Figures in history have always been influential to society and play a major role in how the civilization prospers. Also a major contribution to society is the duality of the man who rules. The significance of these factors came together to form an immense and powerful society with no limits. One of these key leaders in early 12th century roman society was Pope Alexander III. In this documentary I will explain Alexander III early life, his education at the University Bologna, and the many social status that he obtained in his inclination of early roman society. I will also explain the many important factors and attributions that he contributed as Pope of Rome.
Pope Alexander III was born in Siena, Italy in the early 12th century. Born by the birth name of Roland Bandinelli he was born in to a well-distinguished family. Not much is know about Bandinelli’s early childhood due to the lack of documentation of the early Roman history. Roland’s father was a man by the name of Rainucci Bandinelli, and his grandfather whose name is unknown was a Frenchman who moved to Siena Italy many years earlier. Roland Bandinelli was a very peaceful and kind man, plus he was a very educated man he could understand writings from human and divine authors.
Bandinelli was a tremendous speaker he knew how to be very polite and clear when speaking to a group of people. Roland did all his good works and was a thoughtful, kind, and gentle man all to please God, which was his main purpose in life. The records go as far back as the year 1139, Roland Bandinelli was known to be a professor at the University of Bologna where he taught theology and the Holy Scripture. The exact location where Bandinelli taught in Bologna has not been discovered.
Around the year 1145, Eugene III made Bandinelli the cardinal-deacon. Many people admired Bandinelli at this time for his unbelievable knowledge of the church. Roland Bandinelli was a very intelligent man who always had a solution for any problem that would come up. Eventually by 1151 Bandinelli was named the cardinal-priest of St. Mark, which was a step higher from cardinal-deacon. A couple of years later in 1153 Bandinelli were placed as the vice-chancellor to the Holy Roman Church. At this point Roland was Adrian IV’s closest advisor, but on 1 September 1159 Adrian IV died so the church needed someone to replace pope Adrian IV. There was three days of deliberation between all of the cardinal’s of the Roman Church. After the many long hours of talking they elected Bandinelli pope at the end of the third day.
Roland Bandinelli was crowned pope of Rome at Ninfa an estate near Veletri on 20 September 1159. When Roland was crowned he took the name of Alexander III, which was his name until his death on 30 August 1181 in Civita Castellana in Italy. (Munz 1973)
Alexander III did Immense and very strategic things as Pope of Rome; one of the most important of his accomplishments was being one of the men in charge of the Third Lateran Council. The whole purpose of this Third Lateran Council was to end the schism with the Roman Church.
Another man that was chosen as an anti-pope to run this council with Alexander was Octavian of Rome, who took the name Victor IV. They began this council in Rome, Italy on 5 March 1179 A.D. There were 27 different canons in which this council wrote down to try to stop all the corruption in Rome. These canons were included with the collections of decretals, which were brought together in the late 12th century and early 13th century. Eventually these collections of canons were placed into Pope Gregory IX’s decretals. Many scholars think that these decretals were founded by all of the Lateran Councils, especially the Third Lateran Council in which Alexander III was very much apart of. The first canon written said that nobody was to be regarded as Roman pontiff innless he got picked by the cardinals by a vote of two thirds or more, this was to avoid any future schisms. The second canon said that a person could not make an appointment to meet with an antipope because it was against the rules. It is very uncertain what the tradition was of these canons were and are still being examined today. Cr2 was the first company to have printed an edition of collections of canons. This company edited the first manuscript that has been lost. All of the 27 canons of the Third Lateran Council were in the beginning of this manuscript. These canons that the Third Lateran Council wrote were all apart of Alexander III’s plan to eliminate the division between all of the Christian churches and finally restore the power back into the Church of Rome. (Somerville 1977)
Alexander III did many things but justifying Thomas Beckets murder was one of his best feats as a pope. Early on in this confusing story with Thomas Becket, Alexander was very much unliked because of his actions when Becket was in exile from Henry II. Alexander ‘s reputation was bashed because he kept the papal government running with great ambition. Alexander, as head of the church, had to do what any other good pope would have done in a time of crisis like this, he considered his situation but mainly the churches reputation. During all these hard times Alexander had to flee Rome because of the emperor of Rome at the time, Frederick Barbarossa or Frederick I. Before this feud between Fredrick I and Alexander III started, Frederick wanted the same thing for the church as Alexander did. Frederick wanted to stop the schism just like Alexander, but Alexander refused to go to the Council of Pavia in the year 1160. After this Frederick despised Alexander, so with the help of Victor IV, Frederick wanted to destroy the unity in the Church of Rome. He thought the best way to do that was to eliminate his rival Alexander III. Alexander finally made it back from his exile in 1165 because Rome finally calmed down with the temporary absence of Emperor Frederick I. This was, as I said, only temporary because when Frederick returned to Italy in 1166 he started threatening Alexander again, which forced him into a second exile once again. So Alexander went to northern Italy for support but they were deeply worried about their independence and safety from Emperor Frederick I and his empire. The result from all constant bombardment from Frederick was the formation of the Lombard League. This council provided Alexander with the support needed to carry on his rivalry with Frederick I. (Munz, p. 15, 1973)
