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Popes Benedict I-X

History of Popes Benedict I-X

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.

Benedict I-X, POPES.—Of the first Pontiff who bore the name of Benedict practically nothing is known. The date of his birth is unknown; he d. July 30, 579. He was a Roman and the son of Boniface, and was called Bonosus by the Greeks (Evagrius, Hist., V, 16). The ravages of the Lombards rendered it very difficult to communicate with the emperor at Constantinople, who claimed the privilege of confirming the election of the popes. Hence there was a vacancy of nearly eleven months between the death of John III and the arrival of the imperial confirmation of Benedict's election, June 2, 575. He reigned four years, one month, and twenty-eight days. Almost the only act recorded of him is that he granted an estate, the Massa Veneris, in the territory of Minturnle, to Abbot Stephen of St Mark's "near the walls of Spoleto" (St. Gregory I, Ep. ix, 87, 1. al. 30). Famine followed the devastating Lombards, and from the few words the Liber Pontificalis has about Benedict, we gather that he died in the midst of his efforts to cope with these difficulties. He was buried in the vestibule of the sacristy of the old basilica of St. Peter. In an ordination which he held in December he made fifteen priests and three deacons, and consecrated twenty-one bishops.

BENEDICT II, Saint, POPE, date of birth unknown; d. May 8, 685; was a Roman, and the son of John. Sent when young to the schola cantorum, he distinguished himself by his knowledge of the Scriptures and by his singing, and as a priest was remarkable for his humility, love of the poor, and generosity. He became pope June 26, 684, after an interval of over eleven months. To abridge the vacancies of the Holy See which followed the deaths of the popes, he obtained from the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus a decree which either abolished imperial confirmations altogether or made them obtainable from the exarch in Italy [cf. "Liber Diurnus RR. PP., ed. Sickel (Vienna, 1889), and Duchesne's criticism, "Le Liber Diurnus" (Paris, 1891)]. He adopted Constantine's two sons by receiving locks of their hair sent him by the emperor. To help to suppress Monothelism, he endeavored to secure the subscriptions of the Spanish bishops to the decrees of the Sixth General Council (see ep. in P.L., XCVI, 423), and to bring about the submission to them of Macarius, ex-Bishop of Antioch. He was one of the popes who favored the cause of St. Wilfred of York (Eddius, "Vita Wilfridi", ed. Raine in "Historians of York", I, 62 sqq. Cf. Raine, "Lives of the Archbishops of York", I, 55 sqq.). Many of the churches of Rome were restored by him; and its clergy, its deaconries for the care of the poor, and its lay sacristans all benefited by his liberality. He was buried in St. Peter's.

BENEDICT III, POPE, date of birth unknown; d. April 17, 858. The election of the learned and ascetic Roman, Benedict, the son of Peter, was a troubled one. On the death of Leo IV (July 17, 855) Benedict was chosen to succeed him, and envoys were dispatched to secure the ratification of the decree of election by the Emperors Lothaire and Louis II. But the legates betrayed their trust and allowed themselves to be influenced in favor of the ambitious and excommunicated Cardinal Anastasius. The imperial missi, gained over in turn by them, endeavored to force Anastasius on the Roman Church. Benedict was insulted and imprisoned. Most of the clergy and people, however, remained true to him, and the missi had to yield. Benedict was accordingly consecrated on the 29th of September, or 6th of October, 855, and though his rival was condemned by a synod, he admitted him to lay communion. Owing to dissensions and attacks from without, the kingdom of the Franks was in disorder, and the Church within its borders was oppressed. Benedict wrote to the Frankish bishops, attributing much of the misery in the empire to their silence (cf. "Capitularia regum Francorum", ed. Boretius, II, 424); and to lessen its internal evils endeavored to curb the powerful subdeacon Hubert (Ep. Bened., in Mon. Germ. Epp., V, 612), who was the brother-in-law of Lothaire II, King of Lorraine, and defied the laws of God and man till he was slain, in 864. In an appeal made to Benedict from the East, he held the balance fair between St. Ignatius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Gregory, Bishop of Syracuse. He was visited by the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelwulf with his famous son Alfred, and completed the restoration of the Schola Anglorum, destroyed by fire in 847. He continued the work of repairing the damage done to the churches in Rome by the Saracen raid of 846. He was buried near the principal gate of St. Peter's. One of his coins proves there was no Pope Joan between Leo IV and himself [Garampi, "De nummo argenteo Bened. III" (Rome, 1749)].

