20 March 2015

The Woman who Ruled the Papacy

The Woman who Ruled the Papacy (Medievalists.net, 9 March 2015)

Born between 890 and 892, she was the daughter of the Roman consul Theophylact, Count of Tusculum, and of Theodora, a senatrix and serenissima vestaratrix of Rome. This couple had risen to dominate Roman politics, and made their share of enemies. One of them was Liudprand of Cremona, a diplomat and historian. He called Theodora a “shameles harlot…whose very mention is most foul, was holding the monarchy of the city of Rome, and not in an unmanly way.”

When Sergius III became Pope in 904 Theophylact and Theodora made sure that their teenage daughter was introduced to the Pontiff – soon Sergius and Marozia were lovers, until she became pregnant and bore him a son named John. For the Pope to have any children was a serious embarrassment, but it probably gave the House of Theophylact political leverage. Meanwhile Marozia was then married off to Alberic I of Spoleto.