What's in a Name?

Upon his election as pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. Read about his namesakes.

Benedict I (575-79)

Virtually nothing, including his birthdate, is known about the 62nd pope and the first to bear the name Benedict. A Roman and the son of Boniface, he was called Bonosus by the Greeks. He is said to have helped the country cope with a famine following the Lombard invasion. He was buried in the vestibule of the sacristy of the old Basilica of St. Peter.

(St.) Benedict II (684-85)

The 81st pope was a Roman. He was a student at the schola cantorum, where he excelled as a Bible scholar and singer. He secured an imperial decree that ended the imperial confirmation of popes. He is known to have adopted Emperor Constantine's two sons. He fought Monothelism, restored many of the churches of Rome, and endowed funds to minister to the poor. He was buried in St. Peter's.

Benedict III (855-58)


The 105th pontiff took office in tumultuous times. A Roman by birth, Benedict, son of Peter, was elected pope on the death of Pope Leo IV, but church intrigue resulted in his imprisonment for several months before he was released and consecrated.

Benedict IV (900-03)

The birthdate of the 118th pope, a Roman, is unknown. He was the first of six popes named Benedict (Benedict IV through IX) who reigned during the Dark Ages. Each reigned for a very brief time and virtually nothing-even the precise dates of their reigns-is historically verifiable. The historian Frodoard, a contemporary, praised him for his generosity and concern for the common weal and dubbed him "Great." He crowned Louis the Blind as emperor. He was buried in front of St. Peter's near the gate of Guido.

Benedict V (964)



The 133th pope was elected after the death of Pope John XII. In a matter of months, Emperor Otto I, who opposed his election, marched on Rome, took Benedict V prisoner, and ended his pontificate. The emperor then placed his own candidate, who adopted the name Leo VIII, in office, and took Benedict with him to Germany, where he remained against his will under the care of the Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, until his death.

Benedict VI (973-74)

Very little is known of the life and reign of the 135th pope, Benedict, Cardinal-Deacon of St. Theodore, a Roman and the son of Hildebrand. His pontificate came to a grisly end, when a group of nobles and clergy took him captive and imprisoned him at the Castle of Sant' Angelo. He was strangled there when his captors learned that an imperial envoy had been sent to Rome by Emperor Otto II to release him.

Benedict VII (974-83)

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