Pope Formosus: Dug Up and Put on Trial

Which Pope Was Dug Up and Tried?

Pope Formosus The Dug Up PopeThe incredible story of Pope Formosus who was dug up, and put on trial by an angry, and apparently crazy rival.

Original Air Date: July 3, 2004

Hello and welcome to History Bites, I’m Rick Green.  Most people think our political system produces lousy leaders.

Voters complain that candidates are elected just because they look good, mind you the complainers are the ones who voted these incompetents into power, but if you think our present system of choosing leaders is flawed you should have seen what it was like eleven hundred years ago.

Back then the leaders were the kings, and the Pope’s.  The kings came to power through birth and battle, popes were supposed to be elected, but popes were routinely deposed, imprisoned, or murdered, and sometimes all three to make way for a new candidate.

Probably the most insane event in this tumultuous period was a trial that took place in January of 897, when the current Pope, Stephen the seventh, put one of his papal predecessors on the stand. 

So let’s go back to witness a church trial so strange that it can only be described in three words, perfect for television.

Ron Pardo defends Pope Formosus
Ron Pardo gets ready to defend Pope Formosus.

Parody of The Practice

Thanks for coming Mr. Donelli I realize you’re busy deacon.

I’m always happy to help the Vatican. So what’s this all about?

We want you to defend a certain retired church official in an upcoming case.

What’s the charge?

Charge is perjury, violating Church cannons, and coveting the papacy.

Sounds serious,
who’s the defendant?

The names Formosus.

But didn’t Formosus die like nine months ago?

No seven months.

I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.  Anything you say to me will be privileged and miraculous.

Why did Pope Stephen pick me to represent Formosus? He could he could have chosen any cleric in the Vatican.

You’re a good lawyer and a good Deacon.

I’ve lost my last six cases.

So maybe Pope Stephen wanted to make it seven. 

Yeah, why?

Let me just say when you get in court consider insanity.

Have Formosus plead insanity?

No consider Pope Stephen might be nuts.

History Bites Formosus Editor Ava Green
Ava Green – Editor

TV Guide: Battle of The Network Bishops

From the network that brought you the papal pugilist it’s Battle of the network Bishops,  the fighters with the miters.  See Bishops from the rival factions you love to hate! Duking it out live on tithes per view.
Losers face excommunication and death, the winner will become Pope and get to crown the emperor of Europe. 
You’re a monk, you want to show penitence and suffer for
the sins of the world, but after a day of scribing, reading, farming, tithing, and fasting who has time to show humility?
Wait don’t punish yourself for not punishing yourself, instead get the hair shirt.  This rough itchy fabric works even while you rest.  Slip the hair shirt under your robes and it’s course, itchy fibers work against you, rubbing and chafing continuously, giving you the pain and agony of a true martyr.

So throw out
those whips, spiked chains, and rods, and it’s not just for monks, many Nobles ashamed of their wealth and luxury are ordering the hair shirt too.

Pope Formosus Interview

Mr. Formosus this is my colleague Eleanor Freddie she’s going to be helping me with this case.

Pleased to
meet you.  Well the thing is this Mr. Formosus we are sworn to do the best job we can defending.  The charges here are very serious you could get life, although I suppose for you that would be okay.
Is there any truth to the charges of perjury and coveting the papacy?  If you did commit perjury or covet the papacy it’s in your best interest to tell us.  Look mister Formosus, your ex holiness you’re not making my job any easier here.
Please help us to help you.  Yes?
Okay I think I get the picture here.  If you have a change of heart call me.

Ironically Formosus was a great Pope
but he only survived for a while.  Between the years 896 and 904 there were nine Pope’s, an average of one a year.  One was poisoned and when the poison didn’t work quickly enough they beat his head in with hammers.

Another had his eyes, nose,
lips and hands removed, another died in bed killed, by the jealous husband of the woman he was sinning with, but even in that corrupt atmosphere the trial of Formosus struck most church officials as beyond weird. 

