Pope Eugene III

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Pope Eugene III (Latin: Eugenius III; c. 1080 – 8 July 1153), born Bernardo Pignatelli,[2] or possibly Paganelli, called Bernardo da Pisa, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 15 February 1145 to his death in 1153. He was the first Cistercian to become pope. In response to the fall of Edessa to the Muslims in 1144, Eugene proclaimed the Second Crusade. The crusade failed to recapture Edessa, which was the first of many failures by the Christians in the crusades to recapture lands won in the First Crusade. He was beatified in 1872 by Pope Pius IX.

Pope Blessed

Eugene III
Bishop of Rome
ChurchCatholic Church
SeeHoly See
Papacy began15 February 1145
Papacy ended8 July 1153
PredecessorLucius II
SuccessorAnastasius IV
by Innocent II
Consecration18 December 1145
Personal details
Birth nameBernardo
Pisa, Republic of Pisa, Holy Roman Empire
Died(1153-07-08)8 July 1153
Tivoli, Papal States, Holy Roman Empire
Previous post(s)Abbot of San Anastasio alle Tre Fontane (1140–45)
Feast day8 July
Venerated inCatholic Church
Beatified28 December 1872
Rome, Papal States
by Pius IX
Other popes named Eugene

Early lifeEdit

Bernardo was born in the vicinity of Pisa. Little is known about his origins and family except that he was son of a certain Godius.[3] From the 16th century he is commonly identified as member of the family of Paganelli di Montemagno, which belonged to the Pisan aristocracy, but this has not been proven and contradicts earlier testimonies that suggest he was a man of rather humble origins.[4] In 1106 he was a canon of the cathedral chapter in Pisa and from 1115 is attested as subdeacon.[5] 1133–1138 he acted as vicedominus of the archdiocese of Pisa.[6]

Between May 1134 and February 1137 he was ordained to the priesthood by Pope Innocent II, who resided at that time in Pisa.[7] Under the influence of Bernard of Clairvaux he entered the Cistercian Order in the monastery of Clairvaux in 1138. A year later he returned to Italy as leader of the Cistercian community in Scandriglia. In Autumn 1140, Innocent II named him abbot of the monastery of S. Anastasio alle Tre Fontane outside Rome.[8] Some chronicles indicate that he was also elevated to the College of Cardinals,[9] but these testimonies probably resulted from a confusion because Bernardo is not attested as cardinal in any document and from the letter of Bernard of Clairvaux addressed to the cardinals shortly after his election it clearly appears that he was not a cardinal.[10]

Papal electionEdit

Bernardo was elected pope on 15 February 1145, the same day as the death of his predecessor Lucius II. Lucius had unwisely decided to take the offensive against the Roman Senate and was killed by a "heavy stone" thrown at him during an attack on the Capitol.[11] He took the pontifical name Eugene III. He was "a simple character, gentle and retiring - not at all, men thought, the material of which Popes are made".[11] He owed his elevation partly to the fact that no one was eager to accept an office the duties of which were at the time so difficult and dangerous and because the election was "held on safe Frangipani territory".[11]

Bernardo's election was assisted by being a friend and pupil of Bernard of Clairvaux, the most influential ecclesiastic of the Western Church and a strong assertor of the pope's temporal authority. The choice did not have the approval of Bernard, however, who remonstrated against the election, writing to the entire Curia:

"May God forgive you what you have done! ... What reason or counsel, when the Supreme Pontiff was dead, made you rush upon a mere rustic, lay hands on him in his refuge, wrest from his hands the axe, pick or hoe, and lift him to a throne?"[11]

Bernard was equally forthright in his views directly to Eugene, writing:

"Thus does the finger of God raise up the poor out of the dust and lift up the beggar from the dunghill that he may sit with princes and inherit the throne of glory."[11]

Despite these criticisms, Eugene seems to have borne no resentment to Bernard[11] and notwithstanding these criticisms, after the choice was made, Bernard took advantage of the qualities in Eugene III which he objected to, so as virtually to rule in his name.


A bulla of Eugene III

During nearly the whole of his pontificate, Eugene III was unable to reside in Rome. Hardly had he left the city to be consecrated in the Farfa Abbey (about 40 km north of Rome), when the citizens, under the influence of Arnold of Brescia, the great opponent of the Pope's temporal power, established the old Roman constitution, the Commune of Rome and elected Giordano Pierleoni to be patrician. Eugene III appealed for help to Tivoli, Italy, to other cities at feud with Rome, and to King Roger II of Sicily (who sent his general Robert of Selby), and with their aid was successful in making such conditions with the Roman citizens as enabled him for a time to hold the semblance of authority in his capital. But as he would not agree to a treacherous compact against Tivoli, he was compelled to leave the city in March 1146. He stayed for some time at Viterbo, and then at Siena, but went ultimately to France.

