Popes in a Year
#145, 147, & 150 - Pope Benedict IX
Pope from October 1032 - September 1044; April 1045 - May 1045; November 1047 - July 1048
Lived: 1012 - 1056
Birth name: Theophylactus of Tusculum
Give me the scoop on Benedict IX.
Yes, you read that correctly. Pope Benedict IX, born Theophylactus of Tusculum, was pope THREE TIMES. His family had been in power in Rome for years by this point -- one need go no further than the fact that he was preceded by two of his uncles -- and it was Benedict’s father who secured his 20-year-old son the papacy, seeing the office as a sort of family heirloom to be passed on. The
pulls no punches in saying that Benedict was, “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.” What did they expect a young noble would do with virtually unlimited money and power?
Since Benedict IX was such an unusual pontiff, we’ve altered the normal style for today’s entry:
First term (1032-1044)
Theophylact became Benedict IX in October 1032 and began the longest of his three stints as pope. He spent a couple of years in Germany with Emperor Conrad, probably because Rome was becoming increasingly hostile to Benedict’s tyrannical family. During that time, Conrad convinced Benedict to boot his enemy, the Archbishop of Milan, from office, which Benedict did. When Conrad died in 1039, Benedict returned to Rome. However, his habits of sexual immorality -- orgies and unnatural acts (we’ll stop there) in the Lateran Palace -- stirred up a hefty opposition against him. A crowd drove Benedict from the city in 1044.
Second term (1045)
After being chased out of Rome and deposed in 1044, Benedict’s opponents elected Sylvester III, the current Bishop of Sabina, to rule instead. It didn’t take long for Benedict to regroup, however, as he gathered an army and re-took the throne in the Spring of 1045. Barely a month passed in his second term before Benedict decided he’d rather settle down and get married than stay pope. Given that his godfather, Fr. John Gratian, was probably eager for his degenerate godson to be gone from the papacy, Benedict found his man. However, Benedict required Gratian to pay up before he could take office -- something in the ballpark of $20 million by today's equivalent -- before he became Pope Gregory VI. Small price to pay, all things considered.
Third term (1047-1048)
Benedict appears to have gotten bored with his resignation, and thus returned to Rome in 1046 to retake the throne. No one seemed to care, and all regarded Gregory VI as true pope. Clement II followed Gregory after a council asked him to resign, so it was only after the former’s death in 1047 that Benedict completed his hat trick. Benedict actually seized the throne by force in November 1047, but by July 1048 everyone was like, “Would you just leave already?” German troops forced him from the city, and he was excommunicated a year later for refusing to appear on simony charges.
Benedict IX was sent to live out the rest of his days at the Abbey of Grottaferrata, and it’s here that the story finds its badly-needed silver lining. The abbot of the monastery recounted that before his death in 1056, Benedict was repentant for his sins committed as pope, did penance, and was welcomed back into full communion with the Church.
Pope Benedict IX was the last layman to ever be elected pope.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In the year 1033, panic was rampant across Europe after some harsh spring weather caused people to think the end of the universe was near. It was the 1000-year anniversary of the death of Christ, and people thought Revelation’s mention of 1000 years passing before the end of the world might be literal.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Sylvester III
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Guruge, A. (2010). The Next Pope. New Hampshire: WOWNH
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Tuesday, July 18 at 2:00AM