To the Eve of the Reformation

by Philip Hughes



HONORIUS III, elected pope two days after the death of Innocent III, was by no means another Innocent, for all that his life had been spent in his predecessor's service. He had indeed been a personage of importance in the Roman Church for now thirty years. As the head of the Treasury he had done much to reorganise the whole financial administration, and the Liber Censuum, a kind of ecclesiastical Domesday Book, is his work. He was also the compiler of the twelfth Ordo Romanus and the author of a life of St. Gregory VII. It was this trained, careful, mild-mannered official whom Innocent had chosen to tutor the early years of the new Emperor Frederick II, and possibly this close association played a part in his election. But Honorius was now an old man, and the event was to show very speedily how mistaken were any hopes of future co-operation between pope and emperor based upon their years of intimate association. It is questionable whether even Innocent himself could have controlled his ward now arrived at man's estate.

Frederick II, twenty-two years old when Innocent's death deprived him of his guardian, and set his tutor on the papal throne, was the wonder man of his generation. A dozen strains and influences mingled in his blood: the force of his grandfather Barbarossa, the political craft of his father Henry VI, the military gift of his mother's Norman blood, a passion for learning, and all the rich amalgam of the old long-civilised state where so far he had passed his life, that Sicily which, even after one hundred and fifty years of Norman rule, was still more Oriental than European, as much Moslem as Christian. Competent, determined, crafty, and altogether without scruple, Frederick awaited only the opportune moment In this ward of the popes the independence of religion was to meet, yet once again, an enemy who could not triumph and the Church survive.

For the eleven years during which Honorius ruled, his indulgence to the young man he had fathered masked the danger. Frederick's vow to lead a crusade went unfulfilled, and the old pope contented himself with admonitions and reproaches. Seven times in ten years the farce was re-enacted, the emperor first fixing a date, and then offering his excuses which the pope, with inexhaustible faith in his goodwill, was paternally content to accept. Frederick had pledged his word -- as the condition of his election to the empire -- that he would never unite to it the crown of Sicily. Sicily he had made over to his son Henry. In 1220, however, Henry was elected King of the Romans, emperor-to-be. The pope protested, and Frederick explained that it had been done without his knowledge. He renewed all the lavish promises of restitution of the long-lost Matildine lands, took the cross once again, annulled all laws that encroached on clerical privileges, and Honorius was satisfied. Meanwhile, during these eleven years, Frederick built up a new scientific despotism in Sicily, and planned to renew his grandfather's attempt to make himself master of Lombardy (1226, Diet of Cremona). This was too much, even for Honorius, and a breach seemed imminent when, in 1227, the old pope died. In his place was elected the Cardinal Ugolino. He took the name of Gregory IX -- significantly.

Gregory IX, as the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, had been, since the election of Innocent III, one of the most prominent figures in the Curia. He was a near relative of that pope who had created him cardinal in the year of his accession (1198). He had also chosen Ugolino as one of the legates to whom was committed the delicate task of reconciling Philip of Swabia in 1207. Two years later Ugolino was once more in Germany as legate, in connection with the re-election and coronation of Otto IV. He had played a great part in the conclave of 1216, and under Honorius III he had been legate in Lombardy and Tuscany, and then charged with the preaching of the crusade of 1217-1221. He was himself no mean scholar, trained in the schools of Paris and Bologna and especially versed in the new Canon Law. His own life was mortified and exemplary. He had been a personal friend of St. Francis, whom he had advised in the composition of the definitive rule, and he had had much to do with the first approbation of the Order of Preachers also. His career reveals him as a man of exceptional strength of will, impulsive, passionate, and yet able to forbear. For the eleven years of his predecessor's pontificate he had had to look on while the enemy grew in strength and prepared the positions from which he would attack. Now, after all these years of Frederick's successful dalliance, the Church had once more for pope a man with character and strength of will.

It was in the March of 1227 that Gregory IX was elected. Frederick was now, by right of his wife, King of Jerusalem; a crusade was once more in preparation and the troops converging on Brindisi. On September 8 Frederick set sail. A few days later he had returned. The long delay that had kept the army in camp through the southern Italian summer had bred a pestilence; thousands of the troops had perished; Frederick, so it was announced, had contracted some kind of fever- hence his return. The crusade, the greater part of it, returned with him; the armies broke up, the men made their way home. Was Frederick's illness real? It is not possible to say. Certainly the pope thought it feigned, the latest, merely, of a series of ingenious devices to escape his duty as emperor and the obligations to which he had repeatedly pledged himself by oath. The crusade was at an end, and much of its army destroyed by Frederick's negligence. On September 29 the pope solemnly excommunicated him for his breach of the crusader's vow, and two weeks later in a letter to the Christian world he pointed out the repeated pledges and perjuries of Frederick since his election to the empire in 1215. The pope wrote a private letter, at the same time, to the emperor explaining that public opinion, already outraged by Frederick's plunder of sees, abbeys, and hospitals in his kingdom of Sicily, had a right to some satisfaction and that Frederick's last exploit had left him no choice but to act; nevertheless the pope was being merciful; he had not, for example, deprived Frederick of Sicily: let Frederick respond in the same spirit.

The emperor replied by a denunciation of the pope for the lack of charity with which he had stirred up hatred against him throughout the world. On March 23, 1228, Gregory issued a second excommunication because the emperor had ignored the first, and with it an interdict that was to operate in every place where Frederick halted. Furthermore, if Frederick continued in his evil course, he should be deprived of Sicily. This was on Maundy Thursday, and by the Wednesday of Easter Week the emperor''s partisans in Rome had driven the pope forth.

Frederick ignored this sentence too, and renewed his preparation to accomplish that lay conquest of the East which had been the ambition of the last two Hohenstaufen Princes also. He set sail from Brindisi on June 18, 1228, with a curiously mixed force which included, besides Germans and Italians, some of his own Mohammedan subjects. In July he took possession of Cyprus as regent for the young king, who did him homage, and in September he landed at St. Jean d'Acre.

The Mohammedan world was passing through one of its periods of disunion. The Prince of Damascus and the Sultan of Egypt had been lately in conflict, and for a long time now the sultan's need had driven him to diplomatic relations with the emperor. By the time Frederick arrived the sultan's enemy was no more, and the sultan's promises of Jerusalem to Frederick worth correspondingly less. But Frederick knew the Mohammedan world as few Western princes, and it was possibly an advantage to him in the negotiations now beginning that he was known to be under the pope's ban, officially not a Christian at all, with the Patriarch of Jerusalem renewing the interdict, the military orders holding aloof from him and every Dominican and Franciscan in Palestine preaching openly against him.

