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§ 6. Victor II. and Stephen IX. (X.). 1055–1058.

Hildebrand was absent in France when Leo died, and hurried to Rome. He could find no worthy successor in Italy, and was unwilling to assume the burden of the papacy himself. He cast his eye upon Gebhard, bishop of Eichstädt, the ablest, richest, and most influential prelate of Germany, who was warmly devoted to the emperor. He proceeded at the head of a deputation, appointed by the clergy and people, to the German court, and begged the emperor to raise Gebhard to the papal chair. After long delay, Gebhard was elected at a council in Regensburg, March, 1055, and consecrated in St. Peter’s at Rome, April 13, as Victor II. He continued the synodical war against simony, but died as early as July 28, 1057, at Arezzo, of a fever. He was the last of the German popes.

The cardinal-abbot of Monte Cassino was elected and consecrated as Stephen IX. (X.), Aug. 3, 1057, by the clergy and people of Rome, without their consulting the German court; but he died in the following year, March 29, 1058.

In the meantime a great change had taken place in Germany. Henry III. died in the prime of manhood, Oct. 5, 1056, and left a widow as regent and a son of six years, the ill-fated Henry IV. The long minority reign afforded a favorable opportunity for the reform party to make the papacy independent of the imperial power, which Henry III. had wisely exerted for the benefit of the Church, yet at the expense of her freedom.

The Roman nobility, under the lead of the counts of Tusculum, took advantage of Hildebrand’s absence in Germany to reassert its former control of the papacy by electing Benedict X. (1058–1060). But this was a brief intermezzo. On his return, Hildebrand, with the help of Duke Godfrey, expelled the usurping pope, and secured, with the consent of the empress, the election of Gerhard, bishop of Florence, a strong reformer, of ample learning and irreproachable character, who assumed the name of Nicolas II. at his consecration, Jan. 25, 1059. Benedict was deposed, submitted, and obtained absolution. He was assigned a lodging in the church of St. Agnes, where he lived for about twenty years.

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