Pope Alexander II

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Alexander II
Bishop of Rome
ChurchCatholic Church
SeeHoly See
Elected30 September 1061
Papacy began1 October 1061
Papacy ended21 April 1073
PredecessorNicholas II
SuccessorGregory VII
Other postsBishop of Lucca
Personal details
Birth nameAnselmo da Baggio
Milan, Holy Roman Empire
Died(1073-04-21)21 April 1073
Rome, Papal State

Pope Alexander II (1010/1015 – 21 April 1073), born Anselm of Baggio, was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1061 to his death in 1073. Born in Milan, Anselm was deeply involved in the Pataria reform movement. Elected according to the terms of his predecessor's bull, In nomine Domini, Anselm's was the first election by the cardinals without the participation of the people and minor clergy of Rome.

Early life and work[edit]

Anselm was born in Baggio, a town near Milan of a noble family. Contemporary sources do not provide any information where Anselm might have obtained his education.[1] It was traditionally believed that Anselm de Baggio studied under Lanfranc at Bec Abbey. However, modern historiography rejects such possibility.[2] He was one of the founders of the Pataria,[3] a movement in the Archdiocese of Milan, aimed at reforming the clergy and ecclesiastic government in the province and supportive of Papal sanctions against simony and clerical marriage.[4] They contested the ancient rights of the cathedral clergy of Milan and supported the Gregorian reforms. Anselm was one of four "upright and honest" priests suggested to succeed Ariberto da Intimiano as prince bishop of Milan. When Emperor Henry III chose instead the more worldly Guido da Velate, protests followed. In order to silence a vocal critic, Bishop Guido sent Anselm to the Imperial Court.

The emperor named Anselm bishop of Lucca. As bishop, he was an energetic coadjutor with Hildebrand of Sovana in endeavouring to suppress simony and enforce clerical celibacy.[5] (In this role, he is sometimes known as Anselm the Elder or Anselm I to distinguish him from his nephew St Anselm who succeeded to his office.) So bad was the state of things at Milan, that benefices were openly bought and sold, and the clergy publicly married the women with whom they lived. With the increased prestige of his office, he reappeared twice in Milan as legate of the Holy See, in 1057 in the company of Hildebrand, and in 1059 with Peter Damian.[3]

Election as pope[edit]

In the papal election of 1061 following the death of Pope Nicholas II, Anselmo de Baggio of Lucca was elected as Pope Alexander II.[4]

Unlike previous papal elections, the assent of the Holy Roman Emperor to the election was not sought,[6] and cardinal bishops were the sole electors of the pope for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church; in accordance with Nicholas II's bull, In Nomine Domini.[7] The bull effectively removed the control held by the Roman metropolitan church over the election of the pontiff.

The new Pope Alexander II was crowned at nightfall on October 1, 1061 in San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica, because opposition to the election made a coronation in St. Peter's Basilica impossible,[6] and the German court nominated another candidate, Cadalus, bishop of Parma, who was proclaimed Pope at the council of Basel under the name of Honorius II. He marched to Rome and for a long time threatened his rival's position. At length, Honorius was forsaken by the German court and deposed by a council held at Mantua;[5] Alexander II's position remained unchallenged for the remainder of his papacy.

Position on Jews[edit]

In 1065, Pope Alexander II wrote to Béranger, Viscount of Narbonne, and to Guifred, bishop of the city, praising them for having prevented the massacre of the Jews in their district, and reminding them that God does not approve of the shedding of innocent blood. That same year, he admonished Landulf VI of Benevento "that the conversion of Jews is not to be obtained by force."[8]

Crusade against the Moors[edit]

Also in the same year, Alexander called for the Crusade of Barbastro against the Moors in Spain.[9][10] Alexander II issued orders to the Bishops of Narbonne, instructing crusaders en route "that you protect the Jews who live among you, so that they may not be killed by those who are setting out for Spain against the Saracens ... for the situation of the Jews is greatly different from that of the Saracens. One may justly fight against those [the Saracens] who persecute Christians and drive them from their towns and their own homes."[11]

William the Conqueror[edit]

The Bayeux Tapestry: William the Conqueror holds a papal gonfalon with a golden cross, a gift from Pope Alexander II.

