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Benedict IX
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The man who was Pope 3 times (Benedict IX)

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Who is Benedict IX at a glance?

He was born in Rome, was elected in 1036 but was 20 years of age when he ascended the throne. He forced the king of Behomia to return the relics of St Adalbert of prague. Eventually he took refuse in the Monastery of Gorttaferrata. He was elected Pope three times. Pope Benedict IX was the last layman to ever be elected pope.

Scoop on Benedict IX.
Pope Benedict IX, born Theophylactus of Tusculum, was pope THREE TIMES. His family had been in power in Rome for years by this point — one need go no further than the fact that he was preceded by two of his uncles — and it was Benedict’s father who secured his 20-year-old son the papacy, seeing the office as a sort of family heirloom to be passed on. The Catholic Encyclopedia pulls no punches in saying that Benedict was, “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.” What did they expect a young noble would do with virtually unlimited money and power?

First term (1032-1044)
Theophylact became Benedict IX in October 1032 and began the longest of his three stints as pope. He spent a couple of years in Germany with Emperor Conrad, probably because Rome was becoming increasingly hostile to Benedict’s tyrannical family. During that time, Conrad convinced Benedict to boot his enemy, the Archbishop of Milan, from office, which Benedict did. When Conrad died in 1039, Benedict returned to Rome. However, his habits of sexual immorality — orgies and unnatural acts (we’ll stop there) in the Lateran Palace — stirred up a hefty opposition against him. A crowd drove Benedict from the city in 1044.

After First Term, Sylvester III Occupied the seat of Saint Peter in 1045. 

Give me the scoop on Sylvester III.

Sylvester III.


Pope Sylvester III was born Giovanni dei Crescenzi-Ottaviani in Rome around the year 1000. Prior to being pope, he served as the bishop of Sabina, a diocese in central Italy. Sylvester was a member of the Crescentii family, the powerful group who liked to play Hatfields and McCoys with the family of Pope Benedict IX. After Benedict had (poorly) reigned for eight years, the Crescentii had had enough of his shenanigans and ran him out of Rome. They then placed Sylvester III on the throne, where he held court for barely a month and a half, beginning January 20, 1045. By early March, however, Benedict had gathered an army strong enough to storm the city and remove Sylvester. A year later, he was officially deposed by the Council of Sutri and charged with simony. Didn’t even get a farewell tour. Sylvester III died in 1063.

Second term (1045)
After being chased out of Rome and deposed in 1044, Benedict’s opponents elected Sylvester III, the current Bishop of Sabina, to rule instead. It didn’t take long for Benedict to regroup, however, as he gathered an army and re-took the throne in the Spring of 1045. Barely a month passed in his second term before Benedict decided he’d rather settle down and get married than stay pope. Given that his godfather, Fr. John Gratian, was probably eager for his degenerate godson to be gone from the papacy, Benedict found his man. However, Benedict required Gratian to pay up before he could take office — something in the ballpark of $20 million by today’s equivalent — before he became Pope Gregory VI. Small price to pay, all things considered.

After Second Term,Gregory VI and Clement II Occupied the seat of Saint Peter in 1045 and 1046 respectively. 

Gregory VI

Image from: thefamouspeople.com

Give me the scoop on Gregory VI.
Pope Gregory VI was born John Gratian, serving as a priest in Rome at the church of St. John by the Latin Gate prior to being pope. He was the godfather of Benedict IX, and as a result was offered the papacy by him when Benedict sought to resign and get married. Gratian took the name Gregory VI upon his election on May 1, 1045. When monasteries and churches throughout Europe heard the news, everyone reacted like a kid on Christmas morning, not least of which was the great St. Peter Damian, a Benedictine monk who would later serve as cardinal in brighter papal times, under Pope St. Leo IX (No. 152). Gregory tried to restore order in Rome, writing letters and holding meetings to handle spiritual strife and toughening up his armies to handle the temporal outrage. Opposition proved to be a bit too steep, leading Gregory ultimately to convene the Council of Sutri at the request of Emperor Henry III in 1046.

Clement II

Image from: wikipedia

Give me the scoop on Clement II.
The future pope Clement II, born Suidger von Morsleben, was a German bishop before becoming pope, having served the Diocese of Bamberg since 1040. He road-tripped to Rome with Emperor Henry III to attend the Council of Sutri, where the emperor would finally sort out the bizarre situation happening in the Eternal City. The three major basilicas in Rome — St. Peter’s, the Lateran, and St. Mary Major — were each occupied by a claimant to the Chair of Peter: Sylvester III, Benedict IX, and Gregory VI (the rightful pope). Henry was able to sort the affair out by Christmas, after which he chose and consecrated Bishop Suidger as Pope Clement II in St. Peter’s Basilica. Clement proved to be a solid, well-respected choice.

In office less than 10 months, Clement died on his way back to Rome from Germany. He had ventured there with Henry III to canonize St. Wiborada, a nun who had been martyred by the Huns in 925. A mid-20th Century toxicology report on Clement’s remains showed that he died of poisoning by lead sugar, though it’s unknown whether the poison was intentional (at the hands of Benedict IX’s men) or accidental.

Third term (1047-1048)
Benedict appears to have gotten bored with his resignation, and thus returned to Rome in 1046 to retake the throne. No one seemed to care, and all regarded Gregory VI as true pope. Clement II followed Gregory after a council asked him to resign, so it was only after the former’s death in 1047 that Benedict completed his hat trick. Benedict actually seized the throne by force in November 1047, but by July 1048 everyone was like, “Would you just leave already?” German troops forced him from the city, and he was excommunicated a year later for refusing to appear on simony charges.

Benedict IX was sent to live out the rest of his days at the Abbey of Grottaferrata, and it’s here that the story finds its badly-needed silver lining. The abbot of the monastery recounted that before his death in 1056, Benedict was repentant for his sins committed as pope, did penance, and was welcomed back into full communion with the Church.
What was going on in the world at the time?
In the year 1033, panic was rampant across Europe after some harsh spring weather caused people to think the end of the universe was near. It was the 1000-year anniversary of the death of Christ, and people thought Revelation’s mention of 1000 years passing before the end of the world might be literal.


  1. Benedict IX is the 145th Pope in the Catholic History in the year 1036 – 1045
  2. Sylvester III is the 146th Pope in the Catholic History in the year 1045
  3. Benedict IX is the 147th Pope in the Catholic History in the year 1045
  4. Gregory VI is the 148th Pope in the Catholic History in the year 1045 too
  5. Clement II is the 149th Pope in the Catholic History in the year 1046 – 1047
  6. Benedict IX is the 150th Pope in the Catholic History in the year 1047 – 1048

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