The Catholic Church at all times sought to control not only the minds of the people, but also the actions of those in power. However, in the 9-10th centuries, the Vatican was going through hard times. This time was marked by turmoil near the papal throne, church schism and one of the extraordinary events - the Corpse Synod.
In the period from 872 to 965 the place of the Pope was occupied by 24 people. Each of them, in the struggle for power, tried to denigrate their predecessor and canceled his decrees. At the same time, passions were seething in the political arena. The rich dynasties could not share power, each of them tried to enlist the support of the Vatican, "promoting" their candidacies for the papal throne.
In 891, Formosus took over as Pope. For five years he acted on the instructions of the Emperor Lambert Spoletsky, who was appointed by him. 9 months after the death of the pontiff, another change of power took place, and another Pope Stephen VI decided to call to account the already deceased predecessor.
Pope Stephen VI.
In January 897, the so-called Corpse Synod (Synodus Horrenda) took place in the Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano. From the grave, they dug the already decomposing corpse of Formosus and tied it to an armchair. The deacon, hiding behind an armchair, was responsible for the dead man at the trial. As a result, the corpse was found guilty on all charges that Stephen VI had brought against him. Formosa had three fingers cut off, with which he made the sign of the cross, stripped of his papal clothing, dragged through the streets of Rome and buried in a common grave. Later, the body was again removed by black diggers in search of profit and thrown into the Tiber River, from where it was caught.
Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano in Rome.
Indicative is the fact that during the stormy speeches of Pope Stephen VI at the corpse synod, an earthquake occurred, partially damaging the basilica. The Romans considered this a formidable sign from above, and Stephen was thrown into prison, where he was strangled. In the same year, the Lateran Basilica was practically destroyed by fire.
Marble slab in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
Subsequent popes, then canceled the decisions of the cadaveric synod regarding the excavated corpse, then again condemned it. In the end, Pope John IX personally oversaw the reburial of Formosus in St. Peter's Basilica, and his name was engraved on the marble slab with a list of popes.
The Corpse Synod marked the beginning of one of the most corrupt eras in the history of the papacy, known as pornocracy. The legendary reign of Pope John is also attributed to this period. Historians are still wondering if this person really existed.