Viktor II

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Viktor II as depicted in the Pontifical Gundekarianum (1071/72)

Viktor II. , Also Victor II. (* Around 1020; † July 28, 1057 in Arezzo ), was Gebhard I Bishop of Eichstätt from 1042 to 1057 and served as Pope from 1055 until his death . He comes from a south-west German aristocratic family and is considered a " German Pope " due to his kinship-based position in the Salian imperial church .

Origin and youth

Little is known about Gebhard's origins and youth. His year of birth is not recorded, but can be dated to around 1020, since at the time of his bishopric in 1042 he was apparently only a few years younger than the 25-year-old King Heinrich III. was. It is certain that Gebhard's parents were called Hartwig and Biliza and that the family came from an Alemannic noble family that was distantly related to the Salian royal family. His father Hartwig was a brother of Gotebold , who first became known as Canon of Eichstätt and later as Patriarch of Aquileia ; his mother Biliza obviously belonged to the Guelph house . The exact origin of the family has only recently been fully clarified.

After his childhood, Gebhard embarked on a spiritual career and trained as a cathedral canon under his step-uncle Bishop Gebhard III. von Regensburg , a half-uncle of Conrad II. Despite his distant relationship with the Kaiser, Gebhard's rapid political rise was in no way predetermined; after all, the young cleric was not educated at the royal court but in the Regensburg cathedral school. Rather, his career opportunities were made more difficult because the Salian rulers traditionally selected their spiritual advisors almost exclusively from among their spiritual court orchestra . The sources give little information about the reasons for which Gebhard could even be considered for a bishopric. Presumably he turned out to be a highly gifted student, who thus turned out to be a close confidante of Gebhard III. von Regensburg could recommend for possible higher offices.

Acting as Bishop Gebhard I. von Eichstätt

The political rise of Gebhard until 1050

After the diocese of Eichstätt had become vacant in 1042 due to the death of Gezmann , the Regensburg Bishop Gebhard III tried. to exert significant influence on the appointment of a new position. As an important military leader in the battles against the Hungarians, he was for Emperor Heinrich III. an important and influential political advisor. Gebhard III. initially suggested the Provost Kuno of Regensburg, but the emperor immediately rejected Kuno. To Gebhard III. not to be upset, allowed Henry III. to him to make another suggestion from the circle of his cathedral chapter.

His second vote fell on the young Gebhard, Heinrich III. - after consultation with other bishops - accepted on Christmas 1042 in Goslar. This designation is unusual in many ways: Apparently Gebhard had not yet reached canonical age when he was appointed bishop, because he was only a little older than 20 years. It is also noticeable that Gebhard had neither contacts to the diocese of Eichstätt nor to Heinrich III before this election. and the emperor probably didn't even know him at the time.

Just a short time after his elevation to Bishop of Eichstätt, Gebhard developed into an indispensable advisor for Emperor Heinrich III. The secular ruler increasingly resorted to the advice of the young clergyman in political, legal and ecclesiastical matters, who proved to be an "absolutely reliable confidant". The anonymous clerk of the Herrieden monastery particularly emphasizes the virtue and spiritual and worldly knowledge of the bishop, which distinguished him from the other imperial princes.

In his new role he sought closeness to the emperor and traveled through the empire as a member of the court. In the course of Henry III's trip to Italy. In 1046 he took part in the Synods of Sutri and Pavia , at which the Salian ruler pushed ahead with church reform. In addition, in the same year he was present at the papal uprising of Bishop Suitgers von Bamberg in Rome and accompanied the emperor on his visits to Regensburg, Nuremberg and Augsburg. Gebhard also attended the Synod of Mainz, which Pope Leo IX. and Heinrich III. held in 1049 to combat simony and priestly marriage.

As a permanent member of the court, there was apparently little time for his bishopric, as he was much more often at the imperial court than in his diocese. Apart from an intervention in favor of the Niederaltaich monastery , no significant episcopal acts have been recorded. Obviously Gebhard attached significantly more importance to his political ambitions than to church service.

