The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Sergius III (904-911)
907 (III)

(3) 1. GIOVANNI (860-929)

Birth. 860, Tossignano, near Imola, Romagna. Of the Cenzi family. Son of Giovanni. He is also listed as Cencio Cenci; as Centius; as Cenzio Cincius; as Cinthius; as Giovanni da Tossignano; as Joannes III of Bologna; and as Joannes XII of Ravena.

Education. (No information found).

Early life. Ordained a deacon in Bologna. He worked as a deacon in Ravenna and was sent in several missions to Rome.

Episcopate. Elected bishop of Bologna ca. 900; he was not consecrated as such. Promoted to the see of Ravenna at the end of 904 or in 905 (1). Consecrated (no information found). He maintained good relations with Berengario I, king of Italy.

Cardinalate. Presbyter cardinalis of an unknown title in 907 (2). He was elected pope on the demand of the Roman nobility and especially of the influential family of the Teofilatti, signori of Rome, and Teodora, one of its members (3).

Papacy. Elected pope at the end of March or beginning of April 914 (4). Took the name John X. Consecrated on May 15, 914. He possessed an uncommon energy and a clear sense of the state, which allowed him to dominate the political situation of his time in spite of the influence exercised over the papacy by the women of the famous Teofilatti family. For many years, Italy had suffered from the threat of the Saracens, who attacked the Roman duchy, spreading desolation and destroying churches, without the king of Italy and the major feudal lords being able to present an efficient defense. In those circumstance, Pope John X, convinced that to defend Rome and the Church, it was necessary to reinvigorate the empire, offered the imperial crown to the king of Longobard Italy, Berengario, the only one who seemed to deserve it. Accordingly, the pontiff solemnly crowned that monarch as emperor in St. Peter's basilica in 915. Pope John X formed a league with the Roman and Greek emperors and the feudal nobles of northern and southern Italy, especially with the help of Teofilatto and his son-in-law Alberico I, duke of Spoleto, and Count Landolfo of Capua, to combat the Saracen offensive. Having prepared a powerful army and a large fleet, the pope headed his militia and, in spite of Emperor Berengario's absence (he was in the north trying to control a serious tumult), after a fierce battle in Garigliano, in August 915, the Saracens were defeated and the pope returned to Rome with a large bounty. Soon the Italian princes rebelled against Emperor Berengario and called on another foreign prince, Rodolphe de Bourgogne, to offer him the imperial crown. Emperor Berengario sought and obtained the help of the Magyars, who went to Italy and committed atrocities of very kind, burning Pavia and slaughtering its citizens. The Italian feudal nobles attributed responsibility for those acts to the king of Italy (Berengario), and conspired against him. The king was killed by assassins in April 924. When the empire failed, Italy fell into anarchy. In Rome, the situation precipitated due to the intrigues of the nobility, headed by Alberico, of the two Marozias (mother and daughter) and of Ermengarda, most ambitious woman, who through vices and delicts, conspired against other feudal lords for the control of Rome. For two years, Pope John X managed to cope with the increasing number of riots that broke out between the military of the Roman factions, with the help offered by his brother Peter, who in the battle of Orte, against Alberico, had commanded the papal troops. In 926, the pope, trying to secure his position, made a pact with Hugues de Provence, new king of Italy. The pope also worked closely with his own brother Pietro, who became an increasingly powerful force. These decisions worried Senatrix Marozia, Teofilatto's daughter and since his death all-powerful ruler of Rome, and her new husband Marquis Guido da Tuscany. They organized a revolt against Pope John and his brother, spreading the rumor that in reality it had been Pietro who had brought the Magyars into Italy. Toward the end of 927, the faction of Marozia provoked a violent popular uprising against the pope, who, unable to defend Lateran patriarchy against the invasion of the mob and having seen his brother Pietro killed in the attack, was forced to surrender and was taken prisoner and locked up in Castello Sant'Angelo in May 928. He concluded the reconstruction of the Lateran basilica and patriarchy, which had been started by Pope Sergius III because it had been destroyed in the earthquake of 896. He tried to reform monasticism and confirmed the severe rule of the monastery of Cluny. He confirmed privileges granted to the monasteries of Fulda, San Gallo e Subiaco; and rebuilt the abbey of Montecassino, after its destruction by the Saracens. Pope John X, energetic and conciliatory at the same time, solved a small schism that occurred in the see of Narbonne in 915; and in 920, a similar situation in the see of Louvain. He intervened with caution in the Byzantine controversy, limiting himself to giving his legates the charge of solving the discord. In 923, the papal legates were able to restore unity with the Eastern Church, which had been broken since 912 when Patriarch Nicolas I, unhappy because the pope had recognized Emperor Leon VI's fourth marriage and had declined to retract that decision, took out the name of the pontiff from the diptychs of the Eastern Church. Supporter of the Latin rite, he exhorted the bishops of Dalmatia to abandon the use of the Slavic language and to reconcile with the Croats. He created four cardinals in three promotions. He saw two popes, Leo VI and Stephen VII (VIII), succeed him.

