Pope Victor III

Last updated
Pope Blessed

Victor III
Pope Victor III.jpg
Papacy began24 May 1086
Papacy ended16 September 1087
Predecessor Gregory VII
Successor Urban II
Consecration9 May 1087
by  Otho de Lagery
Created cardinal6 March 1058
by Pope Nicholas II
Personal details
Birth nameDauferio
Bornc. 1026
Benevento, Duchy of Benevento
Died(1087-09-16)16 September 1087
Monte Cassino, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Previous post
Feast day
  • 16 September (Roman Martyrology)
  • 16 October (Roman Proper)
Venerated in Catholic Church
Title as SaintBlessed
Beatified23 July 1887
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
by  Pope Leo XIII
Other popes named Victor
Papal styles of
Pope Victor III
Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous style Blessed

Pope Victor III (c. 1026 – 16 September 1087), born Dauferio, was Pope from 24 May 1086 to his death in 1087. He was the successor of Pope Gregory VII, yet his pontificate is far less impressive in history than his time as Desiderius, the great Abbot of Montecassino.

Pope Leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome, leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state representing the Holy See. Since 1929, the pope has official residence in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City, the Holy See's city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.

Pope Gregory VII Pope

Pope Gregory VII, born Hildebrand of Sovana, was pope from 22 April 1073 to his death in 1085.


His failing health was the factor that made him so reluctant to accept his pontifical election and his health was so poor that he fell to illness during his papal coronation. The only literary work of his that remains is his "Dialogues" on the miracles performed by Saint Benedict of Nursia and other saints at Montecassino. [1]

Pope Leo XIII beatified him on 23 July 1887.


Early life and abbacy

He was born in 1026 to a branch of the Lombard dukes of Benevento as the only son of Prince Landulf V of Benevento.

Landulf V was the prince of Benevento from May 987, when he was first associated with his father Pandulf II, to his death. He was chief prince from his father's death in 1014.

After his father died in battle with the Normans in 1047, he fled from an arranged marriage and, though brought back by force, eventually fled again. He went to Cava de' Tirreni, where he obtained permission to enter the monastery of S. Sophia at Benevento, where he changed his name from Dauferius to Desiderius. It was a decision that his mother vehemently opposed, owing to his being the only son and the only child. The life at S. Sophia was not strict enough for the young monk, who betook himself first to the island monastery of Tremite San Nicolo [2] in the Adriatic and in 1053 to some hermits at Majella in the Abruzzi. About this time he was brought to the notice of St. Leo IX, and it is probable that the pope employed him at Benevento to negotiate peace with the Normans after the fatal battle of Civitate.

Cava de Tirreni Comune in Campania, Italy

Cava de' Tirreni is a city and comune in the region of Campania, Italy, in the province of Salerno, 10 kilometres northwest of the town of Salerno. It lies in a richly cultivated valley surrounded by wooded hills, and is a popular tourist resort.

Isole Tremiti Comune in Apulia, Italy

The Isole Tremiti are an archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, north of the Gargano Peninsula. They constitute a comune of Italy's Province of Foggia and form part of the Gargano national park. The name of the islands relates to their seismic hazard, with a history of earthquakes in the area: tremiti means "tremors".

Battle of Civitate middle ages battle

The Battle of Civitate was fought on 18 June 1053 in southern Italy, between the Normans, led by the Count of Apulia Humphrey of Hauteville, and a Swabian-Italian-Lombard army, organised by Pope Leo IX and led on the battlefield by Gerard, Duke of Lorraine, and Rudolf, Prince of Benevento. The Norman victory over the allied papal army marked the climax of a conflict between the Norman mercenaries who came to southern Italy in the eleventh century, the de Hauteville family, and the local Lombard princes. By 1059 the Normans would create an alliance with the papacy, which included a formal recognition by Pope Nicholas II of the Norman conquest in south Italy, investing Robert Guiscard as Duke of Apulia and Calabria, and Count of Sicily.

