Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Pope Benedict VIII

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)
Pope Benedict VIII

by Horace Kinder Mann


Date of birth unknown; d. 9 April, 1024. The first of the Tusculan popes, being the son of Gregory, Count of Tusculum, and Maria, and brother of John XIX, he was, though a layman, imposed on the chair of Peter by force (18 May, 1012). Nevertheless, dislodging a rival, he became a good and strong ruler. On the 14th of February, 1014, he crowned the German king, Henry II, emperor (Thietmar, Chron., VI, 61), and ever kept friendly with him. The peace of Italy was promoted by his subjugating the Crescentii, defeating the Saracens, and allying himself with the Normans, who appeared in its southern parts in his time. Going to Germany, he consecrated the cathedral of Bamberg (Ann. Altahen. Majores, 1020; Chron. Cass., II, 47), visited the monastery of Fulda, and obtained from Henry a charter confirmatory of the donations of Charlemagne and Otho. To restrain the vices of clerical incontinence and simony, he held, with the emperor, an important synod at Pavia (1022 -Labbe, Concilia, IX, 819), and supported the reformation which was being effected by the great monastery of Cluny. To further the interest of peace, he encouraged the "Truce of God" and countenanced the ecclesiastical advancement of Gauzlin, the natural brother of Robert the Pious, King of France. This he did because, though illegitimate, Gauzlin was a good man, and his loyal brother was very desirous of his promotion (cf. life of Gauzlin, in "Neues Archiv.", III). Benedict VIII was one of the many popes who were called upon to intervene in the interminable strife for precedence between the Patriarchs of Grado and of Aquileia (Dandolo, Chron., IX, 2, n. 2). In 1022 he received Ethelnoth of Canterbury "with great worship and very honourably hallowed him archbishop", and reinstated in his position Leofwine, Abbot of Ely (A.S. Chron., 125, 6, R.S.). A friend of St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, and one of the few popes of the Middle Ages who was at once powerful at home and great abroad, Benedict VIII has, on seemingly insufficient grounds, been accused of avarice.

The most important source for the history of the first nine popes who bore the name of Benedict is the biographies in the Liber Pontificalis, of which the most useful edition is that of Duchesne, Le Liber Pontificalis (Paris, 1886-92), and the latest that of Mommsen, Gesta Pontif. Roman. (to the end of the reign of Constantine only, Berlin, 1898). Jaffé, Regesta Pont. Rom. (2d ed., Leipzig, 1885), gives a summary of the letters of each pope and tells where they may be read at length. Modern accounts of these popes will be found in any large Church history, or history of the City of Rome. The fullest account in English of most of them is to be read in Mann, Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages (London, 1902, passim).

Horace K. Mann.