Death. July 2, 929, murdered, probably suffocated with a pillow, in Castello Sant'Angelo, Rome. Buried in the portico of the Lateran basilica, between the two doors, towards the south (5). After the fire of 1308, the papal tombs in the Lateran basilica were opened and the remains were placed in a polyandrum inside the building in the first right nave. The epigraph of the sepulchre of Pope Sylvester II was placed on the polyandrum. The existence of the papal common sepulchre was recognized in 1648, during the Baroque re-facing of the basilica.

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 73-75; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiae usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. Alphonsi Ciaconii Ord. Praed. & aliorum opera descriptæ : cum uberrimis notis. Ab Augustino Oldoino, Soc. Jesu recognitae, et ad quatuor tomos ingenti ubique rerum accessione productae. Additis Pontificum recentiorum imaginibus, & Cardinalium insignibus, plurimisque aeneis figuris, cum indicibus locupletissimis. Romæ : P. et A. De Rubeis, 1677, I, col. 694, no. II; and 697-700; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. XL and 286; "Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 155, no. 3; Gams, Pius Bonifatius. Series episcoporum Ecclesiae catholicae. 3 v. in 1. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1957, p. 675 and 717; Gnocchi, Claudia. "Giovanni X." Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, II, 65-68; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 121-122; Le Liber pontificalis. Paris : E. de Boccard, 1981, 1955. 3 v. : facsims. (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome). Notes: Reprint of the 1955 edition./ Includes indexes./ Vol. 3: "Additions et corrections de L. Duchesne publiées par Cyrille Vogel ... avec L'Histoire du Liber pontificalis dupuis l'édition de L. Duchesne une bibliographie et des tables générales, II, XVIII, LXXVI, 240-2418; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 152-153; Petruzzi, Caterina. "Giovanni X, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 535-536; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 70-71; Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab conditio Ecclesia. Ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956. 2 v. Reprint. Originally published : Lipsiae : Veit et comp., 1885-1888. Original t.p. included : Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia : ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Editionem secundam correctam et auctam edidit Philippus Jaffè ; auspiciis Gulielmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, I, 449-453.

Webgraphy. Biography by Claudia Gnocchi, in Italian, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 55 (2001), Treccani; biography by Johann Peter Kirsch, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; biography, in English, Encyclopaedia Britannica; biography, in English; biography, in English, p. 199, Christian Classics Ethereal Library; his engraving and biography, in English, Wikipedia; biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; biography, in German, Biographisch-Bibliographische Kirchenlexikon; biographies, in German; Giovanni X, pontefice guerriero by Giulio Ferrari, Centro studi Giuseppe Federici - Per una nuova insorgenza, Comunicato n. 92/08 del 30 ottobre 2008, San Ponziano; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; his engraving, iStockphoto; his engraving, in color; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; another engraving, from the same source; another engraving, also from the same source.

(1) Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa, I, pt. 1, 73, says that he was promoted to Ravenna by the influence of Teodora, "femina prostituta e prepotente", who was "perdutamente invaghita" of him.
(2) This is according to Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium, I, col. 94, no. II; and Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa, I, pt. 1, 73. Cristofori, Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa, p. 286, says that he was created cardinal deacon and that his deaconry is not known.
(3) Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, p. 121, says that "Scandalous tongues alleged that Theodora wanted him in Rome because he had been her lover when visiting the city as a deacon, but the real reason for his choice was Rome's desperate need for a vigorous and experienced leader." Petruzzi, "Giovanni X, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente, p. 535, says that the information about the relationship with Teodora, spread by Lituprando, has ben proven to be without historical foundation by recent studies, which have rehabilitated the vigorous figure and the tireless work of Pope John X.
(4) According to Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, p. 121, his translation from one see to another caused protests from the supporters of Pope Formosus. For them, it made no sense Pope Formosus' posthumous condemnation for having moved from one see to another and then accept a similar situation. With the increasing recognition of the unique position of the Holy See, the old canonical objections to a bishop's promotion to it were losing force.
(5) This is the text of his tomb inscription, taken from Reardon, The deaths of the popes , p. 71:


This is the text of his epitaph composed by Flodoard de Reims, taken from the same source:


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