Pope Benedict IX

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Benedict IX
Pope Benedict IX Illustration.jpg
Papacy began October 1032 (first term)
April 1045 (second term)
November 1047 (third term)
Papacy ended September 1044 (first term)
May 1045 (second term)
July 1048 (third term)
Predecessor John XIX (first term)
Sylvester III (second term)
Clement II (third term)
Successor Sylvester III (first term)
Gregory VI (second term)
Damasus II (third term)
Personal details
Birth name Theophylactus of Tusculum
Born c. 1012
Rome, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Died c. December 1055/January 1056 (age 43)
Grottaferrata, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Other popes named Benedict
Papal styles of
Pope Benedict IX
C o a Innocenzo III.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style none

Pope Benedict IX (Latin: Benedictus IX; c. 1012 – c. 1056), born Theophylactus of Tusculum in Rome, was Pope on three occasions between October 1032 and July 1048.[1] Aged approximately 20 at his first election, he is one of the youngest popes in history. He is the only man to have been Pope on more than one occasion and the only man ever to have sold the papacy.


Benedict was the son of Alberic III, Count of Tusculum, and was a nephew of Pope Benedict VIII and Pope John XIX. His father obtained the Papal chair for him by bribing the Romans.[2]

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia[3] Benedict IX was about 20 when made pontiff in October 1032. Other sources state 11 or 12,[4] based upon the unsubstantiated testimony of Rupert Glaber, a monk of St. Germanus at Auxerre.[5] Benedict IX reportedly led an extremely dissolute life and allegedly had few qualifications for the papacy other than connections with a socially powerful family. In terms of theology and the ordinary activities of the Church he was entirely orthodox.

His life was incredibly scandalous, and factional strife continued.[6] The anti-papal[7] historian Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote that in Benedict, "It seemed as if a demon from hell, in the disguise of a priest, occupied the chair of Peter and profaned the sacred mysteries of religion by his insolent courses."[8] The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "a disgrace to the Chair of Peter."[3] He was the first pope rumoured to have been primarily homosexual.[9] Pope Victor III, in his third book of Dialogues, referred to "his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts of violence and sodomy. His life as a pope was so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it."[10]

According to Reginald Lane Poole, "In a time of acute political hostility accusations, as we know too well, are made and are believed, which in a calmer time would never have been suggested."[5] He further suggests the credibility of such accusations was determined by probability rather than proof, and a reaction to the Tusculum hegemony.

Poole observes that "we have to wait until he had discredited himself by his sale of the Papacy before we hear anything definite about his misdeeds; and the further we go in time and place, the worse his character becomes."[11] Poole considers Benedict "a negligent Pope, very likely a profligate man", but notes that the picture presented of Benedict is drawn at a time when the party opposed to him was in the ascendant, and he had neither friends nor supporters.

First expulsion[edit]

He was briefly forced out of Rome in 1036, but returned with the help of Emperor Conrad II, who had expelled the bishops of Piacenza and Cremona from their sees.[6] Bishop Benno of Piacenza accused Benedict of "many vile adulteries and murders".[12]

Second expulsion[edit]

In September 1044 the opposition forced him out of the city again and elected John, Bishop of Sabina, as Pope Sylvester III. Benedict IX's forces returned in April 1045 and expelled his rival,[6] who returned to his previous bishopric.


Doubting his own ability to maintain his position, and wishing to marry, Benedict decided to abdicate,[6] and consulted his godfather, the pious priest John Gratian, about the possibility of resigning. He offered to give up the papacy into the hands of his godfather if he would reimburse him for his election expenses.[13] Desirous of ridding the See of Rome of such an unworthy pontiff, John Gratian paid him the money and was recognized as pope in his stead.[14] Peter Damian hailed the change with joy and wrote to the new pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy, singling out the wicked bishops of Pesaro, of Città di Castello and of Fano.[15]

Benedict IX soon regretted his resignation and returned to Rome, taking the city and remaining on the throne until July 1046, although Gregory VI continued to be recognized as the true pope. At the time, Sylvester III also reasserted his claim. A number of influential clergy and laity implored Emperor Henry III to cross the Alps and restore order.[3]

Henry intervened, and at the Council of Sutri in December 1046, Benedict IX and Sylvester III were declared deposed while Gregory VI was encouraged to resign because the arrangement he had entered into with Benedict was considered simoniacal; that is, to have been paid for. The German Bishop Suidger was crowned as Gregory's successor, Pope Clement II.