This whole case stinks. S
tarting with your client.  You know these are serious charges but Formosus is not willing to talk. I mean why? He just came back from the grave, you know how few people get that chance?

You think he’s
trying to protect someone?

Maybe. The new
Pope’s prosecutors must know something.
Well they wouldn’t be bringing charges if they didn’t.
You think we should talk to Formosus staff.
Oh I already tried but it didn’t say any more than his body. 
I meant the people who worked for him. 
I don’t get it Mr. Olafsen your dishes always seemed to Sparkle more than my do at home.  How do you get them
so clean?
Shh ancient Viking secret. My husband some hotshot here’s his ancient Viking secret.  New improved Cowgon, it’s number one, literally. Cowgon brand cows urine is  high in ammonia, so it cuts through dirt like a battle ax through a peasant and leaves dishes smelling salty and sweet. Ancient Viking secret ha?

20 20 Parody

Here in Rome they are calling it the trial of the century but
has Madame justice gone too far?  Why would Pope Stephen put a deceased rival on trial?  Is Pope Stephan crazy?  I put these questions to the bones of Saint Andrew
and the reprise I received from these Holly relics in dreams and visions may surprise you.
Did you ever witness Mr. Formosus perjuring himself during his reign as pope? Did you ever see him tell a lie or break a promise?

Oh no no he was a
good man he was very honest you know.
Okay then do you know any reason why these charges might have been brought against him?

No he even wore one of those
hair shirts you know the itchy ones and the monks wear.
Sounds pretty devout, you sure about this? I believe you
and so will the jury.  I no testified no good.  Why not who are you afraid of? Who would be angry to hear that the ex Pope was a pious man? The current Pope.
Rick Green – coming up dead man walking with a little help. In 897 ad Pope Stephen had his dead predecessor Pope Formosus dug up and put on trial.  Now you may think this is madness, I mean the poor guys already had one death sentence, but there was more than personal vengeance involved.

Back then
each papal candidate was backed by a kind of political party groups of nobles who wanted to see their Pope in power.  Stephen belonged to a different party
than Formosus so when he came to power he tried to consolidate his position by discrediting the previous guy. Of course  It’s one thing to dig up the dirt on your opponent it’s another thing to dig up the opponent. 

The Practice Parody

I’ve heard the same story from 20 people Formosus was decent honest intelligent charitable devout and in this day and age it’s incredibly made into Pope.
I’ve just had a little chat with the DA, Devil’s Advocate.  He says Formosus might even be a candidate for sainthood.
Bobby you’ve got to drop this Formosus case Robert I have
a friend high up at the Vatican he said there’s a little problem it’s Pope Stephen.
What about him?
Pope Stephen is the one laying the charges against Formosus, he’s throwing the holy book at him.
But Pope Stephen hired me to defend Formosus.
Because he thinks you’ll lose, Stephen hates Formosus has been for years, they’re huge factional rivalries involved.  Look at these files they show the years of the last six popes came to power.
882, 884, 885, 891, 896 and another one in 896.
If you miss one Pope wait five minutes and another one will come along.
Ever since Pope Leo crowned Charlemagne rival political groups all over Europe will stop at nothing to get their candidate elected Pope.
So their Pope will crown one of their Nobles as Emperor, one hand blesses the other.
Formosus and Stephen were from rival groups. Bobby I think
this whole trial is just an attempt by Pope Stephen to make Formosus look bad.
Believe me he looks bad already.
Okay okay but I was hired to defend Formosus in a court
case and this information doesn’t affect the case.
There’s one more thing the judge in this trial will be Pope Stephen. Bobby you can’t win this case.
She’s right we have to drop it.
I can’t everything I’ve learned tells me Formosus is innocent he’s got all the qualifications for sainthood including good deeds and being dead.

TV Guide

Still unable to flush a bore this boar hunt has become a boring hunt, the woods should be teeming with game, but not today, wait he spotted movement, it’s a poacher, yes, no wonder there’s no game, well he’s got game.

