Pope Alexander III

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Pope Alexander III (c. 1100/1105 – August 30, 1181), born Rolando (or Orlando) of Siena, was Pope from 1159 to 1181. He is noted in history for laying the foundation stone for the Notre Dame de Paris.


Church career

He was born in Siena. From 14th century he is referred to as a member of the aristocratic family of Bandinelli but this is not proven.[1] For a long time, scholars believed him to be identical with the twelfth-century canon lawyer and theologian, Master Roland of Bologna, who composed the "Stroma" or "Summa Rolandi" – one of the earliest commentaries on the Decretum of Gratian – and the "Sententiae Rolandi", a sentence collection displaying the influence of Pierre Abélard.[2]

In October 1150, Pope Eugene III (1145–1153) created him cardinal deacon of the Title of Santi Cosma e Damiano; later he became cardinal priest of the Title of St Mark. In 1153, he became papal chancellor, and was the leader of the cardinals opposed to Frederick I Barbarossa (1152–1190). He negotiated the Treaty of Benevento, restoring peaceful relations between Rome and the Kingdom of Sicily.

On September 7, 1159, he was chosen the successor of Pope Adrian IV (1154–1159), a minority of the cardinals, however, electing the cardinal priest Octavian, who assumed the name of Victor IV (1159–1164). This antipope, and his successors antipope Paschal III (1164–68) and antipope Calixtus III (1168–1178), had the imperial support; but after the defeat of Legnano (1176), Barbarossa finally (in the Peace of Venice 1177) recognized Alexander III as pope. On March 12, 1178, Alexander III returned to Rome, which he had been compelled to leave twice: the first time from 1162, when he was sent into a Campanian exile by Oddone Frangipane following his brief arrest and detainment, until November 23, 1165; and again in 1167. The first period he spent in France, the latter chiefly in Gaeta, Benevento, Anagni, and Venice.

Political aspects

Alexander III was the first pope known to have paid direct attention to missionary activities east of the Baltic Sea. In 1165, his close friend, Eskil, the Archbishop of Lund, appointed a Benedictine monk Fulco as a bishop in Estonia. In 1171, he became the first pope to address the situation of the Church in Finland, with Finns allegedly harassing the priests and only relying on God in time of war.[3]

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