The emperor's diplomacy was successful. On February 4, 1229, the treaty of Jaffa made over to him Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth with the roads thence to Acre and the villages through which they passed. On the other hand, the Mohammedans living in the ceded territory were to remain the sultan's subjects, to enjoy the full exercise of their religion, and to retain possession of the great mosque of Omar that stood upon the traditional site of the Temple. Also, Frederick pledged himself to prevent any attack from the West for ten years. It was for Frederick a diplomatic victory of the first order. On the other hand, the old crusade principle of restoring the one-time Christian lands to Christian rule was abandoned entirely. Catholicism, under this new arrangement, no longer aspired to drive out the infidel.

Frederick's triumph was consummated when, on March 11,] 229, accompanied by his nobles and knights and his Saracens without any kind of religious ceremonial, he took the crown of Jerusalem from the high altar of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and crowned himself king. The clergy held aloof, the patriarch refusing even to enter the city. The faithful were no less hostile and when, six weeks later, the emperor made his way to the ships that were to take him back to Europe, the butchers of Acre pelted him and his escort with offal.

On June 10, 1229, Frederick landed at Brindisi. During the year of his absence in the East, the war had developed in Sicily between his forces and those of the pope. The Sicilians had begun by invading the Papal State. Later Gregory had gained the upper hand. But the emperor's return was the beginning of a general rout; the papal troops retired, and Frederick took a terrible revenge on those of his subjects who had recognised the excommunication and fought against him. There were wholesale executions, some hanged and others skinned alive. The pope launched a new excommunication against the emperor (August 29, 1229) and made a new appeal to Christendom for assistance.

The response was, perhaps, poor; but Frederick desired peace at least as eagerly as the pope, and after months of negotiation it was concluded at San Germano (July 23, 1230). On all points Frederick yielded. He promised to evacuate all papal territories, to restore the confiscated Church property, and to recall the bishops he had exiled; the partisans of the pope were to be granted an amnesty; the Church's rights in Sicily were confirmed anew; an indemnity was promised to the Templars and Hospitallers

For Frederick the peace of 1230 was simply the first move in his elaborate plan to achieve world dominion. It would give him time to reorganise his forces, and to make himself master of Italy before finally reducing the papacy. To the success of his scheme the open enmity of the pope would be fatal -- as would be any distraction from troubles in Germany. The next few years saw Frederick pursuing apparently contradictory policies in Germany and Italy. North of the Alps he lavished exemptions and privileges upon the Princes, frittering away all that imperial hegemony which his father and grandfather had done so much to construct. In Italy, with as much skill as strength, he was, at the same time building up a strong, highly centralised despotism -- first of all in his kingdom of Sicily. Then, to the anxiety of the pope, he openly declared his policy of extending the system to northern Italy; the Lombard cities were finally to lose their rights. The diet of Ravenna (November 1, 1231) which saw this proclamation made, saw the emperor also in the role of the persecutor of heretics and the protector of the Dominicans because they were inquisitors. The plea that his enemies -- in Lombardy and in Germany -- were heretics would ultimately be one of Frederick's justifications. The time would come when he would denounce the pope himself as the protector of heretics.

If Frederick had need of some measure of papal support -- of papal neutrality certainly -- during these crucial years, the pope stood equally in need of Frederick's aid. Time and again the hostility of the Romans drove the pope from his city. Each time the pope appealed to Frederick to fulfil his role of protector and reinstate him. Each time Frederick was lavish in his promises but left the pope to his own devices.

So the years of this uneasy truce went by. In 1235 Frederick was occupied with a revolt in Germany led by his son, the youthful Henry VII. This put down, in July-, 1236, he appeared once more in Italy, with a huge army, to end the independence of the Lombard cities once and for all.

The pope did his best to stave off the war. He explained to Frederick that the Lombards were the victims of calumny, that truth and peace were his own one, sole aim. He complained of the way in which Frederick had neglected to carry out the treaty of 1230. Frederick, however, pressed on resolutely, sending the pope evasive and, as the pope complained, highly disrespectful messages in reply. On November 1, 1236, he took Vicenza, sacking the town and massacring the inhabitants. A year later the great victory of Cortenuova (November 27, 1237) reversed his grandfather's defeat at Legnano. Save for Milan, Alessandria and Brescia he was now master of northern Italy. As he prepared to lay siege to Alessandria, Gregory approached him once more with proposals for peace. The emperor's only reply was to imprison the legates who had brought them (May, 1238). He next attempted to break the understanding between the pope and the Lombard League, but at the very time his envoys were opening the negotiations at Anagni with Gregory, he dispatched an army to capture Sardinia -- a papal fief.

Gregory IX, for all his natural fire, had shown himself as patient as his predecessor. Certainly Innocent III had taken a shorter way with the shiftiness of Raymond of Toulouse. By 1239 Gregory had come to the end of his long-suffering, and on March 20 of that year he renewed the excommunication against Frederick in a document which listed his crimes for the information of Christendom. The emperor had imprisoned papal legates; he had been the cause of the seditions in Rome; he had kept sees vacant in Sicily and imprisoned and murdered the clergy there, he had for years plundered sees and churches, and had usurped Church territories; he had robbed the Templars and the Hospitallers; he had laid unjust taxes on sees, monasteries and the clergy generally; he had broken the pledge of 1230 to grant an amnesty, and he had thwarted the efforts of the pope to renew the crusade. As to the common opinion that Frederick was a heretic, the pope for the moment reserved himself. Meanwhile, the emperor was put out of the Church, and all places where he halted were laid under interdict. The clergy who ignored this sentence and officiated in despite of it, incurred suspension for life.

This was far more serious for the emperor than anything which had happened so far. He retorted to the pope that he would speedily be revenged, and he prepared, in his turn, an encyclical to the princes of Europe denouncing the "wickedness enthroned in the Lord's seat." All mendicant friars -- Dominicans and Franciscans - - of Lombard birth were expelled from his kingdom of Sicily and, a short time later, all friars indiscriminately -- so closely were the new orders as such seen, already, as attached to the service of the Roman Church. All who brought papal documents into the kingdom were to be hanged.

