1159 Papal Election
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1159 Papal Election
Papal election
Dates and location
4-7 September 1159
Vatican Basilica, Rome
Key officials
DeanImar of Tusculum
Sub-deanGregorio della Suburra
CamerlengoBoso Breakspeare
ProtopriestUbaldo Caccianemici
ProtodeaconOdone Bonecase
CandidatesBernard of Porto,
Elected pope
Rolando of Siena
Name taken: Alexander III
Pope Alexander III.jpg
1181 ->

The 1159 papal election (held 4-7 September) followed the death of Pope Adrian IV. It resulted in a double papal election. A majority of the cardinals elected Cardinal Rolando of Siena as Pope Alexander III, but a minority refused to recognize him and elected their own candidate Ottaviano de Monticelli, who took the name Victor IV, creating a schism that lasted until 1178.

The schism was a result of the growing tensions inside the Sacred College of Cardinals concerning the foreign policy of the Holy See. The Papal States in the 12th century were a buffer between the Holy Roman Empire and the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. After the Concordat of Worms in 1122, the Papacy allied with the Empire rather than with the Normans, but during the pontificate of Adrian IV (1154-59) this alliance broke up because Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa did not fulfil the terms of the treaty of Constance (1153) that obliged him to help the Papacy to restore its authority in Rome and in other territories controlled by the king of Sicily.[1] In these circumstances Adrian IV decided to break the alliance with the Emperor and to make peace with William I of Sicily by signing the Treaty of Benevento (1156). In the following years there were growing tensions between the papacy and Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (e.g. a dispute at the diet of Besançon in 1157). Frederick tried - with significant success - to strengthen his influence on the Church in Germany.[2] The change of direction of the papal foreign policy resulted in the division of the Sacred College into supporters and opponents of the new policy, who were unable to achieve a compromise after the death of Adrian IV.

The election of 1159 had also significant legal consequences. Up to that time, the election of the new Pope required unanimity among the electors, which led to the schism when the existence of factions in the Sacred College made the unanimity impossible.[3] To avoid such schism in the future, the Third Lateran Council in 1179 promulgated the decree Licet de evitanda discordia, which established the rule that the Pope is elected with a majority of two thirds of the cardinals participating in the election.[4]

Death of Adrian IV

Pope Adrian IV died on 1 September 1159. Fearing a possible schism, shortly before his death he recommended to the cardinals the election of Cardinal Bernard of Porto as his successor.[5]

List of participants

There were thirty one cardinals in September 1159.[6] One of them seems not to have participated in the election, leaving the number of thirty electors:[7][8]

