The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Leo VII (936-939)
At an unknown date between 936 and 939 (I)


(1) 1. STEFANO (last quarter of the 9th century-942)

Birth. Last quarter of the 9th century, Rome (1).

Education. Educated in Germany, he was a learned man of a blameless private life and devoted to peace in his public relations.

Cardinalate. Presbyter cardinalis of the title of Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti in a promotion celebrated at an unknown date between 936 and 939 (2). He was elected to the papacy with the favor and authority of Alberico II, who had proclaimed himself princeps atque Senator omnium Romanorum, and who governed Rome with absolute power not allowing the pope other than spiritual power.

Papacy. Elected pope on Sunday July 14, 939. Took the name Stephen VIII (IX). He was consecrated, at the latest, on the same day of his election; and installed on July 19, 939. Most of his activities were related to monasteries. The pope granted a privilege to the monastery of Sankt Mauritius of Magdebourg, founded in 937 by King Otto I of Germany. In October 939, by the bull "Quamvis piorum", he confirmed the rights of the recently founded monastery of S. Salvatore in Tolla, diocese of Piacenza, at the request of its abbot, Ariberto. The pope met in Rome with the Burgundian reform abbot Odo of Cluny. In 940, he confirmed the election of Bishop Giovanni of Nola, at the counsel and insistence of Abbot Odonne of Cluny. In December 941, by the bull "Quia omnipotens", he confirmed to Rotilda, abbess of the monastery of Bouxières, diocese of Tulle, the privileges and possessions of her monastery, at the request of Bishop Gauzlino. He mediated in the discord between Abbot Odonne of Déols and Archbishop Gerungo of Bourges, where the monastery was situated, for the possession of the locality of Vouillon. In France, in early 942, he had to intervene in the dispute to the throne in favor of King Louis IV d'Outremer; the pope sent Bishop Damaso as papal legate to France to urge the French and Burgundian nobility and people, under threat of excommunication, to recognize Louis as king and to support him. Later in that year, the pope sent the pallium to Archbishop Hugues of Reims, who had been restored to his see after being removed for several years causing a schism in that see. In his last months, the pope may have taken part in a conspiracy or uprising against Alberico II; and it appears that Pope Stephen was imprisoned in Castello Sant'Angelo, Rome, mutilated, and died as a result of his injuries (3).

Death. Late October 942, Castello Sant'Angelo, Rome. Buried in the pavement of the portico of the Vatican basilica. His tomb was destroyed in the demolition of the old basilica and the construction of the new one in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Bibliography. Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm ab initio nascentis Ecclesiæ vsque ad Vrbanvm VIII. Pont. Max. 2 volumes. Romae : Typis Vaticanis, 1677, I, col. 707-710; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XL; Del Re, Niccolò. "Stefano VIII (IX), papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 1016; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 156, no. 1; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 124; 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, LXIX, LXXVI and 244; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 153 and 442, appendix III A "Papi sepolti nell'antiva Basilica Vaticana; Piazzoni, Ambrogio M. "Stefano VIII." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, II, 74-76; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 71; 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, 457-458.

Links. Biography, in English; biography, in English (Britannica); brief biography, in English, St Pachomius Library; biography, in English, biography, in German, Biographisch-bibliographischen Kirchenlexikon; brief biographical entry, in French; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; his engraving, iStockphoto; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; 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; another engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen; and his effigy on a medal, Numismatic collection of Olomouc archiepiscopate, Czech Republic.

(1) This is according to Kelly, which adds that later sources describe him as of German descent (as does Cristofori, Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa, p. XL), imposed on the Holy See by Otto I (962-73), king of Germany since 936 and later emperor. Le Liber pontificalis, II, 244, explanatory note 1, says that considering that Rome was under the absolute control of Alberico II, it is impossible that the ruler would allow the election of a German pope supported by a German king. His brief biographical entry in French, linked above, says that he was German and related to Emperor Otto I; this source also says that he was elected to the papacy due to the influence of King Ugo of Italy, but this monarch had been overthrown by Alberico II in 932. The legend of his engraving from iStockphoto, linked above, also says that he was German and places the date of his death in 943.
(2) This is according to his biography in English, linked above. His biography in German, also linked above, says that he was cardinal priest but does not mention his title. "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 19266, p. 156, no. 1, says that he was created cardinal deacon and that his deaconry is unknown.
(3) This is according to Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, p. 124; Readon, The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs, p. 71; and his biography in German, linked above. Del Re, Stefano VIII (IX), papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente, p. 1016, says that the pope never rebelled against Alberico II. Piazzoni, "Stefano VIII." Enciclopedia dei papi, II, 75-76, says that the news of the Chronicon of Martin of Troppau, p. 431, (repeated by others and entered in the fifteenth century in Le Liber pontificalis) reports that Pope Stephen would have been "a mutilatus quibusdam Romanis". That act was the result of the alleged alienation of the pope and his participation in a conspiracy and an attempted rebellion (just told by Martin, who writes in the 13th century) against Alberico, which occurred in October 942; the pope, as Piazzoni said, would die a little later just as a result of his wounds. Piazzoni concludes saying that the news has no other evidence, and the story, which has appeared several times in other sources, is not free from inconsistencies and contradictions such as to leave doubts about the veracity of the statement.


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