Everybody Loves Raymond Parody

A week ray, you have to publicly announce your wedding one week ahead of time.
Yeah well when my mom hear’s we’re getting married this week will last ten years.
It’s the law Ray to prevent you know accidentally inbreeding
having marital relations with a relation.
I shared a bed with my brother for 15 years trust me no laws
required. I’m just saying whoever came up with this law has a dirty mind.
The law was created by Charlemagne only the greatest leader of the past 500 years. 
Yeah yeah yeah and the Charlemagne have to announce his marriage a week at a time?
No because he knew who his parents were, they were royalty and royalty is already totally inbred.
And in short Pope Stephen I intend to show that the charges against my client are wholly unfounded, thank you that’s holy with the W.
I now calling the counsel for the prosecution to make his opening statement.
Nice work Bobby.
Thank you your honor I will be conducting the prosecution for this case.
Objection your holiness you can’t be prosecution and judge.
Your Honor I believe I can handle both jobs.
Overruled I’m willing to accept the prosecution’s
assurances on this issue Mr. Donelli prosecution will continue.
Yeah thank you your honor.
mm-hmm don’t let it rattle you.
Rick Green:
If you think the trial of Pope Formosus is uncivilized remember that at least it was a trial. As Europe emerged from the dark ages any kind of law and order was
welcomed. Now a century earlier Charlemagne the greatest of the Frankish Kings had conquered and consolidated
most of Western Europe.  He then established and enforced customs and rules to control his empire but after he
United the Franks some of the laws that he had established actually started making France less United.

The Andy Griffith Show Parody

Hey Andy, I’m moving up in the world, I just received an inheritance.
Barney, Hey well now I guess you’ll be moving out of
that little broken-down Hut on down by the swamp.
Oh Oh once I figure out what I’d inherited through all these papers here. Should be quite a spread though oh yeah
my great grandpappy he was the Lord of all Mayburg.
All of Mayburg,  well that’s as far as the eye could see.
He hadn’t divided amongst his twelve sons you know yeah
my grandpappy was one of them. Andy can you read?
Well sure Barney sure, you know a 12th of Mayburg still a 12th of Mayburg is a respectable piece of land.
Of course you know I won’t get the whole 12 because my grandpappy he had 14 sons you know.
Yes sir that that there was the Frankish way to divide it up among the sons.
It’s tradition.
Exactly let’s see that’s 1/14 the 1/12 the Mayburg all comes to me, well me and my brothers.
Your brother’s.
Yeah all 26 of us my Pappy was one busy fella five wives.
I think I’m beginning to guess what he died of.
Well Andy don’t keep me in suspense how much exactly do I end up with?
Well now Barney it looks like here that you’re gonna end up with probably one little broken-down hook beside the

Breaking News

You know you know it used to be that we used to get attacked by Vikings and Poles and Hungarians you never know which people are gonna attack you you
know yeah but that but then all Europe was brought together by Charlemagne and his friends.
Yeah and then of course he divided the kingdom up between all the sudden so now it’s much simpler oh yeah
yeah yeah now we get attacked by Eastern Franks and Western Franks and middle Franks.

