What's in a Name?
Upon his election as pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. Read about his namesakes.
The 144th pope, Benedict VIII, son of Gregory, Count of Tusculum, was a layman who became the first of the Tusculan popes. He crowned the German king, Henry II, emperor in 1014. He helped pacify Italy by defeating the Saracens and forging an alliance with the Normans.
Benedict IX (1032-45)
The 146th pope was the Count of Tusculum and a nephew of the two preceding popes. He was placed on the throne by his father, Alberic, at the age of 20. In 1044, he was driven from office as unfit to rule. He managed to reinstate himself, but later resigned, only to try once again to take the papal throne. Emperor Henry III intervened and Clement II was made pope. After Clement's death, Benedict again seized the throne, but was forced out by Clement's successor, Damasus II.
Benedict X, antipope (1058)
Born John Minicus, he later became Cardinal Bishop of Velletri before being elected pope in 1058 by arrangement of the Count of Tusculum. He was ousted by cardinals backed by Hildebrand (later Pope Gregory VII), who succeeded in installing his candidate, Gerhard of Burgundy, Bishop of Florence, as Pope Nicholas II. Nicholas II excommunicated Benedict X and forced him to flee to the castle of Gerard of Galeria. After securing Rome, Nicholas II battled and defeated Benedict X and his supporters. Benedict X was imprisoned and died in the hospice of St. Agnese. In the aftermath of the controversy over Benedict X, the church implemented new rules governing papal elections.
(Blessed) Benedict XI (1303-04)
Nicholas, Boccasini, Benedict XI, a Dominican, was the 198th pope. He entered the Dominican order at 14. Known as a scholar and a conciliator in internecine church battles, he was beatified in 1773.
Benedict XII (1335-1342)
Born Jacques Fournier, in the province of Toulouse, he was the 197th pontiff and the third of the Avignon popes, who reigned in France. A Cistercian monk in the monastery of Boulbonne, and then in Fontfroide, he studied at the University of Paris, where he received a doctorate in theology. He hoped to re-establish the papacy in Rome, but the cardinals convinced him to remain in France because of Italy's political instability.
Benedict XIII (1724-30)
Born Pietro Francesco Orsini, the 246th pope was the son of Ferdinando Orsini and Giovanna Frangipani of Tolpha. He belonged to the princely family of Orsini-Gravina. At 16, he entered the Dominican novitiate against his family's will. In 1672, he was made a cardinal by Pope Clement X, a relative. Despite his privileged roots, he was considered a extremely pious leader and a strict enforcer of church doctrine. In honor of Benedict XI, a member of the Dominican Order, he took the name Benedict XIV (he avoided choosing the number 13, considered unlucky). However, he soon changed his name to Benedict XIII, because Peter de Luna of Aragon (1394-1423), an antipope, had previously taken the name Benedict XIV.
Benedict XIV (1740-58)
Born Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, the 248th pope was the son of Marcello Lambertini and Lucretia Bulgarini, of Bologna. Benedict XIV is best known as a scholar.
Benedict XV (1914-22)
Giacomo della Chiesa, who became the 259th pope, was born in Pegli, Italy, in 1854, and died in Rome in 1922. He had served as nuncio to Spain, privy chamberlain, Archbishop of Bologna, and cardinal. Elected pope immediately after the outbreak of World War I, he remained neutral throughout the war, which coincided with his pontificate. He was considered a stark contrast to his predecessor, Pius X, who was staunchly opposed to theological "modernism."