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27 Jul

Papal States (9th – 13th c.)

History of southern and central Italy in the 9th century was marked by incessant struggles with the Saracens who even endangered the city of Rome. Carolingian kings were at the time occupied with struggles over succession and were not paying any greater attention to the events in Italy. Louis II the Younger who was also King of Italy (844-875) launched several successful military campaigns against the Saracens but the Papal States could not longer count on Frankish military assistance after his death. Pope John VIII (872-882) failed to organize a military campaign to expel the Saracens and he was forced to pay tribute to the Saracens. Thus the decline of the Carolingian Empire also greatly affected the Papal States.

Pope John VIII was forced to flee to France in 878 when Rome was captured by Lambert of Spoleto. Emperor Charles III (the Fat) did not sent military assistance to the Pope but named Lambert’s son Guy the guardian of the Papal States. Pope Stephen V crowned Guy emperor in 891, while Pope Formosos was forced to give Imperial title to his son Lambert II one year later. Pope Formosos also crowned Arnulf of Carinthia as emperor in 896 which clearly indicated the decline of papal power and prestige.

The Papal States continued to decline under Formosos’ successors and eventually became barely an object of political interests. The popes were installed regardless to law, tradition and their capability, while papal elections were greatly influenced by Theodora, wife of Roman senator Theophylact III and her daughters. The Catholic Church in first half of the 10th century was led by several incompetent popes who did not have any political power. Restoration of papal power and prestige was closely tied with the rise of the future Holy Roman Empire under Otto I and election of Octavianus as Pope John XII in 955. As son and heir of Alberic II, the new Pope also succeeded his father as Patrician of Rome in 954. Thus spiritual and secular power were joined in the hands of Pope John XII. Feeling threatened by Berengar II of Italy, Pope John XII appealed to Otto I and offered him imperial coronation in return for his military assistance. Otto I responded to the Pope’s call and conquered Northern Italy in 962. Otto reached Rome without any major resistance in 962 and Pope John XII crowned him Holy Roman Emperor. At the same time was ratified the Diploma Ottonianum which granted independence to the Papal States. Otto I recognized the donations of the Carolingian kings to the papacy and swore not to issue any decrees without papal consent. The Diploma Ottonianum also foresaw that the future popes must not be consecrated before giving a pledge to the German King who was to be the guardian of the Papal States and the Church.

A portrait of Pope John XII

Pope John XII

Pope John XII changed his mind shortly afterwards and secretly supported Otto’s rival Berengar II. Otto I returned to Rome in 963 and had John XII deposed and replaced by Pope Leo VIII. However, the latter was not acceptable for the population of Rome and he was forced to flee. The deposed Pope John XII returned to Rome but he was deposed for the second time by Otto I who meanwhile returned to Rome. Otto I returned to Rome for the third time in 966 on a call of Pope John XIII (965-972) who was banished by the population of Rome. Otto restored John XIII, while his return to Rome also resulted in territorial enlargement of the Papal States which annexed Ferrara and Exarchate of Ravenna.

The conflicts between the fractions in Rome were renewed after Otto’s death in 973. Pope Benedict VI (973-974) was strangled in the Castel Sant’Angelo in 974, while his successor Boniface VII was elected without imperial approval. Boniface VII was also opposed by some fractions in Rome and he had to flee to Constantinople. He was succeeded by Benedict VII (974-983) who was confirmed by the successor of Otto I, Otto II. On Benedict’s death Otto II installed his chancellor Pietro Canepanova as Pope John XIV (983-984) who was not from Rome. Otto II died shortly after John’s election, while Boniface VII returned to Rome from Constantinople in 984 and had John XIV imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo where he died from starvation. Pope Boniface VII (984-985) had a violent death as well. He was succeeded by Pope John XV (985-996) who carried out the first solemn canonization in 993. Pope John XV was succeeded by a grandson of Otto I, Bruno of Carinthia as Pope Gregory V (996-999) who was the first German Pope. He tried to separate the papacy from the interests of Roman politics but he was deposed and replaced by antipope John XVI (997-998). Otto III invaded Rome and restored Gregory V but the latter died suddenly in 999.

Image of Pope Sylvester II

Pope Sylvester II

Gregory V was succeeded by Sylvester II (999-1003) who was the first French Pope. Pope Sylvester II managed to strengthen the papal authority as well as to limit the power of the bishops. However, his successors Pope John XVII (1003), Pope John XVIII (1003-1009) and Sergius IV (1009-1012) fell under the influence of the Crescentii family of Rome, while pontificates of Pope Benedict VIII (1012-1024), Pope John XIX (1024-1032) and Pope Benedict IX (1033-1044) were marked by great influence of the powerful Tusculani family. Pope Benedict IX was the last of the Popes from the powerful Tusculani family, while the last years of his pontificate were marked by severe conflicts over his succession which led to the outbreak of a civil war.

Benedict IX was banished in 1044 and replaced by Pope Sylvester III (1044-1045) but Benedict IX returned to Rome and expelled his rival one year later. However, Benedict IX abdicated in the same year and sold his office to John Gratian who became Pope Gregory VI (1045-1046). Benedict IX changed his mind shortly afterwards and returned to Rome to depose Gregory VI. The office was also claimed by Sylvester III who never accepted his abdication. Emperor Henry III intervened in the struggle between the three rival popes and summoned the Council of Sutri in 1046 which rejected the claims of Benedict IX and Sylvester III, while Gregory VI was encouraged to resign. The German Bishop Suidger was elected as Pope Clement II (1046-1047) and immediately crowned Henry III emperor. Clement died one year later and the office was seized by Benedict IX. His third term ended in 1048 when he was banished by Poppo of Brixen who was elected as Pope Damasus II (1048).

