Top 10 Most Controversial Popes

The papal throne has always been a throne of power for people all around the world and especially Christians and has been an important part of world history with its influence on western culture and politics. Though the positions of the papal has been considered as s symbol of peace, inter-religious tolerance, interaction and also human rights there has been certain controversies that have annoyed people through generations. Without wasting time, let us scroll through to know some of the most notorious facts related to the Top 10 Most Controversial Popes.

List of Most Controversial Popes

1. Pope Stephen VI

2. Pope Urban VI

3. Pope Alexander VI

4. Pope Pius XII

5. Pope Benedict IX

6. Pope Boniface VIII

7. Pope Nicholas III

8. Pope Clement V

9. Pope Leo X

10. Pope Sergius III

Top Ten Most Controversial Popes

Read further to know some of the hidden facts about the Top Ten Most Controversial Popes.

1. Pope Stephen VI

Pope Stephen VI - No.1 Most Controversial Pope

Pope Stephen VI is one of the most controversial popes as he is remembered in reference to his conduct towards the remains of Pope Formosus, his last predecessor. The rotting corpse of Formosus was exhumed and put on trial in the so-called Cadaver Synod) in January 897. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff, who was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop. When the corpse was found guilty, its vestments were stripped off, deprived of three fingers of its right hand (the blessing fingers), clad in the garb of a layman, dragged through the streets and dumped in the Tiber River. The trial excited a tumult. Though it was instigated by Formosus’s enemies, the scandal ended in Stephen’s imprisonment in that summer during which he breathed his last.

2. Pope Urban VI

Pope Urban VI - No.2 Most Controversial Pope

The last Pope to be elected from outside the College of Cardinals, Pope Urban VI was the Pope from 1378 to 1389. He was well known for his rage. He unleashed a wave of violence upon cardinals who had attempted to remove him from the papacy after his outbursts of rage became frequent post his election as the Pope. Besides that he was also known to have tortured some cardinals and during this process had also been quoted saying that the screaming wasn’t loud enough when they were being tortured. He is one of the most notorious people to have sat on the papal seat and was also considered by many as an insane man.

3. Pope Alexander VI

Pope Alexander VI - No.3 Most Controversial Pope

Pope Alexander VI began his papacy on August 11th, 1492 and until his last breath in 1503 he has remained one of the popular names among the controversial issues. His reputation rests more on his considerable skills as a diplomat, politician and civil administrator rather than as a pastor. He was also known to have his way when he was on the papal seat. His appointment of some of his family members to important positions in the papacy was often scorned at. Besides that he was also known to have more than one illegitimate affair and children from those affairs.

4. Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII - No.4 Most Controversial Pope

Quite popular during his time as pontiff, Pius XII, who served at the Vatican from 1939 to 1958, has been the subject of heated debate through the decades. As head of the Catholic Church during World War II, Pius was pilloried in some quarters for not doing much to speak out against the atrocities of the Holocaust. The treaty of 1933, with which the Vatican sought to protect the Church in Germany, and Hitler sought the destruction of ‘political Catholicism’, and Pius’ leadership of the Catholic Church during World War II, including his “decision to stay silent in public about the fate of the Jews”,remain the subject of controversy.

5. Pope Benedict IX

pope Benedict ix - No.5 Most Controversial Pope

Pope Benedict IX was one of the youngest the youngest popes, was the only man to have been Pope on more than one occasion and the only man ever to have sold the papacy. The “Catholic Encyclopedia” calls him “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.” He was known to be a man with peculiar and, at times, sick interests . He was also accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of “many vile infidelities”.

6. Pope Boniface VIII

Pope Boniface VIII - No.6 Most Controversial Pope

Sixth in the row of top ten most controversial popes, Pope Boniface VIII still lingers in people’s mind for his feuds with Dante, who placed him in the Eighth Circle of Hell in his “Divina Commedia”, among the simonists. He was crowned at the Vatican Basilica on Sunday, 23 January 1295 and the first act he did was to imprison his predecessor in the Castle of Fumone in Ferentino, where he passed away the next year at the age of 81. In 1300, Boniface VIII formalized the custom of the Roman Jubilee, which afterwards became a source of both profit and scandal to the church. The pope was a man who didn’t save human souls but rather rule the lives.

7. Pope Nicholas III

Pope Nicholas III - No.7 Most Controversial Pope

Nicholas’ brief pontificate was marked by several important events. He greatly strengthened the papal position in Italy. He concluded a concordat with Rudolph I of Habsburg in May 1278, by which the Romagna and the exarchate of Ravenna were guaranteed to the Pope. According to the chronist Bartholomew of Lucca, he discussed with Rudolph, in general terms at least, of splitting the German Empire into four separate kingdoms – Lombardy, Burgundy, Tuscia and Germany. Besides he elevated three of his closest relatives to the cardinalate and gave others important positions.

8. Pope Clement V

Pope Clement V - No.8 Most Controversial Pope

Beginning papacy from 1305 till his end in 1314, Pope Clement V is well remembered in history for suppressing the order of the Knights Templar and allowing the persecution of many of its members, and as the Pope who moved the Curia from Rome to Avignon. Even the invasion of Italy by Emperor Charles V happened mostly because of his misdoings in the political arena. Post invasion, Rome was sacked to witness some of the worst moments in the history of the papal organization.

9. Pope Leo X

Pope Leo X - No.9 Most Controversial Pope

Pope Leo X had expensive tastes. A true Renaissance man, he built up the Vatican Library, accelerated the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica and poured lavish funds into the arts. But his efforts to renew Rome’s position as a cultural center took money. So much money, in fact, that within two years he had drained the papal treasury completely, as well as a great deal of his own fortune. To compensate, Leo X began selling off pieces of the Vatican palace — furniture, dishes, jewels and statues of the apostles. He also issued indulgences as a way to make up lost funds, essentially allowing sinners to buy their way out of damnation.

10. Pope Sergius III

Pope Sergius III - No.10 Most Controversial Pope

Pope Sergius III became the pope of the Catholic Church from 29 January 904 to 14 April 911, during a period of feudal violence and disorder in central Italy. He even ordered the asassination of of his two immediate predecessors, Leo V and Christopher and was the only pope to have allegedly fathered an illegitimate son who later became pope. Besides that his political involvements with powerful counts and countesses was also often scorned upon.

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