The pope replied in a still more eloquent condemnation, filled with phrases from the Apocalypse. "A great beast has come out of the sea. . . this scorpion spewing passion from the sting in his tail. . . full of the names of blasphemy. . . raging with the claws of the bear and the mouth of the lion and the limbs and the likeness of the leopard, opens its mouth to blaspheme the Holy Name. . . behold the head and tail and body of the beast, of this Frederick, this so-called emperor. . . ." It recapitulated the emperor's crimes; it exposed his calumnies; it condemned him as a heretic for his denial of the pope's authority and for his assertion that the world in its time had been led astray by three impostors, Moses, Mohammed and Jesus Christ, for his mockery of the mystery of the virgin birth and his declaring that nothing is to be believed that cannot be proved by the natural reason.

To this terrible indictment Frederick replied in the language of a Father of the Church, pained at the pope's lack of charity-"the pharisee who sits on the plague-stricken seat, anointed with the oil of wickedness. . . ." He makes a most pious profession of faith and retorts that the pope is a liar. It is he who is the sole cause of the trouble and, quoting in his turn from prophecy, the pope is "the great dragon, the rider on the red horse, the universal destroyer of peace, Antichrist himself."

The war was now on indeed. Truce between such adversaries was impossible. Writers on both sides flooded Europe with their pamphlets, and while Frederick gained steadily in the field through 1239 and 1240, the pope strove to form an anti-imperial party in Germany, and called a general council to meet in Rome for the Easter of 1241. He persuaded the Genoese to provide an escorting fleet for the prelates, and the Venetians to invade Apulia. Frederick issued a general order that all bishops and prelates en route for the council were to be arrested, and licensed his subjects to rob them. He made desperate efforts to detach Genoa from the pope and even to win over the Order of Preachers. Then, on May 5, 1241, his fleet met, and defeated, the Genoese fleet as it neared the end of its voyage convoying the fathers of the council. Three ships were sunk and twenty-two captured with something like a hundred bishops, two of the cardinals, the Lombard deputies and four thousand Genoese. The emperor prepared to march on Rome.

Three months later, with the crisis at its full, Gregory IX died (August 21, 1241). Frederick had reached Grottaferrata just nine miles away.

There were at the moment twelve cardinals in all, two of them Frederick's prisoners. The ten at liberty were closely guarded by the real ruler of Rome, the Senator Matteo Orsini, and, in a seclusion that was little better than an imprisonment, for two months they hesitated and debated whom to elect. To hasten the decision the senator inflicted on them all manner of hardships. In the end three of the cardinals died of disease contracted in the filthy and insanitary hole where, for two whole months of the Roman summer, they had been huddled. Finally they agreed on the Milanese cardinal, Godfrey. He accepted, and took the name of Celestine IV. He was advanced in years, sick as a result of the conclave, and seventeen days later, before he was consecrated, he died.

The confusion was now greater than ever. Three of the cardinals, rather than face a renewal of the horrors they had recently under gone, fled to Anagni; three remained behind in Rome; Frederick still held to his prisoners. Three of the cardinals were partisans of Frederick; the others refused to leave Anagni unless Frederick consented to release his prisoners and to withdraw his army from the neighbourhood of Rome; Frederick refused utterly, and the deadlock was complete. From October 1241 to June 1243 it continued. Finally, St. Louis IX of France intervening, the emperor released his prisoners, and on June 25, 1243, the Cardinal Sinibaldo Fieschi was elected and took the name of Innocent IV.

The new pope, by birth a nobleman of Genoa, was already known as an expert canonist. He had taught Canon Law at Bologna and for the last twenty years he had been employed in the most important posts of the Roman Church. Gregory IX had made him a cardinal in 1227; he had been Vice-Chancellor; and from 1235 he had filled, for the most critical years of all, the difficult post of Papal Legate in Lombardy. He was, then, as well acquainted with the personalities engaged in the controversy as with the principles around which it raged. It was now evident that the pope was not merely fighting another Henry IV, or Barbarossa, but an anti-ecclesiastical theory of world organisation, aggressive and fully armed. No wiser choice of a champion against it could have been made than that of this calm unmoved Genoese, trained lawyer and practised administrator. Nor had Innocent IV the disadvantage of being known as an intransigent. Whatever the origin of the idea, he passed popularly for being favourable to an understanding with Frederick. His nearest relatives had fought at Frederick's side, and his election was hailed as a triumph for the emperor. Frederick, if the story is true, knew better. "I have lost a friend," he said. "No pope can be a Ghibelline."

The history of the interregnum and of the two years that went before, made it evident beyond all doubt that Frederick would never rest until the pope was his chaplain, and himself as great a power in the Church as in his own kingdom of Sicily. It was not the least of the new pope's merits that he realised this from the beginning and acted accordingly. His first messages to Frederick were peaceful, and to his request for a conference the emperor replied by sending to him his two chief advisers, the legists Piero della Vigna and Thaddeus of Suessa.

The negotiations ended with Frederick renewing all his old pledges to restore the papal territory he occupied, and granting an amnesty to all who had recently fought against him, even the Lombards being included. This was on Holy Thursday, 1244, but before April was out the pope had to protest that Frederick was once again breaking his sworn word. Frederick, in reply, suggested a personal conference between himself and Innocent. The pope, with the memory of the last two years fresh in his mind, was, however, too wary to be caught. This time he would retain his freedom and use it to attack. Disguised as a knight he fled to Genoa, and thence crossed the Alps to Lyons, a city where the sovereign was the archbishop and his chapter -- nominally within the emperor's jurisdiction, but close to the protective strength of the King of France, St. Louis IX.

The council which Gregory IX had planned, Innocent realised. It met at Lyons in the July of 1245, two hundred bishops and abbots attending. This first General Council of Lyons is unique in that its main purpose was a trial. The emperor was making it his life's aim to restore the ancient subordination of religion to the State. The pope was determined to destroy him, to end for all time this power which had once, for so long, enslaved the Church and which, for a good century now, had never ceased its attack on the Church's restored independence. There was to be no return to the bad days which had preceded St. Leo IX and St. Gregory VII. Since none but a fool would place any reliance on Frederick's oaths, Frederick should be deposed.

