A Corpse Put On Trial

The Cadaver Synod is perhaps the most macabre example of character assassination in history. In January of the year 897, Pope Stephen VI had the body of his predecessor Formosus dug up and put on trial for many crimes, including perjury and having obtained the papacy by illegal means. The rotting corpse of Formosus was found guilty; his papacy was declared null, his body stripped of its papal regalia and his right hand mutilated. Although much is unclear about the circumstances of the Cadaver Synod, the trial may have been held for the benefit of Duke Guy IV of Spoleto, whose military actions had been opposed by Formosus.

Literature

• Ernst Dümmler, Auxilius und Vulgarius: Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Papstthums im Anfange des zehnten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig 1866)
• Joseph Duhr, ‘La concile de Ravenne en 898: la réhabilitation du pape Formose’, Recherches de science religieuse 22 (1932) 541-579
• Girolamo Arnaldi, ‘Papa Formoso e gli imperatori della casa di Spoleto’, Annali della facoltà di lettere e filosofia dell’Università di Napoli 4 (1951) 85-104
• Peter Llewellyn, Rome in the Dark Ages (London 1971)

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