Benedict IX had not attended the council and did not accept his deposition. When Clement II died in October 1047, Benedict seized the Lateran Palace in November, but was driven away by German troops in July 1048. To fill the power vacuum, Bishop Poppo of Brixen was elected as Pope Damasus II and universally recognized as such. Benedict IX refused to appear on charges of simony in 1049 and was excommunicated.

Benedict IX's eventual fate is obscure, but he seems to have given up his claims to the papal throne. Pope Leo IX may have lifted the ban on him. Benedict IX was buried in the Abbey of Grottaferrata c. 1056. According to the abbot, he was penitent and turned away from his sins as pontiff.[16]

Benedict is usually recognized as having had three terms as pope:

  • the first lasting from his election to his expulsion in favour of Sylvester III (October 1032 – September 1044)
  • the second from his return to his selling the papacy to Gregory VI (April – May 1045)
  • the third from his return after the death of Clement II to the advent of Damasus II (November 1047 – July 1048)

Family tree[edit]

Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum
Hugh of Italy
(also married Marozia)
Alberic I of Spoleto
d. 925
Pope Sergius III
Alda of Vienne
Alberic II of Spoleto
David or Deodatus
Pope John XI
Gregory I, Count of Tusculum
Pope John XII
Pope Benedict VII
Pope Benedict VIII
Pope 1012–1024
Alberic III, Count of Tusculum
d. 1044
Pope John XIX
Pope 1024–1032
Peter, Duke of the Romans
Pope Benedict IX
Pope 1032-1048

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coulombe, Charles A. (2003). Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes. Citadel Press. p. 198. ISBN 0806523700. 
  2. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Teofilatto", Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church
  3. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Benedict IX". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  4. ^ Russel, Bertrand (1945). History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 412. 
  5. ^ a b Poole, Reginald L., "Benedict IX and Gregory VI", Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. VIII, 1917
  6. ^ a b c d Hauck, A., "Benedict IX", The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II
  7. ^ Chambers, David (September 29, 2006), Popes, Cardinals and War: The Military Church in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe, I.B. Tauris, p. 22, retrieved August 14, 2016 
  8. ^ Ferdinand Gregorovius. History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  9. ^ Fletcher, Lynne Yamaguchi (1992). First Gay Pope and Other Records. Boston: Alyson. ISBN 1555832067. 
  10. ^ Victor III, Pope (1934), Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libelli de lite (in Latin) (Dialogi de miraculis Sancti Benedicti Liber Tertius auctore Desiderio abbate Casinensis ed.), Hannover: Deutsches Institut für Erforschung des Mittelalters, p. 141, archived from the original on July 15, 2007, retrieved 2008-01-03, Cuius vita quam turpis, quam freda, quamque execranda extiterit, horresco referre 
  11. ^ Poole, p.20.
  12. ^ “Post multa turpia adulteria et homicidia manibus suis perpetrata, postremo, etc.”Dümmler, Ernst Ludwig (1891), Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libelli de lite (in Latin), I (Bonizonis episcopi Sutriensis: Liber ad amicum ed.), Hannover: Deutsches Institut für Erforschung des Mittelalters, p. 584, retrieved 2008-01-03 
  13. ^ Blumenthal, Uta-Renate. "Gregory VI", Medieval Italy, (Christopher Kleinhenz, ed.), Routledge, 2004, ISBN 9781135948801
  14. ^ Mann, Horace. "Pope Gregory VI." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 4 January 2016
  15. ^ Toke, Leslie. "St. Peter Damian." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 31 Jan. 2015
  16. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John XIX
Succeeded by
Sylvester III
Preceded by
Sylvester III
Succeeded by
Gregory VI
Preceded by
Clement II
Succeeded by
Damasus II