On hearing of the fall of Edessa (now the modern day city of Urfa, the first of the Crusader states established in the Levant) to the Turks, which occurred in 1144, he had, in December 1145, addressed the bull Quantum praedecessores to Louis VII of France, calling on him to take part in another crusade. At a great diet held at Speyer in 1146, King Conrad III of Germany and many of his nobles were also incited to dedicate themselves to the crusade by the eloquence of Bernard of Clairvaux, preached to an enormous crowd at Vézelay.[11] The Second Crusade turned out to be "an ignominious fiasco"[11] and, after travelling for a year, the army abandoned their campaign after just five days of siege "having regained not one inch of Muslim territory."[11] The crusaders suffered immense losses in both men and materiel and suffered, in the view of one modern historian, "the ultimate humiliation which neither they, nor their enemies, would forget".[11]

Eugene III held synods in northern Europe at Paris,[12] Rheims (March 1148),[13][14] and Trier in 1147[15] that were devoted to the reform of clerical life. He also considered and approved the works of Hildegard of Bingen.

In June 1148, Eugene III returned to Italy and took up his residence at Viterbo. He was unable to return to Rome due to the popularity of Arnold of Brescia, who opposed papal temporal authority, in the city. He established himself at Ptolemy II's fortress in Tusculum, the closest town to Rome at which he could safely install himself, on 8 April 1149. There he met the returning Crusader couple Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who were by then barely on speaking terms given the strains of the failed Crusade and the rumors of Eleanor's incestuous adultery during the Crusade. Eugene, "a gentle, kind-hearted man who hated to see people unhappy"[11] attempted to assuage the pain of the failed Crusade and their failing marriage by insisting that they slept in the same bed and "by daily converse to restore the love between them".[11] His efforts were unsuccessful, and two years later Eugene agreed to annul the marriage on the grounds of consanguinity.[11]

Eugene stayed at Tusculum until 7 November. At the end of November 1149, through the aid of the king of Sicily, he was again able to enter Rome, but the atmosphere of open hostility from the Comune soon compelled him to retire (June 1150). Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa promised to aid Eugene against his subjects who had revolted but the support never came. Eugene III died at Tivoli on 8 July 1153. Though the citizens of Rome resented Eugene III's effort to assert his temporal authority, they recognized him as their spiritual lord. Until the day of his death he continued to wear the coarse habit of a Cistercian monk under his robe.[11] He was buried in the Vatican with every mark of respect.


The people of Rome were quick to recognize Eugene III as a pious figure who was meek and spiritual. His tomb acquired considerable fame owing to the miracle purported to have occurred there and his cause for sainthood commenced. Pope Pius IX beatified him in 1872.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Horn, p. 35.
  2. ^ Pope Blessed Eugene III, New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Horn, p. 31.
  4. ^ J. M. Brixius, Die Mitglieder des Kardinalkollegiums von 1130–1181, Berlin 1912, p. 86; Eugenio III Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine. Horn, p. 33–34, has rejected the attribution of this familiar denomination to Eugene III as completely unfounded.
  5. ^ Horn, p. 34–35.
  6. ^ Horn, p. 34.
  7. ^ Horn, p. 35–36.
  8. ^ Horn, p. 36–40.
  9. ^ On that ground Brixius, p. 41 no. 7, lists him among the cardinals created by Innocent II.
  10. ^ Horn, p. 42–45.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Norwich, John Ju (2012). The Popes: A History. London: Vintage. ISBN 9780099565871.
  12. ^ J.-D. Mansi (ed.), Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, editio novissima Tomus XXI (Venice: A. Zatta, 1776), pp. 707-712. Carl Joseph Hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux Tome V, première partie (Paris: Letouzey 1912), pp. 812-817.
  13. ^ Mansi, pp. 711-736.
  14. ^ P. Jaffe, Regesta pontificum Romanorum, II (Leipzig: Veit 1888), pp. 52-53.
  15. ^ Mansi, pp. 737-738. Hefele, pp. 821-822.


  • Original text from the 9th edition (1879) of an unnamed encyclopedia. Original referred to him as Eugene – modified to match spelling on Popes list. Please update article as needed.
  • M. Horn, Studien zur Geschichte Papst Eugens III.(1145–1153), Peter Lang Verlag 1992
  • Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, On Consideration, (addressed to Pope Eugene III), George Lewis, trans., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1908.
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