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27 Jul

Papal States (13th – 15th c.)

The Papacy reached its height during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) who was one of the most powerful medieval popes. Pope Innocent III got involved in rivalry between Philip of Swabia and Otto IV for the imperial throne immediately after his election. He supported Otto IV in 1201 but Otto’s attempt to unite the kingdoms of Germany and Sicily made him change his mind and giving his support to Philip in 1207. Otto IV became the undisputed king after Philip’s murder in 1208 and Pope Innocent III crowned him emperor in 1209. However, Pope Innocent III excommunicated Otto IV in 1210 because his attempt to assert the imperial power in Italy and Sicily. He convinced the imperial princes to elect Frederick II of Sicily as King of Germany in 1212, while Frederick II promised the Pope he will not unite Germany and Sicily and had his oldest son Henry elected as King of Sicily.

Fresco of Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III

Pope Innocent III extended his influence over most of Europe. He intervened the dispute in the election of archbishop of Canterbury and installed Stephen Langdom. Innocent IV forced John of England to declare himself a vassal of the Church in 1213 and received feudal homages of Peter II of Aragon, Ottokar I of Bohemia, Alfonso IX of Leon and Sancho I of Portugal, and forced Philip II Augustus of France to reconcile with his wife. Pope Innocent III was also very active in ecclesiastical matters. He summoned the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 which is widely regarded as one of the most important medieval councils. The Fourth Lateran Council promulgated obligation of the Catholics to make a yearly confession, sanctioned the doctrine of transubstantiation and organized the Fifth Crusade.

Pope Innocent III died suddenly in 1216 and was succeeded by Pope Honorius III (1216-1227) who called for the Crusade to recapture the Holy Land immediately after his election. He pursued the Albigensian Crusade against the heretics in southern France which was started by Pope Innocent III in 1209 and organized the Crusade against the Moors in the Iberian Peninsula in 1218. The pontificate of Honorius II is also notable for giving papal sanction to the Dominican Order in 1216, to the Franciscan Order in 1223 and to the Carmelite Order in 1226.

Pope Honorius II was succeeded by Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) who pursued the policy of Papal supremacy. In 1227, he lost his patience and excommunicated Frederick II for delaying his wow to go on crusade and renewed the conflict with the Holy Roman Empire. Despite his excommunication Frederick II launched the crusade in 1228-1229 and achieved some success in Jerusalem, while the Ghibellines (pro-imperial party) of Rome forced Gregory IX to flee from Rome. Pope Gregory IX reconciled with Frederick II in 1230 and lifted the excommunication but the conflict was renewed few years later. Gregory IX excommunicated Frederick II for the second time in 1239 and allied himself with the Lombard League, Genoa and Venice against the Holy Roman Emperor. The pontificate of Gregory IX is also notable for issuing the Decretals (Corpus Iuris Canonici), a code of canon law which remained in force until 1917.

Relief of Pope Gregory IX

Pope Gregory IX

Pope Gregory IX died in 1241 and was succeeded by Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254) after two years of interregnum. Innocent IV was forced to flee from Rome shortly after his election but he gained support of Louis IX of France and convoked a general council at Lyon in 1245 which condemned Frederic II and declared him deposed. Pope Innocent IV refused to recognize Manfred of Sicily as Frederick’s successor as well as Frederick’s son Conrad IV as King of Germany. He offered the Sicilian crown to Edmund, son of Henry III of England but Manfred decisively defeated the papal forces at Foggia in 1254. Pope Innocent died in the same year and was succeeded by Pope Alexander IV (1254-1261). The latter followed anti-Hohenstaufen policy started by Innocent IV as well as Pope Urban IV (1261-1264) who offered the Kingdom of Sicily to Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX of France as a papal fief. Charles of Anjou accepted the Pope’s offer, invaded Sicily and defeated and killed Manfred at Benevento in 1267.

Pope Urban IV was succeeded by Pope Clement IV (1265-1268). The papal chair remained empty for three years after Clement’s death in 1268 because of disagreement between the cardinals. In 1271, the cardinals elected Pope Gregory X (1271-1276) who was at that time in Palestine participating the Ninth Crusade. On his arrival to Rome, Gregory X summoned the council which met at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 and decided that the cardinals are not allowed to leave the conclave until successfully electing new pope. He helped end the civil war in Germany by supporting the election of Rudolf of Habsburg whom he promised imperial coronation. However, he died before fulfilling his promise.

