Counts of Tusculum Family Tree
during the pornacracy of the 10th
and 11th centuries showing members
of the family who held the papacy.
In 747 the English bishops held a synod at the instance of Pope Zacharias and a second synod held forty years later was presided over by two papal legates. That same year Pope Adrian elevated the See of Lichfield to Archiepiscopal status at the request of King Offa of Mercia. Leo III, in 803, reduced Lichfield to the status of an ordinary diocese, leaving Canterbury and York as the only metropolitan sees.
Alfred the Great, the King who drove out the Danish invaders and united the diverse Saxon kingdoms at the end of the ninth century had a strong devotion to the Church in his realm and supported the distribution of the Regula Pastoralis of Pope Saint Gregory the Great to his bishops for the formation of their clergy. Alfred also restored the payment of the Peter’s Pence. Nevertheless, I think it is important to distinguish between the King’s support of the Church and his support of the papacy itself. Alfred’s prime interest was in the reform of the Church in his kingdom, most notably in the restoration of the monasteries after the Danish invasion and in improving the education and morals of the clergy which he saw as vital to the educational and cultural improvements of his kingdom.
Despite the corruption of the papacy at this time several Archbishops of Canterbury, most notably Wulfhelm, Aelfsige, and St.Dunstan made the journey to Rome to receive it personally. The other Archbishops did not make the journey but had the pallium sent to them. Pope Formosus had sent the pallium to Archbishop Plegmund (archbishop 890-923) and when Sergius III annulled the ordinations and appointments of Formosus, Plegmund had to make the journey to Rome to beg its new grant. Sergius III was the pope whose mistress was Marozia during the so called pornocracy and Sergius was the father of John XI by Marozia. Plegmund was not the only Archbishop of Cantrbury to be exposed to the moral sludge of the papal court. Saint Dunstan journeyed to Rome in 960 and received the pallium from John XII—perhaps the most immoral man to have ever sat in the Chair of Peter. John XII was the grandson of the aforementioned Marozia by her first husband, Alberic of Spoleto. Luitprand of Cremona, the historian, alleges that John had turned the papal palace “into a whorehouse.” John was to meet his end at the hands of a jealous husband—one of scores whom he had cuckolded. In addition to his sexual proclivities, John was given to hunting, gambling, and drinking bouts while at the same time ignoring his sacred duties as Pope. One can only wonder what men like Dunstan thought when they came to the papal court though it does permit us to see that the English were able to have a deep and lasting devotion to Saint Peter while distinguishing the Prince of the Apostles from his unholy successors.
In 1015 the Danish Prince Canute invaded England and held the crown from 1016 until his death in 1035. In 1018 he would succeed to the throne of Denmark and 1028 take the crown of Norwary thus building for himself quite an empire. He was a most fervent convert to Christianity and advanced the cause of the Church in all his realms. In 1026 he made a pilgrimage to the Rome of John XIX. He was crowned there as King of the English, Danes, Norwegians and “some of the Swedes.” The purpose of his trip, other than to receive the papal blessing on his empire, was to negotiate with the Emperor about safe passage for English pilgrims going to Rome and to negotiate with the Pope about lowering the fees for which the English Archbishops had to pay to receive the pallium. By the third decade of the eleventh century there was reform in the air in Rome—the Emperors Otto were doing their best to clean up the cesspool of the Roman pornacracy, but the Pope at the time of Canute’s visit was not a reform Pope but a member of that notorious family of the Counts of Tusculum. John does not seem to have led a particularly scandalous life though he was far from pious but Canute would not have been one to scruple at the sexual idiosyncrasies of his peers, however, as he himself lived in open concubinage with several women while married to Emma of Normandy.