Cadaver Synod - Is this for real?


The Cadaver Synod (also called the Cadaver Trial or, in Latin, the Synodus Horrenda) is the name commonly given to the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January of 897.[1]

Before the proceedings the body of Formosus was exhumed and, according to some sources, seated on a throne while his successor, Pope Stephen VI, read the charges against him (to which Formosus was found guilty) and conducted the trial. The Cadaver Synod is remembered as one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the medieval papacy.

January of 897, Stephen VI ordered that the body of his predecessor Formosus be removed from its tomb and brought to the papal court for judgement.

Formosus was accused of transmigrating sees in violation of canon law, of perjury, and of serving as a bishop while actually a layman. Liutprand and other sources say that Stephen had the body stripped of its papal vestments, cut off the three fingers of his right hand used for benedictions, and declared all of his acts and ordinations (including his ordination of Stephen VI as bishop of Anagni) invalid. The body was finally interred in a graveyard for foreigners, only to be dug up once again, tied to weights, and cast into the Tiber.

The more research I do, the more stuff I need to refute. Is this for real or is this a joke?


I should have kept searching…this is unreal.

Do most catholic apologists know about this?


I don’t understand what you “need to refute”. The world in the 800 was completely different than now.

Really, I don’t understand what they did that was wrong especially if he was in herasy. Now, I am not saying we should do it like they did from any means. If he was found guilty, we stand by that now, but we are a body, not everything we do is completely perfect, but the western world in 2007 wouldn’t do it like this, but they did back then.


In 800 the world was different than it is now. But God isn’t.

They tried - put on trail - a dead guy. Dug him up, put him on the stand…

That is weird.


So? What effect does it have upon the credibility of the Church as the whole?


Oh, yes, I completely agree. What I don’t agree with is that you feel you have to ‘refute’ it.

And this God doesn’t change thing. That really has nothing to do with this. This was a human action. A human action that people back in the 800 approved of, just like chopping off peoples heads.

BTW, with the whole God doesn’t change thing, that’s why I am Catholic, the only christian church that has been here since Jesus’s time. (Any “refute” of this, I will not entertain, because it is not historicly correct that any other christian faith was here before catholics. History is History)


So what… N-Cs burned supposed witches and tortured them.

I’m not gonna waste my time on worrying about something somebody did in the 9th century that in no way affected the faith and morals of the rest of the Church. :rolleyes:

If you have nothing better to do than wander the net looking for weird junk to ask “Do most catholic apologists know about this?”, then you need to check your motivations and find a better use for your time.

The better question really is.
“Could anyone today care much less about this petty bit of Catholic historical trivia?”

I sure don’t. Get a life Simon…:juggle:

I fully agree with you! :thumbsup:


Hear, hear!



If this happened last year would you care? I found this shocking myself. I surf the web like everyone else - when I came upon this I thought it was a joke.

But I guess not.


Yeah… Simon…that’s the name you used to sign your posts with awhile back, did you forget?

It didn’t happen last year though. It happen [size=][FONT=“Palatino Linotype”]1200 years ago and doesn’t affect one single aspect of faith and morals of the Church.

It’s a weird piece of historical trivia that has no meaning to anyone but you…and that only because you run around looking for any little thing to try to impune the Catholic faith, and this IMO just makes you look petty.

It needs no “refutation”…it happened…so what? If this is all you can find to hassle Catholics with I think you need to consider just how bad it makes you look.

Because it does…[/FONT][/size]


Not sure how much the people approved it?

The people of Rome imprisoned Pope Stephen VI and then had him strangled.


I expect that they dug him up because even back then, they believed it was unfair to try a person unless they were present. And they really felt like the issue needed to be dealt with.

It may have been very healthy for the community to deal with the issue, instead of burying it with the dead guy. So, when you think about it…not so weird.

Today, many folks sit at the grave of someone and talk to them, or write a letter to a dead person, saying all the things they didn’t have guts or opportunity to say. It’s healing.

when someone important does something awful, and then dies before it can be sorted out…all the anger, frustration, etc in the community can become like a cancer. Digging up the body (a big deal to break the seal of a consecrated grave) and making the person “stand trial”, may have kept some other ugly stuff from happening. It may have been the fairest, most satisfying way they knew to clear the air and move on.


From Wikipedia…

Pope Stephen VI (d. August, 897) was Pope from May 22, 896 to August 897.

He had been made bishop of Anagni by Pope Formosus. The circumstances of his election are unclear, but he was sponsored by one of the powerful Roman families, the house of Spoleto, that contested the papacy at the time.

Stephen is chiefly remembered in connection with his conduct towards the remains of Pope Formosus, his last predecessor but one. Doubtless under pressure from the Spoleto contingent, and fueled by Stephen’s fury with his predecessor, the rotting corpse of Formosus was exhumed and put on trial, in the so-called Cadaver Synod (or Synodus Horrenda), in January 897. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff, who was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop when he had been deposed and for receiving the pontificate while he was the bishop of Porto, among other revived charges that had been leveled against Formosus in the strife during the pontificate of John VIII. The corpse was found guilty, stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of three fingers of its right hand (the blessing fingers), clad in the garb of a layman, and quickly buried; it was then re-exhumed and thrown in the Tiber. All ordinations performed by Formosus were annulled.

The trial excited a tumult. Though the instigators of the deed may actually have been Formosus’ enemies, Lambert of Spoleto and his mother Ageltruda, who had recovered their authority in Rome at the beginning of 897 by renouncing their broader claims in central Italy, the scandal ended in Stephen’s imprisonment and his death by strangling that summer.

Unverified sources claim that during the Cadaver Synod, the unhinged young Pope demanded of the fully-uniformed corpse: “Why did you usurp this See of the Apostle?” Whereat a young deacon crouching nearby shouted, “Because I was evil.”

I am not sure what an apologist needs to address here, short of a direct claim being made about the implication of this episode.

More clearly, he may have been crazy, he may have been odd, but his actions neither add to the arguments against the nature of the papacy or detract from the claims for it.

Catholics aren’t called to believe in papal impecability. If and one someone brings forth sad episodes like these, I usually find they are doing so in the context of trying to point to such episodes in and of themselves as an argument against infailability.

How do I respond to this? I say it is sad, and then I think how funny it might be in a Mel Brooks movie.


Good thing we still care about the death and resurection of our Saviour Jesus Christ

Even though that was some 2000+/-(give or take) years ago.


If it happened today, it wouldn’t shake my faith in the Church. I am under no obligation to make an apology for all the various misdeeds of the Catholics who preceded me.



If you’re going to troll, do so in a factually accurate way. Christ was crucified less than 2,000 years ago.



I stand corrected.


A non-response…and a totally unrelated and irrelevant inference.

Did you have something of value or consequence to discuss or is this all you could find to try to bash the Catholic Church on?

This kinda makes you look like someone with an agenda who isn’t honestly seeking to discuss or dialog about the Catholic faith.


I guess not. This hit me like a ton of bricks and it bothered/s me. I guess it doesn’t to you and others that is fine. I just never heard of such a thing. What next?


Makes you kind of wonder…submit to him?

“…We declare, state and define that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all human beings that they submit to the Roman Pontiff [pope].”


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