On July 7, 1245, the council, in solemn public session, listened to the recital of the emperor's crimes and shifty, insincere repentances. Then, despite the pleading of Thaddeus of Suessa, it accepted the decree of deposition.

Frederick, in reply, circularised the reigning princes of Europe. If the decree of deposition is perhaps the clearest expression yet of the theory of the papal power over temporal rulers as such, Frederick's riposte may be read as the first manifesto of the "liberal" state. For it sets out, against the papal practice, a complete, anti-ecclesiastical theory. All the anti-sacerdotal spirit of the heresies of the previous century finds here new, and more powerful, expression. The supremacy of the sacerdotium is denounced as a usurpation, and anti-clericalism, allied now for the first time to the pagan conception of the omnipotent state-a doctrine popularised through the rebirth of Roman Law-offers itself as a world force with the destruction of the sacerdotium as its aim. Thanks to the imperial legists, and especially to the genius of the two already mentioned, the new point of view is set forth imperishably in this manifesto, and the princes of Christendom are invited to join with the emperor in his attempt to destroy the common enemy. The Church, they are told, is part of the State, and, for all that Frederick guards against any overt denial of the pope's authority, the Catholic prince is, for him, inevitably a kind of Khalif. It is this prince's mission to keep religion true to itself, to reform it whenever necessary, and to bring it back to the primitive simplicity of the gospel. Frederick had indeed revealed himself. The theory is the most subversive of heresies, and it is the emperor, the pledged defender of orthodoxy, the prince the very raison d'etre of whose office is orthodoxy's defence, who is its inventor and patron. His reply to the excommunication more than justified the attitude of Gregory IX, and Innocent's initiative.

Frederick, then, proposed to free the Church from sacerdotalism, from clerical ambition and greed. He planned to take Lyons and to imprison pope and cardinals as he had done the prelates taken at La Meloria in 1241. Through 1246 the scheme went forward until the emperor's army was ready.

Two things saved the pope. The King of France -- St. Louis IX -- to whom he appealed, for all that he had not offered to share in the war against the emperor and had not broken off relations with him since his deposition, made it known to Frederick that should he march on Lyons, French armies would bar his way. Secondly, at Parma, on June 6, 1247, Frederick's forces suffered a severe defeat.

Innocent had been as busy as Frederick since the council. His diplomacy had brought about the election of a successor to Frederick in Germany -- Henry Raspe first of all and then, on his death, William of Holland. Round the new emperor the pope sought to organise an anti-Hohenstaufen crusade as, fifty years earlier, Innocent III had organised a crusade against Raymond of Toulouse. To all who went to Germany to fight the enemy of religion all the usual crusade indulgences and privileges were granted, and the pope found a host of preachers in the new orders of St. Dominic and St. Francis. It was not, however, in Germany that the issue was to be decided. Italy, the real centre of Frederick's policy, was the battlefield where the main fight went forward. In February, 1248, the papal troops gained a second victory at Parma, and although in Sicily their success was less, in the Duchy of Spoleto and the March of Ancona they carried all before them, capturing in 1249 Enzio, the most gifted of all Frederick's sons.

Frederick, his head still unbowed, set himself to find new friends, and he was in the midst of preparations to renew the attack when death struck him down (December 13, 1250). The wildest stories circulated as to the manner of his passing. One and not the least unlikely, is that he asked for the habit of the Cistercian order, to which he had always shown an attachment For Innocent and the Church it was deliverance from the greatest of perils, and the bull (Laetentur Coeli -- January 25, 1251) in which the pope announced the news, testifies to the degree of the strain. Nevertheless, although Frederick was dead the Hohenstaufen survived, in the two sons of the emperor who continued the fight - - Conrad in Germany and Manfred in Sicily. The way was, however, open for the pope to return to Italy. He left Lyons in April, 1251, reached Perugia in November and stayed there another year and a half. In October, 1253, after an absence of nine years, Innocent re-entered his see.

While the war continued, the pope looked for a new vassal on whom to confer the forfeited throne of Sicily. His first thought was the Earl of Cornwall, brother to the English king, Henry III. On his refusal he turned to the brother of St. Louis -- Charles of Anjou. By June, 1253, the first negotiations were ended and the pope presented the conditions under which the crown of Sicily would be granted. The king was to do homage to the pope; he was to pledge himself not to hinder the Church's full exercise of its exclusive jurisdiction over clerics, and in ecclesiastical matters, not to tax the clergy, and to leave the administration of vacant sees entirely to the Church. Charles now drew back, and while he hesitated news arrived from Germany which revolutionised the situation. Conrad was dead (May 21, 1254) and, like his grandfather Henry VI, sixty years before, this born enemy of the popes had named the pope as guardian for his infant heir Conradin.

The pope's first thought was to make what use the opportunity offered of strengthening his hold on Sicily. He called on the regent, Berthold, Archbishop of Palermo, to hand over the government to him as overlord and marched south with an army. Before Innocent would come to an understanding he intended to be in possession, acknowledged as suzerain. The regent refused to surrender and was excommunicated. 011 September 8 the papal army took San Germano, and the regency collapsed. Berthold resigned and Manfred accepted the pope s terms. He was confirmed in the fiefs his father had bequeathed him and granted recognition as regent for certain territories on the mainland. Conradin's titles as King of Jerusalem and Duke of Swabia were recognised. His claims to succeed in Sicily were left undecided.

The pope was now (October, 1254) master of the situation. The kingdom of Sicily was, for the moment, as much his possession as the Papal State itself. What were his plans for the future? Did he intend to rule it directly until such time as he thought fit to confer it on Conradin? Did he intend to annex it to the Papal State? Was he likely to carry out the project that would have made the Earl of Lancaster king? There is room here for differences of opinion, and historians are by no means agreed as to the pope's intentions. Whatever plans had taken shape in his mind, a sudden change on the part of Manfred threw everything into confusion once more. In an affray in which Manfred's responsibility was engaged, the Count of Borello was murdered. Manfred fled to raise supporters among his father's Saracens at Lucera, and by November the war was on once more. On December 2, 1254, he defeated the papal army and took Foggia. Five days later, at Naples, Innocent died.

