Pope Leo VI ruled briefly during a time referred to as the saeculum obsurum. This time began in 904AD, with the coronation of Pope Sergius and continued until 964, with the death of Pope John XII. This was a time when the work of the popes was influenced by the corrupt Theophylacti family. Historians have named the time such because it was a period of papal immorality according to Cardinal Baronius in the sixteenth century. His main source of information was Bishop Ciutprand of Cremona, a contemporary of these earlier popes. Unfortunately, Protestants extended the insults to refer to the time as “pornocracy”, “hataerocracy” (government of mistresses) and “Rule of Harlots” by the nineteenth century.

Leo VI was the third pope of this dynasty. He was a native Roman, born into the Sanguini family, by tradition. His father, Christophorus, was the prime minister to Pope John VIII, around 876. In 916, Leo became the cardinal priest for the parish of Santa Susanna on Quirinal Hill in Rome. He remained there until he was elected in 928.

His raise to the papacy was due to Senatrix Marozia who, with her husband, Guy of Tuscany, took over the rule of Rome after the death of her father, Theophylact in 924/925. They imprisoned Pope John X. Apparently, John was not content with being dictated. Marozia, then, put Leo on the throne. For the most part, Leo VI was her puppet .

Leo ruled for seven months and five days. He was able to settle questions of church hierarchy in Dalmatia (a historical part of Croatia), following up on Pope John X’s initial work. In an attempt to solve the political and hierarchical problems in Dalmatia, there were two councils in Split. One in 925, under John X, and one in 928, starting with John and finishing with Leo. The second council confirmed the conclusions of the first. The diocese of Nin was abolished, based on its lack of traditional standing. The bishop, Gregory, took the diocese of Skredin, according to the dictates of Leo VI. In completing the investigation of Dalmatia, Leo ordered all of the bishops of Dalmatia to obey the new archbishop of Salona (Split). Then he ordered all the bishops of Croatia to be satisfied with the size of their dioceses and stop trying to expand them. There is an extant bull recording all that.

An interesting law he passed forbade castrated men from marrying.

The Saracens were still dangerous to the Italian countryside, despite their rout in the previous years. The Byzantines still clung to southern Italy, the toe and heel of the “boot”. Leo VI needed and asked for help, again, against the Arab raiders. Not only were they clinging to bits of the mainland, themselves, but they held on to Malta and Sicily. “Whoever died faithful in this struggle will not see himself refused entry into the heavenly kingdom”, Leo promised. 

The historian Flodoard, spoke praises of this pope. Historians claim that Leo reigned seven months and five days, estimating that he died in February, 929. Whether it was natural or revenge, we do not know. He is said to have been buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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