Course:Carey HIST501/Project 3/Alexander III

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Year of birth and death

Born: 1105 in Siena, Tuscany[1]

Died: 1181 in Civita Castellana[2], near Rome.

Alexander III- Public Domain

A Short Biography of Alexander III

Much of Pope Alexander III's pre-church career life is contested. He is said to have been born with some variation of the name "Roland"[3] or possibly "Orlando" to a likely aristocratic family, possibly the very prominant Bandinelli[1][3] family. It is assumed he was first a student and then a professor at the Univerity in Bologna[2] and was highly regarded as a canonist.[3] Alexander was called to Rome by Eugene III in the year 1150CE where after he rapidly advanced in his clergical profession, first to Cardinal Deacon then Cardinal Priest and Papal Chancellor.[3]
It should be noted that at this time the papacy in Italy was being challenged by both the germanic emporers who did not want to share authority and tributes with the popes and by citizens who were increasingly questioning the validity of the papacy to intervene in state affairs. Against this context, Alexander incurred wrath of the Holy Roman Emporer Frederick 1 Barbarossa first by being part of a group of cardinals seeking independence from the germanic forces leading to an alliance with the Normans of Naples in 1156CE[1] and then by stating or being present when a letter by Pope Hadrian was read[4][3] causing a dispute over weather imperial dignity was beneficium[1](gift) of the papal or fief (symbiotic agreement) — In short this was a dispute erupting over weather emporers were apointed by God or Popes.[4][3]Thus, when Pope Hadrian died in 1159CE, though most of the cardinals voted and affirmed Roland as Pope (Alexander III), a small number of cardinals loyal to Barbarossa voted for a preist named Octavian as pope (Pope Victor IV).[2] Both ended up being consecrated- Roland as Pope Alexander III on 20 September 1159CE in the town of Nympha after fleeing[1], and Octavian on October 4 the same year at the monestary of Farfa.[3] In 1160CE Barbarossa convened a council to select a pope between the two who had been consecrated but Alexander refused to go, stating that only Popes had the right to convene council. As a result, Barbarossa had Alexander excommunicated though Alexander refused to give up his papacy, forcing the two popes to fight for support among other monarchs. Alexander was successful in gaining the support of England’s King Henry 2, France's king Louis VII and the bishops of England, France and Spain[4] but due to the installment of Octavian, Alexander did most of his work as pope while exiled in France[2] including calling the Council of Tours in 1163CE.[4] The Lombard League was able to beat Barbarossa in 1176CE at the battle of Legnano which brought about the end of the papal schism and can be considered the point where Alexander III's papacy was more widely acknowledged as legitimate. He presided at the 3rd Lateran Council in 1179CE before being forced out of the city again, where he would spend his last two years of life in papacy-friendly states and dying in Civita Castellana.[4]

Impacts and Legacy of Alexander III:

- Pope Alexander III was a staunch defender of the Papacy's authority- both over the citizenry and against the will of the Emporer. - Alexander III created an arcbishop position in Sweden.[2] - Alexander III played an integral supporting role in the Thomas Becket affair.[1][3] - Alexander III created the standards for naming saints which is still used today in the Catholic church.[2] - At the third Lateran council Alexander III issued many decrees, including that Popes are deemed elected with 2/3 votes of the cardinals, after his own experience.[3] - 470 of Alexander III's known 700 decretals as Pope have made their way into canon law, a staggering number only beat by Pope Innocent III.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Powell, James (26/08/2021). "Alexander III". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 01/11/2021. Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 NA (2021). "Pope Alexander III". Retrieved 29/10/2021. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Loughlin, James (1907). "Pope Alexander III". New Advent. Retrieved 29/10/2021 – via The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 1. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Pennington, Kenneth (2002). [ Papacy/AlexanderIIIKP.html "Pontificate of Pope Alexander III"] Check |url= value (help). Legal History Sources. Retrieved 29/10/2021. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)