Somewhat later Desiderius attached himself to the court of Pope Victor II at Florence. There he met two monks of the renowned Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, with whom he returned in 1055. He joined the community and was shortly afterwards appointed superior of the dependent house at Capua. In 1057 Pope Stephen IX, who had retained the abbacy of Monte Cassino, came to visit and at Christmas, believing himself to be dying, ordered the monks to elect a new abbot. Their choice fell on Desiderius. The pope recovered, and, desiring to retain the abbacy during his lifetime, appointed the abbot-designate his legate for Constantinople. It was at Bari, when about to sail for the East, that the news of the pope's death reached Desiderius. Having obtained a safe-conduct from Robert Guiscard, the Norman Count (later Duke) of Apulia, he returned to his monastery and was duly installed by Cardinal Humbert on Easter Day 1058. [3]

Pope Victor II pope

Pope Victor II, born Gebhard, Count of Calw, Tollenstein, and Hirschberg, was Pope from 13 April 1055 until his death in 1057. He was also known as Gebhard Of Dollnstein-hirschberg. Gebhard was one of a series of German reform popes.

Florence Capital and most populous city of the Italian region of Tuscany

Florence is a city in central Italy and the capital city of the Tuscany region. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,084 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.

Monte Cassino Rocky hill about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of Rome, Italy.

Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of Rome, in the Latin Valley, Italy, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the west of the town of Cassino and 520 m (1,706.04 ft) altitude. Site of the Roman town of Casinum, it is best known for its abbey, the first house of the Benedictine Order, having been established by Benedict of Nursia himself around 529. It was for the community of Monte Cassino that the Rule of Saint Benedict was composed.

Pope Nicholas II elevated him into the cardinalate the Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Sergio e Bacco on 6 March 1058. He opted to be the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia in 1059.

Pope Nicholas II pope

Pope Nicholas II, born Gérard de Bourgogne, was pope from 24 January 1059 until his death. At the time of his election, he was Bishop of Florence.

Santi Sergio e Bacco Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in Rome

Santi Sergio e Bacco is a Catholic church of the Byzantine Rite located on Piazza Madonna dei Monti in the rione of Monti in Rome, Italy. Saints Sergius and Bacchus are said to have been early fourth-century Roman military officers and Christian martyrs buried in Syria. In the 9th century the church was known as Sergius and Bacchus in Callinico, in the Middle Ages as Sergius and Bacchus de Suburra, and from the 18th century forward has been known also as the church of Madonna del Pascolo. Since 1970 it has been a national church of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Rome and is now known officially as the "Parish of Ukrainian Catholics of Madonna del Pascolo and Saints Sergius and Bacchus."

Santa Cecilia is a municipality and town located in the province of Burgos, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2004 census (INE), the municipality has a population of 118 inhabitants.

Desiderius rebuilt the church and conventual buildings, perfected the products of the scriptorium and re-established monastic discipline, so that there were 200 monks in the monastery in his day. On 1 October 1071, the new Basilica of Monte Cassino was consecrated by Pope Alexander II. Desiderius' reputation brought gifts and exemptions to the abbey. The money was spent on church ornaments, including a great golden altar front from Constantinople adorned with gems and enamels and "nearly all the church ornaments of Victor II, which had been pawned here and there throughout the city". [4] Peter the Deacon gives [5] a list of some seventy books Desiderius had copied at Monte Cassino, including works of Saint Augustine, Saint Ambrose, Saint Bede, Saint Basil, Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Cassian, the histories of Josephus, Paul Warnfrid, Jordanes and Saint Gregory of Tours, the Institutes and Novels of Justinian, the works of Terence, Virgil and Seneca, Cicero's De natura deorum, and Ovid's Fasti.

