By Alan Baldwin

MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton swept to a dominant pole position at the Italian Grand Prix for the third year in succession on Saturday with Mercedes team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg joining the Briton on the front row of the grid.

The pole was the 56th of the triple world champion's Formula One career and he equaled the record of five at Monza held by the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and Brazilian Ayrton Senna.

"I'm obviously very happy today. I was only made aware of that record as I came into this weekend," Hamilton said.

"Incredibly proud and honoured to be up amongst Senna and Juan Manuel. Incredible drivers. I never in a million years thought my name would be mentioned in the same sentence as theirs.

"I came with my A-game today, and that last lap felt incredible."

Hamilton, whose dominant time of one minute 21.135 seconds was 0.478 of a second faster than Rosberg with the rest looking slow in comparison, leads the German by nine points in the championship with eight rounds remaining.

He can celebrate his 50th grand prix win, and third in a row at the fastest circuit on the calendar, on Sunday to leave Europe with a firm grip on the championship as the circus heads to Asia, the Americas and Middle East.

"The basic explanation is Lewis did some good laps. I did a good job up to now but I wasn't quick enough," said a glum Rosberg.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was third fastest with Kimi Raikkonen qualifying fourth for the Italian team's home race at the circuit near Milan.

"I'm not entirely happy because the gap is quite big, the guys ahead are in a world of their own," said Vettel, a four times champion with Red Bull.

Finland's Valtteri Bottas, for Williams, and Red Bull's Australian Daniel Ricciardo filled the third row.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who had been on the front row last weekend in Belgium, qualified seventh for Red Bull with Mexican Sergio Perez eighth for Mercedes-powered Force India.

Perez's compatriot Esteban Gutierrez, who has yet to score a point this year, put the new Haas team into the top 10 and there were also celebrations at lowly Manor who had German rookie Pascal Wehrlein qualify in 14th place.

Wehrlein's team mate Esteban Ocon failed to set a time after his car broke down at the start of qualifying.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Jon Boyle)