Pope Boniface VI

Pope Boniface VI is known for his short reign as pope, which lasted for just 16 days. This puts him at #2 in the all time shortest reigns as Pope, behind Pope Urban VII who served for just 13 days.

Boniface VI was also one of the oldest popes in history as he ascended at the age of 90.

The Early Life of Pope Boniface VI

As he was pope for such a short period of time, there aren’t many historic records or documents about his life. He was born in Roma, which was then a diocese of Rome. No records show whether he served the Church in any capacity before becoming pope. Some historians believe that he was a subdeacon at one point and later elevated to the position of priest. He was also the son of a man named Adrian who was a bishop.

Before his election as Pope, he likely served in roles such as a sub-deacon or priest, gaining experience and knowledge that would later inform his papal leadership.

Papal Selection

Pope Formosus led the church for more than four years before his death. He faced many problems regarding Constantinople and the leaders of that region. The pope also spoke out against the Holy Roman Emperor of the time and sought help to remove him from the throne. Just one week after Formosus died, Church members chose Boniface VI as the new pope.

Short Reign

Records show that Boniface VI became pope on April 11 and then died on April 16. Official records list his cause of death as gout, which is a type of arthritis that causes severe pain and inflammation.

Many people died during that era of gout because they didn’t have access to the right treatments. Some rumors claim that his death occurred at the hands of members of the Duchy of Spoleto. They supported Stephen VI and believed that he should be pope.

Later Rulings

In 898, Pope John IX held a synod where he officially ruled that Boniface V was never a pope. He claimed that the Church defrocked Boniface V when he was a priest and never reinstated him, which means that he could not be the pope.

John IX further claimed that the Church defrocked the former pope when he was a subdeacon too. Those rulings did not lead to the Church moving his body though. He remains in the official records as the 112th pope.

Quick Facts About Pope Boniface VI

  • He was born circa 806 in Rome and is listed as both Roman and Italian in official documents.
  • Though records do not show his last or familial name, he had the first name, Bonifacio.
  • He died in April of 896.
  • While some claim that he died of gout, there are rumors that a small group killed him to make Stephen VI the next pope.
  • His papacy began in April of 896.
  • The papacy of Pope Boniface VI ended that same month.
  • Stephen VI succeeded Boniface VI as the next pope.

Interesting Facts About Pope Boniface VI

  • Though the Duke of Spoleto, a man named Lambert, was a follower of Boniface VI and respected him as the pope, he faced opposition from his early days. Arnulf, the King of the Franks, led his opponents.

  • With a reign of just 15 days, Pope Boniface VI ranks as the second shortest reigning pope in history.

  • He was buried with other popes in an official area called the Portico of Popes. Despite what happened to his name later in life, he remains there.

  • Though Pope Stephen VI had many followers, he failed during his time as pope and served for less than two years. He is most famous for holding the Cadaver Synod.

  • The only other pope who held the throne for less time was Pope Urban VII. Elected in September of 590, he died 13 days later and before his official coronation.

A list of all the popes named “Boniface”

Boniface I (St.) (#42) (418 – 422)
Boniface II (#55) (530 – 532)
Boniface III (#66) (607)
Boniface IV (St.) (#67) (608 – 615)
Boniface V (#69) (619 – 625)
Boniface VI (#113) (896)
Boniface VIII (#194) (1294 – 1303)
Boniface IX (#204) (1389 – 1404)