Victor IV

(b. 1159)

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Hadrian IV (c. 1100—1159)

Alexander III (d. 1181)


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(antipope 7 Sept. 1159–20Apr. 1164)

The death of Hadrian IV on 1 Sept. 1159 was followed by a disputed election in which, while a large majority elected Cardinal Orlando Bandinelli, an exponent of Hadrian's policy of resisting Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1152–90), a handful of imperialist cardinals voted for Cardinal Ottaviano of Monticelli. There were violent scenes in which Ottaviano, whose armed adherents broke into the meeting, tore the red mantle from Orlando's shoulders, and forced him to withdraw while he himself was enthroned. The result was an eighteen-year schism, for while Orlando was consecrated as Alexander III on 20 Sept., Ottaviano was consecrated as Victor IV at the imperial abbey of Farfa on 4 Oct. (no account being taken of the short-lived antipope Victor IV of 1138). He managed to get so far, notwithstanding the sparseness of his backing, because of the moral and military assistance of Otto of Wittelsbach, Frederick's envoy, then resident in Rome, and because of the support of the senate and people of the city.

Nobly born in the Sabina, Ottaviano had had a distinguished career. Created cardinal of Sta Cecilia in 1138, he had been involved in peace negotiations with Roger II of Sicily (1095–1154) under Celestine II and Lucius II. He had been present at Frederick Barbarossa's election in May 1152, had close personal ties with him, and for some time had represented the interests of the empire in the curia. In an early encyclical he stressed his sincere love for the ‘honour’ of the empire.

Although his preference for Victor could not be doubted, Frederick affected neutrality after the double election; but it was no surprise when the synod of Pavia, attended by some fifty German and north Italian bishops, which he convened in Feb. 1160 to decide between the rivals, pronounced in favour of Victor. From now onwards the emperor treated him with the deference traditionally due to the pope and did whatever he could to promote his recognition. In Oct. 1160, however, the episcopates and monastic orders of the western countries met at Toulouse in the presence of Henry II of England (1154–89) and Louis VII of France (1137–79) and, after hearing arguments from representatives of both claimants, gave their verdict for Alexander and anathematized Victor, as Alexander had already done. The great abbey of Cluny, near Mâcon, for reasons of its own adhered to Victor, but in general support for him was confined to the emperor's dominions; even there it was not universal. His prospects looked brighter in 1162 when Frederick consolidated his hold on northern Italy and the papal states and rebel vassals in the Norman kingdom in southern Italy acclaimed him, and still more when the emperor and Louis VII agreed to arbitrate between the rival popes at Saint-Jean-de-Losne in Sept. of that year. But the project came to nothing, and although Victor was able to preside over a synod at Dôle on 7 Sept. and renew his ban on Alexander, it was plain that Frederick's efforts to win universal recognition for him had failed; he had not allowed for the widespread objection in the rest of Europe to a revival of imperial control over the papacy. From now onwards, with defections multiplying and Alexander gaining ground in Germany, Victor's star was on the wane. In spring 1164, while travelling with Rainald of Dassel, formerly Frederick's chancellor, now archbishop of Cologne (1159–67), in Lombardy, the Romagna, and Tuscany, he suddenly fell ill at Lucca and after a short, painful illness died there on 20 Apr. Since the clergy of both the cathedral and S. Frediano refused to offer a resting place to an excommunicate cardinal, he was buried in a poor monastery outside the walls. When he heard the news Alexander wept, and rebuked his cardinals when they gave way to unseemly exultation. It was left to Gregory VIII, when visiting Lucca in Dec. 1187, to order the antipope's tomb to be broken open and his remains thrown out of the church.


Subjects: Christianity.

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