Stephen V of Rome

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Stephen V of Rome was the Pope of Rome from 885 to 891. Stephen witnessed the disintegration of the Carolingian Empire during his pontificate as well as the intermittent struggles for the Italian crown. After the death of St. Methodius in 885, Pope Stephen forced all the Slavonic speaking disciples of St. Methodius to leave the area that is now the Czech Republic. Pope Stephen is sometime listed as Stephen VI because the ordinal included a earlier election of a Stephen who died before his consecration as pope but subsequently was declared not a pope at the Vatican II Council.


Born in Rome, the date of Stephen's birth is unknown. His father was named Hadrian. He was from a noble Roman family and received his education from a relative, Bishop Zachary, who was the librarian of the see of Rome. He was appointed a cardinal-priest of the Church of the Santi Quattro Coronati by Pope Marinus I in which position he gained a reputation for holiness, a reputation that helped in his being chosen pope.

Stephen was elected Pope of Rome on May 17, 885, succeeding Pope Adrian III. Although he was consecrated on July 15, he was not accepted by the Holy Roman emperor Charles III the Fat, who sent a legate to depose him. Finding Stephen's election was canonical, Charles acquiesced to Stephen becoming pope.

Following the policy of Pope Nicholas I, Stephen refused to recognize St. Photius as patriarch of Constantinople and asked the Eastern Roman emperor Basil I the Macedonian to depose him. Upon Basil's death, Stephen repeated his request to the succeeding Byzantine emperor Leo VI the Wise, who exiled Photius in 886, as much as from domestic imperial intrigues as religious politics.

In addition to the collapse of the Carolingian Empire Stephen was faced with natural disasters. He was confronted with famine caused by a drought and as well as locusts, and with the papal treasury empty he had to fall back on his father's wealth to aid the poor, to redeem captives, and repair churches.

As the Carolingian Empire dissolved Stephen relied on the support of various and weak princes to protect Rome. Since these forces proved to be unreliable, Stephen turned to Constantinople, begging emperor Leo unsuccessfully for aid as the Saracen raids on Italy increased. At the same time, invasions by Hungarians to the north added to the tumult of the internal wars among the various margraves fighting for the sole rule of Italy.

To promote civil and religious order Stephen adopted Guy III of Spoleto "as his son" and crowned him Holy Roman Emperor on February 21, 891. He had also recognized Louis the Blind as King of Provence. As Archbishop Aurelian of Lyons would not consecrate the canonically elected Teutbold as Bishop of Langres, Stephen himself consecrated him. Additionally, he opposed the arbitrary proceedings of the Archbishops of Bordeaux and Ravenna as well as resisted the attacks Patriarch Photius made on the Holy See.

In the then on-going jurisdictional disputes between the German clergy and the followers of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in the Moravian Church, Stephen endorsed the prohibition on use of the Slavonic liturgy that had been sanctioned earlier by Pope John VIII, and thus favored the Latin speaking German clergy in Moravia.

Pope Stephen died in Rome on September 14, 891.

Succession box:
Stephen V of Rome
Preceded by:
Adrian III
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
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