Historians -- Catholics equally with the rest -- have not spared bitter words for Innocent IV. His inflexibility and determination in the long struggle, and the rigidity they developed, are set side by side with the more seductive and picturesque traits of his treacherous enemy. The treachery is forgotten, and the menace too, which the family tradition presented, in pity for the tragic end of the dynasty. But Innocent IV was one of the greatest of the popes none the less, a man whom nothing short of the high ideals of St. Gregory VII inspired. His tragic pontificate knew few peaceful days; his greatest achievement, like all violent victories, left a mixed legacy to his successors. But again, the achievement was great; and it sets him at least as high as the predecessor and namesake who, in popular fancy, has altogether overshadowed him. One of the writers best qualified to judge Innocent IV, the scholar who edited his registers, sums it up thus: [281] "The Holy See had survived one of the most terrible crises it had ever faced, thanks to the sang-froid, the decision and the incomparable tenacity of this great pope."

The activities of Innocent IV were not wholly absorbed by the struggle with the Hohenstaufen. His vassal the King of Portugal he deposed for his encroachments on ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and in his place appointed his brother. One of the kings in Russia made over his kingdom to him. In all the far Eastern territories where heathenism still survived -- Prussia, Livonia and Esthonia - - he created sees, and in several embassies he did what he could to win over to the faith the new hordes from the East, the Tartars, who for a moment seemed about to throw Europe back into the savagery and chaos of the tenth century. There was not any aspect of Christian life that Innocent failed to support. but very often his support could go little further than sympathetic words, so greatly was he occupied with the battle for life against Frederick.

This preoccupation with the theologico-political problem told nowhere more unfavourably than in the affairs of the Latin East.


Pope Gregory IX had, in August, 1230, ratified Frederick II's treaty with the sultan as part of the peace of San Germano, and Frederick had thereupon sent out one of his marshals, Richard Filangieri, to rule the new acquisition. Filangieri proceeded to centralise the administration, and ignored the old feudal constitution that made the barons the real rulers of the kingdom. The result was a civil war, which spread to Cyprus too, and occupied the next few years. When Frederick once more fell foul of the pope, after 1236, this struggle, too, passed into the East.

In 1243 Frederick's son Conrad, the child of the marriage with the heiress of Jerusalem, came of age and the barons seized the opportunity to proclaim that the regency of Frederick was at an end. As Conrad was an absentee, a regency was, however, inevitable and the barons conferred this on the Queen of Cyprus, the next-of- kin to Conrad's mother. The imperialist garrison at Tyre resisted, but was speedily forced to surrender. A year later the Sultan of Egypt attacked, his forces swelled by the sudden addition of ten thousand Mohammedans -- the Kharis -- in flight before the new Mongol victories of the successors of Genghis Khan. In September, 1244, Jerusalem was once again in the hands of the Mohammedans.

The news caused throughout Europe something considerably less than the universal dismay that had been the effect of Saladin's victory in 1187. There was, however, enough of the crusading spirit still alive to make the question of the recovery of Jerusalem one of the main questions before the Council of Lyons in the following June (1245). Innocent IV spoke of the state of the Latin East as one of the five wounds that afflicted the Church, and it was decided that yet once again an attempt should be made to rouse all Christendom, through the now traditional means of sermons and special embassies to the princes. The clergy were to contribute a twentieth of their revenues, the crusaders to be free of all taxes for three years, and tournaments were once more forbidden in the interests of the crusade. At the same time the pope planned a new offensive against the Mohammedans through an alliance with the ferocious Mongols, who, descending on the Near East from the all but legendary country of China, seemed, from their victories of the last few years, about to destroy Mohammedanism for ever.

In the vast army of the Mongols all the peoples, and all the religions, of the vast continent between the Urals and the wall of China were represented. Among them were the Nestorians -- Christians lost to the sight of the popes for eight hundred years, who, in that time, albeit heretics, had built up a flourishing Church that included in its ranks Chinese and even Turks! The grandson of Genghis Khan was himself married to a Nestorian, and daily in his camp the religious offices of the Church, mass and the rest, were celebrated and officially announced. It was no doubt through the Venetians, informed of this through the commercial relations that took them everywhere, that the pope knew of the favourable disposition of the Mongols, and in 1245 he dispatched Franciscans and Dominicans to the East in the hope of converting the Mongol princes.

None of these negotiations had, however, any effect on the fortunes of the crusade. The task of retrieving the disaster of 1244 was taken up once more by the French and by their king in person, St. Louis IX. Alone of the princes of Christendom, he set all his energy to the task. In England the preaching of the crusade had produced chiefly a flood of new protests against the financial levy that accompanied it; the King of Norway was allowed to turn his forces against the pagans of the north; the Spanish princes were occupied with the Saracens on their very threshold, the Catholics of Germany were bidden gain the indulgence by fighting the pope's battles against Frederick II. It was left to the King of France to recover the holy places.

He set out in June, 1248. At Cyprus, envoys from the Mongols, who were at the moment preparing to attack the Caliph of Baghdad, met him, proposing an alliance. By the time St. Louis's acceptance reached the camp the Khan was dead, and it was three years before the saint learnt the news of this failure (1251). By that time the crusade of 1248 had ended in disaster

Like the crusaders of 1219, St. Louis directed his attack on Egypt. On June 7, 1249, he took Damietta and then halted until reinforcements arrived from France. His army was as lacking in discipline as it was short in numbers. The reinforcements, Templars, Hospitallers and French crusaders under the King's brother Alphonse de Poitiers, brought the forces up to twenty thousand cavalry and forty thousand foot, and the army prepared to attack Mansourah. The first successes of the fight (February 8, 1250) were thrown away through the foolhardy recklessness of another of St. Louis's brothers, the Comte d'Artois. St. Louis's heroism finally drove back the Saracen attack, but the victory left the crusading army exhausted. The Saracens now blockaded the camp, dysentery and enteric fever set in, and on April I the order to retreat on Damietta was given. As the broken forces retired the Saracens attacked yet once again. It was a massacre rather than a battle, the greatest loss of the whole crusading movement. The knights and nobles were spared for the sake of what ransoms they might bring, but something like thirty thousand of the army were slain, and St. Louis was captured. He obtained his release by the promise to surrender Damietta and to pay 1,000,000 gold besants. The Saracens, in return, promised to free all the Christian prisoners in Egypt.

For another four years St. Louis remained in the East, negotiating for the release of the Christian captives, strengthening the defence of what places in Palestine were still in Christian hands, Acre, Jaffa, Sidon, Cesarea. He was, however, never able to reorganise the offensive, and finally the news of the death of his mother, who was governing France in his absence, forced him to return (April 24, 1254).


