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Not to be confused with the earlier Antipope Gregory VIII

Pope Gregory VIII (c. 1100/1105, Beneventomarker, Italymarker–December 17, 1187, Pisamarker, Italymarker), born Alberto di Morra, was Pope from October 25, 1187 until his death.

Early life

Alberto di Morra was born about 1110 in Beneventomarker, Italy. His father was the nobleman Sartorius di Morra. He became a monk early in life, either as a Cistercian in Laonmarker, or a Benedictine at Monte Cassinomarker. Alberto later joined a new religious order, the Premonstratensian or Norbertine order, probably between the ages of 20-30. He was a canon at St. Martin's Abbey in Laon."Gregory, the eighth of that name…they declare from records of St. Martin of Laon to have once been a canon of that church..." Basil R. Reuss, "A Norbertine Pope?," rev. of Catholic University of America Press, The Catholic Historical Review July 1933: 200-03 />. He later became a professor of canon law in Bolognamarker.


In 1156, Pope Adrian IV made him cardinal-deacon of Sant'adriano, and on on March 14, 1158 he became cardinal-priest of San Lorenzo in Lucinamarker. As a papal legate of Pope Alexander III, he was sent to teach canon law throughout Europe in the 1160s, and was sent to Portugalmarker to crown Afonso II. He also brought an offer of reconciliation in 1163 to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, whom Pope Alexander III had excommunicated in 1160. Alexander also sent him to England to investigate the murder of Thomas Becket, and he absolved King Henry II of the murder during the Council of Avranches. From 1177-1179, Alberto also served as a legate in Italy and in February 1178 he was named Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church. It was in this position that he "...compiled a Forma Dicendi, a collection of official papal acts, and also completed a codification of the cursus, a compilation of the very stringent rules governing the euphonious arrangements of sentence endings and phrasing in papal acts. In his honor, the cursus was called stylus gregorianus." These two documents were very influential in shaping the rhetoric used in papal documents. Shortly before his election into the papacy, Alberto founded a monastery in his hometown of Benevento.


On October 21, 1187, the day after the death of Pope Urban III, Alberto di Morra was elected Pope and took the name Gregory VIII, in honor of Pope Gregory VII. He was consecrated on October 25. His previous dealings with Frederick Barbarossa put the church back in a friendly relationship with the Holy Roman Emperor. In response to the defeat of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattinmarker, Gregory issued the papal bull Audita tremendi, calling for the Third Crusade. Gregory travelled to Pisamarker in order to end Pisan hostilities with Genoamarker so that both seaports and naval fleets could join together for the crusade. On the way to Pisa, he stopped at Luccamarker and ordered Antipope Victor IV's body to be removed from his tomb and his remains thrown out of the church.


Gregory died in Pisa on December 17, 1187 of a fever, after holding the Papacy for only 57 days. He was buried in the Duomo in Pisamarker. He was succeeded by Pope Clement III. According to Joseph S. Brusher, "His pontificate though brief was glorious."



  • Brusher, Joseph S. Popes through the Ages.
  • Delaney, John J., and James E. Tobin. Dictionary of Catholic Biography. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1961.
  • Kelly, J. N. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. New York: Oxford UP, 1986.
  • Levillain, Philippe, ed. The Papacy: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Loughlin, James. "Pope Gregory VIII." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 7 December 2008 />.
  • "Premonstratenisans/Norbertines A Look at out Way of Life." The International Website for the Order of Premontre. The Order of Premontre. 7 December 2008 />.

See also

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