BENEDICT IV, POPE, date of birth unknown; d. in the summer of 903. The Popes Benedict from the fourth to the ninth inclusive belong to the darkest period of papal history. The reigns of several of them were very short, and very little is known about their deeds. The dates of their accession to the See of Peter and of their deaths are largely uncertain. Benedict IV, a Roman and the son of Mammalus, became pope in the first half of 900. His high birth, his generosity, his zeal for the public good are loudly commended by the contemporary historian Frodoard, who gives him the title of "Great". The principal historic act of his reign was his crowning Louis the Blind as emperor. He supported the decision of Pope Formosus, who had ordained him priest, in favor of Argrim's claim to the See of Langres (Jaffe, "Regesta", 3527, 3528), upheld the cause of Stephen, Bishop of Naples (Auxilius ap. Dummler, "Auxilius and Vulgarius", 96 sqq.), excommunicated the assassin of Fulk, Archbishop of Reims (Frodoard, Hist. Remensis, IV, 10), and offered practical sympathy to Malacenus, Bishop of Amasia, who had been driven from his see by the advances of the Saracens (Jaffe, be. cit., 3530). Fulda and other monasteries received privileges from him. He was buried in front of St. Peter's near the gate of Guido.

BENEDICT V, POPE, date of birth unknown; d. July 4, 965; was elected pope (May, 964) in very critical circumstances. The powerful emperor, Otho I, had forcibly deposed the unworthy John XII, and had replaced him by a nominee of his own who took the title of Leo VIII. But at the first opportunity the Romans expelled Leo, and on the death (May 14, 964) of the lawful pope, John XII, elected the Cardinal-Deacon Benedict (known from his learning as Grammaticus—see Benedict of Soracte, xxxvii). Otho was furious, marched on Rome, seized Benedict, and put an end to his pontificate (June 23, 964.—Liutprand, Hist. Ottonis, x) d; Thietmar, Chron., II, 18). It is more probable that Benedict was degraded by force than that he voluntarily declared himself an intruder. After reinstating Leo, Otho left Rome and carried Benedict with him to Germany. Placed under the care of Adaldag, Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, who treated him with great consideration, he was even then acknowledged as pope by some of the German clergy. His remains, first laid to rest in the cathedral at Hamburg, were afterwards translated to Rome (Adam of Bremen, Gesta, II, 10; IV, 39, 40; VI, 53).

BENEDICT VI, POPE, date of birth unknown; d. August, 974 (see Ricobaldi of Ferrara, Compil. Chron., in Rer. Ital. SS. IX). Benedict, Cardinal-Deacon of St. Theodore, a Roman and the son of Hildebrand, was elected as the successor of John XIII, who died September 6, 972; but the necessity of waiting for the ratification of the Emperor Otho delayed his consecration till January 19, 973. Nothing is known of his deeds, except that he confirmed the privileges of some churches and monasteries. The most striking event of his pontificate is its tragic close. He was seized and thrown into the Castle of Sant' Angelo by a faction of the nobility headed by Crescentius and the Deacon Boniface Franco, who afterwards become the antipope Boniface VII. There, after a confinement of less than two months, he was strangled by their orders, to prevent his release by Sicco, an imperial envoy, sent to Rome by Otho II.

BENEDICT VII, POPE, date of birth unknown; d. c. October, 983. Acting under the influence of Sicco (see Pope Benedict VI), the Roman clergy and people elected to succeed Benedict VI another Benedict, Bishop of Sutri, a Roman and the son of David (October, 974). His authority was opposed by Boniface VII, and, though the antipope himself was forced to fly, his party followed fiercely in his footsteps and compelled Benedict to call upon Otho II for help. Firmly established on his throne by the emperor, he showed himself both desirous of checking the tide of simony which was rising high in the Church, and of advancing the cause of monasticism, which then meant that of civilization. In response to a request of the people of Carthage "to help the wretched province of Africa", he consecrated the priest James, who had been sent to him for the purpose (see the letter of the papal legate, the Abbot Leo, to the Kings Hugh Capet and Robert). Though he did not die till about October, 983, our knowledge of his undertakings is not in proportion to the length of his pontificate.

