Popes in a Year
#158 - Blessed Pope Victor III
Pope from May 24, 1086 - September 16, 1087
Lived: c. 1026 - September 16, 1087
Given name: Desiderius, Prince of Benevento
Give me the scoop on Victor III.
Blessed Pope Victor III was born a Prince of the dukes of Benevento around the year 1026, the only son of Prince Landulf V. Victor was always monastically inclined, having skillfully avoided not one, but two arranged marriages before opting for life as a hermit and monk. He eventually entered the monastery of Monte Cassino, where he succeeded Abbot Frederick when the latter was elected Pope Stephen IX. As abbot, Victor (then Desiderius) became renowned as the greatest abbot the monastery had seen since St. Benedict himself.
Taking office as pope on May 24, 1086, Victor had little time or energy to do much, given his age and the tenuous situation with Antipope Clement III lurking in and out of Rome. It’s said that Victor was hardly able to make it through an entire Mass during his time as pope due to ill health. He’s credited with authoring a work on the miracles of St. Benedict and other saints at Monte Cassino. Pope Victor III died September 16, 1087 and is buried in the abbey he called home for nearly three decades.
What was he known for?
Victor was particularly well-known for avoiding his election as 157th successor of St. Peter. After the mess with St. Gregory VII, which involved a fallout with the Normans AND a pesky antipope, the papal electors were looking for an able man who got along with the Normans to become the next rightful pope. Given Victor’s status as both Abbot of Monte Cassino and jack-of-all-trades diplomat, he was an obvious choice, especially by Gregory himself as he lay dying in Salerno.
The abbot, however, sought to avoid the Chair of Peter like the plague, preferring instead to be a Church middleman out of the spotlight. His methods of avoiding election included first fleeing to Monte Cassino, making the electors swear to abandon their plot in the Fall of 1085 (which didn’t work), threatening to run away again at Easter 1086, then
after he’d been forcibly elected and given the name "Victor" nearly a year after Gregory’s death.
It took nearly eight centuries for Pope Victor III to be declared a “Blessed.” Pope Leo XIII, in a ceremony on July 23, 1887, beatified the holy abbot and pontiff almost 800 years to the day after his death.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
The Normans were able to recapture Sicily from the Muslim army after conquering Syracuse, the final Islamic stronghold there, in 1086.
Coming Tomorrow...Blessed Pope Urban II
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Pope Blessed Victor III -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Wednesday, August 2 at 2:00AM