Christianity Knowledge Base

Benedict IX
Bishop of Rome
ChurchCatholic Church
  • John XIX (1032)
  • Sylvester III (1045)
  • Clement II (1047)
  • Sylvester III (1044)
  • Gregory VI (1045)
  • Damasus II (1048)
Personal details
Birth nameTheophylactus of Tusculum
Bornc. 1012
Rome, Papal States
Diedc. December 1055/January 1056 (aged 43)
Grottaferrata, Papal States
Other popes named Benedict

Pope Benedict IX (c. 10121055, 1065, or 1085), born Theophylactus, was Pope from 1032 to 1044, again in 1045, and finally from 1047 to 1048, the only man to have served as Pope for three discontinuous periods and the only man ever to have sold the papacy. He was also one of the youngest Popes.


Benedict was born in Rome, the son of Alberic III, Count of Tusculum, and the nephew of Pope Benedict VIII (1012–1024) and Pope John XIX (1024–1032). His father obtained the Papal chair for him, granting it to his son in October 1032.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia and other sources, Benedict IX was around 18 to 20 years old when made pontiff, although some sources claim 11 or 12. He reportedly led an extremely dissolute life, and also allegedly had few qualifications for the papacy other than connections with a socially powerful family, although in terms of theology and the ordinary activities of the Church he was entirely orthodox. St. Peter Damian described him as "feasting on immorality" and "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest" in the Liber Gomorrhianus, a treatise on papal corruption and sex that accused Benedict IX of routine homosexuality and bestiality.

He was also accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of "many vile adulteries and murders." Pope Victor III referred to "his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a Pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it."

He was briefly forced out of Rome in 1036 and needed the support of Emperor Conrad II (1024–1039) to return. In September 1044 he was forced from the city again and replaced by Pope Sylvester III (1045), who is sometimes considered an antipope, though generally Benedict's abdication for a financial reward is recognized as valid. Benedict IX's forces returned in April 1045 and expelled his rival. There is debate as to whether Sylvester validly acquiesced to his deposition, and thus as to who was true pope from this point until the reign of Pope Clement II when Sylvester had definitely accepted abdication. However, Benedict's second term as Pope is often recognized as valid. Benedict IX then resigned in May 1045, possibly to marry, selling his office to priest John Gratian, his godfather (possibly for over 650 kg /1450 lb of gold). Gratian apparently became Pope Gregory VI (1045–46) in May, 1045, though if Sylvester never validly resigned, neither Benedict nor Gregory were true Pope during this period. Benedict IX apparently soon regretted the sale and returned to try to depose Gregory VI. Sylvester III also re-emerged to make a claim.

Benedict IX retook Rome and remained on the throne until July 1046, although Gregory VI continued to be recognized as the true Pope. Emperor Henry III (1039–1056) intervened, and at the Council of Sutri in December 1046 Benedict IX and Sylvester III were deprived of their offices and Gregory VI was encouraged to resign, which he did. Sylvester accepted this, but Benedict IX did not actually attend. The German Bishop Suidger was crowned Pope Clement II (1046–1047), which Benedict IX rejected, though his abdication to Gregory VI was incontrovertible. After Clement II died in October 1047, Pope Benedict IX seized the Lateran Palace in November 1047, but was driven away in July 1048. During this period he is generally recognized to have had his third term as true Pope. Poppo of Brixen finally drove him out for good and was elected as Pope Damasus II (1048). Benedict IX refused to appear on charges of simony in 1049 and was excommunicated. Benedict is universally regarded to have validly acquiesced to his third deposition, and Damasus II is universally recognized as Pope.

Benedict IX's eventual fate is obscure. He may have given up and resigned the pontificate, dying around 1065 in the Abbey of Grottaferrata. Other sources say he died in 1085. Pope Leo IX (1049–1054) may have lifted the ban on him. Another report is that he continued to seek support for a return but died in January 1055 or 1056.

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