The perils of being pontiff – from foul play to fluke accidents
Most modern popes die from natural causes, but Mike Higgins finds this was not always the case
Sunday 17 February 2013
When Pope Benedict XVI surprised the world last Monday by announcing his resignation, he became the first pontiff to do so since 1415. It should be an ordered and dignified exit, but not all of Benedict's 264 predecessors have been so blessed: one study suggests that nearly one in 10 popes have met unnatural ends. These range from collapsing ceilings to, ahem, chronic anal conditions, with executions, starvation and murder all par for the course. The last pope to meet an inglorious end was Pius VI: in 1799, he died in prison after Napoleon's conquest of the Papal states. Happily, since then most popes have passed away in relative peace. Some say there was an attempt to poison John Paul I in 1978 just after the white smoke puffed him in; although he survived initially, he died after 33 days in office.
Founding father of the church (and first pope), crucified by Emperor Nero during Rome's earliest purge of the Christian sect in AD64.
Arrested and exiled to Crimea by the Byzantine emperor Constans, he died of exposure in 655.
Pope for only 20 days after his consecration in 708, he was so disfigured by gout he could no longer eat.
Poisoned then beaten to death with a hammer by a relative in 882.
Remembered for putting the corpse of his predecessor on trial. Steven was strangled in 897.
Reigned for 14 years, but suffocated with a cushion by dissatisfied noblemen in 928.
The illegitimate son of Agapitus II, he became pope aged 18 and died nine years later, in 964, mid-coitus.
Hit by a flying stone in 1145, while attempting to quell an uprising in Rome. He never recovered.
Crushed when a ceiling collapsed on him in 1277.
Allegedly poisoned during treatment to an anal abscess in 1521 – the offical line is he had malaria.
- 1 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 2 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 3 'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
- 4 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 5 HSBC closes bank accounts belonging to Muslim clients in the UK
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK
Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
Drew Barrymore’s sister Jessica found dead in her car surrounded by 'dozens of white pills'
'Women should not laugh in public,' says Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister in morality speech
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >
£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...
£40000 - £70000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Tax Solicitor An excel...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...