Desiderius had been appointed papal vicar for Campania, Apulia, Calabria and the Principality of Beneventum with special powers for the reform of monasteries. So great was his reputation with the Holy See that he "...was allowed by the Roman Pontiff to appoint Bishops and Abbots from among his Benedictine brethren in whatever churches or monasteries he desired, of those that had lost their patron". [6]

Within two years of the consecration of the Cassinese Basilica, Alexander II died and was succeeded by Hildebrand as Pope Gregory VII. Desiderius was able to call forth the help of the Normans of southern Italy repeatedly in favour of the Holy See. Already in 1059 he had persuaded Robert Guiscard and Richard of Capua to become vassals of St. Peter for their newly conquered territories: now Gregory VII immediately after his election sent for him to give an account of the state of Norman Italy and entrusted him with the negotiation of an interview with Robert Guiscard on 2 August 1073, at Benevento. In 1074 and 1075 he acted as intermediary, probably as Gregory's agent, between the Norman princes themselves, and even when the latter were at open war with the pope, they still maintained the best relations with Monte Cassino. At the end of 1080 Desiderius obtained Norman troops for Gregory. In 1082 he visited the Italian king and future Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV at Albano, while the troops of the Imperialist antipope were harassing the pope from Tivoli. In 1083 the peace-loving abbot joined Hugh of Cluny in an attempt to reconcile pope and emperor, and his proceedings seem to have aroused some suspicion in Gregory's entourage. In 1084, when Rome was in Henry's hands and the pope besieged in Castel Sant'Angelo, Desiderius announced the approach of Guiscard's army to both emperor and pope. [3]


Pope Victor III Victor III. - Desiderius of Montecassino.jpg
Pope Victor III
Vicente Carducho: Vision of Pope Victor III. Monastery of El Paular (Spain). Vicente Carducho. "Vision del papa Victor III" (1626-1632), Cartuja del Paular-Museo del Prado.jpg
Vicente Carducho: Vision of Pope Victor III. Monastery of El Paular (Spain).

Though certainly a strong partisan of the Hildebrandine reforms, Desiderius belonged to the moderate party and could not always see eye-to-eye with Pope Gregory VII in his most intransigent proceedings. Yet when the latter lay dying at Salerno on 25 May 1085, the Abbot of Monte Cassino was one of those whom he recommended to the cardinals of southern Italy as fittest to succeed him. The Roman people had expelled the antipope Clement III from the city, and hither Desiderius hastened to consult with the cardinals on the approaching election. Finding, however, that they were bent on forcing the papal dignity upon him, he fled to Monte Cassino, where he busied himself in exhorting the Normans and Lombards to rally to the support of the Holy See. When autumn came, Desiderius accompanied the Norman army on its march to Rome. However, when he became aware of the plot between the cardinals and the Norman princes to force the papal tiara on him, he would not enter Rome unless they swore to abandon their design. They refused to do that, and the election was postponed. At about Easter [7] the bishops and cardinals assembled at Rome summoned Desiderius and the cardinals who were with him at Monte Cassino to come to Rome to treat concerning the election.

On 23 May a great meeting was held in the deaconry of St. Lucy, and Desiderius was again importuned to accept the papacy but persisted in his refusal, threatening to return to his monastery in case of violence. On the next day, the feast of Pentecost, the same scene was repeated very early in the morning. The Roman consul Cencius now suggested the election of Odo, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia (afterwards pope Urban II), but this was rejected by some of the cardinals on the grounds that the translation of a bishop was contrary to ecclesiastical law.

Cardinal Desiderio, O.S.B., abbot of Montecassino, was elected successor to Gregory VII on May 24, 1086 in the deaconry of S. Lucia in Septisolis and took the name Victor III. [8] Four days later, pope and cardinals had to flee from Rome before the imperial prefect of the Eternal City, and at Terracina, in spite of all protests, Victor laid aside the papal insignia and once more retired to Monte Cassino, where he remained nearly a whole year. In the middle of Lent 1087, the pope-elect assisted at a council of cardinals and bishops held at Capua as "Papal vicar of those parts" (letter of Hugh of Lyons) together with the Norman princes, Cencius the Consul and the Roman nobles. Here, Victor finally yielded and "by the assumption of the cross and purple confirmed the past election". [9] How much his obstinacy had irritated some of the prelates is evidenced in the letter of Hugh of Lyons preserved by Hugh of Flavigny. [10]

