A Greek writer of the twelfth century at a time when
Constantinople was in schism, brought a remarkable accusation against Pope
Stephen VIII, an accusation which, if true, makes this pontiff a pioneer in
clerical appearances. According to this hirsute Greek, Pope Stephen VIII was
"the first pope who was shameless enough to shave himself and to order the rest
of Italy to do likewise."
Stephen VIII was a Roman, the son of Teudemund. He was
cardinal-priest of St. Anastasia. Nothing is known of the circumstances of his
election, and not much more about his brief papal career. His memory survives in
the privileges he granted to several monasteries in Italy and France. Although
it was in 910 in the pontificate of Sergius III that it was founded, and it was
from Pope John X that it received papal protection, it can be mentioned here
that by now the great monastery of Cluny was quietly at prayer and work. In 910
William the Pious, duke of Aquitaine founded this abbey for the good of the
souls of his late King Eudes, of his parents and his servants.
At the time of Stephen VIII, St. Odo was abbot. This Benedictine
monastery, Cluny, was to reorganize Benedictine monasticism and from Cluny would
come spiritual leaders who would do much to start the great renaissance in the
eleventh century Stephen VIII seems to have been a virtuous man whose
pontificate passed peacefully. He died sometime in the early part of 931.
Excerpted from "Popes
Through the Ages" by Joseph Brusher, S.J.