Little as is known of the achievements of Pope Benedict VI, the
somber circumstances of his death throw a baleful light on conditions in tenth-
Benedict VI was a Roman from the Forum district. His father's
name was Hildebrand. At the time of his election, Benedict was cardinal- deacon
of the Church of St. Theodore at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Though elected
shortly after the death of John III in September 972, Benedict was not
consecrated until January 19, 973. This delay was doubtless due to the wait for
Emperor Otto's approval of the election.
Except for a few privileges granted by Benedict, nothing is
known of his rather short pontificate until the events leading to his death.
Otto I died May 7, 973, leaving the throne to his son Otto II, then eighteen
years old. The next year young Otto had to fight a civil war with Henry the
Wrangler, duke of Bavaria. While the young emperor had his hands full in
Germany, some Romans planned a revolution. In 974 Crescentius, a brother of the
late Pope John XIII, and a scheming deacon Boniface Franco, seized control of
the city. Crescentius made himself Patrician; Boniface took over the papacy. He
called himself Boniface VII. Benedict VI was shut up in the Castle of St.
Angelo. When Otto II heard of this outrageous attempt, he sent Count Sicco to
Sicco demanded the release of Pope Benedict, but the
antipope hastened to have the Pope killed. Before Count Sicco could overthrow
the usurpers, a priest named Stephen strangled poor Pope Benedict. Benedict VI
seems to have been a good pope. He was certainly an unfortunate one.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.