Pope John XII

Pope John XII is one of the more controversial popes in history. He served as the 130th pope. However, his reign is marked with controversy. Considered an immoral man with not much interest in ecclesiastical affairs, his actions were not favored by historians or his successors.

History with the Church

John XII was born as Ottaviano in Rome. He was the only child of Alberic II of Spoleto. Alberic II was the ruler of Rome who had deposed his own mother and imprisoned his half brother, former Pope John XI.

Like John XI, Pope John XII belonged to a very influential family. He served during a time when the papacy had very little control over Rome. It was heavily influenced by the Counts of Tusculum, which Pope John XII was a part of.

Prior to his papacy, Ottaviano did have some experience with the Church. He was already part of the Church when his father died. Alberic II made an oath to Roman nobles that Ottaviano would fill the next papal vacancy.

The following year, Ottaviano elevated to the cardinal deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica. Shortly thereafter, he was elected pope.



With his consecration, he adopted the John XII moniker. However, he still used his birth name for secular affairs.

The Pope had difficulties controlling and influencing Roman nobles as his father had. He attempted to attack the Lombards. While the attack did not succeed, he was able to negotiate with Gilduf I.

That success was short-lived. Areas around Rome were attacked by King Bernegar II of Italy. In an attempt to defend Rome against these attacks, Pope John XII sent legates to Otto I of Germany. Otto came to Rome and swore to protect the Pope.

Again, that relationship was short-lived. Pope John XII crowned Otto I as emperor. As emperor, Otto ordered Pope John XII to take an oath of obedience. In retaliation, the Pope conspired against the emperor. He was replaced, but the new Pope was deposed in only a few months.

The conflict between Pope John XII and Otto I was never settled before his death.


Quick Facts About Pope John XII

  • The future pope John XII was born sometime between the years 930 and 937. There are conflicting reports about his age and birth date.
  • He was born as Ottaviano.
  • Pope John XII died on May 14th, 964.
  • The manner in which Pope John XII died is still up for debate. Allegedly, he died during an adulterous sexual encounter outside of Rome. It’s not sure whether he died from a stroke or by being murdered by the husband of his mistress.
  • John XII papacy began on December 16th, 955.
  • His papacy ended on May 14th, 964. He was between 25 and 33 years old at the time of his death.
  • Pope John XII was succeeded by Pope Benedict V.


Interesting Facts About Pope John XII

  • Pope John XII was the second pope in history to change his name for the papacy.
  • Due to conflicts with German King Otto I, he was removed from his position. Though, many still considered him the Pope until his death.
  • John XII was considered to be a coarse and immoral man.
  • He was related to the Counts of Tusculum, a family that influenced the papacy for half a century.
  • After his death, his body was buried at the Lateran.