Growing influence on imperial politics - the way to the papacy

Political abilities, the will to reform and closeness to the emperor distinguished Gebhard, so that around 1050 he became the main advisor to Heinrich III. rise. He developed into the main advisor to the crown and was almost equal to the emperor in power and influence. Gebhard's growing political position was particularly evident when he met Heinrich III. in 1053 in support of Pope Leo IX. in the fight against the Normans . Without the assistance of the emperor, the papal troops suffered a crushing defeat in the battle of Civitate , after which Leo IX. was captured. Apparently Gebhard was a staunch opponent of the Pope's Norman policy. The bishop's motives for his attitude are obscure. Possibly he attached greater importance to the unrest in Bavaria, which with the deposition of Duke Conrad I of Bavaria by Heinrich III. first found their climax. The duchy was transferred to the two underage sons of the emperor - first Henry IV and, after his election as king, his younger brother Konrad . Gebhard von Eichstätt was appointed as their guardian at Christmas 1053, who as regent was responsible for the stabilization of Bavaria. For example, he led a successful campaign against the Counts of Scheyern , who were significantly involved in the clashes. In fact, that political office brought about a considerable increase in the power of the bishop.

The steep rise of Gebhard is astonishing insofar as Eichstätt was actually considered a relatively unimportant diocese. However, the strong involvement in imperial politics meant that he had to increasingly neglect his office as bishop. He limited himself mainly to promoting the cathedral school , whose students he made paintings and had them displayed in the newly built chapel. He also intended to rebuild the ruins of the cathedral left by Bishop Herbert , but could not finish it during his lifetime. It is certain that the frequent absence of the bishop was not conducive to the development of Eichstatt. Accordingly, the important gifts of territories and rights that the emperor promised the diocese in 1053 and 1055 are to be regarded as compensation. After the death of Leo IX. in April 1054 the Holy See became vacant. Together with a Roman embassy chaired by the deacon Hildebrand - later Pope Gregory VII - Heinrich III conferred. on a farm day in Mainz about the new appointment. The emperor used his right of designation and in September 1054 proposed Gebhard as the successor to Leo IX. in front. From this practice he had already in the election of the German Popes Clement II , Damasus II and Leo IX. Made use of. Gebhard's political skills and his close relationship with the ruler evidently made him the ideal candidate for the Salier.

Remarkably, however, Gebhard attached conditions to the acceptance of the office and asked for time to consider. He demanded from Heinrich III. not only the return of church goods, but also the retention of his diocese. This was a common practice, as his German predecessors in the papal office were also allowed to keep their home dioceses.

The behavior of the Pope-designate shows that Gebhard could be sure of the favor of the emperor and that, as an important political advisor, he was also able to make self-confident demands. It was not until a Reichstag in Regensburg in March 1055 that the Eichstatt bishop consented. After a successful election he was finally enthroned on April 13, 1055 in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome as Pope Viktor II. By adopting this name, he probably referred to St. Viktor von Xanten , who was especially venerated as a holy warrior in the 10th and 11th centuries. He was executed as a martyr at the beginning of the fourth century. It is possible that the fifth German Pope linked this name with his plans to strengthen territorial claims against secular power as head of the Roman Church. Against the background of the intensive cooperation between Viktor II and Heinrich III, it seems more likely that the name is representative of the synergy between Church and Empire.

Work as Pope Viktor II.

