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Paul IV: ‘The Zealot’

Cre­ator of the Ro­man In­qui­si­tion, which ruth­lessly hunted down and bru­tally pun­ished ac­cused heretics, Paul IV also burned hun­dreds of sup­pos­edly blas­phe­mous books and also se­verely per­se­cuted Rome’s Jewish pop­u­la­tion.

Bene­dict IX: ‘The Scan­dalous’

Made Pope on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, Bene­dict en­gaged in mul­ti­ple re­la­tion­ships (for­bid­den for priests) and even sold the ti­tle so that he could marry. Af­ter con­spir­ing his way back into power, he was fi­nally de­posed in 1049 CE.

Leo X: ‘The Greedy’

Leo en­acted the sale of ‘Indulgences’ in the church, es­sen­tially tak­ing pay­ment in ex­change for ab­solv­ing, or re­duc­ing, the pun­ish­ment for sins. This cor­rupt prac­tice con­trib­uted to Martin Luther’s Re­for­ma­tion.

Alexander VI: ‘The Schemer’

Ac­cused of brib­ing his way into power, Alexander also had sev­eral chil­dren and a se­cret wife. He made his teenage son a car­di­nal and used his po­si­tion to strengthen his dy­nasty.

Stephen VI: ‘The Avenger’

Stephen or­dered that his dead pre­de­ces­sor, Pope For­mo­sus, be dug up and put on trial for al­leged cor­rup­tion. He then had the body mu­ti­lated and dumped in the River Tiber.

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