Alexander III, pope

Alexander III, d. 1181, pope (1159–81), a Sienese named Rolandus [Bandinelli?], successor of Adrian IV. He was a canonist who had studied law under Gratian and had taught at Bologna. He came to Rome under Eugene III, was made a cardinal, and became a trusted adviser of Adrian IV. Alexander's election to the papacy was opposed by a few cardinals, who elected an antipope, Victor IV. Although the antipope was supported only by Germany and some Lombards, the schism thus begun continued until 1178 with antipopes Paschal III and Calixtus III. Alexander was forced (1162) by Emperor Frederick I into exile in France. In the long struggle with the emperor, the pope was aided by the Lombard League, which named the town of Alessandria for him. After the battle of Legnano (1176), the emperor was forced to submit. Alexander had already (1174) received the penance of Henry II of England for the murder of St. Thomas Becket, whom Alexander had canonized in 1173. He convened and presided at the Third Lateran Council. One of the great medieval popes, he issued many decretals, established the procedure for canonizing saints, inaugurated the two-thirds rule for papal elections, protected the universities, and was one of the most distinguished champions of ecclesiastical independence in the Middle Ages. He was succeeded by Lucius III.

See biography by Cardinal Boso (tr. 1973) and R. Somerville and K. Pennington, Law, Church, and Society, (1977).

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