Popes in a Year
#170 - Pope Alexander III
Pope from September 7, 1159 - August 30, 1181
Lived: c. 1100 - August 30, 1181
Birth name: Roland Bandinelli
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Roland Bandinelli was born in Siena sometime between 1100 and 1105. He was a master of canon law and renowned professor at a school in Bologna, where he wrote many great works. Eugene III called him to Rome in 1150, where he advanced quickly as cardinal-deacon, cardinal-priest, and eventually chancellor of the Roman Church.
Okay, give me the scoop on Alexander III
Papal elections had been running smoothly for a while, so it was about time for one to be fraught with mischief and unruliness. By the time of Adrian’s death, a split over policy had formed among the cardinal electors, so not one, but two prime candidates emerged from either side. The eventual Alexander III had more support, but a man named Octavian thought it might work to just grab the papal robes, then run to the front of the church shout-chanting the
. Nice try, buddy. Alexander III, despite having to flee to Ninfa, was finally installed on September 15, 1159. Over nearly 22 years in office, Alexander endured four antipopes in all.
Because Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, was a fan of Octavian - now Antipope Victor IV - Alexander was forced to flee Rome to France. It took losing most of his army to malaria and dysentery (in 1167) and getting soundly whipped in battle by fans of Alexander at Legnano (in 1176), for Barbarossa to finally recognize Alexander as true pope. At his death in 1181, Alexander III had the second-longest papacy to date. He still holds seventh place for longest in history, at 21 years, 11 months, and 24 days.
What was he known for?
Pope Alexander III is best known for convening the Church’s 11th Ecumenical Council in the Lateran Palace. Three sessions in March 1179, attended by over 300 bishops and abbots, produced
including the requirement that a pope be elected by no less than two-thirds of the cardinals present, a law still on the books today. Other canons included:
A minimum age of 30 before a man could be named a bishop
Forbidding clergy from going to convents unless absolutely necessary
The go-ahead for cathedrals to establish schools for poor clergy
Alexander III was sympathetic to the struggles of the English Church, particularly to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was martyred in 1170. Alexander formally canonized two major English saints during his reign: St. Edward the Confessor in 1161 and Becket in 1173.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
St. Dominic, Spanish priest and founder of the Dominicans, was born in 1171 in the Castilian town of Caleruega. As the legend goes, his mother, Blessed Jane of Aza, was unable to conceive a child until she made a pilgrimage to Silos Abbey in northern Spain. It was there that she had a dream of a dog leaping from her womb with a torch in its mouth, lighting the world on fire. The Latin form of “Dominican” -
- literally translates to “Hound of the Lord."
Coming Monday....Pope Lucius III
(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
Pope Alexander III -
Pope Alexander III -
List of popes by length of reign -
St. Dominic -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, August 18, 2017 at 2:00AM