The Imperial Synods of Florence, Rome and Arezzo

After his elevation to pope, Viktor II continued to work closely with the emperor. He traveled long distances to further strengthen the rights of the Church. Together with Heinrich III. he campaigned for an intensive implementation of church reform, as already became apparent at the imperial synod in Florence on June 4, 1055. Both the ecclesiastical and the secular leaders were willing to take decisive action against simony and priestly marriage. Pope Viktor II did not shy away from harsh punishments, as the excommunication and dismissal of Archbishop Wilfred von Narbonne shows. At the same time, political problems were also dealt with at the synod: The dispute between Emperor Heinrich III. and the powerful Lower Lorraine Duke and Margrave of Tuscia Gottfried the Bearded played an important role. He was deposed in the course of the synod and his wife Beatrix of Lorraine and his stepdaughter Mathilde were taken prisoner by the emperor. The meeting in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, was a clear demonstration of power by the emperor. Henry III. and Viktor after this meeting made a common triumphal procession through Italy to demonstrate their unity together.

Apart from the Synod of Florence, little is known about the ecclesiastical work of Pope Victor II during his pontificate. Due to the increasing involvement in imperial politics, his church activity was clearly limited. At the beginning of 1056 he took the Vallombrosa monastery under his personal protection. He also intervened in the election of the abbot of the Montecassino monastery when he forced the already elected abbot Peter to resign. His strict stance against simony encouraged Viktor's backing with the Gregorian Reform Party, with which he was extremely popular. Significantly, its most important representative, the aforementioned Hildebrand, worked as a close personal advisor and librarian for the Pope.

At the two smaller synods in Rome on April 18, 1057 and in Arezzo on July 23, 1057, on the one hand, the reunification of the diocese of Sabina was decided, on the other hand, Viktor II tried between the bishops Arnald of Arezzo and John of Siena in their dispute over To convey church property. The sparse source material does not reveal any further items to be negotiated.

The expansion of the papal papal state

Pope Viktor II was particularly distinguished by his political skill in the empire, which he had already demonstrated as Bishop of Eichstätt. When Emperor Heinrich III. had to deal more and more with uprisings in the empire, the Pope became his indispensable political support. So the secular ruler gave his confidante various areas in eastern Italy, which he was supposed to administer on his behalf. These included the Duchy of Spoleto , the Margraviate of Fermo and possessions in Romagna . Due to this increasing involvement in business in the empire and in Italy, Viktor II could practically no longer fulfill his actual task as bishop. Rather, he consciously used the preserved areas to expand and secure the papal state in order to strengthen the political power of his office. At the same time he created a counterbalance to the Norman states and above all to the margravate of Tuscia, which became increasingly powerful in southern Italy under Gottfried the Bearded from 1054.

Victor II's power calculation was also evident in the removal of Frederick of Lorraine as head of the papal chancellery. The role of the brother Gottfried the Bearded and later Pope Stephan IX. then his advisor Hildebrand took over. After the death of Henry III. On a court day in Cologne in December 1056, however , the Pope promoted reconciliation between the royal court and Gottfried the Bearded. From this he now hoped for support for the church reform policy and a possible military operation against the Normans. In return, he released both Beatrix and Mathilde and elevated Frederick of Lorraine to abbot of Montecassino and cardinal presbyter of Saint Chrysogonus . In fact, this balancing of interests at the so-called “Cologne Council” meant a clear stabilization of the papal state.

The role as "Reichsverweser" after the death of Heinrich III.

In September 1056, Pope Viktor II and Henry III met. together in Goslar . There the two discussed a possible solution to the unrest in the empire and in southern Italy, which had forced the ruler on many strenuous journeys.

Henry III. finally died at the beginning of October 1056 in Bodfeld in the Harz Mountains. Shortly before, his son Heinrich IV had been elected king by the ecclesiastical and secular princes in Goslar. The special relationship of trust between Emperor and Pope was also evident on the ruler's deathbed: Viktor II stayed at the ruler's side and received the personal protection order for Empress Agnes and Henry IV from him. As the guardian of the underage king, he initially took over the imperial business, so the Pope was again able to significantly expand his political power.

