Pope Damasus II

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Damasus II
Papacy began17 July 1048
Papacy ended9 August 1048
PredecessorBenedict IX
SuccessorLeo IX
Personal details
Birth namePoppo de' Curagnoni
BornPildenau, Duchy of Bavaria, Holy Roman Empire
Died(1048-08-09)9 August 1048
Palestrina, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Other popes named Damasus

Pope Damasus II (/ˈdæməsəs/; died 9 August 1048, born Poppo de' Curagnoni[1]) was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 17 July 1048 to his death on 9 August that same year. He was the second of the German pontiffs nominated by Emperor Henry III. A native of Bavaria, he was the third German to become pope and had one of the shortest papal reigns.[2]

Upon the death of Clement II, envoys from Rome were sent to the emperor to ascertain who should be named pope. Henry named the bishop of Brixen, Poppo de' Curagnoni. While the envoys were away, the former pope Benedict IX reasserted himself and with the assistance of the disaffected Margrave Boniface III of Tuscany once again assumed the papacy. Henry ordered Boniface to escort Poppo to Rome, but Boniface declined, pointing out that the Romans had already enthroned Benedict. Enraged, the emperor ordered the margrave to depose Benedict or suffer the consequences. Poppo became pope in mid-July but died of malaria less than a month later, in Palestrina, where he had gone to avoid the heat of the city.

Early life[edit]

Poppo was a younger son belonging to a Bavarian noble family. He became the bishop of Brixen in Tyrol in 1040. Poppo was also a key advisor to King Henry III of Germany and travelled with him to Italy for his imperial coronation in 1046.[3]

Imperial nomination[edit]

Given the display of imperial power Henry III had inflicted on the Romans in intervening against Pope Gregory VI and installing Clement II, it is not surprising that on Christmas Day of 1047, an emissary was sent by the Roman people bringing news of Clement II's death to Henry III and asking him, in his position as patricius of the Romans, to appoint a successor. Henry had been engaged in an indecisive campaign in Frisia, and was in his palace at Pöhlde in Saxony when the embassy found him. The envoys, according to their instructions, suggested as a suitable candidate the handsome Halinard, Archbishop of Lyon, who was a fluent speaker of Italian, and was well respected in Rome.[4]

Henry was unwilling to rush matters, and so asked Wazo of Liège, the most independent bishop within the empire, who ought to be made pope. After careful consideration, Wazo declared that the most appropriate candidate for the vacant papal throne was the man the emperor had removed – Gregory VI. Wazo's deliberations had taken time, and Henry soon lost patience. Henry instead appointed Poppo, bishop of Brixen in Tyrol, a proud man of distinguished learning[5] who had taken part in the Synod of Sutri. This decision antagonized the Romans, who were still pushing for Halinard to become the new pope. Nevertheless, Henry sent the Roman envoys back to Rome with presents to prepare for the arrival of their new pope.[citation needed]

Arrival in Italy[edit]

During the envoys’ absence, imperial authority in Rome became virtually extinguished as the Tusculan faction reasserted its power. A former pope, Benedict IX, residing at Tusculum, had been watching the situation in Rome intently, and had decided that now was his opportunity to reclaim the papal throne. He approached the Margrave Boniface III of Tuscany for help, and Boniface, who did not like the emperor, was easily convinced to help anyone who would disrupt Henry's authority. After Benedict had used his extensive supply of gold to gain a large number of followers, the margrave's influence enabled him to occupy the papal throne for over eight months, from 8 November 1047 until 17 July 1048.[4]

In the meantime, Henry was marching down towards Italy with Poppo, accompanying him at least as far as Ulm.[5] Here it came to light that the papal exchequer was close to bankrupt, and so Poppo was allowed to retain the revenues of his see. In addition, a deed was drawn up on 25 January 1048 that granted Poppo an important forest in the valley of Puster. Having done this, and unable to leave Germany in case there might be an uprising during his absence, Henry III directed Margrave Boniface to conduct the pope-designate to Rome in person, and in the emperor's name to arrange for the enthroning of the new pope.[citation needed]

Given his role in the usurpation by Benedict IX, and his attitude towards Henry III, it is unsurprising that Boniface at first refused, advising Poppo when he entered Tuscany, "I cannot go to Rome with you. The Romans have again installed Benedict, and he has won over the whole city to his cause. Besides, I am now an old man."[6] Having nowhere to turn, and unable to proceed, Poppo had no choice but to turn around and return to Germany, where he informed Henry of what had transpired.[citation needed]

Papal coronation[edit]

Upon receiving the news, Henry was furious. Poppo was quickly sent back to Boniface, carrying with him a letter from the emperor which ordered him to arrange the expulsion of Benedict and the enthroning of his successor. Henry was simple and direct. "Learn, you who have restored a pope who was canonically deposed, and who have been led by love of money to despise my commands, learn that, if you do not amend your ways, I will soon come and make you."[7] These threats soon reduced Boniface to obedience. He sent a body of troops into Rome and forcibly expelled Benedict from the city.[citation needed]

After Benedict IX's removal, Poppo entered the city in triumph, as the Romans, with every demonstration of joy, welcomed the bishop who would be pope. He was enthroned at the Lateran as Pope Damasus II on 17 July 1048. His pontificate, however, was of short duration. Overcome, in all likelihood, by the heat of Rome, he retired to Palestrina, but it was too late. After a brief reign of twenty-three days, he died on 9 August and was buried in San Lorenzo fuori le Mura. According to Panvinio, Damasus’ sarcophagus was large and "adorned with reliefs representing a vineyard, with cupids as the wine gatherers."[8]

The shortness of Damasus II's reign led to rumors that he had been poisoned by a man named Gerhard Brazutus, a friend of Benedict IX and a follower of Hildebrand. However, the source for this information is extremely suspect,[9] and a more likely scenario is that he died of malaria.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coulombe, Charles A., Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes, (Citadel Press, 2003), 204.
  2. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Damasus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 786.
  3. ^ Matthews, Rupert (2013). The Popes: Every Question Answered. New York: Metro Books. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-4351-4571-9.
  4. ^ a b Oestereich, Thomas. "Pope Damasus II." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 26 September 2017
  5. ^ a b Mann, p. 288
  6. ^ Mann, pg 289
  7. ^ Mann, pp. 289–290
  8. ^ Mann, p. 290
  9. ^ Mann, p. 291
  10. ^ The Reform of the Church, J.P. Whitney, The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. V, ed. J.R. Tanner, C.W. Previte-Orton, Z.N. Brooke, (Cambridge University Press, 1968), 23.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Damasus II". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.


External Links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Benedict IX
Succeeded by
Leo IX