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Stephen VII (VIII) - The Cluniac Movement

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Illumination of Stephen VII (VIII)A Greek writer of the twelfth century at a time when Constantinople was in schism, brought a remarkable accusation against Pope Stephen VIII, an accusation which, if true, makes this pontiff a pioneer in clerical appearances. According to this hirsute Greek, Pope Stephen VIII was "the first pope who was shameless enough to shave himself and to order the rest of Italy to do likewise."

Stephen VIII was a Roman, the son of Teudemund. He was cardinal-priest of St. Anastasia. Nothing is known of the circumstances of his election, and not much more about his brief papal career. His memory survives in the privileges he granted to several monasteries in Italy and France. Although it was in 910 in the pontificate of Sergius III that it was founded, and it was from Pope John X that it received papal protection, it can be mentioned here that by now the great monastery of Cluny was quietly at prayer and work. In 910 William the Pious, duke of Aquitaine founded this abbey for the good of the souls of his late King Eudes, of his parents and his servants.

At the time of Stephen VIII, St. Odo was abbot. This Benedictine monastery, Cluny, was to reorganize Benedictine monasticism and from Cluny would come spiritual leaders who would do much to start the great renaissance in the eleventh century Stephen VIII seems to have been a virtuous man whose pontificate passed peacefully. He died sometime in the early part of 931. 

Excerpted from "Popes Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.


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