It remains to note the contribution of Innocent IV to that corpus of theologico-political doctrine in construction since the time of St. Gregory VII. Here the finished canonist Sinibaldo Fieschi shows himself, as pope, the scholarly equal of the other pontifical jurists, Roland Bandinelli and Lothario Conti. [282]

The theory, as it left Innocent III, he strengthened considerably, from the point of view of its defence in an age increasingly hostile, by insisting on the authority of the Church rather than that of the pope. There is not so continual an emphasis on the rights of the pope's personal authority, in this matter of the duty of mankind universally to acknowledge the supremacy of the sacerdotium. Here Innocent IV prefers to appeal to the divinely instituted right of the Church. A striking example of this is his bull Agni sponsa nobilis of March, 1246 -- incidentally a singularly moving piece of papal eloquence. His claims for the papal authority are of course not less extensive than those of his predecessors. The pope has power to bind and to loose universally. Not only all Christians, but all their affairs come within his scope. This authority he has the right to exercise universally, at any rate occasionally (saltem causaliter) and especially by reason of the moral aspect of a question (maxime ratione peccati). [283] Both the swords, then, are in the Church's keeping. An important distinction makes clear the different position of the emperor -- the man who fills the papally created office -- and the different hereditary monarchs. who are not, by virtue of their consecration, by any means subject to the prelates who consecrate them in the way in which the emperor, from his consecration, is subject to the pope.

These theologico-political theories did not meet with universal approbation from the princes of the time. Not only the revolutionary half-heretic Frederick II, but such excellent Catholics as St. Louis IX of France and his mother the famous Blanche of Castile resisted stoutly on occasions. There were two spheres especially where the claims of pope and kings overlapped and where, from now onwards for centuries, friction between the two jurisdictions was chronic. There was, first of all, the matter of the: Church's judiciary power. For centuries the Church alone had tried accused clerics; and, in some matters, laymen, too, were answerable before its courts. The new legal renaissance which, through all western Europe, was now beginning to transform the organisation of the different States was bound to challenge the older institution. Especially in France were the protests in this matter strong.

In England the martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury had fixed public opinion on this question in an anti-royal sense, but England was the chief centre of the protests in the second of the spheres where Church and State overlapped. This was the matter of taxation. The great characteristic of the external activity of the Roman Church, since the time of St. Leo IX, is the rapidity with which, after the forced inertia of centuries, it centralised the administration of its primacy. That centralisation was the secret of its strength in the later battles with Barbarossa and with his grandson Frederick II. The Roman Church had reformed itself; it had reformed and liberated the other Churches too. Under a succession of indomitable popes it had fought off every attempt to enslave religion once again. But the process had been expensive. The vast administrative machine, the endless procession of legates and popes perpetually in motion from one end of Europe to the other, and finally the armies and the fleets -- all these made demands on the treasury which the resources of the Roman See alone could never meet. That the whole Church should help to finance the battles fought by Rome on its behalf was only just. With the increased centralisation there spread, ever and ever more widely, the new Church taxation. [284]

Within this elaborate financial machine, inevitably -- or quasi- inevitably -- there had grown up abuses of a very grave kind. The protests heard so early as the time of Alexander III, were almost. by the middle of the thirteenth century, a permanent feature of Catholic life. In Innocent IV's reign, especially, they came in thick and fast, and from no country so violently as from England.

To the presence of these two sources of complaint among good Catholics Frederick II had already appealed. He was not indeed successful, but his intensive propaganda, the way in which he drew the world's attention to the matter, did much to fix the trouble in very concrete fashion in Catholic life and tradition. Henceforward the anti-clericalism of orthodox Catholics is a steadily growing menace to the future of religion.


Innocent IV had died at a moment when it was just his courageous, patient strength that the cause of the Church most needed. On his successor's handling of the incipient revolt of Frederick's son Manfred the whole history of the next fifty years -- and of how much else? -- would depend. This time the interregnum was short -- thanks to one of Innocent's kinsmen who locked up the cardinals at Naples before they had time to disperse. After a very brief discussion they elected, on December 12, 1254, the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, Rinaldo Conti, yet a third pope in fifty years from the family of Innocent III and Gregory IX. He was a man of holy life, learned, a great patron of the Franciscans, an experienced administrator and diplomatist, a cardinal for twenty-seven years and one of the four who, during the long absence of Innocent IV, had acted as papal commissaries in Italy (1244-1254). It was a career which, to all appearance, promised well for the new reign. Alexander IV, however -- such was the new pope's style -- was yet again to prove how often an excellent counsellor proves a bad ruler. The seven years of his rule were, politically, years of continuous disaster, and his death in 1261 found the Holy See weaker in Italy than for seventy years.

Manfred steadily regained all he had lost in Sicily. Conradin's guardians he won over to make common cause with him, and the pope, resourceless, was driven to Innocent IV's first plan, of delivery through foreign aid. Once more Henry III of England was approached (April, 1255) and after six months of negotiation the thing was arranged and Henry's younger son, Edmund of Lancaster, invested as King of Sicily and the pope's vassal. The conditions accepted were that Henry should pay all the expenses so far incurred by the Holy See (135,000 marks) and the arrears of interest on that sum, and that he should provide an army and a general. He was licensed to take for the expedition all monies collected in England for the crusade, and his own vow to go on the crusade was commuted into a vow to drive Manfred out of Sicily. Should Henry neglect to fulfil his part of the contract, he was to lose all monies hitherto advanced, and to be excommunicated, while England was to suffer an interdict.

Manfred continued to gain ground. Thousands went over to him, even from the pope's own army, which was so weakened by desertions that, in 1255, it had to retire across the frontier. The pope thereupon sent urgent messages to England bidding the king hasten his preparations. When, in January, 1256, the pope's candidate for the vacant empire died, Alexander forbade the electors, under pain of excommunication, to choose Conradin and pressed the election of Henry III's brother, Richard, the Earl of Cornwall who had refused Innocent IV's offer of Sicily two years before. But not all this show of papal favour could move Henry to any activity beyond promises. He was, of course, at this very time, on the verge of a political crisis at home of the first magnitude. Not all the popes, nor all their threats, could have won another penny from the barons of England, or from the bishops.

