(Reigned 903-904). Some hold that Christopher, once
Cardinal-Priest of the Title of St. Damasus, a Roman and son of
Leo, was an antipope. But though his manner of taking possession
of the papacy was wholly uncanonical, he appears to have been
subsequently recognized as pope. Hence we find his name included
in all the more or less contemporary catalogues of the popes (Liber
Pontificalis, II, ed. Duchesne; Watterich, Pontificum Romanorum
Vitae, I; and Origines de l'église romaine, I, par les membres
de la communauté de Solesmes, Paris, 1836).
His portrait figures among the other likenesses of the popes
in the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls, at Rome, and among
the frescoes of tenth-century popes painted in the thirteenth
century on the walls of the ancient church of San Pier-in-Grado,
outside Pisa. He was, moreover, acknowledged as pope by his
successors; for, in confirming the privileges of the Abbey of
Corbie in France, St. Leo IX mentioned the preceding grants of
Benedict and Christopher (Jaffe, Regesta RR. Pont., I, n. 4212).
This privilege is the only one of Christopher's acts which is
extant (ibid., 3532, 2d ed.). He became pope by forcibly
dethroning his predecessor,
and putting him into prison, seemingly about October 903. As Leo
appears to have soon died in his prison, Christopher may be
regarded as pope after his death. One writer, indeed, Eugenius
Vulgarius, who was interested in blackening the character of
Sergius III, pretends that he murdered both Leo V and
Christopher. But his evidence is unsatisfactory in itself, and
is opposed to evidence better substantiated.
At this period, however, the darkest ever known in papal
Rome, when its barons were making and unmaking popes at their
pleasure, and when both Italy and Rome were in such a state of
turmoil that men could find no leisure to write history, we have
to grope about in the dark and when we have grasped some detail
we can scarcely tell whether it is fact or fiction. A Greek
eleventh-century document (Mon. Grćca ad Photium pertinent., p.
160, ed. Hergenröther, Ratisbon, 1869) says that Christopher was
the first pope who, in his profession of faith which he sent
according to custom to Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople,
stated that the Holy Ghost proceeded "from the Father and from
the Son". The difficulty in the way of accepting this statement
is that there was no Patriarch Sergius at this time. Christopher
was driven from the Chair of Peter by his successor, Sergius III
(January, 904), and compelled to end his days as a monk
(Chronicle of Hermannus Contractus, ad an. 904), though
Vulgarius says he was strangled in prison [Dümmler, Auxilius und
Vulgarius (Leipzig, 1866), 160, 135].
Excerpted from "Catholic
Encyclopedia" 1910 Ed.