Under pressure from Prince Jordan I of Capua, to whom he had also rendered important service , he was elected on 24 May 1086, taking the throne name of Victor III, but his consecration did not take place until 9 May 1087 owing to the presence of the Antipope Clement III in Rome. After celebrating Easter of 1087 in his monastery, Victor proceeded to Rome, and when the Normans had driven the soldiers of the Antipope Clement III (Guibert of Ravenna) out of St. Peter's, he was consecrated and enthroned on 9 May 1087. He only remained eight days in Rome and then returned to Monte Cassino, though with the help of Matilda and Jordan, he took back the Vatican Hill. Before May was out he was once more in Rome in answer to a summons for the countess Matilda of Tuscany, whose troops held the Leonine City and Trastevere, but when at the end of June the antipope once more gained possession of St. Peter's, Victor again withdrew at once to his Monte Cassino abbey. In August a council or synod of some importance was held at Benevento, which renewed the excommunication of the antipope Clement III and the condemnation of lay investiture, proclaimed a kind of crusade against the Saracens in northern Africa and anathematised Hugh of Lyons and Richard, Abbot of Marseilles. [3]

When the council had lasted three days, Victor became seriously ill and retired to Monte Cassino to die. He had himself carried into the chapter-house, issued various decrees for the benefit of the abbey, appointed with the consent of the monks the prior, Cardinal Oderisius, to succeed him in the abbacy, just as he himself had been appointed by Stephen IX, and proposed Odo of Ostia to the assembled cardinals and bishops as the next pope. He died on 16 September 1087 and was buried in the tomb he had prepared for himself in the abbey's chapter-house. Odo was duly elected his successor as Pope Urban II.


In the sixteenth century his body was removed to the abbey church, and again translated in 1890. The cult of Blessed Victor III seems to have begun not later than the pontificate of Pope Anastasius IV, about six decades after his death (Acta Sanctorum, Loc. cit.).

In 1727 the Abbot of Monte Cassino obtained from Pope Benedict XIII permission to keep his feast (Tosti, I, 393).

Pope Leo XIII beatified Victor III.


Pope Victor's only existing literary work "Dialogues," is on the miracles wrought by St. Benedict and other saints at Monte Cassino. There is also a letter to the bishops of Sardinia, where (since c. 1050 brought under Pisan and Genoan control) he sent monks while still abbot of Monte Cassino. In his "De Viris Illustribus Casinensibus", Peter the Deacon ascribes to him the composition of a "Cantus ad B. Maurum" and letters to King Philip I of France and to Hugh of Cluny, which no longer exist.

Posthumous legacy

In 1515, Victor III's body was relocated to the main abbey church in Monte Cassino with many pilgrims visiting his tomb. His body was once again moved at the Chapel of St. Victor in 1887 when he was canonized. During World War II, his body was removed and placed in Rome for safekeeping. The main abbey at Monte Cassino was destroyed in February 1944 by American bombing. Victor's body was moved back to the rebuilt abbey in 1963. [11]

See also

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  1. "September 16 – The pope who exacted tribute from the Mohammedan ruler of Tunis". Nobility. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  2. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 12 p. 178.
  3. 1 2 3 Webster, Douglas Raymund. "Pope Blessed Victor III." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 13 Feb. 2013
  4. Chron. Cass., III, 18 (20)
  5. Chron. Cass., III, 63
  6. Chron. Cas., III, 34
  7. Chron. Cass., III, 66
  8. mirandas/conclave-xi.htm Miranda, Salvatore. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church", Florida International University
  9. Chron. Cass., III, 68
  10. Monumenta German. Histor.: Script. VIII, 466–468
  11. Matthews, Rupert (2013). The Popes: Every Question Answered. New York: Metro Books. p. 143. ISBN   978-1-4351-4571-9.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Gregory VII
Succeeded by
Urban II