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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 252-253.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 955-963.

JOHN the Twelfth, a Roman, by the power of his father, Albericus, of the Via Lata, gets into the chair. His name was before Octavian; he was one that from his youth up had been debauched with all manner of vice and wickedness; and if he had any time to spare from his lusts, he spent it in hunting and not in prayer. The Romans had at this time two consuls annually and one prefect, who was a judge among the citizens. Out of the people were created twelve decarchons, who were instead of the senate; neither were the Romans without some kind of dominions; for the neighbouring towns of Tuscany between Orvieto and Todi, and all that lies between the city and Beneventum, Naples, Tagliacozzo, and Rieti, were subject to the city of Rome. What lies beyond was possessed partly by the Greeks and partly by the Saracens. It is not altogether certain who then held Marca di Ancona and the Duchy of Spoleto. In the city thus free, Octavian, favoured by the power of his father, assumes the papal dignity, a weight for which his shoulders were very unfit; which gave so great offence, that two cardinals who were nettled at it, sent to Otho, beseeching him to come and deliver the clergy and the people of Rome out of the hands of Berengarius and this Pope John, otherwise telling him that the Christian religion, and the Empire too, would both be ruined. Otho was at that time great in the estimation of all people, having (as we said before) conquered Boleslaus, King of Bohemia, and routed the Hungarians that infested Germany in three fierce battles, taking three of their princes, who were hanged up by the Germans, against the mind of the Emperor. While Otho was expected, the whole design was betrayed to John, who took both the cardinals, and cut off the nose of the one and the hand of the other. This moved Otho to hasten his march into Italy, where first he took Berengarius and his son Albertus, prisoners, and banished one to Constantinople, the other into Austria; and soon after entering Rome, he was splendidly received, even of John himself, and crowned Emperor of Germany and Hungary, the Empire being now first translated to the Germans. There are authors yet that 253 place this to the times of Leo VIII.,1 of whom we shall speak hereafter; whose opinion is followed by Gratian in his decree; though Ricardus and Cusentinus disallow not the former: but the Lateran library-keeper writes that Otho came to Rome in John’s time, but says not a word of his coronation; so perplexed and confused are the affairs of those times by the carelessness and neglect of their writers. Otho, however, having somewhat settled the state of the city, had some conference in private with John, dissuading him kindly from his naughty way of life, and exhorting him to reform; but when he found fair words would not avail, he made use of threats and declared for a general council, convening all the bishops of Italy to judge of the way of life of this wicked fellow. The censures of these good men, he apprehended, would be heavy, and therefore fled to Anagni, sculking up and down in bye-places like a wild beast: so that Otho, by the persuasion of the clergy, creates Leo, a Roman, a keeper of the archives in the Lateran, Pope. But, upon the departure of the Emperor, the kinsmen and friends of John turn out Leo, and recall him, who within a few days after was struck dead (as was thought) from heaven, lest the Church of God should be ruined by so pernicious a sedition as was then growing on. Some, indeed, write that this wicked wretch, or monster rather, was taken in adultery and there stabbed. However, this put not an end to the schism; for the Romans, upon the death of John, put up Benedict in his room, and were earnest with the Emperor (who was then at Spoleto) to confirm their choice. But the Emperor was highly displeased, and not only denied their request as unjust, but (as shall hereafter be told) compelled them by force of arms to abrogate Benedict and receive Leo. Many prodigies are said to have been seen at this present time in Italy; for in a mighty tempest of wind and rain there fell a stone of wonderful bigness from the sky; and in the garments of many persons the figure of a bloody cross appeared miraculously; which portents were looked upon to foreshow great slaughters and calamities to the Church. This John, who was certainly the most pernicious profligate fellow of any that preceded him in the pontifical chair, died in the eighth year, third month, and fifth day of his Popedom; upon whose death during the sedition the see was vacant twelve days.


 1  They are wrong; Platina is right. — ED.

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Previous Pope: 134. Agapetus2 II. 134. John XII. Next Pope: 135. Benedict V.

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