Elector Faction Cardinalatial title Elevated[9] Elevator Notes
Imar, O.S.B. Cluny Imperial Bishop of Tusculum 13 March 1142 Innocent II Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals
Gregorio della Suburra "Sicilian" Bishop of Sabina 1 March 1140[10] Innocent II[10] Sub-dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals
Ubaldo Allucingoli "Sicilian" Bishop of Ostia e Velletri 16 December 1138 Innocent II Future Pope Lucius III (1181-85)
Giulio neutral Bishop of Palestrina 19 May 1144 Lucius II
Bernard, Can.Reg. "Sicilian" Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina 22 December 1144 Lucius II Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica; designated by Adrian IV but not elected
Walter, Can.Reg. "Sicilian" Bishop of Albano 19 December 1158 Adrian IV
Ubaldo Caccianemici, Can.Reg. "Sicilian" Priest of S. Croce in Gerusalemme 19 May 1144 Lucius II Protopriest of the Sacred College of Cardinals; Cardinal-nephew (?)
Ottaviano de Monticelli Imperial Priest of S. Cecilia 25 February 1138 Innocent II Elected Antipope Victor IV
Astaldo degli Astalli neutral Priest of S. Prisca 17 December 1143 Celestine II
Guido di Crema Imperial Priest of S. Maria in Trastevere 21 September 1145 Eugenius III Future Antipope Paschal III (1164-68)
Rolando "Sicilian" Priest of S. Marco and Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church 22 September 1150 Eugenius III Elected Pope Alexander III
Giovanni Gaderisio, Can.Reg. "Sicilian" Priest of S. Anastasia 22 September 1150 Eugenius III
Giovanni da Sutri neutral Priest of SS. Giovanni e Paolo 21 February 1152 Eugenius III
Enrico Moricotti, O.Cist. neutral Priest of SS. Nereo ed Achilleo 21 February 1152 Eugenius III
Giovanni Morrone Imperial Priest of SS. Silvestro e Martino 23 May 1152 Eugenius III
Ildebrando Grassi, Can.Reg. "Sicilian" Priest of SS. XII Apostoli 23 May 1152 Eugenius III
Bonadies de Bonadie neutral Priest of S. Crisogono 21 December 1156 Adrian IV
Alberto di Morra, Can.Reg.Praem. neutral Priest of S. Lorenzo in Lucina 21 December 1156 Adrian IV Future Pope Gregory VIII (1187)
Guglielmo Marengo, O.Cist. Imperial (?) Priest of S. Pietro in Vincoli 14 March 1158 Adrian IV
Odone Bonecase "Sicilian" Deacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro 4 March 1132 Innocent II Protodeacon of the Sacred College of Cardinals
Rodolfo neutral Deacon of S. Lucia in Septisolio 17 December 1143 Celestine II
Giacinto Bobone neutral Deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin 22 December 1144 Lucius II Future Pope Celestine III (1191-98)
Ottone da Brescia "Sicilian" Deacon of S. Nicola in Carcere 21 February 1152 Eugenius III
Ardicio Rivoltella "Sicilian" Deacon of S. Teodoro 21 December 1156 Adrian IV
Boso, Can.Reg. "Sicilian" Deacon of SS. Cosma e Damiano 21 December 1156 Adrian IV Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church; prefect of the Castle Sant'Angelo
Simeone Borelli, O.S.B.Cas. Imperial Deacon of S. Maria in Domnica ca.1157 Adrian IV Abbot of Subiaco
Cinzio Capellus Imperial (?) Deacon of S. Adriano 14 March 1158 Adrian IV
Pietro di Miso "Sicilian" Deacon of S. Eustachio 14 March 1158 Adrian IV
Raymond de Nimes Imperial Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata 14 March 1158 Adrian IV
Giovanni Conti da Anagni neutral Deacon of S. Maria in Portico 19 December 1158 Adrian IV

Five electors were created by Pope Innocent II, two by Pope Celestine II, four by Pope Lucius II, eight by Pope Eugenius III and eleven by Pope Adrian IV.


Elector Faction Cardinalatial title Elevated Elevator Notes
Rainaldo di Collemezzo,[11] O.S.B.Cas. neutral Priest of SS. Marcellino e Pietro ca.1139-1141 Innocent II Abbot of Montecassino (external cardinal)

Divisions in the Sacred College

Otto von Wittelsbach, imperial envoy in Rome and alleged ally of the conspiracy of pro-imperial cardinals
King William I of Sicily.

The College of Cardinals was divided into two factions: the so-called "Sicilian" party and the Imperial faction. The "Sicilian" party, led by chancellor Rolando of Siena and Camerlengo Boso, supported the pro-Sicilian policy of Adrian IV. The Imperial faction was led by Ottaviano of S. Cecilia.

It is known that the "Sicilian" party counted thirteen cardinals. They were chancellor Roland of S. Marco, camerlengo Boso of SS. Cosma e Damiano, cardinal-bishops Bernard of Porto, Ubaldo of Ostia, Walter of Albano and Gregorio of Sabina, as well as cardinals Odone of S. Giorgio, Ubaldo of S. Croce, Ottone of S. Nicola, Ardicio of S. Teodoro, Giovanni of S. Anastasia, Ildebrando of SS. Apostoli and Pietro of S. Eustachio.[12]