Everybody Loves Raymundo

accidentally inbreeding?
you know what it’s like most couples just live together
yeah men get around, you know wives, mistresses, previous marriages, bigamy, bastard children and nobody writes
anything down and if they did nobody else would know how to read it.
Small towns you know sometimes people you know lose track who’s related to who and then people need a few days to figure out if a marriage is okay.  Yeah I mean what
wasn’t your dad remarried twice or something.
yeah yeah and my mom three times.
really yeah Marie was married before? Two husbands died?
Yeah well they actually might have been pretending.
I call the former Pope known as Formosus to the Stand.
Your Honor in light of my clients physical condition he would like to take the fifth.
That is not acceptable Deacon Dinelli your clients testimony is vital to this case.
But my client is incapable of speaking.
If your client doesn’t answer I will take this as an admission of guilt.
Trust me Formosus is not going to talk.
Then you as his counsel will answer on his behalf.
In that case I need more evidence for the defense I’d like to ask for an adjournment.
Deacon Dinelli the defendant has been brought here at great personal inconvenience and expense but his
physical state grows worse by the day but I’m not willing to tolerate further delay.
But how can I answer questions for him I don’t know what he knows.
Deacon Dinelli you were hired by me to represent this man now you will do so.
yes your honor
your holiness
your holiness sorry
Rick Green
Even by medieval standards the trial of Pope Formosus was downright medieval.  The accused man was dead a lowly church deacon was ordered to stand behind the corpse and speak for him.
The judge jury and prosecutor were all Pope Stephen and dozens of church officials had to sit for days on end and
watch Stephen screaming tirades against a young ventriloquist and his dead Pope dummy.
They tried very hard not to interrupt the proceedings and ask what God’s name is going on here?
well-well-well Pope Formosus I hope we are not dragging you away from anything important.
Now did you commit perjury? no.  I’m not asking you I’m asking him.
I was answering for him.
Well is it too much to ask for you to do it in a different voice maybe it may be an old voice?
look this is ridiculous.
fine your honor. yes deacon Dinelli answer in an appropriate manner.
Fine, No I didn’t commit perjury.
and I suppose you also claimed you didn’t covet the papacy.
that’s right.
and yet you became Pope. Could you become Pope without wanting the job?
I don’t know maybe I was the only choice.
and oh no you do know Formosus I know what to up
to making plots down there in hell, plots against me.
You want your old job back don’t you, well it’s not going to happen Formosus admit it. I know what you’ve been doing beyond the grave you have you have your women down there in hell don’t you?
oh and women oh yes oh yes are you down with your wand wasted demon harlets well answer me.
No I don’t  I swear, cross my heart and hope to die.
It’s too late for thatFormosus oh

Dirty Harry Parody

I know what you’re thinking did he give the rack six
turns or only five, well I’ll tell you the truth in all
this torturing I’ve kinda lost track myself.
But being as this is a 44 man stretcher the most powerful rack for torturing in the Christian world, would pull your limbs clean off.  You could ask yourself one question do I feel blessed?
The Lord wouldn’t like us gathering wood here.
Our Lord in heaven wants us to have warmth and shelter.
The Lord who owns these woods doesn’t.
OurLord has nights too and they’ll protect us.
Oh Joey nights don’t battle other nights, they kill unarmed serfs and slaves.  No serfs, no farming, no farming no food, without food the enemy starves.  Its economic warfare.
That’s not honorable.
Maybe, but it works.
Does the defense have anything more to say?
Yes your honor I have not been given the opportunity to
present my case.  This whole trial has been a sham and my client has been found guilty.
Another outburst like that Mr. Dinelli and I will hold you in contempt of God and me! Is that clear?
Yes your honor.
I’m innocent, it’s a bum wrap.
And that goes for you too Formosus.  Well if that’s all I will pass sentence Mr. Formosus I am horrified and disgusted by the facts I have heard presented in this trial.  I have no
alternative but to sentence you to be un-Poped.
All your papal acts will be reversed your Pope blessing fingers will be cut off body will be dumped in the river Tiber.
Rick Green:
After the trial of Formosus it became obvious to all that Pope Stephen the seventh was a 24-karat nutcase.
Within months he was deposed imprisoned and strangled. The Pope who followed, Theodore the 2nd lasted all of twenty days but that was enough time to hold another trial in which the results of the previous trial were declared null and void.
He was followed by John the ninth who also nullified the Formosus trial alas there’s no rest for the Blessed in fact
the next Pope Sergius the third said that Formosus was guilty again, after that everyone kind of lost interest but it proved that even when you’re history, History Bites.
I heard about the Formosus verdict.
I blew it should have called more witnesses, live ones.
If it’s any consolation you won in the court of public opinion, have you seen this morning’s mob? They are furious at the
This could be it for Pope Stephen.
Thanks to you an incompetent Pope has been exposed, it’s just a matter of time before he is punished.
Yeah but thanks to me an innocent corpse lost his fingers
and was sent up the river.