The Pope conscientiously carried out the deceased emperor's mandate: After he had the solemn burial of Henry III. organized in Speyer Cathedral and participated in it, he crowned the young King Heinrich IV in Aachen. By the end of 1056, Viktor II had already greatly expanded his political influence. As imperial administrator he regulated the situation in the East Franconian area with papal and secular authority and mediated between the conflicting parties. He succeeded in balancing the balance between the royal court and Gottfried the Bearded, who then swore an oath of allegiance to the young King Heinrich IV.

His growing role in the empire forced the Pope to stay far away from Rome. After staying briefly in his diocese of Eichstätt at the beginning of 1057, he finally returned to the Lateran in March after a long absence, in order to then hold two imperial synods (see Chapter 4.1). He transferred the administration of the empire and the guardianship of Henry IV to his mother, Empress Agnes.


Surprisingly and unexpectedly, Pope Victor II died on July 28, 1057 in Arezzo of a febrile illness, shortly after he had held a synod there. He was likely the victim of an epidemic during the Italian summer. The increasing burden of the many trips had apparently affected the Pope to a great extent. When his supporters wanted to transfer the body of the Pope to his former bishopric Eichstätt , it was secretly stolen by residents of the city of Ravenna during the return transport and buried in a sarcophagus in the mausoleum of Theodoric the Great in Ravenna, which at the time was part of the church of the Benedictine monastery S. Maria ad forum was in Ravenna. Victor II's grave was later looted and robbers removed the body. The whereabouts of his remains has not yet been clarified.

Significance for the reform papacy

The close cooperation and the good relationship between the cathedra petri and the emperor were a special feature of the tenure of Victor II. The "symbiosis of Regnum and Sacerdotium " experienced with the death of Henry III. and Victor II, however, both reached their climax as well as their end point, since that unity would finally break in the course of the investiture controversy in the following years.

The increasingly dwindling influence of the secular ruler on the papacy was already apparent when Viktor's successor Stephan IX. was enthroned in August 1057 without the consent of a Salic ruler. Thus the death of Victor II also marks the end of the German reform papacy.

Viktor II monument by Johanna Fischl in Eichstätter Dom


In 1945 the sculptor Johanna Fischl erected a monument for Viktor II in Eichstätter Cathedral . With Papst-Victor-Straße (City of Eichstätt) and Papst-Viktor-Straße (Markt Dollnstein ), two municipalities in his diocese honor him.


  • Anonymus Haserensis, De gestis episcoporum Eesternensium ab initio usque ad Gundekarum (II) episcopum, ed. Stefan Weinfurter in: Ders., The history of the Eichstätter bishops by Anonymus Haserensis. Edition - Translation - Commentary (Eichstätter Studies; NF 24), Regensburg 1987, pp. 39–67.
  • The documents of Heinrich III., Ed. Harry Bresslau (MGH, The documents of the German kings and emperors; 5), Berlin 1931.