The Imperial party may have counted as many as nine cardinals.[13] but only six can be identified as its members: Ottaviano of S. Cecilia, Giovanni of SS. Silvestro e Martino, Guido of S. Maria in Trastevere, Imar of Tusculum, Raymond of S. Maria in Via Lata and Simeone of S. Maria in Domnica[14] Guglielmo of S. Pietro in Vincoli was probably the seventh one.[15] Perhaps Cardinal Cinzio of S. Adriano also belonged to this faction. The remaining ten cardinals were neutral.[16]

It is believed that both factions made some preparations to the election in the last months of the pontificate of Adrian IV, although these attempts are known only from the hostile accounts produced for the polemical purposes during the subsequent schism and it is impossible to verify their accuracy. Both sides accused each other of illegal conspiracies. The adherents of Victor IV accused "Sicilians" of receiving the bribes from the king William I of Sicily and the anti-Imperial cities of Brescia, Milan and Piacenza. They ostensibly made an oath not to vote for any candidate outside their circle. On the other hand, "Sicilians" accused imperialists of hatching a plot with the imperial envoy Otto von Wittelsbach, who was present at Rome at the time of the election and gave the significant support to Victor IV in taking control over the Patrimony of St. Peter.[5] It is known that the secular adherents of Cardinal Ottaviano de Monticelli, who was related to the powerful family of the counts of Tusculum, were prepared for the armed confrontation in Rome.[16] Evidently, neither party was prepared for compromise.[17]


Election of Alexander III

Pope Alexander III

The cardinals assembled in the Vatican Basilica on 4 September, three days after the death of Adrian IV. They had decided that, according to the custom, the election should be unanimous to be valid.[18] It seems that the candidature of Bernard of Porto, recommended by Adrian as acceptable for both factions, had never been even advanced. Both parties put forward candidates mutually unacceptable: the imperial party proposed Ottaviano de Monticelli, while "Sicilians" proposed chancellor Rolando.[19] The cardinals discussed for three days without achieving a compromise. However, the "Sicilian" party was able to join all the neutral cardinals and probably detached also some members of the imperial faction. On the fourth day (7 September), Cardinal Rolando of Siena was proclaimed pope by them and took the name Alexander III, although the unanimity had not been achieved and some cardinals still opposed his candidature.[16] According to the manifest of Alexandrine party of October 1159 and an account of Cardinal Boso, on that day Rolando received the votes of all cardinals assembled except three: those of Ottaviano of S. Cecilia, Giovanni of SS. Silvestro e Martino and Guido of S. Maria in Trastevere. Then supporters of Rolando recognized that "It seemed inappropriate that ... the apostolic see ... should remain any longer without a ruler because of the contentiousness of the aforesaid [three] men".[18] On the other hand, the opposite party claimed that Ottaviano had still nine votes, and that the "Sicilian" party, having majority, simply broke the rule that required unanimity for the valid election.[20] However, the version of the imperial cardinals is believed to be less reliable than the version of the Alexandrine party, even if the latter may be also not fully accurate; based on the subscriptions of the manifests of both parties issued shortly after the election, it is possible to assume that at least twenty-three electors voted for Rolando, and no more than six opposed him.[21]

Election of Victor IV

The electors of Cardinal Rolando, immediately after proclaiming him Pope, attempted to place upon him the purple mantle which symbolized the assumption of the papal office, but then the election entered the tumultuous stage. Cardinal Ottaviano Monticelli snatched the mantle from Alexander's back and his armed bands burst into the basilica. Alexander III and his supporters fled to the citadel of St. Peter, which was in the hands of Cardinal Boso. In their absence, the few cardinals who remained in basilica elected Ottaviano of S. Cecilia to the papacy and enthroned him as Victor IV.[16] The exact number of his electors is not known, but there are good reasons to believe that it was six, including Ottaviano himself, since only five cardinals signed the manifest in his favour in the following month.[14] However, it is possible that some additional cardinals participated in the election of Victor IV but very quickly joined the obedience of Alexander III.[22]

