Who are some of the most famous popes?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some Popes were famous not for their good deeds but for their misdeeds. A few examples:

  • John XII, the youngest person to ever be elected Pope. He was seventeen at the time of his election, and only served for eight years. He was more interested in chasing women than performing Papal duties; in fact he died while in bed with another man's wife. His other claim to fame: He crowned Otto I as Holy Roman Emperor, thereby founding the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Rodrigo Borgia, also Pope Alexander VI, who never took his vows of celibacy seriously. He in fact raised his two children, Cesare and Lucretia Borgia in the Vatican. His other claim to fame is that he drew the famous Line of Demarcation that divided the new world between Spain and Portugal. As a result of his line, Brazil was and is Portuguese in culture.
  • Celestius V, the hermit Pope, who ultimately resigned when tricked into doing so by the future Pope Boniface VIII. He is famous as the only Pope to leave office alive.
  • Leo III, who got himself into a jam with some of the leading Roman families and needed Charlemagne to extricate him. In return, he crowned Charlemagne "Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day, 800 C.E.

Not all Popes were good, but out of over fourteen hundred, there must be some bad apples.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps the most famous pope, if you accept that he was a pope, is Saint Peter.  Catholics believe that he was appointed as the first pope by Jesus himself.  This, to Catholics, means that the papacy stretches all the way back to Jesus.

Another famous pope was Urban II.  He was the pope who called for the First Crusade.  This was in the late 1000s.  In Renaissance times, popes became very concerned with worldly power rather than spiritual power.  A pope who was famous in this way was Julius II.  He was the only pope who led armies into battle as a temporal leader.

Two modern popes who have been important are John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  John XXIII is important because he called the Second Vatican Council.  This council modernized the Church in very important ways such as having Mass said in the vernacular.  For historical purposes, John Paul II was important mostly because he was Polish and his becoming pope helped to end communism in Poland, which in turn helped to end the Cold War.


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