Pope Damasus II had one of the shortest papacies on record. 23 days. About what he did there is little record. About how he got into that position there is a great deal of information.
Born Poppo de Curagnoni, he was born in Pildenau, in the Duchy of Bavaria. This was likely just after 1000 AD. He was probably the younger son of a Bavarian noble family. He probably enjoyed an outdoors life growing up in the beautiful Alps mountains.
By the time he was 40, certainly by mid-January 1040, Poppo was nominated, by the young King Henry III of Germany, to be consecrated the bishop of Brixen. This town is in the mountainous Tyrol area of what is now Austria.
By 1046, Bishop Poppo was such a close advisor to the King that he accompanied Henry to Rome for the imperial coronation. The large group stopped frequently along the way from Augsburg. They were in Verona the second week of September and Pavia around 25 October, where there was a small synod. They were in Lucca on 25 November, San Genesio on the first of December and then they were in Sutri on the twentieth.
Here is where the disaster playing out in Rome, at that time, required Henry’s attention. In Sutri, Henry and his advisors heard testimony of how there were three popes simultaneously. Three days later, in Rome, there was another synod where all three popes were dismissed. Henry was then declared patricius. This granted him permission to nominate another pope. The German nominee took the name Clement II on Christmas Day and consecrated Henry as Emperor. Poppo was involved in all these activities.
After the consecration, Clement, Henry and all the other attendants, including Poppo, made a tour of southern Italy. They processed to introduce Clement to the nobles and public, as it were. Then Henry went back to Germany in May, to find civil troubles had developed. He was involved in battles and negotiations for several months.
On 6 October 1047, Clement died. The Romans were afraid to choose a pope and sent envoys to Germany to plead for Henry to choose, again. They found him at his palace at Pohide, in Saxony, in November. They did have their own suggestion for a nominee: Halinard, Archbishop of Lyons, who was fluent in Italian and a well-respected clergyman.
Henry seemed unwilling to accept a Roman suggestion. Instead, he asked Wazo of Liege, one of the most independent bishops in the Empire. Wazo suggested the ex-pope Gregory VI, who was living in Germany by now. Apparently, Wazo took too long to come up with that name. So, on Christmas Day, Henry nominated his long-time advisor, Poppo, who had been with him so much in the past year. Henry sent the Roman envoys back to get ready for the new pope.
Meanwhile, as soon as ex-Pope Benedict IX found out about Clément’s demise, he took his chances. He allied with Musgrave Boniface of Tuscany who was against Emperor Henry. This was probably because Henry was German and should not be sticking his nose in Italian affairs. Benedict paid much of his fortune to buy followers and he re-occupied the throne of Peter on 8 November. He was settled in before the envoys had even gotten to Saxony.
Henry accompanied the newly nominated Pope, Poppo, as far as the Italian frontier. When they got to Ulm, in the south of Germany, news came that the papal treasury was just about bankrupt. Henry gave Poppo permission to retain his see in Brixen, and its revenue. Henry also drew up a deed granting Poppo the forest in the valley of Puster.
Because of the threat of an uprising, Henry did not dare to leave Germany. So, he turned Poppo over to Boniface of Tuscany, not knowing the relationship he had gotten into with Benedict IX. The King ordered Boniface to bring Poppo to Rome and arrange for his consecration as the next pope. At the Tuscan border, Boniface refused to bring Poppo further, insisting that Benedict was now the pope. Poppo had no choice but to return to Henry.
Of course, the emperor was furious and sent Poppo back to Boniface with a letter ordering him to arrange the expulsion of Benedict and the enthronement of Poppo. Threats worked. Benedict was gone.
Poppo ascended the throne of Peter at the Lateran on 17 July 1048. He took the name Damasus II, due to his devotion to the ancient and pure church. It was terribly hot, which the Pope from the cool mountains could not handle. So, he went to Palestrina until fall. But he managed to get malaria while still in Rome and died 9 August.