Consecration of Alexander III

Pope Alexander III remained in the citadel for a week until he was rescued and escorted from Rome by Odo Frangipane, and on September 18 he was eventually bestowed with the purple mantle.[16] On 20 September at the small village of Ninfa, south-east of Velletri, he was consecrated bishop of Rome by Cardinal Ubaldo Allucingoli, bishop of Ostia e Velletri, and crowned by Cardinal Odone Bonecase, protodeacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro.[23] On 27 September he excommunicated Victor IV and his adherents.[24]

Consecration of Victor IV

Victor IV was consecrated on 4 October in the abbey of Farfa by Cardinal-Bishop Imar of Tusculum, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, assisted by the bishops Ubaldo of Ferentino and Riccardo of Melfi.[25] With the armed assistance of Otto von Wittelsbach and his own armed groups in relatively short time he took control over the City of Rome and the Patrimony of St. Peter, while Alexander III took refuge in the territory of the Kingdom of Sicily, and later in France.[26]

Manifests of both factions in October 1159

Both rivals together with their adherents defended the legality of their elections. In October 1159 cardinals of both obediences produced the manifests to the Emperor Frederick in favour of their elects. The "Alexandrine" manifest was subscribed by twenty three cardinals, while that of Victorine faction only by five.[27] Supporters of Victor IV, admitting that they were in minority, justified their action by the fact that the opposite faction broke the rule of unanimity and - in consequence - the election of Rolando was invalid. The opposite party claimed that the principle of unanimity had been breached by the obstructive conduct of merely three cardinals of the Imperial faction, who stubbornly refused to recognize the candidate desired by the rest of the Sacred College.[18]

Final division of the Sacred College of Cardinals in October 1159

Obedience of Alexander III Obedience of Victor IV[28]
1. Gregorio della Suburra, bishop of Sabina and sub-dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals
2. Ubaldo Allucingoli, bishop of Ostia e Velletri
3. Giulio, bishop of Palestrina
4. Bernard, Can.Reg., bishop of Porto e S. Rufina and archpriest of the Vatican Basilica
5. Walter, Can.Reg., bishop of Albano
6. Ubaldo Caccianemici, Can.Reg., protopriest of S. Croce in Gerusalemme
7. Rainaldo di Collemezzo, O.S.B.Cas., priest of SS. Marcellino e Pietro and abbot of Montecassino
8. Astaldo degli Astalli, priest of S. Prisca
9. Giovanni da Sutri, priest of SS. Giovanni e Paolo
10. Errico Moricotti, O.Cist., priest of SS. Nereo ed Achilleo
11. Ildebrando Grassi, Can.Reg., priest of SS. XII Apostoli
12. Giovanni Gaderisio, Can.Reg., priest of S. Anastasia
13. Bonadies de Bonadie, priest of S. Crisogono
14. Alberto di Morra, Can.Reg., priest of S. Lorenzo in Lucina
15. Guglielmo Marengo, priest of S. Pietro in Vincoli
16. Odone Bonecase, protodeacon of S. Giorgio in Velabro
17. Rodolfo, deacon of S. Lucia in Septisolio
18. Giacinto Bobone, deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin
19. Ottone da Brescia, deacon of S. Nicola in Carcere
20. Ardicio Rivoltella, deacon of S. Teodoro
21. Boso, Can.Reg., deacon of SS. Cosma e Damiano
22. Cinzio Capellus, deacon of S. Adriano
23. Pietro di Miso, deacon of S. Eustachio
24. Giovanni Conti da Anagni, deacon of S. Maria in Portico
1. Imar, O.S.B.Cluny, bishop of Tusculum and dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals
2. Guido di Crema, priest of S. Maria in Trastevere
3. Giovanni Morrone, priest of SS. Silvestro e Martino
4. Raymond de Nimes, deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata
5. Simeone Borelli, O.S.B.Cas., deacon of S. Maria in Domnica and abbot of Subiaco

