Victor II, Pope, Bl.

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Pontificate: April 13, 1055 to July 28, 1057; b. Gebhard, Swabia; d. Arezzo, Italy. Scion of a Swabian aristocratic lineage from which the later Counts of Calw descended, Gebhard was also related to the royal dynasty of the Salians. He appears to have been educated in the cathedral school of Regensburg and was a canon there under Bishop Gebhard III. At the bishop's suggestion, Emperor Henry III appointed Gebhard bishop of Eichstätt in 1042, despite the fact that the new prelate had not yet attained the canonically appropriate age. As bishop, Gebhard is said to have impressed contemporaries with his knowledge and skill in matters both divine and worldly. Apparently, he impressed Henry III as well. By 1050, Gebhard figured among the emperor's chief advisors. A near contemporary, emphasizing the esteem in which the prelate was held, describes him as "second after the king." He was instrumental in obstructing aid for Pope Leo IX's campaign against the Normans in southern Italy and hence, contributed indirectly to the pope's humiliating defeat at Civitate (June 18, 1053). Following Duke Conrad's deposition, in 1053, Henry III appointed Gerhard regent for Bavaria.

Upon Leo IX's death, an embassy from Rome approached the emperor and requested the appointment of a successor. After much deliberation, the emperor designated Gebhard (Mainz, September 1054) who, however, refused to accept the nomination until March 1055. In the meantime, Gebhard received assurances that property taken from the Roman church would be returned and that he could retain his German bishopric. On April 13, 1055, in the basilica of St. Peter, he was enthroned as Pope Victor II. As with the other "German popes" appointed by Henry III, Victor II's relations with the emperor were characterized by amicable cooperation in ecclesiastical matters, in protecting the papal patrimony, and in maintaining papal and imperial rights in southern Italy. Together pope and emperor presided over a synod in Florence (June 1055). If the accounts in later, undoubtedly biased sources can be believed, the synod took up more or less the same policies of ecclesiastical reform advocated by Leo IX; condemning clerical unchastity, simony, and the alienation of ecclesiastical property. Leo held other synods at Rome, in April 1057 and at Arezzo in July 1057. During Victor's reign, Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII), acting as legate, presided over a synod that dealt with the eucharistic heresy of Berengar of Tours.

To support both papal and imperial interests against Duke Godfrey III of Upper Lotharingia and now also Marquis of Tuscany, Henry III gave Victor responsibility for administering the Duchy of Spoleto and the March of Fermo. In September 1056, pope and emperor met at Goslar to resolve their mutual problems in southern Italy. The emperor's death less than a month later (October 5) ensured that these plans came to naught. On his death bed, the emperor commended his minor son, the future Henry IV, to Pope Victor's protection. After seeing to the ruler's interment at Speyer, the pope secured the regency for the imperial widow, Empress Agnes, had Henry IV crowned at Aachen, and negotiated a peace with the monarchy's chief enemies, Count Balduin V of Flanders and Godfrey III. In February 1057, he returned to Italy, held synods at Rome and Arezzo (see above), and died on July 28. Although his entourage wished to return his body to Germany, for burial at Eichstätt, the populace of Ravenna instead seized it for burial in their own church of Santa Maria Rotunda (i.e. the tomb of Theodorich).

Bibliography: Anonymous Haserensis de episcopis Eichstetensibus ed. l. c. bethmann. Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores, 7 (Hanover 1846) 263266. g. d. mansi, Sacroum conciliorum (Paris 1901) 19, 833862. s. weinfurter, Die Geschichte der Eichstätter Bischöfe des Anonymous Haserensis (Regensburg 1987) passim. g. frech, "Die deutschen Päpste-Kontinuität und Wandel," in Die Salier und Das Reich 3, ed. s. weinfurter (Sigmaringen 1991) 303332. g. tellenbach, The Church in Western Europe from the Tenth to the Early Twelfth Century, tr. t. reuter (Cambridge 1993) 142146, 192193. g. martin, "Der Salische Herrscher als Patricius Romanorum. Zur Einflussnahme Heinrichs III und Heinrichs IV auf die Besetzung der cathedra Petri," Frühmittelalterliche Studien 28 (1994) 257295.

[d. a. warner]