In 1066, he entertained an embassy from William, Duke of Normandy, after his successful invasion of Brittany. The embassy had been sent to obtain his blessing for William's prospective invasion of Anglo-Saxon England. Alexander gave it, along with a papal ring, the Standard of St. George,[12] and an edict to the autonomous Old English clergy guiding them to submit to the new regime. These favors were instrumental in the submission of the English church following the Battle of Hastings. Count Eustace carried his papal insignia, a gonfanon with three tails charged with a cross, which William of Poitiers says was given to William I to signify the pope's blessing of his invasion to secure a submission to Rome.[13]

Alexander elevated his former teacher, Lanfranc of Bec, to the See of Canterbury and appointed him Primate of England.[3]

In 1068, Emperor Henry IV attempted to divorce Bertha of Savoy. The Papal legate Peter Damian hinted that any further insistence towards divorce would lead the Pope to deny his coronation. Henry obeyed and his wife, who had retired to Lorsch Abbey returned to Court.[4]


In an attempt to curtail simony (paying to gain office), Alexander II sent out many legates and archbishoprics across Europe to enforce reform among local synods. Any clergy suspected of simony were then investigated. Any clergy who was invested into office by a lay person were required to undergo a new investiture by a papal legate. A well-known victim of these campaigns included the bishop of Constance, who was removed from office for simony.[14]

A consequence of Alexander's reforms, in 1071, led to an open rupture with Emperor Henry IV. Archbishop Guido of Milan recently died so Henry IV appointed Godfrey de Castiglione as successor to Guido. However, Alexander II declared this investiture void as nobody can appoint an archbishop other than the pope. Alexander then appointed a Milanese priest named Attone. Henry IV sent five men to Rome to discuss the issue but Alexander rejected them and subsequently excommunicated them. This would lead to the upcoming pressure between Henry IV and the popes.[14]


In 1072 Alexander commanded the reluctant Polish priest Stanislaus of Szczepanów to accept appointment as Bishop of Kraków - becoming one of the earliest native Polish bishops. This turned out to be a significant decision for the Polish Church (and for Polish history in general): once appointed, Stanislaus was a highly assertive bishop who got into conflict with Polish king Bolesław II the Bold, was assassinated by him and was eventually canonized and venerated as a major Polish saint.


Alexander II oversaw the suppression of the "Alleluia" during the Latin Church's celebration of Lent.[15] This is followed to this day.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vaughn 1987, p. 34.
  2. ^ Vaughn 1987, p. 33.
  3. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Alexander II". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  4. ^ a b c LoughlinJames. "Pope Alexander II." Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 1 Aug. 2014
  5. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alexander (popes)". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ a b Levillain, Philippe. 2002. The Papacy: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92228-3.
  7. ^ Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Papal elections of the 11th Century (1061–1099)."
  8. ^ Simonsohn, pp. 35–37.
  9. ^ Jonathan P. Phillips, The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom, St. Edmundsbury Press Ltd., 2007, p. 246.
  10. ^ Jonathan P. Phillips, The Second Crusade: Walking to Santiago de Compostela, Penn State University Press, 1996, p. 101.
  11. ^ O'Callaghan, Joseph (2003). Reconquest and crusade in medieval Spain. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-8122-3696-5.
  12. ^ Houts, Elisabeth M. C. Van, The Normans in Europe, (Manchester University Press, 2000), 105.
  13. ^ "Flags in the Bayeux Tapestry". Encyclopædia Romana.
  14. ^ a b Matthews, Rupert (2013). The Popes: Every Question Answered. New York: Metro Books. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-4351-4571-9.
  15. ^ Cabrol, p. 46.
  16. ^ "Chapter II: The Structure Of The Mass, Its Elements, And Its Parts". General Instruction Of The Roman Missal. usccb.org. Retrieved 23 March 2017.


  • Vaughn, Sally N. (1987). Anselm of Bec and Robert of Meulan: The Innocence of the Dove and the Wisdom of the Serpent. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
  • Simonsohn, Shlomo. The Apostolic See and the Jews, Documents: 492–1404.
  • Cabrol, Fernand. Liturgical Prayer: Its History and Spirit. 2003. p. 46.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Nicholas II
Succeeded by
Gregory VII