Simeone Borelli joined the obedience of Alexander III already at the end of 1159.[29] Raymond of S. Maria in Vi Lata did the same between February and April 1160.[30] Besides, at the end of 1159 Victor IV created at least three new cardinal-deacons: Bernard of SS. Sergio e Bacco, Giovanni of S Maria in Aquiro and Lando of S. Angelo,[31] while Alexander III appointed on February 18, 1160 cardinal-deacon Milo of S. Maria in Aquiro.[32]


Both popes sent their legates to the Catholic kingdoms in order to secure their recognition. At the council of Pavia in February 1160 Emperor Frederick I declared himself in favour of Victor IV, and the episcopate of the Empire followed him, with the significant exception of archbishop of Salzburg Eberhard I von Hilpolstein-Biburg and his suffragans.[33] King Valdemar I of Denmark also gave his support to Victor IV, but the primate of Denmark archbishop Eskil of Lund became partisan of Alexander III.[34] It seems that Poland also supported Victor IV.[35] The rest of Europe, namely France, England, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, Hungary, Sicily and the Latin territories in Outremer, recognized Alexander III as true Pope, even if in some of these countries there were a significant Victorine minorities in episcopates or among feudal rulers.[36] The papal schism in Europe was now a fact.

The unity of the Church had been restored only after eighteen years, when Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and Pope Alexander III signed a Treaty of Venice (1 August 1177); shortly thereafter the pro-imperial pope Callistus III (successor of Victor IV) abandoned his claims to the papacy and submitted to Alexander III (29 August 1178).[37] Victor IV and his successors Paschal III (1164-68) and Callistus III (1168-78) are now regarded as antipopes by the Catholic Church, while Alexander III is recognized as legitimate successor of St. Peter the Apostle.


The election of 1159 and the subsequent schism showed the necessity of amending the rules concerning papal elections. The decree Licet de evitanda discordia issued by the Third Lateran Council in 1179 abolished the rule of unanimity in favour of the rule of the majority of two thirds. The decree confirmed also that all three orders of the College of Cardinals (bishops, priests and deacons) are equal in the papal elections. Although the practice allowing the participation of cardinal-priests and cardinal-deacons on equal rights with cardinal-bishops had been introduced no later than in the papal election, 1118, the decree In Nomine Domini (1059) conferring the special electoral rights on the cardinal-bishops had never been formally revoked up to that time.[38]


