Body of a dead pope is enthroned

Pope Shenouda III – leader of Egypt’s Coptic community – has just died and in this video you can seen thousands of mourners filing past his dead body which has been dressed in liturgical vestments and enthroned – also in this newspaper report. This may seem very morbid and strange to westerners and yet having a dead pope sat in a throne is not unprecedented.

In the so-called Cadaver Synod of AD 897 – Pope Formosus presided over a meeting of church bishops in to allegations that he had committed perjury. The unusual feature of this synod was that Pope Formosus was dead. He had been dug up for the occasion, put back in his papal robes and required to sit through a string of accusations about his conduct in office. He was found guilty and three fingers cut off from his right hand so he could not perform blessings from beyond the grave. His vestments were stripped off and he was cast in to the Tiber. A monk eventually fished him out and his body was returned to a proper grave.

Here is an artistic representation of Pope Formosus on trial…



4 thoughts on “Body of a dead pope is enthroned

  1. Thanks for sharing this! The photos are great! Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic, but I don’t find the idea of a dead man on a throne that odd at all, nor do I think it’s even slightly morbid that people would want to go see him. They clearly respect him and hold him dear! May he rest in peace.

    1. Amen to that! I’ve seen a few dead bodies in church as well – I remember seeing a guy in Braga cathedral in Portugal just left in an open coffin in the crypt and tourists could just wander round him. Some people were a bit shocked. But as you say, it’s part of the religion.

    1. I went to the Coptic area of Cairo two years ago and it’s an amazing place – if a bit tense. There are churches dating back to the fourth century AD and I saw their services which are very eastern but give you an idea of what early Christianity must have been like. Might be difficult to visit now!

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