Pope Victor III

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Pope Blessed Victor III (c. 1026 – 16 September 1087), born Daufer (Dauphar), Latinised Dauferius, was the Pope (from 24 May 1086) as the successor of Pope Gregory VII, yet his pontificate is far less impressive in history than his time as Desiderius, the great Abbot of Monte Cassino.



Early life and abbacy

He was born in 1026 or 1027 of a non-regnant branch of the Lombard dukes of Benevento as eldest son of Prince Landulf V of Benevento. As he was an only son, both parents opposed his desire to embrace the monastic state. After his father died in battle with the Normans in 1047, he fled from an arranged marriage and, though brought back by force, eventually fled again. He went to Cava, where he obtained permission to enter the monastery of S. Sophia at Benevento where he changed his name from Dauferius to Desiderius. The life at S. Sophia was not strict enough for the young monk, who betook himself first to the island monastery of Tremite in the Adriatic and in 1053 to some hermits at Majella in the Abruzzi. About this time he was brought to the notice of St. Leo IX and it is probable that the pope employed him at Benevento, to negotiate peace with the Normans after the fatal battle of Civitate.

Somewhat later Desiderius attached himself to the Court of Victor II at Florence and there met two monks of the renowned Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, with whom he returned to their monastery in 1055. He joined the community, and was shortly afterwards appointed superior of the dependent house at Capua. In 1057, Stephen IX (X) who had retained the abbacy of Monte Cassino came thither and at Christmas, believing himself to be dying, ordered the monks to elect a new abbot. Their choice fell on Desiderius. The pope recovered, and, desiring to retain the abbacy during his lifetime, appointed the abbot-designate his legate for Constantinople. It was at Bari, when about to sail for the East, that the news of the pope's death reached Desiderius. Having obtained a safe-conduct from Robert Guiscard, the Norman Count (later Duke) of Apulia, he returned to his monastery and was duly installed by Cardinal Humbert on Easter Day, 1058. A year later Pope Nicholas II (1059–61) raised him to the cardinalate, in 1059, as Cardinal-Priest with the ancient cardinal title of S. Cecilia and he received the abbatial blessing.

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