Manuscript illustration of Pope Leo IX

Pope Leo IX

Damasus II was succeeded by Pope Leo IX (1049-1054) whose pontificate was marked the beginning of the papal reforms as well as by the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054. His successor Pope Victor II (1055-1057) reinforced Leo IX’s condemnation of clerical marriage, simony (paying for offices or positions in the churchly hierarchy) and the loss of Church’s properties. Papal reforms and consolidation of papal power continued under his successors Pope Stephen IX (1057-1058), Pope Nicholas II (1059-1061) and Pope Alexander II (1061-1073) and reached their height under Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085). However, Gregory’s concept of papal power resulted in an open conflict with Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV which came to be known as the Investiture Controversy which marked the pontificates of Gregory’s successors as well as the reigns of Henry IV and Henry V. Pope Gregory VII was succeeded by Pope Victor III (1086-1087) who followed his predecessor’s policy. The reforms started by Pope Gregory VII were carried on by Pope Urban II (1088-1099) who is probably best known for his call to the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095. Pope Urban II died fourteen days after the fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders but the news of the event had reached Italy after his death.

Pope Urban II was succeeded by Pope Paschal II (1099-1118). He managed to settle the investiture conflict with Henry I of England and Philip I of France but he did not succeed to end the conflict with Henry IV and his successor Henry V. The conflict with the Holy Roman Emperors also marked the short pontificate of Pope Gelasius II (1118-1119) but his successor Pope Callixtus II (1119-1124) managed to reach a compromise with Henry V at the Concordat of Worms in 1122 which finally ended the Investiture Controversy.

On the death of Gelasius’ successor, Pope Honorius II (1124-1130) in 1130 broke out a conflict in the College of Cardinals resulting in the election of two popes: Pope Innocent II (1130-1143) and Pope Anacletus II (1130-1138). Pope Anacletus II gained support in Rome and Sicily forcing Pope Innocent II to flee. However, he achieved French and English recognition, while Lothair III of Germany promised him to restore his authority. The German forces invaded Rome in 1033 and Pope Innocent II assumed power but Roger II of Sicily took possession of southern Italy as soon as the German troops left Rome. Thus Pope Innocent II was forced to flee from Rome for the second time. Lothair III returned to Italy and defeated Roger II in 1136, while southern Italy was granted to Ranulf II of Alife as a papal fief. On Lothair’s departure Roger II recaptured Apulia, defeated papal troops and captured Innocent who was forced to recognize the union of the mainland duchy of Apulia and Calabria with the County of Sicily.

Pope Innocent II was succeeded by Pope Celestine II (1144) who governed the Church less than six months. He was succeeded by Pope Lucius II (1144-1145) whose pontificate was marked by an open revolt of the Roman Senate. Lucius II died in a battle against the Senate in 1145 and was succeeded by Eugenius III (1145-1153) who was forced into exile in 1146. During his exile in France Pope Eugenius III persuaded Louis VII of France to launch the Second Crusade which turned out to be a failure. Eugenius also appealed to Conrad III of Germany to provide him military assistance against the Roman Senate and Roger II of Sicily in return for imperial coronation. However, Conrad III died in 1152 before launching the campaign, while Pope Eugenius III died one year later. He was succeeded by Pope Anastasius IV (1153-1154) who died after one year of pontificate.

A portrait of Pope Adrian IV

Pope Adrian IV

Pope Adrian IV (1154-1159) was the first and the only English pope. Frederick I Barbarossa defeated Arnold of Brescia who was the leader of the revolt in Rome and Pope Adrian IV crowned him emperor in 1155. However, Frederick hastened back to Germany after he settled the situation in Rome which soured his relation with Adrian who expected Frederick’s military assistance against the Normans of Sicily. The relations between the Pope and Emperor were further soured at the diet of Besancon in 1157. The papal legates asserted before the Emperor that the Imperial dignity was a Papal beneficium, while German chancellor translated this beneficia in a feudal sense of the presentation of property from a lord to a vassal. Pope Adrian IV was about to excommunicate Frederick when he died in 1159.

Two popes were elected on death of Pope Adrian IV: Alexander III (1159-1181) and Victor IV (1159-1164). The cardinals opposed Frederick I Barbarossa and supported Alexander III, while the minority of cardinals that was loyal to the Emperor elected cardinal priest Octavian who assumed the name Victor IV. Antipope Victor IV was succeeded by two antipopes: Paschal III (1164-1168) and Calixtus III (1168-1178). However, Frederick I Barbarossa recognized Pope Alexander III after being defeated by the Lombard League in the Battle of Legnano in 1177. The tense relations with the Holy Roman Empire continued during the pontificates of Pope Lucius III (1181-1185) and Pope Urban III (1185-1187), while Pope Gregory VIII (1187) died in less than two months after his consecration.

Gregory VIII was succeeded by Clement III (1187-1191) who finally ended the one half of a century long conflict between the papacy and Rome, and called to the Third Crusade after the Fall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187. Clement III came into conflict with Henry VI of Germany because of his support of Tancred of Sicily shortly before his death but Henry forced his successor Pope Celestine III (1191-1198) to crown him emperor in 1191. Pope Clement III succeeded by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) whose pontificate raised the medieval papacy to the height of its prestige and power.

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