#104 - Pope Benedict III
Pope from September 29, 855 - April 17, 858
Died: April 17, 858
Give me the scoop on Benedict III.
Benedict III was born and raised a Roman, and was cardinal and pastor (“cardinal-priest”) of the church of St. Calixtus at the time of his election. During his brief reign, Benedict III wrote to the Frankish bishops, whose territory was falling into disrepair for all sorts of reasons, and encouraged them to smell more like their sheep, since they’d been living a particularly decadent life. Benedict III also received a rare call for help from the East, where the Patriarch of Constantinople was seeking to depose the archbishop of Syracuse. Benedict, with characteristic papal prudence, refused to let the deposition move forward before letting the archbishop first state his case.
He continued repairing churches damaged in the Muslim raids a decade earlier, and was a strong-willed pontiff unafraid to uphold orthodoxy or remove bishops performing their jobs unworthily. Benedict died April 17, 858 and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica.
What was he known for?
Benedict III was best known for the circumstances of his election which, like most papal successions around this time, had more drama than a daytime soap. Wishing to wait to be consecrated until receiving permission from Lothair and Louis II, the Holy Roman Emperors, Benedict sent messengers to them after being chosen. En route to the emperors, however, the messengers were bribed and convinced to pretend that Anastasius, an ambitious and unruly bishop excommunicated by Leo IV, was elected pope instead.
The fallout from that betrayal saw Benedict insulted and imprisoned for a time. Thankfully, Benedict III had enough fans in Rome willing to fight on his behalf, so it didn’t take long for Anastasius’ party to retreat and allow the rightfully-chosen pope to be consecrated.
It was around this time that the fictitious Pope Joan was said to have reigned as the only female pope, having supposedly been Benedict III’s immediate predecessor. This is nothing but a tall tale, though, as a coin from the reign of Benedict III himself proves beyond doubt that there was no pope between him and Leo IV.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
The year 856 was particularly deadly for Eastern Europe and the Middle East. An earthquake in Greece in November claimed roughly 45,000 lives, while one a month later in modern-day Iran was estimated to have killed 200,000.
Coming Tomorrow...Pope St. Nicholas the Great
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Benedict III -
Pope Benedict III -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 2:00AM