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Pierleoni was the name of an ex-Jewish family who first appeared in Rome shortly after the year 1000. The founder of the family, Baruch, lent large sums of money to church dignitaries, thereby assuring himself of their protection. He and his son, Leo, became converts to Christianity. Leo’s son, Pietro Di Leone (hence the name Pierleoni), continued to give financial backing to successive popes.

Among his numerous sons was one, also called Pietro Pierleoni, who entered the Church. Thanks to his family’s influence, he became a cardinal in 1120. In 1130, he was named pope by a majority of cardinals, but a schism was created when Innocent II also claimed the papacy. Pierleoni, the “Jewish pope,” took the name Anacletus II.

A turreted mansion in the vicinity of what was to become the Rome ghetto still bears the name of the Pierleoni family.


J. Prinz, Popes from the Ghetto (1966), incl. bibl.; Milano, Ghetto di Roma (1964), index; Picotti, in: Archivio storico italiano, 100 (1942), 3–41 (on the supposed relationship of Gregory VII with the Pierleoni family).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.