BENEDICT VIII, POPE, date of birth unknown; d. April 9, 1024. The first of the Tusculan popes, being the son of Gregory, Count of Tusculum, and Maria, and brother of John XIX, he was, though a layman, imposed on the chair of Peter by force (May 18, 1012). Nevertheless, dislodging a rival, he became a good and strong ruler. On the 14th of February, 1014, he crowned the German king, Henry II, emperor (Thietmar, Chron., VI, 61), and ever kept friendly with him. The peace of Italy was promoted by his subjugating the Crescentii, defeating the Saracens, and allying himself with the Normans, who appeared in its southern parts in his time. Going to Germany, he consecrated the cathedral of Bamberg (Ann. Altahen. Majores, 1020; Chron. Cass., II, 47), visited the monastery of Fulda, and obtained from Henry a charter confirmatory of the donations of Charlemagne and Otho. To restrain the vices of clerical incontinence and simony, he held, with the emperor, an important synod at Pavia (1022—Labbe, Concilia, IX, 819), and supported the reformation which was being effected by the great monastery of Cluny. To further the interest of peace, he encouraged the "Truce of God" and countenanced the ecclesiastical advancement of Gauzlin, the natural brother of Robert the Pious, King of France. This he did because, though illegitimate, Gauzlin was a good man, and his royal brother was very desirous of his promotion (cf. life of Gauzlin, in "Neues Archiv.", III). Benedict VIII was one of the many popes who were called upon to intervene in the interminable strife for precedence between the Patriarchs of Grado and of Aquileia (Dandolo, Chron., IX, 2, n. 2). In 1022 he received Ethelnoth of Canterbury "with great worship and very honorably hallowed him archbishop", and reinstated in his position Leofwine, Abbot of Ely (A. S. Chron., 125, 6, R. S.). A friend of St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, and one of the few popes of the Middle Ages who was at once powerful at home and great abroad, Benedict VIII has, on seemingly insufficient grounds, been accused of avarice.

BENEDICT IX, POPE.—The nephew of his two immediate predecessors, Benedict IX was a man of very different character to either of them. He was a disgrace to the Chair of Peter. Regarding it as a sort of heirloom, his father Alberic placed him upon it when a mere youth, not, however, apparently of only twelve years of age (according to Raoul Glaber, Hist., IV, 5, n. 17. Cf. V, 5, n. 26), but of about twenty (October, 1032). Of his pontifical acts little is known, except that he held two or three synods in Rome and granted a number of privileges to various churches and monasteries. He insisted that Bretislav, Duke of Bohemia, should found a monastery, for having carried off the body of St. Adalbert from Poland. In 1037 he went north to meet the Emperor Conrad and excommunicated Heribert, Archbishop of Milan, who was at enmity with him (Ann. Hildesheimenses, 1038). Taking advantage of the dissolute life he was leading, one of the factions in the city drove him from it (1044) amid the greatest disorder, and elected an antipope (Sylvester III) in the person of John, Bishop of Sabina (1045—Ann. Romani, init. Victor, Dialogi, III, init.). Benedict, however, succeeded in expelling Sylvester the same year; but, as some say, that he might marry, he resigned his office into the hands of the Archpriest John Gratian for a large sum. John was then elected pope and became Gregory VI (May, 1045). Repenting of his bargain, Benedict endeavored to depose Gregory. This resulted in the intervention of King Henry III. Benedict, Sylvester, and Gregory were deposed at the Council of Sutri (1046) and a German bishop (Suidger) became Pope Clement II. After his speedy demise, Benedict again seized Rome (November, 1047), but was driven from it to make way for a second German pope, Damasus II (November, 1048). Of the end of Benedict it is impossible to speak with certainty. Some authors suppose him to have been still alive when St. Leo IX died, and never to have ceased endeavoring to seize the papacy. But it is more probable that the truth lies with the tradition of the Abbey of Grottaferrata, first set down by Abbot Luke, who died about 1085, and corroborated by sepulchral and other monuments within its walls. Writing of Bartholomew, its fourth abbot (1065), Luke tells of the youthful pontiff turning from his sin and coming to Bartholomew for a remedy for his disorders. On the saint's advice, Benedict definitely resigned the pontificate and died in penitence at Grottaferrata. [See "St Benedict and Grottaferrata" (Rome, 1895), a work founded on the more important "De Sepulcro Benedicti IX", by Dom Greg. Piacentini (Rome, 1747).]

BENEDICT X, POPE.—The bearer of this name was an antipope in the days of Nicholas II, 1056-61.

HORACE K. MANN.


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