Benedict IX of Rome

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Pope Benedict IX of Rome was the Pope of the Church of Rome for three different terms, from 1032 to 1044, then during the months of April and May 1045, and finally November 1047 to July 1048. A member of the Theophylactus clan of Rome he is the only man ever to have sold the papacy and is known as a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.


Theophylactus of Tusculum was born about 1012, the son of Alberic III, Count of Tusculum. He was a nephew of Popes Benedict VIII and John XIX. His father, considering the papacy as a sort of heirloom, obtained the Papal seat for Theophylactus as Benedict IX when he was about twenty years of age, although he has been alleged to have been younger. Although a cleric, he was unqualified for the position by his youth, his bringing up, and his depravity. Leading an extremely dissolute life and with few qualifications for the papacy other his connections with a socially powerful family, his pontifical acts were few. He held two or three councils in Rome and granted a number of privileges to various churches and monasteries.

His critics were many. Peter Damian, a cardinal and reforming monk, is alleged to have described him as "feasting on immorality". The anti-papal historian Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote that in Benedict, "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest... occupied the chair of Peter and profaned the sacred mysteries of religion by his insolent courses." Bishop Benno of Piacenza accused him of "many vile adulteries and murders".[1]

In 1044, one of the factions in the city took advantage of the dissolute life Benedict was leading and drove him from the papal throne amid great disorder and elected Bishop John of Sabina as Sylvester III [2] However, Benedict succeeded in expelling Sylvester the following year and recovering the papal see.

A month later, Benedict resigned his office so that he might marry, selling his office for a large sum to his godfather the priest John Gratian who then named himself Gregory VI. Soon regretting his resignation, Benedict returned to Rome and deposed Gregory who continued to be recognized as the true pope. At the same time, Sylvester III also reinstated his claim to the papal throne.

This resulted in the intervention of King Henry III of the Germans. Benedict, Sylvester, and Gregory were deposed at the Council of Sutri, in December 1046, and the German Bishop Suidger of Bamberg was crowned Pope Clement II, an action that Benedict did not accept. When Clement II died in October 1047, Benedict again seized the Lateran Palace in Rome in November 1047, but was driven out by German troops in July 1048 and replaced by Bishop Poppo of Brixen, a second German, as Pope Damasus II in November 1048 and who was universally recognized as such.

Following his being deposed Benedict IX refused to appear on charges of simony in 1049 and was excommunicated. The eventual fate of Benedict IX is obscure. He seemed to have given up his claims to the papal throne. The abbot Luke of the Abbey of Grottaferrata recorded that Benedict turned from his sins and died in penitence at Grottaferrata about the year 1056 where he was buried.


  1. Post multa turpia adulteria et homicidia manibus suis perpetrata, postremo, etc.”Dummler, Ernst Ludwig(1891) (in Latin),Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libelli de lite, I (Bonizonis episcopi Sutriensis: Liber ad amicum ed.), Hannover: Deutsches Institut für Erforschung des Mittelalters, pp. 584.
  2. 1045 -Ann. Romani, init. Victor, Dialogi, III, init.
Succession box:
Benedict IX of Rome
Preceded by:
John XIX
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
Sylvester III
Preceded by:
Sylvester III
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
Gregory VI
Preceded by:
Clement II
Pope of Rome
Succeeded by:
Damasus II
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