Dead Pope on Trial

Dead Pope On Trial! is a story about how religious beliefs when guided by superstition and hunger for power can lead to incredulously ridiculous and outrageous actions.

In the year 887, when Pope Formosus, a former head of the Catholic Church, was resting peacefully in his grave, he was brutally disturbed and his corpse was dug up. His successor, Pope Stephen VII, accused him of having attained his papal status illegally. The corpse of Formosus was dressed in full papal vestments, put on a throne and accused of fraud. The judges found him guilty and punished him by cutting off his three blessing fingers, dressed the corpse in rags and threw him into a common grave.

...but he did not rest for long...

Formosus was dug up again, dragged through the streets and thrown into the Tiber River, all in order to extinguish any traces of his soul and body. But his body was found, his papal status once more restored and he was buried according to correct rites and rituals. But his peace did not last. Once more he was dug up, put on trial again and found guilty. Three more fingers were cut off and once more he was sunk in the river with heavy chains attached, only to be washed up on shore entangled in a fisherman«s net and this time buried in a secret grave by his followers. But even that did not spare him a couple of more rounds.

All in all poor Formosus was buried and dug up a total of six times, every time his body was more mutilated and finally also beheaded. But in spite of his tribulations, he was a persistent corpse and could finally find his peace fully restored as a pope in his own right and lies today buried next to his imminent colleagues in St Peter«s Church in Rome.

...but can we be certain we have heard the last of Pope Formosus?

Cecilie Ore and Bibbi Moslet

2015
Vocal music

Dead Pope on Trial! (2015/16)
vocal ensemble or choir
s m a t bar b (6, 12, 18 or 24)
text: Cecilie Ore & Bibbi Moslet
duration: 21:00
commissioned by Nordic Voices
for Other Minds in San Francisco
score available through www.nb.no/noter

Cecilie Ore
Composer
  • Come to the Edge! (excerpt)
  • This excerpt from Come to the Edge! is made possible with kind permission from BBC Radio 3. The work is performed by BBC Singers and conducted by Nicholas Kok. www.bbc.co.uk/radio3 // www.bbc.co.uk/bbcsingers