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Pope Benedict VIII

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Date of birth unknown; d. 9 April, 1024. The first of the Tusculan popes, being the son of Gregory, Count of Tusculum, and Maria, and brother of John XIX, he was, though a layman, imposed on the chair of Peter by force (18 May, 1012). Nevertheless, dislodging a rival, he became a good and strong ruler. On the 14th of February, 1014, he crowned the German king, Henry II, emperor ( Thietmar, Chron., VI, 61), and ever kept friendly with him. The peace of Italy was promoted by his subjugating the Crescentii, defeating the Saracens, and allying himself with the Normans, who appeared in its southern parts in his time. Going to Germany, he consecrated the cathedral of Bamberg (Ann. Altahen. Majores, 1020; Chron. Cass., II, 47), visited the monastery of Fulda, and obtained from Henry a charter confirmatory of the donations of Charlemagne and Otho. To restrain the vices of clerical incontinence and simony, he held, with the emperor, an important synod at Pavia (1022 -- Labbe, Concilia, IX, 819), and supported the reformation which was being effected by the great monastery of Cluny. To further the interest of peace, he encouraged the "Truce of God" and countenanced the ecclesiastical advancement of Gauzlin, the natural brother of Robert the Pious, King of France. This he did because, though illegitimate, Gauzlin was a good man, and his loyal brother was very desirous of his promotion (cf. life of Gauzlin, in "Neues Archiv.", III). Benedict VIII was one of the many popes who were called upon to intervene in the interminable strife for precedence between the Patriarchs of Grado and of Aquileia (Dandolo, Chron., IX, 2, n. 2). In 1022 he received Ethelnoth of Canterbury "with great worship and very honourably hallowed him archbishop ", and reinstated in his position Leofwine, Abbot of Ely (A.S. Chron., 125, 6, R.S.). A friend of St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, and one of the few popes of the Middle Ages who was at once powerful at home and great abroad, Benedict VIII has, on seemingly insufficient grounds, been accused of avarice.


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