. Philip, duke of Anjou, is recognised as the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain, but only on the condition that the Bourbon crowns of Spain and France can never be united under a single ruler.

War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought to avoid a shift in the balance of power in Europe with the proposed unification of the Bourbon kingdoms of Spain and France

1721 - 1724

Innocent XIII

1724 - 1730

Benedict XIII

1730 - 1740

Clement XII

1740 - 1758

Benedict XIV

Resolved problems surrounding the secular nomination of bishops.


The Catholic church is beginning to make inroads into converting the Confucian Koreans to Catholicism, especially in two of the central provinces. King Yeongjo takes steps to prevent this by outlawing the religion, classifying it as an evil religion.

1758 - 1769

Clement XIII

Fought a losing battle to prevent the expulsion of Jesuits in Europe.

1769 - 1775

Clement XIV


Over the past few years the Jesuits have been expelled from Brazil (1754), Portugal (1759), France (1764), Spain and its colonies (1767), and Parma (1768). They are formally suppressed by the pope in 1773, although the Protestant states of Europe ignore this, as they do not recognise the authority of the pope, In 1815, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Jesuits are restored throughout Europe.

1775 - 1800

Pius VI

Reformed the administration of the Papal States.

1796 - 1800

Republican France begins the conquest of Austria's territories in Italy. Rome is occupied by force in 1798 and a Roman republic is proclaimed (1798-1799), using the territory of the Papal States. The pope is required to renounce his temporal authority, and when he refuses he is taken prisoner. He is taken off into captivity and dies shortly after his arrival in Valence. Austrian victories in Italy force the French to withdraw from Rome.

1800 - 1823

Pius VII

Continually in conflict with Napoleon Bonaparte.


A Concordat is agreed with French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to restore the links between Rome and the French Church. However, the Peace of Luneville in the same year compensates several German princes for losses of territory by assigning to them ecclesiastical land in Germany taken from the pope.

1808 - 1815

With relations between French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the pope deteriorating rapidly in 1808, Rome is occupied by a division of French troops. The following year the remaining Papal States are annexed to the French empire, including Spoleto. When Pius VII subsequently excommunicates Napoleon, the French capture Castel Sant'Angelo, and a French officer breaks into the papal residence and kidnaps the pope himself. The pope remains a French captive for six years, being moved around Europe to various holding points. In 1815, with Napoleon's removal from European politics, Austria renews its control of northern Italy, and the Papal States are restored to Rome.

1823 - 1829


Elected as he was thought to be dying. He rallied.

1829 - 1831


In office for 20 months.

1831 - 1846

Gregory XVI

An opponent of democratic reform and modernisation.

1846 - 1878

Blessed Pius IX

Enjoyed the longest pontificate in history.

1859 - 1866

During 1859-1861, Italy is forged by nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi into a single kingdom during the War of Unification, freeing Italy from Austrian control. The Savoyard king of Sardinia becomes king of Italy (a title previously held by the Holy Roman Emperors), gaining Parma, Sicily & Naples, and Spoleto, but at the same time losing Savoy to France. In 1866 Venice is annexed and added to Italy, while much of the Papal States has already been absorbed by this date.

1869 - 1870

The First Vatican Council follows the 1868 papal decree which forbids Italian Catholics from participating in parliamentary elections. The council also serves to consolidate papal authority during a century of revolution and rapid change.

1870 - 1871

With the seizure of Rome in 1870, Italy achieves full union under the House of Savoy. The following year, Rome becomes its capital for the first time since the collapse of the Western Roman empire, and the last vestiges of the Papal States are absorbed into the new kingdom.

1871 Plenipotentiary Conference in Rome
The delegates of the 1871 Plenipotentiary Conference in Rome pose for a group photo, shortly after Italy achieved full unification under the House of Savoy

1878 - 1903


Ended his papacy as the oldest pope in history.


Leo XIII is the first pope since the eighth century to inherit no papal territories. During his period in office, the last papal warship, the Immaculate Conception, which had been anchored at Toulon in the south of France, is sold due to the lack of a papal harbour.


FeatureConstruction of the Cathedral Church of Westminster is completed in London to serve as the senior church in the British Isles for the Catholic Church. It is the first time the Catholic Church has possessed such a building in Britain since its loss of Canterbury Cathedral in the 1530s.

FeatureIn the same year, political manoeuvring denies the pro-French Cardinal Rampolla the office of pope to replace the late Leo XIII. Although Rampolla achieves the sufficient level of support during conclave, Cardinal Jan Puzyna de Kosielsko, archbishop of Krakow, delivers the veto on behalf of Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary. This is in revenge for the cardinal denying a church funeral for the emperor's son, Crown Prince Rudolph, when the latter had committed suicide.

1903 - 1914

St Pius X

An opponent of 'modernism'.

1914 - 1922

Benedict XV

Attempted to negotiate peace during the First World War.

1914 - 1918

The German empire moves swiftly to support its ally, Austria-Hungary, in a long-anticipated Great War (later more readily known as the First World War, or World War I). The Baltic Provinces, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Great Britain and its territories and colonies (including India), Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, Uruguay, and the USA are all dragged in, but other countries remain neutral, including the Holy See.

Pope Benedict attempts to suggest a truce at Christmas 1914. The Germans accept but he is generally snubbed by the Allies. In 1918, with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the war, and the agreement of a ceasefire on 3 November, Italy inherits the province of Istria.

1922 - 1939

Pius XI

Healed the rift between papal office and Italy.


The fascist leader Benito Mussolini becomes dictator of Italy and has the support (officially, at least) of the king. He also seeks to heal the breach between church and state, an act that will strengthen his position, but this takes until 1929 to achieve.


The pope and Mussolini sign the Lateran Treaty, finally settling the breach between the Italian government and the papacy that has existed since the seizure of the Papal States in 1870. The treaty establishes the independent Vatican City State.

1939 - 1958

Pius XII

1943 - 1945

The Italian fleet surrenders at Valetta, Malta, on 10 September 1943, giving Britain's Royal Navy control of the Mediterranean. With the collapse and surrender of the Italians, much of Italy (especially the north) is occupied by Nazi Germans. Mussolini is summarily executed after being captured by partisans in 1945.

Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII is pictured with Mussolini in the uniform of the Knights of Malta which, when added to the pope's silence during the worst of the Second World War's atrocities, gave him a rather dubious reputation


Italy becomes a republic when the king is forced into exile as punishment for his support of Mussolini.

1958 - 1963


First Pope John since 1334.


British archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Francis Fisher is the first incumbent of his office to visit the pope since the Reformation.

1962 - 1965

The Second Vatican Council is called in order to revise the liturgy and reform the church's approach to the modern world. One of the results of this is Spain rescinding its Alhambra Decree of 1492 to permit settlement in the country of the Jewish Diaspora population.

This pope is the last to use the full papal ceremonial, and following his death not long after the council is convened, his successor uses a trimmed-down version of the ceremonial, with some features being abandoned.

1963 - 1978

Paul VI


John Paul I

In office for 33 days before his death.

1978 - 2005

St John Paul II

264th (Official) pope. First Polish pope. Died 2 April aged 84.

2005 - 2013

Benedict XVI

Conservative Bavarian Cardinal John Ratzinger. Abdicated aged 85.


On 11 February, Benedict XVI makes the shock announcement that he is to resign his office at the end of the month. His decision is based on his age and his belief that he can no longer adequately perform the duties of office. With little time for the Vatican to prepare a papal election, the office remains vacant for a brief period of time.

2013 - Present


Argentine Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Aged 76.

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