One of the strangest and most ghoulish incidents in the history of the papacy was the notorious ‘Cadaver Synod’ held in January 897 CE. It was a dark time, when there was much religious intrigue and popes were regularly murdered by their rivals. It was a time when a rotting corpse was put on trial.
The story began a few years earlier, during the reign of Pope John VIII. He was a very anxious and jealous man, who became convinced that one of his bishops, Formosus, was trying to overthrow him and become pope himself. John acted swiftly, accusing Formosus of the serious offence of being a bishop at more than one place at a time and plotting against the papacy. It is unlikely that Formosus had done anything of the kind. Nevertheless, he was found guilty and excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
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