So for seven years it went on, Henry continually begging an extension of the time limit: the pope, now bankrupt and with no choice but to assent -- for of all the princes of Christendom, Henry III was the only one to be interested in the affair: and Manfred steadily consolidating his gains. In August, 1258, Manfred felt himself so secure that he threw off the mask, and, disregarding whatever claims Conradin might have -- who was, at any rate, of legitimate birth -- he had himself crowned King of Sicily at Palermo.

Alexander could do no more than plead with Henry and in September, 1260, Manfred, by a great victory at Montaperto, became the dominating power in Tuscany, too. He was once again excommunicated and, of course, he again ignored the sentence. He was well on the way to being master of Italy when, May 25, 1261, Alexander IV died.

His disastrous reign formed an interlude between two great anti- imperial offensives. The drama of Innocent IV's reign was now to be resumed. The irresolute Alexander was to be followed, in swift succession, by two hard-headed Frenchmen, shrewd, practical realists thanks to whom the dream of Innocent was accomplished and the Hohenstaufen razed from the land of the living.

The first of these was Jacques Pantaleon, who at the time of his election was Patriarch of Jerusalem. He was not a cardinal, but an experienced ecclesiastic whom urgent affairs had brought at this time to the papal court. After a three months' conclave, in which an English Cistercian and a French Dominican had both declined the terrifying splendour, the eight members of the sacred college were still undecided, and then the patriarch's name was suggested. and unanimously they elected him (August 29, 1261). He took the name of Urban IV.

The new pope was a man seventy years of age or more. He was a canonist, trained in the University of Paris, and he had spent most of his life in administrative duties at Laon and Liege. When Innocent TV had noticed him at the Council of Lyons and taken him into the papal service he was already elderly. That pope sent him into Germany, as legate, in 1247 and again in 1252 to organise a party and raise money for William of Holland. In 1253 he was made Bishop of Verdun and in 1255 Patriarch of Jerusalem. After his five years of service in the debris of the Latin realms of the East, given over now to civil war between Venetians and Genoese, between Hospitallers and Templars, the shrewd old Frenchman can have needed no further instruction on the need for a strong hand at the centre of things. As pope he proceeded to apply himself with an energy and a ruthlessness that give him, with Julius II, a place apart in papal history. A contemporary diplomat set him down as the ablest pope since Alexander III.

Urban IV turned first to set his own administration in order. In twelve months he had created fourteen cardinals, seven of them his fellow countrymen, all of them men of distinction. A thorough examination was made of the whole financial system. The accounts of all creditors were scrupulously investigated, and all over Christendom the kingdoms, sees, abbeys and churches on which the Roman Church had claims were reminded of their obligations and were induced to pay at least in part. As the pope thus collected the debts due to him so, in the same systematic way, he set himself to pay what he owed. Church property that was pledged he gradually redeemed, and slowly he began to refortify the Papal State. His greatest feat, however, was to build up a pro-papal party among the bankers of Florence and Siena -- a measure which was to bring forth its fruit in the time of his successor.

By 1263 the pope had more or less restored the reality of his rule in his own State, and he had rescued his cause from the perilous isolation into which, under Alexander IV, it had drifted At the same time he had begun to provide for the danger which Manfred presented.

Manfred had begun by a bid for recognition that an offer of money accompanied. Urban had, however, no intention of reversing the policy of years, and of recognising this illegitimate Hohenstaufen. He had already determined to set up in Sicily the French prince Charles of Anjou, and until that delicate scheme was safe he had to use all his skill to keep Manfred from a new offensive.

It was in December, 1261, three months after his election, that Urban made the first offer to the French. St. Louis hesitated, halted by the thought of Conradin's possible claims and of the claims of Edmund of Lancaster -- to the irritation of the pope who insisted that he was hardly likely to risk St. Louis' salvation by proposing to him something that was sinful. Finally, the pope won the king over, and he allowed the offer to be made to Charles of Anjou, his brother. The conditions were laid down (June, 1263), Edmund of Lancaster was formally notified that the offer made to him was withdrawn (July, 1263) and on August 15 the treaty between Charles and the pope was concluded. It contained all the usual safeguards. Charles was to do homage to the pope as overlord, to pay an annual tribute, to pledge himself not to usurp the rights of the Church and to preserve the rights of the nobles and people of Sicily. Meanwhile (August, 1263) Charles had been elected Senator -- an appointment that made him, to all intents and purposes, the civil ruler of Rome where, since the time of Honorius III, none of the popes had been able to live, save for short and infrequent intervals. Not only was Charles elected but, an unheard-of thing, he was elected for life. The pope at once protested. It would have been impossible for him to do otherwise. To consent to see ruling Rome, independently of himself, the man who would soon be ruler, too, of all Italy from Naples downwards, would be to exchange the menace of the Hohenstaufen for a danger still more real.

Manfred still more than held his own, despite Urban IV's diplomacy. Charles, on his side, realised the pope's dilemma and profited by it. Much of the annual tribute was remitted, and the pope accepted him as Senator. So matters stood when, on October 2, 1264, Urban IV died.

It was five months -- despite the urgency of the position -- before the cardinals could agree on his successor. Then, February 5, 1265, they elected another Frenchman, the Cardinal Guy Fulcodi -- a choice that crowned the most rapid career in all papal history, for the new pope, less than ten years before, had been a happily married jurist in the service of the French King without ever a thought of Holy Orders. He was a noble, and the son of one of the chief advisers of Raymond VI of Toulouse. Like Urban IV he was a product of the University of Paris, where he had made a name as an expert in both civil and canon law. He followed his father's profession, grew famous as an advocate and was appointed to the council of Raymond VII. He married and had two daughters. Then he passed into the service of St. Louis IX of France, who ultimately made him a member of his private council. Somewhere about 1256 his wife died, and like his father before him -- who on his wife's death had become a Carthusian-Guy Fulcodi turned to the Church. He rose rapidly, named Bishop of Le Puy within a year and Archbishop of Narbonne in 1259. As a prelate he kept his place in the French king's service, and was employed very largely in arbitration. Much of his time was spent in hearing appeals that concerned the inquisition of Languedoc, and he was responsible for a noteworthy decision on the degree of proof required before a man was condemned for heresy. It should, he declared, be "clearer than the day itself." He was one of Urban IV's first cardinals (1261) and in 1263 that pope sent him as legate to England, on which mission he was still absent when he was elected pope.

