Pope John IX was the first pope in a while to last a whole year. He lasted almost two.

Born in Tivoli, 30 km from Rome, the son of Rampoaldo, John was born around 840 AD. Little is heard of him until he became a Benedictine monk, then was ordained a priest by Pope Formosus, then named a Cardinal-deacon around 893.

With popes apparently dying left and right every few months, the Holy Roman Empire torn by conflict and politicians trying to win what they could, Italy was in conflict. Lambert, the teenaged Duke of Spoleto, supported John at the time of the sudden death (yet again) of Pope Theodore II just before Christmas 897. The young duke, crowned emperor by Formosus, would support whoever accepted his claim to the throne. John’s rival was Sergius, who was driven from the city and excommunicated when John was elected.

John, considered intelligent and moderate, had the coal of diminishing the violence of the factions in Rome. He planned to do this by having synods in various places to establish the norms of the papacy. His synods confirmed the judgement of Pope Theodore II to give the deceased Pope Formosus a Christian burial. The records of the synod where Pope Stephen VI condemned Formosus were to be burned. The reordinations of all the priests and bishops who were deposed during Stephen’s rule were forbidden. They were simply given back the ranks they had attained. In condemnation of a disgusting custom, the plundering of palaces of recently deceased bishops and popes, both the religious and the secular rulers solved a massive problem.

The Moravians (West Slavic/Czech ethnicity) requested a hierarchy of their ethnicity, rather than German bishops. Despite a writing campaign by the German hierarchy, John sanctioned a metropolitan bishop (archbishop) and three more bishops of Moravian ethnicity to reign over those people.

John was concerned about the faltering relationship between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy. His goal was to cement ties between the two. For this, he had to give full support to Lambert of Spoleto, who had supported him in the election, against Amulf of Carinthia, the disputed Holy Roman Emperor, and Berenger of Friuli, King of Italy, Amulf’s vassal. John convinced the synod council to agree that any papal consecration had to be attended by imperial legates. This was thought to mend cracks in the relationships. It might have worked, if Lambert had not died after fighting an ally of Berenger at the important battle of Mareno in 898. He may have been murdered or he may have just fallen off his horse. We will never know. After a cessation in the violence, the Italian kingdom was thrust into chaos once again.

Pope John died around the beginning of 900 and was buried somewhere near St. Peter’s Basilica. And the papacy was plunged into intrigue once more.