The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope John XII (955-964)
961 (III)


(4) 1. BENEDETTO (?-965)

Birth. (No date found), Rome. Son of Ildebrando. He was surnamed il Gramatico and Grammaticus.

Education. He possessed a vast knowledge and culture and that was the reason for his surname. He was called vir sanctus literatusque (1).

Early life. A devout and morally exemplary deacon, he supported the movement for reform in the Church. He worked in scholis.

Cardinalate. Deacon cardinalis of the Holy Roman Church in 961 (?). In the Roman Council of December 4, 963, Emperor Otto I had Pope John XII deposed and replaced, on December 6, by his nominee Leone, who was a layman and chief notary (protoscrinarius) of the Church. He took the name Leo VIII (2). Cardinal Benedetto took part in the election of Leo VIII but did not did not play a prominent role in the bitter factional strife of the time. Pope John XII regained control of the Holy See in February 964 and had Leo VIII deposed. Cardinal Benedetto took part in the Roman Council of February 26, 964. As soon as they were able to, the Romans expelled Pope Leo VIII. When the deposed Pope John XII died on May 14, 964, the Romans did not recall Leo, and instead sent envoys to the emperor, who was in Rieti, asking permission to elect Cardinal Benedetto; they hoped that the emperor would abandon Leo VIII and support a candidate beyond reproach; the emperor angrily refused. Notwithstanding the imperial refusal, the Roman clergy and people elected and enthroned Cardinal Benedetto and promised to defend him to the end.

Papacy. Elected pope on May 22, 964. Took the name Benedict V. Enraged, the emperor marched on Rome, placed the city under siege and was willing to let it starve; Benedict V uselessly anathemized the imperial troops; eventually, the Romans were forced to turn Benedict over on June 23, 964. A synod was immediately celebrated in the Lateran palace presided over by Leo VIII and Emperor Otto I; the assembly condemned Benedict as an usurper, degraded him and ended his pontificate; with great humility, Benedict declined to defend himself; he was stripped of his pontifical robes and insignias, and his pastoral staff was broken over his head by Leo VIII as Benedict lay prostrate; the emperor intervened so that Benedict was allowed to keep the rank of deacon. The emperor reinstated Leo VIII and left Rome, taking Benedict with him to Germany. The deposed Benedict V was placed under the care of Adaldag, archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, who treated him with great respect; Benedict was even then acknowledged as pope by some of the German clergy. When Leo died, some called for his restoration but it did not take place. He created four cardinals in two promotions.

Death. July 4, 966 (?), Hamburg, from a brain trauma suffered when he was hit by Leo VIII. Buried in the old cathedral of Hamburg (3); his remains were taken to Rome in 899 by Emperor Otto III and Archbishop Razone of Hamburg-Bremen. It is not known for certain where the remains were interred, although it is possible that it was at the Vatican basilican. His monument, erected several centuries later in the cathedral of Hamburg, was destroyed in 1804. A drawing exists of his tomb (4).