The new pope thus had an experience of administration and of dealing with men that could scarcely have been bettered. He was, too, a man of extremely ascetic life, modelled, apparently, on the lives of the Order of Preachers to which indeed he was very greatly attached. As pope, he took the name of Clement IV.

It was natural, if not inevitable, that Clement IV should continue the policy of his immediate predecessor. It is possible, since he had been one of the negotiators between Urban and Charles of Anjou, that he was elected pope for that very reason. Nevertheless, there was a shade of difference between the political atmosphere of the two reigns. It was due entirely to the fact that, in the second, Charles himself at last appeared in Italy.

Clement's first act was to renew the notification to Henry III of England that his claims had lapsed, and the next was to confirm Charles in all his rights, renewing the conditions laid down two years before. The crusade against Manfred, "the virulent offspring of a poisonous race", was renewed and new efforts made to raise money. By June, 1264, Urban IV had spent 200,000 pounds (Sienese money) and the treasury was nearly empty. Nor was there much to hope for from the interest of Christendom. "In England," said the pope himself, "there is opposition, in Germany hardly anyone obeys, France groans and grumbles, Spain suffices not for itself, Italy gives no help but plays one false." [285]

However, on May 21, 1265, Charles of Anjou arrived in Rome with a small force. The main body of his army was still in France and preparing to make its way overland through Lombardy. Charles had few men, he had no money. Manfred was as strong as ever, and before the French could pass through Lombardy the papal diplomacy must defeat Manfred in the courts and cities of the north of Italy.

The pope's one real asset was the character of Charles of Anjou -- haughty, ambitious to the point at times of mania, but the great captain of the day, a capable organiser, brave, and as energetic as Manfred was indolent. Charles of Anjou has gone down to history with the memory of his virtues forgotten in the clamour aroused by his undoubted pride and cruelty. It is one of the ironies of things that it is for precisely these vices that the conqueror of the Hohenstaufen has been damned by writers of Hohenstaufen sympathies. Charles of Anjou compares more than favourably with any one of the five generations of that treacherous race with which the Roman Church had to contend, from Barbarossa to Conradin, his great-great-grandson.

The financial crisis was surmounted thanks to the papacy's understanding with the bankers. The following of Charles was costing daily two thousand livres tournois before 1265 was out, and the revenue and property of the Roman churches were given in pledge. In December the army from France arrived. On January 6, 1266, Charles was crowned in St. Peter's as King of Sicily. A few days later he set out to crush Manfred. The battle took place, January 20, 1266, outside Benevento. Manfred's army was defeated, with great slaughter, and he himself was slain. With that disaster the Hohenstaufen ceased for ever really to trouble the papacy. The menace that had hung over its spiritual independence since Barbarossa's declaration at Besancon, a hundred and nine years before, seemed at last destroyed.

It remained to be seen how Charles of Anjou would develop. Already, in the matter of senatorship, there had been a hint that the pope feared lest his new champion should prove a master. Was the chronic problem of the papacy merely about to enter on a new stage of its long vexatious history?

Four months after Benevento, Charles resigned the senatorship, and while Clement gave himself to the double task of rousing an indifferent Christendom to the needs of the Holy Land and of paying off his debts, the King of Sicily took possession of his conquest. The Sicilians found his rule oppressive. Some of the greater nobles were dispossessed. French officials were imported. There were new heavy taxes. Soon there were complaints, and from the pope strongly worded remonstrances such as that provoked by the terrible sack of Benevento after the victory in January. "You respect nothing," he had then written to Charles, " neither the goods of the Church nor of others, not age nor sex. You are crusaders, and you have looted the churches and convents that you should have protected; you have destroyed the sacred images, you have violated women consecrated to God. These thefts, these murders, these appalling sacrileges were not committed during the fight but for the whole week that followed, and you did nothing to restore order."

Gradually, throughout the kingdom, a party began to form and a name to be whispered as its leader -- Conradin. The grandson of Frederick II was now a youth of seventeen, still in Germany, King of Jerusalem and Duke of Swabia. He was won over to patronise the coming revolt, and in a flaming manifesto he denounced, as King of Sicily, the popes, Innocent IV and Alexander IV, who had refused him his father's kingdom and announced his intention of conquering it himself. The action had all the old Hohenstaufen spirit, and the pope retorted by excommunicating Conradin and by a reminder to the princes of Germany that Charles of Anjou was the lawful King of Sicily and that if Conradin persisted he would be deprived of his title to Jerusalem as his grandfather had been stripped of the empire and Sicily.

Conradin, nothing deterred, set out in September, 1267. In October his banner was hoisted in Rome, where the new senator had gone over to his cause, and on the 21st of that month he was at Verona with ten thousand men.

The pope renewed the excommunication on all who supported him, including the Romans; he named Charles of Anjou imperial Vicar for Tuscany; he despatched legates into Germany to prevent the movement spreading there.

In January, 1268, the invader was at Pavia, in April at Pisa. Charles failed to capture Rome; the Saracens at Lucera were in revolt; and when Conradin, making for Rome, passed by Viterbo -- where Clement IV still dwelt -- the pope might well have despaired. Rome received Conradin with enthusiasm and on August 18 he set out for Lucera. Charles, however, intercepted him near Tagliacozzo (August 23, 1268) and after a fierce fight routed his army. A week later he entered treacherous Rome in triumph, while Conradin fled, a forlorn fugitive, from one place to another. In the end he was captured and handed over to Charles, who thereupon proceeded to the act which has damned him for ever with posterity. He summoned a commission of legists to advise him whether Conradin could be put on his trial as a disturber of the peace. They were divided in their opinion. A minority advised Charles he had the right. Conradin was thereupon tried and condemned to death. Absolved from his excommunication and fortified with the Mass and the Holy Eucharist, on October 29, 1268, he was beheaded publicly at Naples. So ended the Hohenstaufen.

Just a month later, to the day, Clement IV too died. It was twenty-three years since Innocent IV had deposed the last emperor, nineteen years almost since the last emperor had died. Not for three years more did the cardinals manage to give a successor to Clement IV. Now for three years Christendom was to have neither emperor nor pope.

- A History of the Church
by Philip Hughes
Ch 10: The Imperial Menace to the Freedom of Religion