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Pope Stephen (III) IV

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Born about 720; died 1 or 3 August, 772. Paul I was not dead when trouble began about the election of his successor. Toto of Nepi with a body of Tuscans burst into Rome, and, despite the opposition of the primicerius Christopher, forcibly intruded his brother Constantine, a layman, into the chair of Peter (June, 767). In the spring of 768, however, Christopher and his son Sergius contrived to escape from the city, and with the aid of the Lombards deposed the usurper. They were also able to overthrow the monk Philip, whom some of their Lombard allies had clandestinely elected pope. By their efforts Stephen, a Sicilian, the son of Olivus, was at length canonically elected and consecrated (7 August, 768). He had been a Benedictine monk, and had been ordained priest by Pope Zachary. After his consecration the antipopes were treated with the greatest cruelty which, it seems to be generally allowed, Stephen was unable to hinder. To prevent the recurrence of such an election as that of Constantine, the Lateran council forbade laymen to be elected popes or to take part in their election for the future. Only cardinals were to be chosen popes (April, 769). Through Stephen's support the archdeacon Leo was enabled to hold the See of Ravenna against a lay intruder, and in turn through the support of the brothers Charlemagne and Carloman, Kings of the Franks, Stephen was able to recover some territories from the Lombards. But their king, Desiderius, managed to strike two serious blows at Stephen. He brought about a marriage between his daughter and Charlemagne, and in some mysterious manner effected the fall of the pope's chief ministers, Christopher and Sergius. He also allied himself with Paul Afiarta, Stephen's chamberlain, who practised great cruelties when the pope lay dying. Desiderius also brought about trouble in Istria by trying to cause a schism against the Patriarch of Grado, but Stephen defended the patriarch promising him even armed support if necessary. Stephen is honoured as saint in some Martyrologies.


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