First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Pope John (Ioannes) the Sixteenth, a Roman, began his pontificate in the time of Otto, but after he received the imperial crown. He was a highly learned man, and was compelled to go into exile in Etruria by Crescentius, the Roman senator, who aspired to the rule of the city of Rome. But when the pope asked Emperor Otto to proceed against Crescentius in Italy, Crescentius sent his friend to the pope with the request that he not ask Otto to come, but return to Rome himself, and that he (i.e., Crescentius) would obey him in all things. Accordingly, the pope was moved by the request of his friends to return to Rome, where Crescentius with all the members or the senate and the entire community came forth to meet him, asking pardon and kissing the feet of the pope; and thus he secured forgiveness. He died in the tenth year, sixth month and tenth day of his pontificate. The seat was then vacant for six days.[John XVI (Philagathus of Rossano) pope or anti-pope from 997-998, was a Calabrian Greek by birth, and a favorite of the empress Theophano, from whom he received the bishopric of Placentia. In 995 he was sent by Otto III on an embassy to Constantinople to negotiate a marriage with a Greek princess. On his way back he either accidentally or at the special request of Crescentius visited Rome. A little before this, Gregory V, at the end of 996, had been compelled to flee from the city; and Philagathus took the papal tiara from the hands of Crescentius. On Otto’s arrival in Rome in the spring of 998, John fled. He was discovered and brought back to Rome, where he was blinded in prison.]

Gregory (Gregorius), the fifth of this name, a native of Saxony, formerly called Bruno, was elected pope on account of his blood relationship by the authority of Otto the Third. But while Otto was in Germany he was so persecuted by the Romans, and particularly by Crescentius, the senator, that he fled to Etruria, and soon afterwards to the emperor in Germany. In his absence the Romans elevated Crescentius to a mighty patrician, and Crescentius instituted John (Ioannem), a Greek, as pope. But when Crescentius learned that Emperor Otto was marching upon Rome with a mighty army, he industriously fortified the battlements and gates. Now when the emperor arrived and prepared to storm the city, the Romans, realizing that they would not be able to withstand the power of the emperor, opened the gates to the Germans. Crescentius and John, now finding themselves helpless, fled to the Castle Angelo, and there they cunningly saved themselves from the enemy for some time. And finally, when in the hope of securing pardon, they came out of the castle to go to the emperor, Crescentius received many wounds at the hands of the people; and John was firstly deprived of his sight, then of his pontificate, and finally of his life; and this Gregory, eleven months after he had been driven out, was reinstated. He died in the second year and fifth month of his pontificate. Then the seat was empty for fifteen days.[Gregory V, pope from 996 to 999, a great-grandson of the emperor Otto the Great. Until the council of Pavia (997) his rival was the anti-pope John XVI, whom the people of Rome, in revolt against the will of the youthful emperor Otto III had chosen after having expelled Gregory. The most memorable acts of his pontificate were those arising out of the contumacy of the French king Robert, who submitted after a sentence of excommunication. Gregory died suddenly, and not without suspicion of foul play, on February 18th, 999. ]

John (Ioannes) the Seventeenth, as above stated, encumbered the pontificate in the time of Gregory V, through the power and promotion of Crescentius, the Roman senator, whom he influenced with money. This same money he brought with him from Constantinople. And so occurred the twelfth schism between these popes. But it did not last long, for John died in disgrace in the tenth month of his pontificate. The seat was then vacant for twenty days.[John XVII, whose original name was Sicco, succeeded Sylvester II as pope on June 13th, 1003, and died December 7th of the same year.]

Pope Silvester the Second, a native of Gaul, formerly called Gerbert (Gilbertus), secured the pontificate by evil cunning. While still young he entered a monastery situated in the Aurillac bishopric. But he left said monastery and gave himself over completely to the Devil; and he went to Seville, a city in Spain, to improve his fortune. There he was educated to such an extent that in short time he was regarded as the best instructor; and Emperor Otto and Robert, the king of France, and other highly renowned men became his students. For this reason, through pride and devilish zeal, he secured firstly the archbishopric of Rheims, then that of Ravenna, and finally, with the help of the Devil, the papacy; but upon the condition that upon his death he should belong completely to the Devil. And now he asked the Devil how long he would live. And the Devil answered, If you will not touch Jerusalem you will live for a long time. But when in the fifth year of his pontificate he performed the office of the holy mass on the altar, called Jerusalem, in the Church of the Holy Cross, at Rome, he realized that he must soon die. And he became penitent and acknowledged his mistake before the people, admonishing them to avoid pride and the treachery of the Devil, and to lead good praiseworthy lives. And it was his wish that upon his death his corpse be torn limb from limb, and laid upon a cart, and to bury the remains wherever the unguided horses might draw it. But by the will of God, the horses drew the remains to the Lateran Basilica; and there the corpse was buried, so that evil persons might learn that if they became penitent during life, they would find a haven of forgiveness with God.

