Victor IV, Antipope

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Pontificate Sept. 7, 1159 to April 20, 1164. We do not know the date of his birth, but Octavian of Monticelli was born in the Sabina (north of Rome) to an aristocratic family related to the Crescentii, a powerful and influential Roman family. By 1138 he had been made cardinal deacon of St. Nicholas in Carcere Tulliano, and was promoted in 1151 to cardinal priest of St. Cecilia. He was an important member of the curia of Eugene III (114553), for whom he served as legate to Germany, where he met Frederick, Duke of Swabia, who would soon become the new emperor (i.e., frederick i barba rossa, 115290) and his supporter as antipope. Octavian was thus associated with those who supported imperial influence within the curia, and even served as a legate for Barbarossa. After the strongly anti-imperialist Pope Adrian IV died in 1159, two groups within the curia came to a sharp disagreement over his successor. Octavian's minority group was pro-imperialist, while the majority of cardinals favored an alliance with Norman Sicily to insure independence from the emperor. This difference resulted in a disputed election. At the conclave, the overwhelming majority of cardinals elected Cardinal Roland to be Alexander III (115981), while a group of no more than five imperialist cardinals, with the support of Barbarossa's ambassadors in Rome, would not acknowledge Alexander and maintained that they had elected Octavian, who took the name Victor IV (thus ignoring the four-month reign of Antipope Victor IV in 1138). At this point, confusion broke out when a Roman mob supporting Octavian broke into St. Peter's. Octavian and Roland fought over the papal mantle. According to most sources, Octavian managed to put it on, and the people proclaimed him pope. Roland was forced to flee but was soon consecrated as Pope Alexander III.

Frederick Barbarossa then called for a synod at Pavia (February 1160) and invited each rival to submit his claim. Since only 50 bishops attended, none from England or France, the synod was clearly intended to ratify Victor. Alexander would not come, since to do so would acknowledge the emperor's authority over the church, precisely the position his group opposed. Not surprisingly, the synod decided that Victor was the legitimate pope. It also excommunicated Alexander, who in turn excommunicated Victor, the emperor, and his advisors. Later, in October 1160, there was another meeting that included most of the other bishops, many monastic leaders, and kings Henry II of England (115489) and Louis VII of France (113779). This group determined that Alexander was the rightful pope, and thus began an 18-year schism that would pit three imperial antipopes (cf. Paschal III, 116468, and Callistus III, 116878) against the longlived and politically astute Alexander.

Victor was never widely recognized in Europe. His support in Germany was significant only in those areas that supported Barbarossa, and his strength in northern Italy depended directly on the strength of the emperor. France, England, Spain, Hungary, and Ireland all sided with Alexander, and nothing Barbarossa did in the subsequent years altered the fact. Initially, as the emperor seemed to consolidate his control of northern Italy, Victor's prospects looked secure (Alexander was forced to live in France), but Alexander continued to gather support. On Sept. 7, 1162 Victor presided at a synod at Dôle where he renewed his excommunication of Alexander, but he was for the most part fighting a losing battle. He died suddenly on April 20, 1164 in Lucca while traveling with Rainald of Dassel, Frederick's chancellor to Italy and archbishop of Cologne (115967), who then oversaw the election of his successor, the antipope Paschal III.

Bibliography: l. duchesne, ed. Liber Pontificalis (Paris 188692; repr. 195557) 2.397410. p. jaffÉ, Regesta pontificum Romanorum (Leipzig 188588; repr. Graz 1956) 2.41826. Boso's Life of Alexander III, intro. peter munz (Totowa, NJ 1973). alexander iii, Letter 1, in j. p. migne, ed. Patrologia latina (Paris 184164) 200.6970. p. f. ker, "Zur Geschichte Viktors IV," Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 46 (1926) 5385. f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts (Munich 195459) 3.23248. h. jedin and j. dolan, eds. Handbook of Church History (New York 196581) 4.5763. m. baldwin, Alexander III and the Twelfth Century (New York 1968) 4384. h. m. schwarzmair, "Zur Familie Viktors VI in der Sabina," Quellen und Forschungen aus Italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken 48 (1968) 6479. w. ullmann, A Short History of the Papacy in the Middle Ages (London 1972). t. reuter, The Papal Schism, the Empire and the West, 115969 (Diss. Exeter 1975). r. somerville, Pope Alexander III and the Council of Tours, 1163 (Berkeley 1977). j. n. d. kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (New York 1986) 17778. i. s. robinson, The Papacy 10731198: Continuity and Innovation (Cambridge 1990). w. maleczek, Lexikon des Mittelalters (Munich 1997) 8.166667.

[p. m. savage]