Today in Papal History, Pope Alexander III was chosen as the 170th Bishop of Rome, beginning a reign that stands today as the seventh-longest papal tenure in the history of the Catholic Church.
But Alexander’s beginning, 863 years ago today, was anything but smooth sailing.
Prior to his election, Alexander – born Rolando Bandinelli in the year 1100 to a prominent family in Siena – had served as a cardinal in the court of Pope (Blessed) Eugene III beginning in 1150 and then as chancellor for Eugene, Anastasius IV (1154) and finally Pope Adrian IV, his immediate predecessor.
He was regularly sent on diplomatic missions to negotiate between the papacy and secular rulers, and two years prior to Alexander’s election he found himself across from the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, at the Diet of Besançon in 1157.
Barbarossa – who was holding the meeting to hear papal pleas about releasing…