  1. ^ Robinson, pp. 464-465
  2. ^ Robinson, pp. 388-391 and 464-471
  3. ^ Robinson, p. 57
  4. ^ Robinson, p. 84
  5. ^ a b Robinson, pp. 79-80
  6. ^ Robinson, p. 43 and 83; Brixius, p. 24; Zenker, p. 198.
  7. ^ Brixius, p. 24; and Bolton, Duggan, p. 106. (The latter source gives the number of twenty eight, but it has certainly omitted two cardinal, adding Cardinal Rolando of S. Marco, his 22 supporters and 5 supporters of Ottaviano of S. Cecilia, but not Ottaviano himself; besides, it indicates that Alexander III was supported by 22 cardinals, but the true number is 23, see Rahewin: cap. LXIII)
  8. ^ Salvador Miranda on his website The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church Papal elections of the 12th Century (1100-1198) has published a slightly different lists of cardinals in this election, taken from the very old opuscle of Alphonso Chacón, Vitae et res gestae Pontificum Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalium, Rome 1677. Chacón included two more cardinal-deacons among electors of Victor IV: Gregorio of SS. Vito e Modesto and Guglielmo, archdeacon of Pavia, with unknown deaconry. However, they did not subscribe any papal bulls (Jaffé, p. 616, 653, 659 and 827), their names are not mentioned in the manifest of Imperial party of October 1159 (Bolton, Duggan, pp. 105-106; Rahewin: cap. LXII)), and nothing is known about them except the alleged participation in this election, so it seems doubtful that they were ever promoted to the cardinalate and even that they existed (Cardinal Guglielmo seems to be a "duplicate" of Cardinal Guglielmo Marengo, who had been archdeacon of Pavia before his promotion to the cardinalate and whose attitude at the beginning of the schism was ambiguous. See Robinson, p. 475). Brixius does not mention them in his work.
  9. ^ Dates of promotions according to Zenker, pp. 222-226, and Brixius, passim.
  10. ^ a b For the date of his creation see Zenker, pp. 48 and 51. Brixius, pp. 57, says that he was created by Anastasius IV (1153-54) as cardinal-bishop of Sabina, but Zenker has proven that he is identical to cardinal Gregorio of S. Maria in Trastevere created by Innocent II in 1140.
  11. ^ A. Chacón includes Rainaldo among participants of the election of Alexander III. However, it seems unlikely because Cardinal Rainaldo was not a resident of Roman Curia, but of the abbey of Montecassino, where he acted as abbot for 29 years (1137-1166). Fact that he did not subscribe to any papal bulls during his long cardinalate (1140-1166) clearly indicates his permanent absence from the papal court (Jaffé, pp. 559, 609, 616, 653, 658-659). Besides, although he certainly joined the obedience of Alexander III, he does not appear among signatories of the manifest of his electors of October 1159 (Rahewin: cap. LXIII). For his absence see also Brixius, p. 24.
  12. ^ Robinson, p. 53
  13. ^ This number is given in the manifest of the electors of Victor IV, dated October 1159. However, this manifest is signed only by five cardinals and is not believed to be reliable; none of the other sources support the number of nine cardinals in favour of Ottaviano-Victor IV (Bolton, Duggan, p. 106). The Victorine party claimed that among these nine cardinals was Gregorio of Sabina, later bribed by Alexandrines (Langen, p. 454), but cardinal Gregorio is known to have been a "Sicilian" (Robinson, p. 53)
  14. ^ a b Bolton, Duggan, p. 105
  15. ^ Langen, p. 454
  16. ^ a b c d e Robinson, p. 83
  17. ^ Robinson, p. 81
  18. ^ a b c Robinson, p. 82
  19. ^ Robinson, p. 79
  20. ^ Robinson, pp. 82-83
  21. ^ Bolton, Duggan, p. 106. These numbers do not include the elect himself.
  22. ^ Robinson, p. 83, Bolton, Duggan, p. 106. Perhaps three or four supporters of Alexander III who did not escape to citadel joined the election of Victor IV under the pressure of the armed bands; this would explain why Victorines could have claimed that their faction counted nine cardinals, including "Sicilian" Gregorio of Sabina, and why their numbers dwindled so quickly to five. However, there is no direct evidence to support this hypothesis.
  23. ^ Salvador Miranda (1998-2008). "Cardinal Rolando Bandinelli (Pope Alexander III)". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Florida International University Library. Retrieved .
  24. ^ Robinson, p. 478
  25. ^ Jaffé, p. 828
  26. ^ Robinson, p. 484
  27. ^ Rahewin, "Gesta Frederici" (manifest of Wiktorine party is a cap. LXII, while that of Alexandrine party is the cap. LXIII)
  28. ^ Antipope Victor IV shortly after his consecration in October 1159 appointed unspecified number of new cardinals to strengthen his faction (S. Miranda Pseudocardinals of Victor IV). These (pseudo)cardinals are not included in the table
  29. ^ Zenker, pp. 140-141.
  30. ^ Brixius, p. 24.
  31. ^ Brixius, pp. 67-68
  32. ^ Brixius, p. 24 and p. 65 no. 20
  33. ^ Robinson, pp. 474-475
  34. ^ Angelo Forte, Richard Oram, Frederik Pedersen, Viking empires, Cambridge University Press, 2005 ISBN 0-521-82992-5, p. 382
  35. ^ Polish bishops took part in the schismatic synods in 1160 and 1165 (Dzieje Ko?cio?a w Polsce, ed. A. Wiencek, Kraków 2008, p. 75)
  36. ^ Robinson, pp. 475-476
  37. ^ Salvador Miranda (1998-2008). "Antipope Callistus III". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Florida International University Library. Retrieved .
  38. ^ Robinson, pp. 40-41, 63 and 84

Further reading

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