Biography - Pope Gregory VIII - The Papal Library
Gregory VIII1187 Albert de Morra He was born at Benevento and embraced the rule of the Cistercians. Before the year 1155 Adrian IV named him cardinal-deacon of Saint Adrian, and in 1158 cardinal-priest of Saint Laurence in Lucina. He was the last cardinal who bore the title of chancellor, for when Gregory VIII was pope that charge was given to Moses, canon of Lateran, with the specification taht he should only take the title of vice-chancellor. Subsequently, when cardinals were promoted to that office, they received the title only of vice-chancellor, and such is the custom at this time. Before he became a cardinal he had served Alexander III as legate in England, Portugar, and Dalmatia. In the year 1187 Cardinal Albert de Morra was elected pope on the 21st of October, and consecrated on the 25th. In the first moments after the death of Urban III, the Sacred College (of Cardinals) had saluted as pontiff Cardinal Henry, monk of Clairvaux; but he persistently refused that honor, and did all in his power to insure the election of Albert de Morra, who took the name of Gregory VIII. One of the first cares of the new pope was to seek means for the reconquest of Jerusalem which had fallen to Saladin on 2 October 1187. He ordered a general fast throughout Christendom, as a mark of grief. The edict ordered abstinence from meat, not only on Fridays, but also on Wednesdays and Saturdays. His Holiness, the cardinals, and the whole court included Mondays with the above-named three days as strict fasts. Gregory VIII, learning that there were some disputes between the republics of Pisa and Genoa, went to the former city to encourage its government to commence arming against the Saracens. The same request was addressed to the authorities of Genoa since he knew he would need the combined fleets of Pisa and Genoa. Gregory, being attacked by fever at Pisa, died there on the 17th of December 1187, and was interred in the cathedral. The marble tomb was destroyed in a fire that ravaged that Cathedral in 1600. By the care of Camille Campilio, sacristan, in 1658, the tomb was replaced by a representation of it painted on canvas; and subsequently a sumptuous monument was erected. This pope was learned, and very zealous in affairs of religion. He governed the Church only one month and 28 days. This biographical data is from The Lives and Times of the Popes by The Chevalier Artaud De Montor. Published by The Catholic Publication Society of New York in ten volumes in 1911. The pictures, included in the volumes, were reproduced from Effigies Pontificum Romanorum Dominici Basae.