The papal chair was occupied by Innocent V (January-June 1276), Adrian V (July-August 1276) and John XXI (September 1276-May 1277) before the election of Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280) in 1277. Pope Nicholas III is best known for making Vatican his residence and is widely considered as the founder of Vatican. He managed to strengthen the papal authority in Italy by obtaining the renunciation of Romagna and Exarchate of Ravenna by Rudolf I.

Portrait of Pope Clement V

Pope Clement V

Pope Nicholas III was succeeded by Pope Martin IV (1281-1285) who was greatly influenced by the Angevin Dynasty. He was succeeded by Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) whose pontificate was characterized by a conflict with Philip IV of France over taxation of the clergy which also marked the pontificate of his successor Pope Benedict XI (1303-1304). Benedict XI was succeeded by Pope Clement V (1305-1314) who was forced to move the seat of Papacy from Rome to Avignon starting the period known as the Avignon Papacy, sometimes also referred as the Babylonian Captivity (1309–77). Philip IV of France forced Clement to revoke his predecessor’s unfavorable decisions to France and to dissolve the Knights Templar. Papal possessions in Italy were only formally under papal control during the period of the Avignon Papacy which was marked by the influence of the French kings over the popes: John XXII (1316-1334), Benedict XII (1334-1342), Clement VI (1342-1352), Innocent VI (1332-1362), Urban V (1362-1370) and Gregory XI (1370-1378).

Two popes were elected after death of Pope Gregory XI in 1378: Pope Urban VI (1378-1389) in Rome and Pope Clement VII (1378-1394) in Avignon. Double election resulted in the split within the Catholic Church known as the Western Schism or Papal Schism. The Western Schism ended with the election of Pope Martin V (1417-1431) at the Council of Constance (1414-1418) which deposed the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII and antipope John XXIII, while Pope Gregory XII agreed to resign. The Council of Constance also resulted in condemnation and execution of Bohemian religious leader Jan Hus for heresy which provoked the so-called Hussite Wars (1419-1436) in Bohemia. Pontificate of Pope Martin V (1417-1431) was marked by his efforts to restore the papal power and prestige, while his successor Pope Eugene IV (1431-1447) spent most of his pontificate struggling with the Council of Basel (1431-1449) for supremacy which resulted in the election of Amadeus VIII of Savoy as Antipope Felix V.

Portrait of Pope Innocent VIII

Pope Innocent VIII

Felix V abdicated and submitted to Pope Eugene’s successor Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) as well as the Council of Basel which dissolved in 1449. Thus Pope Nicholas V managed to end the threat of the Conciliar movement or Conciliarism which based on a theory that a general church council has the final authority instead of the Pope. The pontificate of Pope Nicholas V is also notable for his support to scholarship and art. He rebuilt of the Borgo district and St Peter’s Basilica, and founded the Vatican Library. However, he failed to carry out the church reforms. His successors Pope Calixtus III (1455-1458), Pope Pius II (1458-1464) and Pope Paul II (1464-1471) were primarily concentrated on organizing a crusade against the Ottomans. Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484) continued conflict with the French King for the control over Church started by his predecessor Paul II and got involved in the failed Pazzi conspiracy in 1478 to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother, and to replace them with Sixtus’ nephew Girolamo Riario. However, Pope Sixtus IV is also known for being patron of the artist and scholars. He ordered construction of the Sistine Chapel (which is named after him) and introduced the Early Renaissance to Rome’s architecture. Pope Sixtus IV was succeeded by Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) who managed to stop the Ottoman advance in Europe by holding Cem, the fugitive brother of Sultan Bayezid II as a captive.

Pope Innocent VIII succeeded by Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) who was one of the most controversial popes in history. He lived scandalously and had four illegitimate children, while the papal affairs were de facto led by his son Cesare Borgia. The Church was at its lowest point during his pontificate but Alexander’s patronage of art and employment of artists like Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo and Pinturicchio initiated a new architectural era in Rome.

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