Denver, Colo., May 20, 2012 / 05:05 am
On May 25 the Catholic Church celebrates Pope St. Gregory VII, who sought to reform the Church and secure its freedom against the intrusion of civil rulers during his 11th century pontificate.
Born in the Italian region of Tuscany sometime between 1020 and 1025, the future Pope Gregory VII was originally named Hildebrand. His father Bonzio is thought to have been a carpenter or peasant farmer, while his mother's name is unknown. His uncle Laurentius was abbot of a monastery in Rome.
Sent to the school run by his uncle's monastery, Hildebrand entered a world of discipline and fervent devotion. After his primary education, he entered religious life as a monk. Hildebrand served as chaplain to his mentor John Gratian who had a brief and turbulent reign as Pope Gregory VI.
In 1046 Hildebrand left Rome for Cologne along with Gratian, who was forced to leave Rome and resign from the Papacy. After the former Pope's death in 1047, Hildebrand left for France and spent more than a year in the monastery at Cluny.