Pope Gregory VIII

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Pope Gregory VIII (c. 1100/1105 – December 17, 1187), born Alberto di Morra, was Pope from October 25, 1187 until his death.


Early life

Alberto di Morra was born about 1110 in Benevento, Italy. His father was the nobleman Sartorius di Morra. He became a monk early in life, either as a Cistercian in Laon, or a Benedictine at Monte Cassino. Alberto later joined a new religious order, the Premonstratensian or Norbertine order, probably between the ages of 20-30. He was a canon at St. Martin's Abbey in Laon.[1] He later became a professor of canon law in Bologna.


In 1156, Pope Adrian IV made him cardinal-deacon of Sant'adriano, and on on March 14, 1158, he became cardinal-priest of San Lorenzo in Lucina. As a papal legate of Pope Alexander III, he was sent to teach canon law throughout Europe in the 1160s, and was sent to Portugal to crown Afonso II. He also brought an offer of reconciliation in 1163 to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, whom Pope Alexander III had excommunicated in 1160. Alexander also sent him to England to investigate the murder of Thomas Becket, and he absolved King Henry II of the murder during the Council of Avranches. From 1177-1179, Alberto also served as a legate in Italy and in February 1178 he was named Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church. It was in this position that he "...compiled a Forma Dicendi, a collection of official papal acts, and also completed a codification of the cursus, a compilation of the very stringent rules governing the euphonious arrangements of sentence endings and phrasing in papal acts. In his honor, the cursus was called stylus gregorianus."[2] These two documents were very influential in shaping the rhetoric used in papal documents. Shortly before his election to the papacy, Alberto founded a monastery in his hometown of Benevento.


On October 21, 1187, the day after the death of Pope Urban III, Alberto di Morra was elected pope and took the name Gregory VIII, in honor of Pope Gregory VII. He was consecrated on October 25. His previous dealings with Frederick Barbarossa put the church back in a friendly relationship with the Holy Roman Emperor. In response to the defeat of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin, Gregory issued the papal bull Audita tremendi, calling for the Third Crusade.[3] Gregory travelled to Pisa in order to end Pisan hostilities with Genoa so that both seaports and naval fleets could join together for the crusade. On the way to Pisa, he stopped at Lucca and ordered Antipope Victor IV's body to be removed from his tomb and his remains thrown out of the church.

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