A hefty number of popes have perished violently over the centuries. The circumstances included beatings by envious husbands, martyrdom, and war. Many other popes have passed away in circumstances that some have interpreted as murder, but there is no concrete proof. But did you know how many popes were violently murdered?
The pope’s role was almost certainly a death sentence for nearly 300 years. Of the first 31 popes, 28 were brutally assassinated.
The First Murdered Pope
Pope John VIII, who led the Vatican from 872 to 882, was the first to be linked to a murder. One of his clergy members poisoned Pope John VIII.
However, the poison took a long time to work, so the impatient murderer turned to a hammer to finish the terrible deed. After Pope John VIII’s demise, the Holy See went through a difficult period during which the papal throne lost some of its power and descended into political intrigue. (Source: Grunge)
The Unfortunate Popes
42 of the 266 popes who have lived have passed away before their natural death. Numerous people have died as martyrs for their faith; others have been driven out of the church by rival groups; some have been caught in the wrong bed and suffered the consequences, and one has fallen off a mule.
The pope’s role was almost certainly a death sentence for nearly 300 years. Of the first 31 popes, 28 42 of the 266 popes who have lived have passed away before their natural death. Numerous people have died as martyrs for their faith; others have been driven out of the church by rival groups; some have been caught in the wrong bed and suffered the consequences, and one has fallen off a mule.
In the year 64 of the Christian Era, St. Peter, the first pope, was beheaded in Rome. He allegedly requested to be crucified upside down because he felt he didn’t deserve to be executed upright like Jesus. He was brutally assassinated.
The account of the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote the account at least 50 years after the events he described, is, however, the story’s primary source. Some theologians, therefore, doubt the veracity of the story.
After Peter, the Romans skipped a few popes before turning to Clement I (Pope from 88 to 99 CE), when they resumed their murderous behavior. He was placed in a quarry with other criminals to break stones by Emperor Trajan.
He is said to have quenched the thirst of the thirsty men by striking the earth with an ax, revealing a spring. Many prisoners converted to Christianity, which greatly infuriated the Romans. Clement was thrown into the Black Sea while being tied to an anchor.
Fourteen popes between the years 106 and 253 are counted as martyrs under Roman law. All of them have since been declared saints.
Emperor Valerian’s soldiers broke into Pope Stephen I’s church while he was saying mass in 257 and beheaded him. He was sitting in a blood-stained chair, which was still visible. Pope Sixtus II experienced the same fate a year later.
Following Sixtus, eight additional popes are listed as martyrs. The records of the lives of these early popes are, at best, hazy, so it is best to take everything with a grain of salt. (Source: Grunge)