1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/John VIII (pope)

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JOHN VIII., pope from 872 to 882, successor of Adrian II., was a Roman by birth. His chief aim during his pontificate was to defend the Roman state and the authority of the Holy See at Rome from the Saracens, and from the nascent feudalism which was represented outside by the dukes of Spoleto and the marquises of Tuscany and within by a party of Roman nobles. Events, however, were so fatally opposed to his designs that no sooner did one of his schemes begin to realize itself in fact than it was shattered by an unlooked-for chance. To obtain an influential alliance against his enemies, he agreed in 875, after death had deprived him of his natural protector, the emperor Louis II., to bestow the imperial crown on Charles the Bald; but that monarch was too much occupied in France to grant him much effectual aid, and about the time of the death of Charles he found it necessary to come to terms with the Saracens, who were only prevented from entering Rome by the promise of an annual tribute. Carloman, the opponent of Charles’s son Louis, soon after invaded northern Italy, and, securing the support of the bishops and counts, demanded from the pope the imperial crown. John attempted to temporize, but Lambert, duke of Spoleto, a partisan of Carloman, whom sickness had recalled to Germany, entered Rome in 878 with an overwhelming force, and for thirty days virtually held John a prisoner in St Peter’s. Lambert was, however, unsuccessful in winning any concession from the pope, who after his withdrawal carried out a previous purpose of going to France. There he presided at the council of Troyes, which promulgated a ban of excommunication against the supporters of Carloman—amongst others Adalbert of Tuscany, Lambert of Spoleto, and Formosus, bishop of Porto, who was afterwards elevated to the papal chair. In 879 John returned to Italy accompanied by Boso, duke of Provence, whom he adopted as his son, and made an unsuccessful attempt to get recognized as king of Italy. In the same year he was compelled to give a promise of his sanction to the claims of Charles the Fat, who received from him the imperial crown in 881. Before this, in order to secure the aid of the Greek emperor against the Saracens, he had agreed to sanction the restoration of Photius to the see of Constantinople, and had withdrawn his consent on finding that he reaped from the concession no substantial benefit. Charles the Fat, partly from unwillingness, partly from natural inability, gave him also no effectual aid, and the last years of John VIII. were spent chiefly in hurling vain anathemas against his various political enemies. According to the annalist of Fulda, he was murdered by members of his household. His successor was Marinus.