Pope Benedict III
|Papacy began||29 September 855|
|Papacy ended||17 April 858|
|Born||Rome, Papal States|
|Died||17 April 858|
|Other popes named Benedict|
Little is known of Benedict's life before his papacy. His father was named Peter. Benedict was educated, and lived in Rome and was appointed by Pope Leo IV as cardinal-priest of the church of San Callisto. Benedict had a reputation for learning and piety. He was elected upon the refusal of Hadrian, the initial choice of the clergy and people.
Arsenius, bishop of Horta, intercepted the legates sent to advise the emperor of the election and persuaded them to betray Benedict and convince the Emperor name the bishop's son Anastasius instead. Anastasius had previously been excommunicated by Leo IV. The legates returned with the imperial envoys and had Benedict's election disavowed and Anastasius installed. Anastasius took his place at the Lateran and Benedict was imprisoned. However, local popular opinion was so strong that the Franks recognized Benedict's consecration. Benedict treated Anastasius and his adherents leniently. The schism helped to weaken the hold of the emperors upon the popes, especially upon their elections.
Benedict intervened in the conflict between the sons of Lothair I (the future King Lothair II of Lotharingia, Emperor Louis II and Charles of Provence) on the latter's death. He wrote to the Frankish bishops, rebuking them for remaining silent in the face of the disorder affecting the Carolingian realms.
A medieval tradition claimed that Pope Joan, a woman disguised as a man, was Benedict's immediate predecessor. The legendary Joan is generally believed to be fictitious.
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