John XVI of Rome

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Pope John XVI of Rome ((Greek)

Ιωάννης ο Φιλάγαθος , Ioannis Philagathos ;[1] (Italian)
Giovanni Filagato ); (Latin)
Johannes Philagathus ), born ca. 945 - August 26, 1001, was Pope of the Church of Rome from 997 to 998.[2] Though regarded historically as an antipope to Pope Gregory V (reigned 996-999), he was the last truly Roman-and-Orthodox Pope.[note 1] After being blinded and imprisoned by the Frankish Pope Gregory V, he reposed in the Lord in the year 1001.[2][3]


Ioannis Philagathos was born of Greek descent[2][4] and was a native of Rossano, in Calabria, southern Italy,[5][6] then a province of the Byzantine Empire.[note 2]

He was a monk[2] and the chaplain of Theophano, the niece of Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes (969-976), and the Empress consort of Emperor Otto II (973–983). Twice he acted as Imperial chancellor in Italy for Otto II; first from 980–982, whereupon he was appointed Abbot of Nonantola Abbey, and later from 991–992. He was also the Godfather of the Emperor's son, Otto III,[7] and was tutor to the boy when he was seven (987).

In 988 Theophano made John Bishop of Piacenza, in Italy, later raising his see to an Archbishopric.[2] In 995 Otto III sent John to Constantinople as legate for his prospective marriage to a Byzantine princess.

Election of Gregory V by the German Party

In 996 the youthful Emperor Otto III (983–1002) came to the aid of Pope John XV (985–996) to put down a rebellion of the faction led by the rich and powerful Roman nobleman Crescentius the Younger, a leader of the aristocracy of medieval Rome. On the way Otto III stopped to be acclaimed King of Lombardy at Pavia, however failed to reach Rome before the Pope died.

Once in Rome, Otto III engineered the election of his cousin Bruno of Carinthia as Pope Gregory V (996–999), and the new pontiff then crowned Otto III Emperor on May 21, 996. Significantly, Gregory V was the first pope of German blood.[8][9][note 3]

Philip Schaff points out that during the minority of Otho III, the imperialists on the one hand, and the popular Roman party on the other, each contended from their fortified places for the mastery of Rome and the papacy.[8]

Election of John XVI by the Roman Party

The Roman Orthodox party in the West headed by Crescentius, planned however to ally Rome with Byzantium against Otto III, and opposed Otto's choice. Once Otto had returned to Germany, Crescentius led a revolt that usurped Gregory's office.[2] With the active support of the Eastern Emperor, Basil II (976-1025), they offered John Philagathos the papacy, who in turn accepted, over the protests of his friend Abbot St. Nilus of Rossano.[2] He was therefore acclaimed as Pope John XVI (997–998).

At the subsequent Synod of Pavia held by Gregory V and Western bishops at Pentecost in 997, Crescentius was excommunicated, and in July Gregory issued a decree bringing Piacenza once more under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Ravenna.[7]

Arrest and Torture of John XVI

Otto III then brought an army to Italy the following year in February 998, and a reign of terror ensued.[2] Crescentius entrenched himself in the Castle of Sant' Angelo, and Pope John XVI fled Rome, however both were captured by the imperial soldiers, and Crescentius was beheaded on April 29.

Pope John was mutilated, having his nose and ears cut off, his tongue cut out, and his fingers broken that he might not write, and was blinded, and publicly degraded in Rome before Otto III and Gregory V.

At the Lenten Synod of 998, held shortly after in Rome, Gregory V formally deposed John, who, at the intercession of St. Nilus, was removed from prison and sent to the Monastery of Fulda, in Germany, where he died in 1001.

Although in office only ten months, John is generally numbered in the series of the popes.[6]


The strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in the German imperial tradition would decisively influence the conflict between emperors and the Western Church in the coming centuries. The history of the papacy from 1048 to 1257 was marked by conflict between popes and the Holy Roman Emperor, most prominently the Investiture Controversy, a dispute over who—pope or emperor—could appoint bishops within the Empire.

Due to the Frankish control of the papacy, the rulings of the Eighth Ecumenical Council of 879 (of which Pope John VIII had participated) were uncanonically rejected in the eleventh century.[note 4] The Filioque was formally introduced into the Church of Rome,[note 5][note 6] as well as the papal claims of world domination (heretical views condemned by the Eighth Ecumenical Council). The new Frankish papacy also began to reject the title of "Ecumenical Patriarch" for the Archbishop of Constantinople (New Rome), an historic title bestowed upon the latter as early as 6th century.[10][note 7]

See also


  1. "From 1009, the Franks controlled the succession to the papal throne and Latin orthodoxy dropped its resistance to the innovations devised at the court of of Charlemagne, making it official doctrine."
    • Christos Yannaras. Orthodoxy and the West: Hellenic Self-Identity in the Modern Age. Transl. Peter Chamberas and Norman Russell. Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2006. p.18.
  2. See: Catepanate of Italy. Wikipedia.
  3. "Baronius, however, says that Stephen VIII (939-942) was a German, and for this reason opposed by the Romans. Bruno was only twenty-four years old when elected. Höfler (I. 94 sqq.) gives him a very high character." (Schaff, p.263).
  4. Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) recognized the council of 869 as a general council. In May 1077 in a letter to Hugh of Die, he specified using Canon 22 from the council of 869, by way of forbidding Lay Investitures.
  5. "The attitudes of the West and East Franks toward the Papacy and the Filioque were different, the first being mild, and the second fanatically hard. One of the important reasons for this is that, after 920, the new reform movements gained enough momentum to shape the policies of the East German Franks who took over the Papacy. When the Romans lost the Papacy, the Filioque was introduced into Rome for the first time in either 1009, or at latest by 1014."
    • John S. Romanides. Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay Between Theology and Society. Holy Cross Press, 1981. 98 pp. ISBN 9780916586546
  6. In 1014, at the coronation of Emperor Henry II at Rome the Creed was sung with the filioque.
  7. In 518 Patriarch John II of Constantinople was addressed as "Oikoumenikos Patriarches" (Ecumenical Patriarch).


  1. Silvana Rocca. Latina Didaxis XIX: Multa per æquora: atti del congresso, [Genova e Bogliasco, 16-18 aprile 2004]. Genova: Compagnia dei librai, 2004. p.234.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 "John (XVI)." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2009.
  3. Stavros L. K. Markou. An Orthodox Christian Historical Timeline. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
  4. Matthew Bunson. The Pope Encyclopedia: An A to Z of the Holy See. Crown Trade Paperbacks, 1995. p.196. ISBN 9780517882566
  5. Eleanor Shipley Duckett. Death and Life in the Tenth Century. University of Michigan Press, 1988. p.124. ISBN 9780472061723
  6. 6.0 6.1 Rev. John McClintock, D.D.,and James Strong, S.T.D. Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. IV - H,I,J. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882. p.981.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Johann Peter Kirsch. "John XVI (XVII)". The Catholic Encyclopedia (New Advent). Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Philip Schaff (1819-1893). History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. p.263. Retrieved: 2013-02-14.
  9. Johann Heinrich Kurtz. History of the Christian Church to the Reformation. T. & T. Clark, 1860. p.380
  10. Stavros L. K. Markou. An Orthodox Christian Historical Timeline. Retrieved 2013-02-14.


Κώστας Χρήστου. Ο Έλληνας Πάπας Ιωάννης ο Φιλάγαθος. Myriobiblos Library. Retrieved: 2013-02-14.