Pope John XV

Pope John XV was the 137th man to hold the powerful position of leader of the Catholic Church. His pontification lasted for more than a decade. It came at a particularly dark time for the papacy. The Pope’s reputation didn’t do much to help.

Background and History with the Church

There aren’t too many historical records of Pope John XV’s early life. He was born sometime around 950. He was born in Rome. His father, Leo, was a Roman presbyter.

Pope John XV joined the church quite young and eventually became cardinal-priest of St. Vitalis.


John XV became pope on August 20th, 985. He was only 35 years old at the time. His predecessors, Pope Benedict VI and Pope John XIV were both murdered by Antipope Boniface VII.

Crescentius II, a patrician of Rome, worked hard to get John XV elected. Crescentius II is part of the Crescentii family, which supported the Antipope. This support harmed the family’s political influence. But, the election of John XV helped to restore it.

Unfortunately, Crescentius II dominated the Pope’s reign. He was a greedy man and used nepotism to install bishops. This resulted in the Investiture Controversy. The Pope was lumped into this controversy as well, affecting his reputation.

Luckily, the wife of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II intervened. She hampered Crescentius II’s ambitions, restoring some respect to the papacy. Eventually, Pope John XV appealed to Otto II against Crescentius. But, he died of fever before Otto II could take action.

The most significant accomplishment of John XV is his canonization of Bishop St. Ulrich of Augsburg. He was the first pope to canonize a saint.

Quick Facts About Pope John XV

  • Pope John XV was born sometime in 950 AD.
  • He did not have a separate birth name. He was born as John.
  • The Pope died on April 1st, 996. He was 46 years old.
  • John XV did not die of violence or imprisonment like many of his predecessors. He died of fever.
  • Pope John XV’s papacy started on August 20th, 985.
  • His papacy ended with his death on April 1st, 996.
  • Pope John XV was succeeded by Pope Gregory V

Interesting Facts About Pope John XV

  • Pope John XV was the first pope in history who canonized a saint.
  • Allegedly, Pope John XV was very unpopular with the Roman people due to his participation in nepotism and bribery. Though, this is up for dispute.
  • He spent much of his pontification supporting and protecting the reforming monk of Cluny.
  • Pope John XIV’s election is said to help improve the political stance of the powerful Crescentii family.
  • Later in his reign, he stood against the Crescentii family.

All of the Popes that took the name “John”

There has been 21 popes that have taken the name of John.

John I (St.) (#53) (523 – 526)
John II (#56) (533 – 535)
John III (#61) (561 – 574)
John IV (#72) (640 – 642)
John V (#82) (685 – 686)
John VI (#85) (701 – 705)
John VII (#86) (705 – 707)
John VIII (#108) (872 – 882)
John IX (#117) (898 – 900)
John X (#123) (914 – 928)
John XI (#126) (931 – 935)
John XII (#131) (955 – 963)
John XIII (#134) (965 – 972)
John XIV (#137) (983 – 984)
John XV (#138) (985 – 996)
John XVII (#141) (1003)
John XVIII (#142) (1003 – 1009)
John XIX (#145) (1024 – 1032)
John XXI (#188) (1276 – 1277)
John XXII (#197) (1316 – 1334)
John XXIII (Blessed) (#262) (1958 – 1963)

See all Popes here.