Boso Breakspeare

Boso Breakspeare

Boso (date of birth uncertain, d. at Rome, about 1181) was the third English Cardinal. [CathEncy|title=Boso (Breakspear)|url=]

Some scholars argue that Boso came from Tuscany, but it is widely accepted that he was born near St Albans and was a nephew of Pope Adrian IV. Though this relationship was on the maternal side, Cardella states that Boso as well as Adrian IV bore the surname of Breakspear. [ He is sometimes Boson, Breakspeare.] If this is the case he would have received his early education at the Abbey School (now St Albans School) before becoming a Benedictine monk of St Albans Abbey .

He had a reputation not only for piety, but also for learning, and was esteemed by contemporary writers as among the most eminent theologians of his age. He compiled or wrote the lives of several eleventh and twelfth century popes, among them the life of his uncle,. He was also a poet, examples of his poetry powers still existing in the Cotton MSS. in the British Museum, in the form of metrical lives of saints.

He followed his uncle to Rome; and on the latter's elevation to the Papal Chair, was created by him Cardinal-Deacon of the title of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, in December, 1155 [ [ The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church] ] , and was also appointed Camerlengo of the Holy See. Adrian sent Boso on a mission to Portugal; for what precise purpose does not transpire, but the fact is attested by the registers of Pope Innocent III. He also confided to him the governorship of the Castle of Sant' Angelo, being somewhat suspicious of the fidelity of the Roman populace.

When Adrian IV died in 1159, dissensions arose in the conclave as to the choice of his successor, the result of which was the creation of a schism lasting seventeen years. Four cardinals in the imperial interest voted for Cardinal Octavian, who assumed the name of Victor IV, but he was acknowledged only by the Germans. On the very day of Adrian's burial in the Vatican basilica, 5 September, Cardinal Boso, who appears to have taken the lead, withdrew with the majority, twenty-three, of the cardinals within the fortress of Sant' Angelo to escape the vengeance of the antipope. They immedediately elected as pope Cardinal Rolando Bandinelli of Siena, who was consecrated under the name of Pope Alexander III.

The new pope was mindful of his obligations to Boso, and soon (1163) promoted him Cardinal-Priest of the title of St. Pudentiana. When Alexander made his journey to Venice to receive the submission and allegiance of the Emperor Frederick II, and to ratify the Peace of Venice (24 June, 1177) which closed the schism, he was accompanied by Boso.

Alexander also entrusted Boso with a mission to Tuscany, an event attested by the registers of Alexander IV. Boso's name appears attached to many Bulls, both of Adrian IV and of Alexander III.


*"Dictionary of National Biography", V, 421
*Cardella, "Memorie Storiche de' Cardinali"
*Eggs, "Purpura docta" (Munich,1714-29)
*Duchesne, "Liber Pontificalis", II, xxxix-xliii, 351-446
*Wattenbach, "Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen", 6th ed., II, 331
*Reuter, "Alexander III" (1860-64)
*Philipp Jaffé, "Regesta RR. PP.", II, under Adrian 1V, Alexander III.


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