Silvester II (Gerbert), pope from 999 to 1003, famous under his original name of Gerbert, first as a teacher and afterwards as a an archbishop of Reims and Ravenna, was an Aquitanian by birth, and was educated in the abbey of St. Gerold in Aurillac. When brought before Otto I, Gerbert admitted his skill in all branches of the quadrivium, but lamented his comparative ignorance of logic. He went to continue his studies under Adalbert at Reims, where he seems to have studied and lectured for many years, having among his pupils Robert, afterwards king of France, and Richer. Gerbert’s fame spread over Gaul, Germany and Italy. The archbishop of Reims died in 989, designating Gerbert his successor. But the influence of the empress Theophano, mother of Otto III, secured the appointment of Arnulf, a base son of Lothair. The new prelate took the oath of fealty to Hugh Capet, and persuaded Gerbert to remain with him. In 991, Arnulf was convicted of treason and degraded from his office, and Gerbert was elected his successor.

The episcopate of the new metropolitan was marked by a vigor and activity that were felt as far as Tours, Orleans, and Paris. Meanwhile, the friends of Arnulf were active in accession of Gregory V. In any event, Gerbert seems to have left France toward the end of 995, as he was present at Otto’s coronation at Rome on May 21, 996. Early in the next year he was elected pope and took the title of Silvester II. Gerbert is generally credited with having fostered the splendid vision of a restored empire that now began to fill Otto’s imagination. His dreams for the advancement of the Church and Empire were cut short by the death of Otto III, on February 4th, 1002, followed a year later by the death of the pope himself. He was buried in the Church of St. John Lateran.

Besides being the most distinguished statesman, Gerbert was also the most accomplished scholar of his age. His pupil Richer has left us a detailed account of his system of teaching at Reims. To assist in his lectures on astronomy he constructed elaborate globes of the terrestrial and celestial spheres, on which the course of the planets was marked; for facilitating arithmetical and geometrical processes he constructed an abacus with 27 divisions, and 1000 counters of horn. He is also said to have made a wonderful clock or sundial at Magdeburg. More extraordinary still was his knowledge of music—an accomplishment that seems to have been his earliest recommendation to Otto I. Gerbert’s letters contain more than one allusion to organs which he seems to have constructed. We are told that he borrowed from the Arabs the abacus with ciphers. Perhaps Gerbert’s greatest claim to the remembrance of posterity is to be found in the care and expense with which he gathered up manuscripts of the classical writers. His love for literature was a passion. Everywhere, at Rome, at Treves, at Gerona in Spain, at Barcelona, he had friends or agents to procure for him copies of the great Latin writers. To the abbot of Tours he writes that he is “laboring assiduously to form a library,” and “throughout Italy, Germany, and Lorraine, is spending vast sums of money in the acquisition of manuscripts.” It is noteworthy, however, that Gerbert never writes for a copy of one of the Christian fathers, his aim being, seemingly, to preserve the fragments of a fast-perishing secular Latin literature. So remarkable a character was that of Gerbert that it left its mark on the age, and fables soon began to cluster around his name, similar to those which in the literature and legend of the 16th century were woven about the name of Faust or Faustus. They involved the belief in the essentially evil character of purely human learning, a principle which has existed every since the triumph of Christianity set divine revelation above human science. Gerbert’s vast erudition, far in advance of his age, cast upon him the suspicion of traffic with the infernal powers; and in due course the tale arose of a compact with the Devil, by which the scholar had obtained the summit of earthly ambition at the cost of his immortal soul. Toward the end of the 11th century Cardinal Benno, the opponent of Hildebrand, is said to have made him the first of a long line of magician popes. William Malmsbury adds a love adventure at Cordova, a compact with Gerbert’s death at Jerusalem—a prophecy fulfilled somewhat as is the case of Henry IV of England, by his dying in the Jerusalem church of Rome—and that imaginative story of the statue with the legend “Strike here,” finds its way into the Gesta Romanorum.

Year of the World 6203

Year of Christ 1004

John (Ioannes), the eighteenth pope of this name, whose surname and nativity are not known because of his ignoble birth, died in the fourth month and twentieth day of his pontificate. Because of the short period of his pontificate, nothing memorable is written of him, except that during his time many miraculous things appeared presaging future evils, comets were seen, and an earthquake shook many cities.[John XVII (a Roman named Phasianus), pope from 1003 to 1009, was the mere creature of the patrician John Crescentius. He abdicated and retired into a monastery, where he died shortly afterwards. His successor was Sergius IV.]