Antipope Boniface VII (Franco Ferrucci), was an antipope (974, 984 - 985). He is supposed to have put Pope Benedict VI to death. A popular tumult compelled him to flee to Constantinople in 974; he carried off a vast treasure, and returned in 984 and removed Pope John XIV (983–984) from office. After a brief rule from 984 to 985, he died under suspicious circumstances.
Boniface VII was not yet considered an antipope when the next pope of that same regnal name was elected.
Pope John XIII, born Giovanni Crescentius, of the powerful Roman Crescentii family, died on 6 September 972. Benedictus was the proposed candidate of the Imperial party, while the Nationalist party, led by the Crescentii, supported Franco. Benedictus was consecrated as Pope Benedict VI on January 19, 973, even though he lacked the support of much of the Roman aristocracy. On May 7, 973, Otto the Great died, and the youthful Otto II took over. Otto II's preoccupation with events in Germany created an opportunity for the Roman aristocracy to rebel against the imperial administration.
Crescentius, brother of the late Pope John XIII, led an insurrection and with the help of many unhappy Romans, kidnapped Pope Benedict VI. They imprisoned him in Castel Sant’Angelo for nearly two months. In July 974 Franco assumed the papacy as Boniface VII. Although Otto II, who supported Pope Benedict VI, was still fighting in Bavaria, and could not make it to Rome, he sent Count Sicco, an imperial envoy from Spoleto, to demand the pope’s release. When Sicco arrived at Castel Sant’Angelo, a priest named Stephen strangled Benedict VI. There is a chance that Franco could have made the demand of having Benedict strangled, but it is not known for certain.
Boniface VII's first papal reign was a short one. In one month and twelve days, the imperial representative Count Sicco had taken possession of the city. As riots and chaos ensued, Boniface VII took refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo where he robbed the treasury of the Vatican Basilica and fled to Byzantine territory in southern Italy. The fact that he fled to Constantinople, where he received protection, makes it probable that his rise to papacy might have been associated with the policy of the Greek Emperor, who at this time was pushing to displace the German influence in Salerno. The banishment of the antipope must have been the work of the German party, which were again triumphant in Rome, led by Pandulf the Ironhead. Boniface VII is described as a monster by contemporaries, who stated that he was stained by the blood of Benedict VI. The events of this period in Rome are unfortunately only known to us through the insufficient notices, and we are barely aware of the rise of Boniface VII before we hear of his overthrow.
Peter of Pavia, Otto II's imperial chancellor for the Kingdom of Italy, was elected pope, taking the name of John XIV. However, shortly after the election, the Emperor fell seriously ill and died on December 7, 983. With Otto II's heir being only age three, the people of Rome finally felt free from the hated emperor and desired a Roman Pope. To this point, Boniface VII saw his opportunity and in league with Greeks and Saracens and headed for Rome in April 984. With the help of both the treasury he had stolen from his first attempt at the papacy as well as the gold of his Greek followers, he was able to strike relationships with several powerful people. With the help of Crescentius’ sons, John and Crescentius II, Boniface had Pope John XIV imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo. Four months later, on August 20 984, John XIV died in Sant’Angelo either due to starvation, poison, or by the order of Boniface.
The death of Pope John XIV meant that Boniface was the only remaining pope, and so he once again took a hold of the papal throne. He still believed himself to be the only rightful pope, and dated back his reign to 974.
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