Bibliography. Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1792, I, pt. 1, 79 ; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificum Romanorum : et S.R.E. Cardinalium ab initio nascentis Ecclesiae usque ad Clementem IX P. O. M. Alphonsi Ciaconii Ord. Praed. & aliorum opera descriptæ : cum uberrimis notis. Ab Augustino Oldoino, Soc. Jesu recognitae, et ad quatuor tomos ingenti ubique rerum accessione productae. Additis Pontificum recentiorum imaginibus, & Cardinalium insignibus, plurimisque aeneis figuris, cum indicibus locupletissimis. Romæ : P. et A. De Rubeis, 1677, I, col. 720, no. 17; and col. 721-723; Cristofori, Francesco. Cronotasi dei cardinali di Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Tipografia de Propaganda Fide, 1888, p. 284; De Angelis, Maria Antonietta. "Benedetto V, papa." Mondo vaticano. Passato e presente. Città del Vaticano : Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 127; Delogu, Paolo. "Benedetto V."Enciclopedia dei papi. 3 vols. Roma : Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 2000, II, 84-87"Essai de liste générale des cardinaux. Les cardinaux des 10 premiers siècles". Annuaire Pontifical Catholique 1926. Paris : Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1927, p. 157, no. 4; Gregorovius, Ferdinando. Le tombe dei papi.. Roma : Edizioni del Centauro, 1931. Seconda edizione italiana riveduta e ampliata da C. Huelsen, p. 40*; Kelly, John Norman Davidson. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 128-129; Liudprand, Bishop of Cremona, d. ca. 972. The works of Liudprand of Cremona. Translated for the first time into English with an introduction by F.A. Wright. London : G. Routledge & Sons, 1930. (Broadway medieval library) .Contents: Antapodosis (Tit-for-tat); Liber de rebus gestis Ottonis (A chronicle of Otto's reign); Relatio de legatione constantinopolitana (The embassy to Constantinople), p. 215-232; Montini, Renzo Uberto. Le tombe dei papi. Roma : Angelo Belardetti, 1957. Note: At head of title: Instituto di studi romani, p. 156-157; Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH). Leges. Constitutiones et acta publica imperatorum et regum (Const.), 1 (911-1197), Appendix I, p. 532.536; Reardon, Wendy J. The deaths of the popes : comprehensive accounts, including funerals, burial places and epitaphs. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004, p. 72-73; Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab conditio Ecclesia. Ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Graz : Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1956. 2 v. Reprint. Originally published : Lipsiae : Veit et comp., 1885-1888. Original t.p. included : Regesta pontificum Romanorum ab condita ecclesia : ad annum post Christum natum MCXCVIII. Editionem secundam correctam et auctam edidit Philippus Jaffè ; auspiciis Gulielmi Wattenbach; curaverunt S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald, I, 469-470.

Links. Biography, in English; biography, in English, (Britannica); his engraving and brief biographical entry, in English; biography, in English, New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, II, 39; biography, in German, Biographisch-bibliographischen Kirchenlexikon; biographies, in German; fragment of his old tomb and biography, in German; his engraving and biography, in Italian; his engraving by Francesco Zanetti (16th century), Bildarchiv Foto Marburg; his engraving, iStockphoto; his engraving, Fondazione Marco Besso, Rome; Benedict V jailed before Emperor Otto I by Erasmus Lüderitz (1677), Castle of Christiansburg, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg; detail of the same painting; his engraving, Biblioteca comunale dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna; his engraving, Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek; and another engraving, also from Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek.

(1) Delogu, "Benedetto V."Enciclopedia dei papi, II, 84, citing Magistri Adami Bremensis Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum. Acura di B. Schmeidler, 1917, II, 69.
(2) The legitimacy of his pontificate, at least until Pope John XII's death, has been debated. It depends on the validity of that pope's deposition. He may have been an antipope until May of that year, when John XII's death occurred. If Leo VIII was a legitimate pope, then Benedict V, who was deposed on June 23, 964, in a Lateran synod celebrated by Leo VIII and Emperor Otto I, may be an antipope. Given the difficulty ascertaining the legitimacy (which actually exists and assures the uninterrupted continuity of the successors of Peter), historical data and contemporary theological and canonical criteria, no assignation of antipapacy will be given in this biographical entry.
(3) Montini, Le tombe dei papi, p. 156, describes the monument as un'arca laterizia rivestitita di ceramiche con l'effigie del Papa sul piano, gli apostolic sul fianco sinistro e, su quello destro, la raffigurazioni dell'Annunciazione, della Predicazione di Cristo, della Corcifissione e del Giudizio universale . This is the text of the epigraph on the tomb, which incorrectly says that he died in the year 800, taken from Montinis's work, p. 156:

BENEDICTVS PAPA QVI DE SE
DE APOSTOLICA PER VIOENTIAM AMOTVS ES POST CVM REVOCARETVR
OBIIT HAMBVRGI ANNO DOMI
NI DCCC QVADRAGESIMO PRIMO QVINTO NONAS IVLI SEPVULTVS EST HIC

(4) On September 16, 1949, there was an article, without signature, published in L'Osservatore Romano, entitled "Sarebbe stata rinvenuta ad Amburgo la tomba di papa B. V."


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