John, the name of 23 popes, of whom the following are the most important. I. John I., Saint, born in Siena about 470, died in Rome, May 27, 526. He was a cardinal priest when he succeeded Hormisdas, Aug. 13, 523. Shortly after his election he was sent to Constantinople by the Arian king Theodoric, to obtain from the emperor Justin milder measures toward the eastern Arians. He was received with much honor by the emperor, whom he solemnly crowned in March, 525. Justin revoked all rigorous laws against the Arians, but refused to restore the churches taken from them. John, having returned to Italy, was imprisoned by Theodoric, treated with great rigor, and died in captivity. He is honored as a martyr in the western church, and his feast is celebrated on May 27. II. John VIII., born in Rome about 820, died there, Dec. 15, 882. He was cardinal-archdeacon when he succeeded Adrian II., Dec. 14, 872. From the beginning of his pontificate his partiality for the French made him odious to the Italians. He crowned Charles the Bald of France as emperor in 875, and in 876 deposed Formosus, bishop of Porto, reduced him to lay communion, and banished him to France, whence he bound him by oath never to return. The innocence of Formosus, who was afterward pope (891), is now generally admitted.
John, having solicited in vain the help of Charles against the Saracens who occupied southern Italy and were threatening Rome, purchased peace by promising to pay them an annual tribute. After the death of Charles the Bald he supported the claims of Charles the Fat against his Italian rivals, crowned him at Ravenna in 877, and was compelled to fly to France in 878, where he presided over the council of Troyes and crowned Louis III. He returned to Rome in 879, and at the prayer of the Greek emperor Basil I. approved of the restoration of Photius to the see of Constantinople. Soon afterward he retracted this approbation, and pronounced against Photius a sentence of deposition. This vacillating conduct caused Baronius to say that in the pontificate of John VIII. the church was governed by a woman. John gave to the duke of Gaeta the district of Traetto and the town of Fondi, in order to induce him to take up arms against the Saracens. In 879 he summoned to Rome St. Methodius, apostle of the Slavs, and confirmed him as independent metropolitan of the churches which he had founded. (See Cyril and Methodius.) He made many enemies by his arbitrary conduct and numerous excommunications, and died by violence. There are 326 letters by him extant.
III. John X. (Giovanni Cenci), born in Ravenna about 884, died in Rome, June 2, 928. According to Luitprand, bishop of Cremona, whose relation is discredited by Milman, Giovanni was successively appointed bishop of Bologna, Ravenna, and Rome, by the influence of the powerful and profligate Theodora. He was elected pope in 914, and displayed great energy against the Saracens. He crowned Berenger as king of Italy and emperor, March 24, 916. Uniting with the imperial army the forces of the dukes of Benevento and Naples, he led them against the Saracens intrenched in the territory of Garigliano, and utterly routed them. He confirmed the appointment to the see of, Rheims of Hugo, five years old, son of Henbert, count of that city. Having resisted Marozia, the daughter of Theodora, who, with her husband Guido, duke of Tuscany, could brook no rival influence in Rome, he was cast by them into prison and suffocated there. IV. John XI. (Giovanni Conti), regarded by many as the son of Marozia, born in Rome between 905 and 910, died there in January, 936. He was raised to the papacy in 931, and was the mere tool of Marozia and the evil men who surrounded her.
Her son Alberico, having excited the Romans to throw off her yoke, expelled her husband, King Hugo, made himself master of Rome with the title of consul, imprisoned his mother and the pope, and held them in captivity from 933 till the death of the latter. V. John XII. (Ottaviano Conti), son of Alberico and grandson of Marozia, born in Rome about 937, died there in 964. He was intruded into the papal office in 956, and assumed the name of John, being the first pope who thus changed his name. In 957 he took into his pay the troops of the duke of Spoleto, and marched at their head against Pandolfo, prince of Capua, who defeated him and compelled him to sue for peace. He invoked the aid of Otho the Great against Berenger II. Otho, having driven Berenger from Italy, entered Rome at the head of an army, and was crowned emperor of the West in February, 962. He secured to the pope his title to the States of the Church, and exacted from him the promise that he would hold no relation with Berenger. John violated this promise; and the emperor, incensed at his faithlessness, as well as at the loud complaints about his licentious life, returned to Rome in 963, and caused the pope to bo degraded in an assembly of bishops held in St. Peter's in November, and the antipope Leo VIII. to be chosen in his stead.
In 964, the Romans having revolted, John reentered Rome at the head of a large force, expelled Leo, and committed many atrocities. Otho was preparing to march once more toward Rome when the pope fell suddenly sick and died. VI. John XXII.
