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Benno

(d. 1107)


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Gregory VII (c. 1020—1085)

 

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(d. 1107),

bishop of Meissen. He was caught up in the long struggles between popes and emperors associated with the name of Gregory VII, and owed allegiance to both. By birth he was a noble Saxon. After serving at court, he was nominated chaplain at Goslar, an important imperial church, by the emperor Henry IV, and later as bishop of Meissen. During the war between Henry and the Saxons, Benno supported his compatriots, but not very prominently. When Henry invaded Meissen, his soldiers occupied the bishopric's property. This was restored only when Henry was excommunicated by the pope. At the same time Benno recovered his liberty. He took part in the synod of Forcheim (1078), when Rudolf was elected emperor. In 1085 Benno supported Gregory VII, but was deposed by Henry's partisans at the Diet of Mainz. After Gregory's death in the same year, Benno made an act of submission to the antipope Guibert and recovered his see. In 1097, however, he once again supported the lawful pope, Urban II.

During these times of strife Benno remained a zealous diocesan bishop, preaching frequently and visiting his diocese, enforcing discipline and abolishing simony where possible. He was also a good musician, specially devoted to the chants of his native Hildesheim. Exegetical works on the Gospels are attributed to him. He died on 16 June, which became his feast day.

A picturesque legend inspired his iconography. He is portrayed with a fish and a key (supposedly found inside it), which enabled him to recover access to his cathedral when Henry was excommunicated. Previously he had told his followers to throw away the keys to prevent the emperor from occupying it. The story has folkloric antecedents. His cathedral was rebuilt in 1285 and his relics translated; this was the occasion of many cures. In 1523 Pope Adrian VI canonized him, to the intense indignation of Martin Luther, who composed a diatribe against his cult. This was refuted by Jerome Emser. When Saxony became Protestant, the then bishop of Meissen translated his relics again, this time to his castle at Stolp. In 1580 they were moved again to Munich, whose patron he then became.

AA.SS. Iun. III (1743), 145–230;B.L.S., vi. 120–1;Bibl. SS., ii. 1243–7.

Subjects: Christianity.


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