Film and TV

3 Popes Worse Than Rodrigo Borgia

Showtime's The Borgias returns to television for its second season this Sunday. The series, starring Jeremy Irons and directed by Neil Jordan, details the life of Pope Alexander VI, one of the most controversial pontiffs ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter, after his ascendency to power. Season One had him buying the office through bribery, getting involved in assassination, making a noble admit to impotence in public court, and just for fun he spent all season openly banging the white hot Lotte Verbeek because that whole vow of chastity thing seems lame.

Honestly, though, when you stack Borgia up against other men of power in the 15th century, he wasn't really all that bad. Sure, he did as he pleased in regards to sex, and he did have a lot of rivals and enemies killed, imprisoned or run out of town, but you'd be hard pressed to find many other contemporary rulers who didn't have a similar amount of blood on their hands.

Of course, people expect better behavior from the Pope than of lesser authorities...not that we really understand why after doing some research. Some of them were just plain dicks.

3. Stephen VI

If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Stephen VI should have his own revenge-based program on the Food Network. When you pull a dick move so heinous the church has to give it an official Latin name, then feel free to doff your pointy hat and take a bow. That name is Cadaver Synod, literally the Trial of the Dead...or perhaps the name of a kickass metal band. Here's what happened.

One of Stephen's predecessors, Pope Formosus, managed a papacy that lasted less than five years, and it was a crap five years at that. At the mercy of violent political factions, he managed to please practically no one and was probably more than happy to quit the job when death came calling. He wasn't getting off that easily, though.

Egged on by some of Formosus's still-bitter political enemies, Stephen had Formosus dug up, dressed in papal vestments and put him on trial for various technical infractions Formosus had committed when he was the Cardinal Bishop of Portus. The good news is that Stephen allowed Formosus a cleric to answer for his crimes. The bad news is that the cleric's answers were all Catholic versions of "The secrets of Castle Greyskull will be mine! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

Formosus lost the trial, had a few fingers lopped off and was thrown into a river.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner