Online Encyclopedia

FORMOSUS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 672 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FORMOSUS, pope from 891 to 896, the successor of Stephen V. (or VI.). He first appears in history when, as bishop of Porto, he was sent on an embassy to the Bulgarians. Having afterwards sided with a faction against John VIII., he was excommunicated, and compelled to take an oath never to return to Rome or again to assume his priestly functions. From this oath he was, however, absolved by Marinus, the successor of John VIII., and restored to his dignities; and on the death of Stephen V. in 891 he was chosen pope. At that time the Holy See was engaged in a struggle against the oppression of the princes of Spoleto, and a powerful party in Rome was eager to obtain the intervention of Arnulf, king of Germany, against these dangerous neighbours. Formosus himself shared this view; but he was forced to yield to circumstances and to consecrate as emperor Lambert, the young son of Guy of Spoleto. Guy had already been consecrated by Stephen V., and died in 894. In the following year. Arnulf succeeded in seizing Rome, and Formosus crowned him emperor. But, as he was advancing on Spoleto against Lambert, Arnulf was seized with paralysis, and was forced to return to Germany. Overwhelmed with chagrin, Formosus died on the 4th of April 896. The discords in which he had been involved continued after his death. The validity of his acts was contested on the pretext that, having been originally bishop of Porto, he could not be a legitimate pope. The fundamental factor in these dissensions was the rivalry between the princes of Spoleto and the Carolingian house, represented by the king of Germany. The body of Formosus was disinterred in 897 by Stephen VI., and treated with contumely as that of a usurper of the papal throne; but Theodore II. restored it to Christian burial, and at a council presided over by John IX. the pontificate of Formosus was declared valid and all his acts confirmed. (L. D.*)
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