had what was probably the most unusual name of any of the long line of St.
Peter's successors. Before his election to the papacy, Sergius was known as
Peter Pig's Mouth!
Peter Pig's Mouth ( Buccaporca ) was born of a poor family in
the Pina district of Rome. His father, likewise named Peter, was a shoemaker.
His humble origin did not prevent Peter from rising in the ranks of the Church.
A pious and intelligent young man, he rose to be cardinal-bishop of Albano in
1004 and in 1009 he was elected pope. He was enthroned under the name of Sergius
IV. In 1010 Christendom was deeply moved by the news from the East that the
fanatical caliph of Egypt, El Hakim, had destroyed the Church of the Holy
Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
This vandalism had two effects in the West; one bad and one
good. The bad one was that the Jews were attacked because of rumors that they
had incited El Hakim to act against the Christians. This was quite probably
false for that madman mixed up Jews and Christians in his violent vagaries. The
good result was that devotion to the Holy Sepulcher of Christ grew and
pilgrimages increased as a reaction to the horrifying news. Pope Sergius, if a
bull attributed to him be authentic, called on the kings and princes of the West
to drive the Saracens out of the Holy Land. Whether or not the bull is
authentic, the crusading idea is beginning to show signs of life.
Sergius continued the policy of his predecessors in exempting
monasteries from episcopal control. At Rome he evidently chafed under the yoke
of the Patrician Crescentius, for there is evidence that the Pope was working to
foster an imperialist party. Indeed an old twelfth-century chronicle of the
counts of Anjou has a curious account of how Crescentius met his death.
According to this chronicle when the fierce Count Fulk the Black was passing
through Rome on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Sergius IV complained to him
about the evil deeds of Crescentius. Thereupon the redoubtable Angevin, without
much ado, had the Patrician shot down by his archers. An interesting story, but
definitely not true. Crescentius, though he died at this time, did not perish at
the hands of Angevin archers. But the story does reflect the tension between
Pope and Patrician. When a famine hit Rome, Sergius showed himself to be a true
shepherd of his flock and worked devotedly to help his hungry people.
Sergius IV died on May 12, 1012. He is buried in the Lateran.
Though not canonized, Sergius is venerated as a saint by the Benedictines.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.