(Jacques d'Euse), born in Cahors, France, about 1244, died in Avignon in 1334. He was an Augustinian monk, and was transferred from the see of Frejus to that of Avignon by Clement V., who also appointed him cardinal-bishop of Porto. He was elected pope at Lyons in August, 1316, and crowned there in September. His first act was to create one Italian and seven French cardinals, a step indicating a resolve to make the papacy a permanent French institution. French historians accordingly bestow great praise on this pope, while the Italians are unsparing in their censure. After the death of Henry VII. in 1313, the imperial crown was claimed by Louis of Bavaria and Frederick of Austria. John cited the contestants before him, and Louis refusing to appear, the pope excommunicated him. Louis appealed to a general council. The diet of Frankfort sustained him, declaring that the imperial authority depended upon God alone. The strife which existed in Italy between the Guelphs and Ghibellines made the latter espouse the cause of Louis, while the former sided with the pope.
Robert, king of Naples, who aspired to be sole ruler in the peninsula, became the leader of the Guelphs, while Frederick, king of Sicily, with the Visconti, the Scalas, and the Estes, supported Louis. They were excommunicated as heretics, a crusade was preached against them, and pope and emperor sent armies to the assistance of their respective partisans. Louis entered Italy in 1327, was crowned at Milan with the iron crown, and at Rome with the imperial crown. In an assembly held in the square of St. Peter's he cited the pope to appear and answer to the charges of heresy and high treason, deposed him, sentenced him to be burned alive, appointed in his stead Pietro da Corva-ria, who assumed the name of Nicholas V., and made it a law that any pope residing out of Rome for more than three months should be considered as deposed. Louis returned to Germany, the leaders of the Ghibellines died soon afterward, and the Guelphs gradually gained the ascendancy. John was indefatigable in his exertions to save Christendom from Saracenic aggression, and succeeded in the last year of his life in forming against the Turks a league composed of the kings of France, Sicily, Cyprus, and Armenia, and of the Greek emperor Andronicus. He sanctioned the custom introduced by St. Bonaventura of ringing the church bells at sunset, and saluting the Virgin with three Ave Marias in honor of the incarnation.
He confirmed the military order of Christ (March, 1319), founded by King Denis of Portugal, restrained the power of the Teutonic knights, who oppressed the new Christians of Lithuania, and canonized St. Thomas Aquinas. He deprived by statute the people of towns of the right of electing their bishops, established the custom of collecting "annates" or first fruits, and left at his death a well filled treasury. VII. John XXIII. (Baltassare Cossa), born in Naples about 1360, died in Florence, Nov.
22, 1419. St. Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, describes him as a man of great administrative ability, a clever politician, and a bold soldier, who had been in his youth a corsair; but as a priest he was ill calculated to advance spiritual interests. He was created cardinal in 1402, and was degraded from that dignity by Gregory XII. in punishment of his tyrannical conduct toward the Bolognese, but was restored to it by Alexander V., who reappointed him governor of Bologna. He was elected pope in May, 1410, after the death of Alexander. Benedict XIII. and Gregory XII. now divided with John the allegiance of Christendom. John wrote letters to the imperial electors to induce them to choose Sigismund of Luxemburg, king of Hungary, and he espoused the claims of Louis of Anjou to the kingdom of Naples, in opposition to the reigning king, Ladislas. He entered Rome in triumph with Louis in 1411, and, gathering all the troops he could muster, attacked and defeated Ladislas at Roccasecca in May. He published a crusade against him in the following December, and compelled him to forsake the party of Gregory XII. and submit to himself.
He then broke off his relations with Louis of Anjou, and restored Ladislas to his kingdom, appointing him at the same time general of the Roman church, and furnishing him with money. But Ladislas soon afterward took possession of Rome and forced John to fly. The latter now had recourse to Sigismund, who urged him to assemble a council at Constance for the purpose of terminating the great western schism and reforming ecclesiastical abuses, with the assurance that John should be free to come and go during the council. After much hesitation he consented to the emperor's scheme, and opened the council in person, Nov. 5, 1414. Meanwhile the death of Ladislas had left Rome open to John, who repented of having yielded to the emperor's solicitations, and only watched for an opportunity of returning to Italy. On March 2, 1415, he bound himself by oath to renounce the pontifical dignity as soon as his rivals had abdicated; but he afterward refused to sign the act of renunciation, and fled from Constance disguised as a merchant under the protection of the duke of Austria, and took refuge at Freiburg. In May a sentence of deposition was pronounced against him by the council; and the duke of Austria gave him over to the emperor, who sent him a prisoner first to Heidelberg, and then to Munich, where he was detained for four years.