Frederick I did not want Alexander as pope and disliked him very much. So he got one of his distant relatives as anti-pope, Victor IV. There is not enough information on this double election in the church, but both Alexander III and Victor IV were on the Third Lateran Council. ( Munz 1973) From the month of March 1162 until November 1165, Alexander went north of the Alps in France to keep away from Frederick I’s attacks on him. Alexander did not waste his time while in exile; he made friends with, Louis VII the king of France. Although as David Knowles say’s he got support from the, “slippery king of England”, in King Henry II who ruled over the continental complex of territories from the Pyrenees to the straits of Dover. It was very obvious at this time, in the middle of Alexander’s refuge, that Thomas Becket and Henry II did not care for each other. Alexander III was directly in the middle of this feud but should of, as I quote Knowles, “kept the initiative with a minimum of double-dealing”. (Knowles, 1971)
It was now clear to Becket that king Henry and himself were not going to clear this matter up any time soon so he moved to a religious house called the Pontigny. Alexander blessed this move, which happened on November, 2 1164 until December, 2 1170, that Becket did by sending him a rough clothe and a personal letter to him. In 1166 Becket tried to make peace with King Henry by sending him three different personal letters. King Henry did not want to make peace with Becket and gave Beckets deliveryman a bad reply.
Thomas Becket was very disturbed and angry that the letters did not help to resolve this ongoing feud with his king. In 1170, with King Henry’s permission his household of barons and such began planning what they were going to do with the archbishop Thomas Becket. Finally on December 29 1170 the plan of Henry II, his barons, and his knights unfolded in one of Henry’s castles in Canterbury. The knights confronted Becket and he showed them no signs of mercy or knelling to them in the king’s name. The men chased him some more around the castle until Becket stopped in a little room next to the cathedral. This is where Thomas Becket was first stabbed by one of Henry’s knights, William Tracy.
Following Tracy was Richard Brito who literally cut the top of Becket’s head off with his sword. When the whole truth of this terrible crime got to Alexander III he was outraged with King Henry and was not ready to help him at all. Alexander gave the permission to punish all that were involved with this terrible murder Thomas Becket. So Alexander made Henry II pay for his part in the crime. First he made Henry give two hundred of this men for a year to defend Palestine, Henry also had to take the simble of the church the “cross” for three and a half years. Next Henry was ordered to restore all the lands, churches, and other such religious artifacts back to Canterbury as they were before Beckets exile. The next thing Henry was ordered to do was repay all of Beckets close followers. The fourth punishment he received was to give the church back their control he took from them in honor of Thomas Becket. The final punishment that King Henry II received from Alexander III was that he must updated and renovate the church for all the years of ignoring it because of the man who ran it Thomas Becket. Once Henry signed this agreement, Alexander III confirmed it on 2 September 1172. (Knowles 1971)
I have mentioned why Alexander III was such a major player in early Roman history, from his birth in Italy to his rule as Pope in Rome. Clearly his distinguished upbringing and the study of theology at the University of Bologna help him to understand the value of God and the value of a humble man. He was clearly chosen Pope for his intelligence and for his knowledge of the church that was best represented by his tedious manner and kind hand.
I tried to think of a quote that best represented Alexander III for his strong beliefs. He is clearly a firm believer in religious symbolism from his work in the Roman Catholic Church, therefore I found a quote that best represented his beliefs and I could not think of anyone better than Paul Tillich. He writes and I quote.
“ Whatever we say about that which concerns us, ultimately, whether or not we call it God, has a symbolic meaning. It points beyond itself while participating in that to which it points. In no other way can faith express itself adequately. The language of faith is the language of symbols.”
I think this quote best represents him for his firmness in the symbols of God. I mentioned earlier in this article that Alexander III once made Henry II carry a cross clearly a religious symbol around for three and a half years.
By doing this research I truly think now that Alexander III was one of the most flamboyant and influential Pope’s of Roman History. Alexander III I believe definitely kept his promise to the people of Rome and his promise to God to be a sound body to the church and a kind hand to the people in Rome.