The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Leo III (795-816)
815 (VII)


(10) 1. STEFANO (?-817)

Birth. (No date found), Rome. He belonged to one of the leading noble Roman families, which during the ninth century gave the Church Popes Sergius II and Adrian II. Son of Marino, Roman patrician.

Education. He was raised and educated from childhood in the Lateran patriarchy, the complex of administrative offices of the Roman Church, to which were attached schools and colleges, and where he entered during the pontificate of Pope Adrian. He was later noticed by Pope Leo III, who ordained him subdeacon and then deacon. He distinguished himself for his ability to preach to the people and his diligence in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs.

Cardinalate. Deacon cardinalis of the Holy Roman Church before 815.

Papacy. Elected pope in June 816. Took the name Stephen IV (V). He was consecrated on June 22, 816, ten days after the death of his predecessor. His first act was to notify Emperor Louis I the Pious of his election, apologizing, through his ambassadors, for the haste with which he had been anointed; the pope sent the emperor an oath of allegiance of the Roman people. The reasons for such haste were logically related to the environment that usually existed in Rome because of the rather tense relations between the nobility, clergy and people, with the various factions at odds with each other. The emperor accepted the pope's explanation and willingly agreed to the desire expressed by the pontiff to meet him, just to clarify some aspects of the situation in the city and in the Papal States.The trip of the pope took place in September 816. The emperor commissioned his nephew Bernard, then king in Italy, to accompany the pope, who set off just two months after his election, arriving in France at the end of September 816. The pope was greeted by a delegation of senior Frankish clerics, who accompanied him to Reims, where the emperor awaited him with the court. The meeting between the two men probably took place on October 2 at the monastery of St. Remigius of Reims, a place rich in symbolism, since there had occurred the baptism of Clovis and the Franks. The emperor dismounted from his horse and prostrated three times before the pope, greeting him with the words of the "Benedictus"; the pope responded blessing God that allowed him to see a second David. Later the Roman clergy, who had accompanied the pope, sang the liturgical acclamations for the emperor. Even at that first occasion, the pope explained his reasons for meeting the emperor. The following two days were spent in large banquets, accompanied by exchanges of gifts and negotiations. The two men had a series of interviews during which the situation of the Papal States was discussed, including the privileges and immunities granted to the Roman Church by the predecessors of Emperor Louis I the Pious. The pope was able to obtain the grace for the high prelates who lived in exile in Frankish lands to be able to return to Rome. The pope succeeded in convincing the emperor that this could be a good diplomatic move to win over some sections of the population adverse to the Frankish domination and for hope to a return to calm. The next Sunday, October 5, during the mass, Pope Stephen IV (V) anointed and crowned Emperor Louis I the Pious with a precious crown brought from Rome, which was said to be that of Emperor Constantine. On the same occasion, the pope blessed and crowned the emperor's wife Ermengarde. The ceremony in Reims reestablished the principle that the emperor of the Christian empire was to be crowned by the pope and receive from him a special sacramental consecration (1). The emperor gave many gifts to the pope, including the estate tax of Vandoeuvre, near Troyes. After meetings had ended, the pope went back to Rome, where he arrived probably at the end of October. His short pontificate of just seven months, with the long interval in France, did not allow Pope Stephen IV (V) a significant activity to take place in Rome, however, there are attested donations of sacred liturgical objects to some churches, particularly S. Pietro in Vincoli.

Death. January 24, 817, Rome. Buried in St. Peter's basilica. His tomb was destroyed during the demolition of the old basilica and the construction of the new one in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 43-44; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiae usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. Alphonsi Ciaconii Ord. Praed. & aliorum opera descriptæ : cum uberrimis notis. Ab Augustino Oldoino, Soc. Jesu recognitae, et ad quatuor tomos ingenti ubique rerum accessione productae. Additis Pontificum recentiorum imaginibus, & Cardinalium insignibus, plurimisque aeneis figuris, cum indicibus locupletissimis. Romæ : P. et A. De Rubeis, 1677, I, col. 578; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XXXIX; Delogu, Paolo. "Stefano IV." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, I, ; Del Re, Niccolò. "Stefano IV (V), papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 1014; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 150, no. 11; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 99; Le Liber pontificalis. Paris : E. de Boccard, 1981, 1955. 3 v. : facsims. (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome). Notes: Reprint of the 1955 edition./ Includes indexes./ Vol. 3: "Additions et corrections de L. Duchesne publiées par Cyrille Vogel ... avec L'Histoire du Liber pontificalis dupuis l'édition de L. Duchesne une bibliographie et des tables générales, II, LXVI, LXXV, 52-68; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 135, no. 98; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 61; Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab conditio Ecclesia. Ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956. 2 v. Reprint. Originally published : Lipsiae : Veit et comp., 1885-1888. Original t.p. included : Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia : ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Editionem secundam correctam et auctam edidit Philippus Jaffè ; auspiciis Gulielmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, I, 316-318.

Links. Biography, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English (Britannica); biography, in English; biography by Paolo Delogu, Enciclopedia dei papa, Treccani, in Italian; his image and biography, in Italian; biography, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographischen Kirchenlexikons; The coronation of Louis I the Pious (778-840) Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Stephen IV (pope 816-817) at Reims in 816, French School, 14th century, Bibliothèque Municipale, Castres, France; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; his engraving, iStockphoto; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; his engraving, from the same source; another engraving, from the same source; and another engraving, also from the same source.

(1) Charlemagne, who had not traveled to Rome after the imperial coronation in 800, had associated his son Louis the Pious with the empire at a singular ceremony celebrated in 813, in which, at the palatine church of Aachen, a crown was placed on the altar, and the emperor had invited his son to wear the crown and feel that he was able to govern the Christian empire. Thus Louis the Pious had practically crowned himself, while the papacy, which had played a decisive role in restoring the imperial dignity in the West with the coronation of Charlemagne, had been excluded from its transmission. Louis the Pious succeeded his father in 814, he immediately took steps to reform the Frankish Church, even without consulting the papacy. On the other hand, the two Carolingian emperors' relations with Pope Leo III had been cold and suspicious, but with the election of Pope Stephen IV (V), it was raised for the first time the issue of the imperial prerogatives in the appointment and the installation of a new pope. Perhaps this new pope, just arrived as he had been elected to the pontificate, took an oath of loyalty to the emperor from all the Roman people, and sent ambassadors to the emperor to justify the manner in which his election had taken place, and also to announce intention to travel to France to meet him, and rebuild on a personal level the relationship between the papacy and the empire.


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