  • Gustl Frech: The German Popes - Continuity and Change. In: Stefan Weinfurter (Ed.): The Salians and the Empire. Volume 2, Sigmaringen 1991, pp. 302-332.
  • Elke Goez : Beatrix of Canossa and Tuszien. An investigation into the history of the 11th century (Konstanz working group for medieval history, lectures and research; special volume 41), Sigmaringen 1995.
  • Werner Goez : Gebhard I. Bishop of Eichstätt, as Pope Viktor II (approx. 1020-1057) , in: Alfred Wendehorst, Gerhard Pfeiffer (ed.), Fränkische Lebensbilder 9 (publications of the Society for Franconian History; Series VII A) , Neustadt / Aisch 1980, pp. 11-21.
  • Werner Goez: Papa qui et episcopus. On the self-understanding of the reform papacy in the 11th century , in: Archivum Historiae Pontificiae 8 (1970), pp. 27–59.
  • Georg Gresser : The synods and councils in the time of the reform papacy in Germany and Italy by Leo IX. to Calixt II. 1049–1123 (Council history; series A, representations), Paderborn a. a. 2006.
  • Franz Heidingsfelder : The regests of the bishops of Eichstätt , Innsbruck / Würzburg / Erlangen 1915-1938.
  • Guido Martin: The Salian ruler as Patricius Romanorum. To the influence of Henry III. and Heinrichs IV. on the occupation of the Cathedra Petri , in: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 28 (1994), pp. 257-295.
  • Ernst Pulsfort:  VICTOR II .. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 12, Bautz, Herzberg 1997, ISBN 3-88309-068-9 , Sp. 1337-1339.
  • Felix Rütten : The worship of Victor in Christian antiquity. A cult-historical and hagiographic study (studies on the history and culture of antiquity; vol. 20, booklet 1), Paderborn 1936.
  • Michael Ott:  Pope Victor II . In: Catholic Encyclopedia , Volume 15, Robert Appleton Company, New York 1912.
  • Georg Schörner: The Pope Viktor monument in Eichstätts cathedral. Masterpiece by the sculptor Johanna Fischl . , in: Historical sheets for the city and district of Eichstätt 34 (1985) No. 1.
  • Ernst SteindorffVictor II. In: General German Biography (ADB). Volume 39, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1895, pp. 670-673.
  • Stefan Weinfurter : The history of the Eichstätter bishops by Anonymus Haserensis. Edition, translation, commentary (Eichstätter Studies; NF. 24), Regensburg 1987.
  • Stefan Weinfurter: Sancta Aureatanis Ecclesia. On the history of Eichstätts in Ottonian-Salian times , in: Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte 49 (1986), pp. 3-40.
  • Alfred Wendehorst (arr.): The diocese of Eichstätt. Volume 1: The series of bishops until 1535 (Germania Sacra; NF 45: The dioceses of the ecclesiastical province of Mainz), Berlin / New York 2006.
  • Herbert Zielinski : The imperial episcopate in the late Tonic and Salian times (1002–1125) , part 1, Wiesbaden 1984.

Web links

Commons : Viktor II.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Heidingsfelder, Franz, Die Regesten der Bischöfe von Eichstätt, Innsbruck / Würzburg / Erlangen 1915–1938, p. 68.
  2. ^ Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 12.
  3. a b Frech, The German Popes, p. 311.
  4. wine Furter, Sancta Aureatanis Ecclesia, p 28; Zielinski, Reichsepiskopat, p. 53.
  5. a b c Weinfurter, Sancta Aureatanis Ecclesia, p. 30.
  6. Anonymus Haserensis, p. 62f.
  7. Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 15f.
  8. Wendehorst, Gebhard IS 60.
  9. wine Furter, Sancta Aureatanis Ecclesia, p 28; Wendehorst, Gebhard IS 60.
  10. Martin, Der Salische Herrscher, p. 263.
  11. ^ Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 16f.
  12. Weinfurter, Sancta Aureatanis Ecclesia S. 29th
  13. ^ Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 15.
  14. DD (documents in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica) H.III. (Heinrich III.) No. 306, 333, 336.
  15. Martin, Der Salische Herrscher, p. 260ff.
  16. ^ Goez, Werner, Papa qui et episcopus, pp. 27ff.
  17. ^ Rütten, Die Victorverehrung, p. 170ff.
  18. a b c Weinfurter, Sancta Aureatanis Ecclesia, p. 31.
  19. ^ Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 18.
  20. a b c Goez, Elke, Beatrix von Canossa and Tuszien, p. 149.
  21. ^ Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 19 and 13f.
  22. Weinfurter, anonymous Haserensis. Comment, p. 194.
  23. Gresser, Synoden, pp. 31 and 33.
  24. a b c Frech, Die Deutschen Päpste, p. 312.
  25. Gresser, Synoden, p. 32.
  26. ^ Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 20.
  27. ^ Goez, Werner, Gebhard IS 20f.
predecessor Office successor
Leo IX Pope
Stephan IX.
Gezemann Bishop of Eichstätt
Gundekar II.