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John VIII was pope from December 13, 872 to December 16, 882. He is often considered one of the ablest pontiffs of the ninth century and the last bright spot on the papacy until Leo IX two centuries later.

He was born in Romemarker. Among the reforms achieved during his pontificate was a notable administrative reorganisation of the papal curia. With little help from European kings, he attempted to expel the Saracens from Italymarker after they had penetrated as far as Rome. He failed and was forced to pay tribute. John defended St. Methodius against his German enemies, who objected to his use of the Slavonic language in the liturgy. John later confirmed the permission to use Slavonic that had been originally granted by Pope Adrian II, John's predecessor. In 879 he recognised the reinstatement of Photius as the legitimate patriarch of Constantinoplemarker; Photius had been condemned in 869 by Pope Adrian II. Consequently, John VIII was in favour of reciting the Creed without the filioque . In 878 John crowned Louis II, king of France. He also crowned two Holy Roman Emperors: Charles II and Charles III.

Legend of Pope Joan and its connection to the name John VIII

According to the legend of Pope Joan, a woman named Joan reigned as pope under the name of John earlier in the 9th century. Her true sex was discovered, and she would eventually be erased from the historical record because of this. If she existed, when regnal numbering was applied to papal reigns in the 10th century, she would have been designated John VIII and the Pope John that is the subject of this article would have been John IX. However, there are no contemporary references to a female pope; the legend was apparently created in the 13th century by the chronicler Martin of Opava.

Pope John VIII is not otherwise connected with this legend.


  1. Catholic Encyclopedia, "Pope John VIII" page undated, URL retrieved on 10 June 2007

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