John XI
Bishop of Rome
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy beganMarch 931
Papacy endedDecember 935
PredecessorStephen VII
SuccessorLeo VII
Personal details

DiedDecember 935
Rome, Papal States

Pope John XI (Latin: Ioannes XI; 910 – December 935) was the bishop of Rome and nominal ruler of the Papal States from March 931 to his death. The true ruler of Rome at the time was his mother, Marozia, followed by his brother Alberic II. His pontificate occurred during the period known as Saeculum obscurum.


John was the son of Marozia, the most powerful woman in Rome and the wife of Alberic I at the time of John's birth. According to hostile chronicler Liutprand of Cremona and the Liber Pontificalis, John's father was not Alberic but Marozia's lover Pope Sergius III. However, neither Auxilius of Naples nor Eugenius Vulgarius, both of whom were exact contemporaries of Sergius, and both of whom were hostile towards Sergius for his attacks on Formosus, mention this allegation at all.[1] The highly reliable chronicler Flodoard also refers to John as the brother of Alberic II, and does not mention the allegation either.[2]

Ferdinand Gregorovius,[3] Ernst Dümmler, Thomas Greenwood, Philip Schaff, and Rudolf Baxmann[4] accept Liutprand's account.[5] Horace Kinder Mann considers this story "highly doubtful", highlighting Liutprand's bias.[6] Reginald L. Poole,[7] Peter Llewelyn, Karl Josef von Hefele, August Friedrich Gfrörer,[8] Ludovico Antonio Muratori, and Francis Patrick Kenrick[9] also maintain that Pope John XI was sired by Alberic I of Spoleto.


Marozia was the de facto ruler of Rome at the time and she used her power and influence to ensure that John, who held the titulus of Santa Maria in Trastevere, was elected to the papacy in March 931.[10] Following the overthrow of Marozia and her husband Hugh of Italy around late 932, John XI fell under the control of his brother Alberic II. After being initially imprisoned, he was confined to the Lateran Palace for the remainder of his pontificate.[11] During this time only authority left to John was the exercise of his purely spiritual duties. All other jurisdiction was exercised through Alberic II. This was not only the case in secular, but also in ecclesiastical affairs.[12]

Following the deposition of the Patriarch of Constantinople Tryphon in September 931, the Byzantine emperor Romanos I Lekapenos attempted get his young son Theophylactus placed on the Patriarchal throne. Due to internal church resistance, Romanos approached John XI to seek the Pope's confirmation and to approve Theophylactus taking the pallium. This was eventually granted by John in February 933. This delay of over a year is seen by Horace Mann as evidence of the Pope's initial reluctance to agree to the emperor's request, and was only forced to do it at his brother Alberic II's insistence following the fall of Marozia.[13] However, as negotiations also involved a suggested marriage between a sister of Alberic and John's and one of Romanos's sons, such a delay would not be unusual, and in fact it is possible that these marriage negotiations were actually begun by Marozia herself and this policy was continued jointly by her sons.[14][15]

It was also at Alberic II's insistence that the pallium was also granted to Archbishop Artold of Reims in 933, setting up a conflict with the incumbent archbishop Hugh of Vermandois and his supporters.[16]

John XI sat in the Chair of Peter during what some traditional Catholic sources consider its deepest humiliation, subjugated under the authority of the Prince of Rome, but it was also he who granted many privileges to the Congregation of Cluny, which was later on a powerful agent of Church reform.[12]


  1. ^ Mann, Horace K., The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages, Vol. IV: The Popes in the Days of Feudal Anarchy, 891–999 (1910), pgs. 137–139
  2. ^ Mann, pg. 192
  3. ^ Gregorovius, Ferdinand (1903), The History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages, vol. III (2nd ed.), London: George Bell & Sons, p. 254, retrieved 2008-01-06
  4. ^ Baxmann, Rudolf (1869), Die Politik der Päpste von Gregor I. bis Gregor VII, vol. II, Elberfeld, pp. 58–125((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ Platina, Bartolomeo (1479), The Lives of the Popes From The Time Of Our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII, vol. I, London: Griffith Farran & Co., pp. 248–249, retrieved 2013-04-25
  6. ^ Mann, Horace Kinder (1912), "Sergius III", The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIII, New York: Robert Appleton Company, retrieved 2008-01-06
  7. ^ Poole, Reginald L. (1917), "Benedict IX and Gregory VI", Proceedings of the British Academy, 8: 230.
  8. ^ Gfrörer, August Friedrich, Allgemeine Kirchengeschichte, vol. III, Stuttgart: A. Krabbe, pp. 1133–1275, retrieved 2008-01-06
  9. ^ Kenrick, Francis Patrick (1855), The Primacy of the Apostolic See Vindicated, Baltimore: John Murphy & Co., p. 418, retrieved 2008-01-06
  10. ^ Mann, pg. 193
  11. ^ Norwich, John Julius, The Popes: A History (2011), pg. 76
  12. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope John XI". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  13. ^ Mann, pgs. 198-199
  14. ^ Mann, pgs. 199-200
  15. ^ Drocourt, Nicolas; Kolditz, Sebastian, A Companion to Byzantium and the West, 900-1204 (2021), pgs. 159-160
  16. ^ Mann, pgs. 202-203
Catholic Church titles Preceded byStephen VII Pope 931–935 Succeeded byLeo VII