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Sergius Rome (0860 - 0911)

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Sergius (Pope Sergius III) Rome
Born [location unknown]
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Church of St. Peter, Romemap
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Categories: Popes.

Pope Sergius III

Sergius’ ties with the family of Theophylact were made even closer, at least according to rumour, by Sergius’ supposed affair with Theophylact’s daughter, Marozia. This relationship was promoted by Marozia’s mother, Theodora, and the result of this affair was a male child who became Pope John XI (931–935).

The only source of this affair is the chronicler Liutprand of Cremona, writing some 50 years after the events of Sergius’ pontificate. Neither:

  • Auxilius of Naples
  • nor Eugenius Vulgarius,

both exact contemporaries of Sergius, and both hostile towards Sergius for his attacks on Formosus, mention this allegation at all.

The affair, while not impossible, would not have persisted beyond Marozia’s marriage to Alberic I of Spoleto in 909.

The question of whether Theophylact and Theodora needed to tie Sergius to them by such means, particularly when Sergius was already deeply indebted to them for his elevation to the papacy, as well as wasting Marozia in a relationship when, as the daughter of an important house, she would have been a valuable tool to link via marriage to another noble house, is open to debate.

The birth of the future John XI in 910, after her marriage to Alberic, would seem to indicate that Sergius was not the father. However, it was highly unusual that the eldest son of a noble house would be destined for a career in the church, instead of inheriting his father’s title.

That the younger brother Alberic took his father’s place as duke of Spoleto, suggests the possibility that the elder brother John was illegitimate, with Sergius being the most likely candidate for his father.[1]

The paternity of John XI is still a matter of dispute. His mother was certainly Marozia, the most powerful woman in Rome.

According to Liutprand of Cremona (Antapodosis, ii. c. 48) and the "Liber Pontificalis," his father was Pope Sergius III (904–911),[2]

  • Ferdinand Gregorovius,
  • Ernst Dümmler
  • Thomas Greenwood[3],
  • Philip Schaff,
  • and Rudolf Baxmann

agree with Liutprand that Pope Sergius III fathered Pope John XI.

If that is true, John XI would be the only known illegitimate son of a Pope to have become Pope himself. (Silverius was the legitimate son of Pope Hormisdas).

On the other hand,

  • Horace Kinder Mann,[4]
  • Reginald L. Poole, Peter Llewelyn (Rome in the Dark Ages),
  • Karl Josef von Hefele,
  • August Friedrich Gfrörer,
  • Ludovico Antonio Muratori,
  • and Francis Patrick Kenrick

maintain that Pope John XI was sired by Alberic I of Spoleto, Count of Tusculum.[5]


  1. Wikipedia: Pope Sergius III
  2. ("Johannes, natione Romanus ex patre Sergio papa," "Liber Pont." ed. Duchesne, II, 243).
  3. (Cathedra Petri: A Political History of the great Latin Patriarchate)
  4. "Sergius at once declared the ordinations conferred by Formosus null; but that he put his two predecessors to death, and by illicit relations with Marozia had a son, who was afterwards John XI, must be regarded as highly doubtful. These assertions are only made by bitter or ill-informed adversaries, and are inconsistent with what is said of him by respectable contemporaries [such as Flodoard]." Mann, Horace Kinder (1912), "Sergius III", The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company) XIII, retrieved 2008-01-06
  5. Wikipedia: Pope John XI

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Pope Sergius III is 39 degrees from Rosa Parks, 36 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 27 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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