Benedict VIII of Rome

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Pope Benedict VIII of Rome was the Pope of the Church of Rome from 1012 to 1024. The accession of Benedict VIII brought the Tusculum branch of the house of Theophylactus to the papal throne, replacing that of the Crescentius branch that had previously dominated the government of Rome. As the first of the Tusculan popes Benedict proved to be a strong and good pope after an era of corruption and confusion under the Crescentius.


Pope Benedict was born Theophylactus, at an unknown date, of the noble family of the Counts of Tusculum, descended from Theophylact, Count of Tusculum, as also had the murdered Pope Benedict VI. He was the son of Count Gregory of Tusculum, and his wife Maria, and the brother of the future Pope John XIX and Romanus, who was made senator of all the Romans.

After the death of Pope Sergius IV on May 12, 1012, Theophylactus was elected Pope Benedict VIII in a disputed election with a certain Gregory, antipope Gregory VI, who forced Benedict to flee. Benedict was restored to the papal throne with the help of Henry II of Germany, who Benedict crowned as the Holy Roman emperor on February 14, 1014. Benedict remained on good terms with Henry for his entire pontificate. Benedict quickly asserted himself as one who would stand no disobedience from the turbulent lords. Crescentius, a cousin of the late Patrician, had seized a castle belonging to the monastery of Farfa, near Rome. The emperor Henry, after receiving an appeal from the monks, asked Benedict to see that justice was done. Crescentius mocked Benedict's invitation to do justice, but when he found the Pope coming after him with an army, he agreed to be reasonable.

In the face of renewed Saracens attacks on southern Italy, Pope Benedict provided leadership that brought peace through his skills and alliances with the Normans. After the Saracens had seized Luna in Tuscany they began spreading misery over the Italian land. Benedict mounted attacks on them by land and by sea and soon drove them out of Italy. The furious Muslim chief sent Benedict a bag of chestnuts and threatened that he would return the next summer with a soldier for every chestnut. Not to be outdone in this war of nerves, Benedict sent in return a bag of rice with his warning that when the Muslim returned he would find a soldier for every grain of rice. Then, believing that the best defense was a good offense, Pope Benedict succeeded in having the Genoese and Pisans sail against the Muslim base in Sardinia. The combined fleets captured the island after the Muslims had held Sardinia for over a century.

In 1020, Benedict travelled to Bamberg Germany to confer with Henry II about the revolt of the Lombards in Eastern Roman controlled southern Italy. He convinced Emperor Henry to lead an expedition into the southern area and, with the help of Norman mercenaries, subordinate his vassals who had defected to Constantinople. While at Bamberg, Benedict consecrated the new cathedral, obtained a charter from Henry II confirming the donations of Charlemagne and Otto the Great, and visited the monastery of Fulda.

In 1022, Pope Benedict convened a council of Pavia at which he reasserted ecclesiastical discipline, then in a state of great decadence.

Pope Benedict died on April 9, 1024 in Rome.

Succession box:
Benedict VIII of Rome
Preceded by:
Sergius IV
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
John XIX
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