Victor III, Pope

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Pontificate: May 24, 1086 (election); May 9, 1087 (consecration), to Sept. 16, 1087 (at the abbey of Montecassino);

b. Dauferius/Daufari c. 1027 to a noble Beneventan family related to the Lombard dukes. Leaving an eremitical life, he became a Benedictine monk at the abbey of S. Sofia at Benevento (southern Italy), adopting the name Desiderius. With the approval of Pope Victor II he entered the abbey of Montecassino in 1055, where he was elected abbot in 1058 (April 10). Pope Nicholas II named him cardinal-priest of S. Cecilia in Rome in 1059. He participated in the Lateran council of that year subscribing its papal election decree and brought about the revolutionary alliance of the papacy with the Normans, concluded solemnly at the council of Melfi in August 1059. He supported the Gregorian reformers and was a frequent collaborator not only of Nicholas II but also of popes Alexander II and Gregory VII. In 1080 he reconciled the latter with Robert Guiscard, who although a vassal of the papacy had not ceased his attacks on papal territory but failed to bring about a reconciliation between Gregory and Emperor Henry IV, with whom he met in 1082 provoking Gregory's anger. It is unlikely, however, that Gregory went so far to excommunicate the abbot who was among the few who surrounded the deathbed of the pope in exile at Salerno in May 1085 after having been Gregory's host at Montecassino during the papal flight from Rome in 1084. Although Gregory did not name him among possible successors, Desiderius was elected pope in May 1086. But he hesitated to assume the heavy burdenWibert of Ravenna dominated as antipope Clement IIIin part also because of ecclesiastical opposition to his election from Hugh of Die and his circle. He continued in his office as abbot of Montecassino, but was eventually consecrated and enthroned as Pope Victor III (May 1087) under the protection of Norman troops. During his brief papacy he celebrated a synod at Benevento (August 1087), excommunicating Hugh of Die and Wibert of Ravenna, but he apparently neither renewed the prohibition of investiture nor the excommunication of Henry IV. In contrast with his troubled papacy the almost 30 years of his abbacy at Montecassino were highly successful. The library holdings in all areas of study were vastly expanded; the property of the abbey increased and its basilica (consecrated by Pope Alexander II in 1071) and monastic buildings reconstructed. Victor himself wrote between 1076 and 1079 a work extolling the miracles of St. Benedict. Cardinal Deusdedit dedicated his Collectio canonum to him. His beatification was confirmed by Leo XIII on Sept. 23, 1887.

Bibliography: h. bloch, Monte Cassino in the Middle Ages, 3 v. (Cambridge, MA and Rome 1986). h. e. j. cowdrey, The Age of Abbot Desiderius (Oxford 1983). j. deÉr, Papsttum und Normannen (Cologne-Vienna 1972). h. dormeier, Montecassino und die Laien im 11. und 12. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart 1979). g. a. loud, "Abbot Desiderius of Montecassino and the Gregorian Papacy," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 30 (1979) 305326. L'età dellabate Desiderio, 3 v., ed. f. avagliano and o. pecere (Montecassino 19891992). m. gude, "Die 'fideles sancti Petri' im Streit um die Nachfolge Papst Gregors VII.," Frühmittelalterliche Studien 27 (1993) 290316. r. hÜls, Kardinäle, Klerus und Kirchen Roms 10491130 (Tübingen 1977) 154157. j. laudage, "Victor III," Lexikon der Päpste und des Papsttums (Freiburg-Basel-Vienna 2001) 400. w. d. maccready, "The Incomplete 'Dialogues' of Desiderius of Montecassino," Analecta Bollandiana 116 (1998) 115146; idem, "Dating the Dialogues' of Abbot Desiderius of Montecassino," Revue bénédictine 108 (1998) 145168. r. schieffer, "Viktor III," Lexikon des Mittelalters, col. 1665f.

[u.-r. blumenthal]