'Joust of the Whores': The Worst Popes in HistoryS

Pope Benedict may have ignored warnings about pedophiles and doddered while Rome perved, but he's nowhere near the worst pope ever. Here, via history writer Tony Perrottet, we round up the Vatican's greatest villains – syphilis, hookers and all.

Benedict is trying, bless him. Just this week he gamely called same-sex marriage one of the most "insidious and dangerous" threats facing the world. And he's presided over dreadful allegations of child sex abuse.

But according to Perrottet, who has compiled a Vatican Hall of Shame, poor Benny is barely a footnote. Why? Here are some career highlights and inspirational quotes from his finest predecessors:

  • In 1501 Alexander VI once threw a party he called the "Joust of the Whores":

    ...50 dancers were invited to slowly strip around the pope's table. Alexander and his family gleefully threw chestnuts on the floor, forcing the women to grovel around their feet like swine; they then offered prizes of fine clothes and jewelry for the man who could fornicate with the most women.

    Between whorejousts his hobbies included watching horses copulate, which would make him "laugh fit to bust."

  • John XII slept with his two sisters. We do not mean nuns.
  • Boniface VIII massacred a whole town, and somehow still found time to be a major pedophile.
  • On his deathbed, Sergius III "ordered a comely wet nurse to supply him with milk fresh from the breast."
  • Julius II was unable to allow his foot to be kissed by the faithful as it was completely covered with syphilitic sores.
  • Of Benedict IX, it is said he was "a wretch who feasted on immorality" and "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest."
  • Upon his death, 50 priests offered Mass for Clement VI for nine consecutive days, but this was agreed to be nowhere near enough.

We are legally obliged to advise you not to try the Joust of the Whores at home.