Popes in a Year
#146 - Pope Sylvester III
Pope from January 20, 1045 - March 10, 1045
Lived: c. 1000 - 1063
Birth name: Giovanni dei Crescenzi-Ottaviani
Give me the scoop on Sylvester III.
Pope Sylvester III was born Giovanni dei Crescenzi-Ottaviani in Rome around the year 1000. Prior to being pope, he served as the bishop of Sabina, a diocese in central Italy. Sylvester was a member of the Crescentii family, the powerful group who liked to play Hatfields and McCoys with the family of Pope Benedict IX. After Benedict had (poorly) reigned for eight years, the Crescentii had had enough of his shenanigans and ran him out of Rome. They then placed Sylvester III on the throne, where he held court for barely a month and a half, beginning January 20, 1045. By early March, however, Benedict had gathered an army strong enough to storm the city and remove Sylvester. A year later, he was officially deposed by the Council of Sutri and charged with simony. Didn't even get a farewell tour. Sylvester III died in 1063.
What was he known for?
Sylvester III is best known for being a bit of a papal anomaly. Since he technically usurped the papal throne after Benedict IX was booted from the Eternal City in 1044, some consider Sylvester to be an antipope. He’s nevertheless still included on the official list of popes, since Benedict IX may have been complicit (albeit begrudgingly) in his removal from the Chair of Peter. That would have made Sylvester III perfectly legitimate. Almost like having your cake and eating it too.
Because Pope Sylvester III wasn’t yet considered a legitimate pope by the turn of the 12th Century, another antipope actually claimed the name “Sylvester III” for himself. That antipope, originally named Theodoric, was buried at the monastery of La Cava in Salerno, Italy in 1102 under that name.
Coming Tomorrow...Pope Gregory VI
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Sylvester III -
Pope Sylvester III -
Antipope Theodoric -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, July 19 at 2:00AM