Pope Eugene III

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Pope Blessed Eugene III (died July 8, 1153), born Bernardo da Pisa, was Pope from 1145 to 1153. He was the first Cistercian to become Pope.


Early life

Bernardo was born in Pisa but little is known about his origins and family except that he was son of Godius.[2] From 16th century he is commonly identified as member of the family of Paganelli di Montemagno, which belonged to the Pisan aristocracy, but this is not proven and contradicts the earlier testimonies, which suggest that he was a man of rather humble origins.[3] In 1106 he was a canon of the cathedral chapter in Pisa and from 1115 is attested as subdeacon.[4] 1133–1138 he acted as vicedominus of the archdiocese of Pisa.[5] Between May 1134 and February 1137 he was ordained to the priesthood by Pope Innocent II, who resided at that time in Pisa.[6] Under the influence of Bernard of Clairvaux he entered the Cistercian Order in monastery of Clairvaux in 1138. A year later he returned to Italy as leader of the Cistercian community in Scandriglia. In Autumn 1140 Pope Innocent II named him abbot of the monastery of S. Anastasio alle Tre Fontane outside Rome.[7] Some chronicles indicate that he was also elevated to the College of Cardinals,[8] but these testimonies probably resulted from a confusion because Bernardo is not attested as cardinal in any document and from the letter of Bernard of Clairvaux addressed to the cardinals shortly after his election clearly appears that he was not a cardinal.[9]


Bernardo was elected pope in February 1145 and took the name Eugene III. He owed his elevation partly to the fact that none were eager to accept an office the duties of which were at the time so difficult and dangerous, but chiefly to his being the friend and pupil of Bernard of Clairvaux, the most influential ecclesiastic of the Western Church, and a strong assertor of the pope's temporal authority. The choice had not, however, the approval of Bernard, who remonstrated against the election on account of the "innocence and simplicity" of Eugene III; but after the choice was made he took advantage of the qualities in Eugene III which he objected to, so as to virtually rule in his name.

During nearly the whole of his pontificate Eugene III was unable to reside in Rome. Hardly had he left the city to be consecrated in the monastery of Farfa (about 40 km north of Rome), when the citizens, under the influence of Arnold of Brescia, the great opponent of the Pope's temporal power, established the old Roman constitution, the Commune of Rome and elected Giordano Pierleoni to be patrician. Eugene III appealed for help to Tivoli, Italy, to other cities at feud with Rome, and to Roger II of Sicily (who sent his general Robert of Selby), and with their aid was successful in making such conditions with the Roman citizens as enabled him for a time to hold the semblance of authority in his capital; but as he would not agree to a treacherous compact against Tivoli, he was compelled to leave the city in March 1146. He stayed for some time at Viterbo, and then at Siena, but went ultimately to France.

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