Innocent III

Innocent III

(a) (Lothario Conti), by far the greatest pope of this name, was born of a noble family of Rome at Anagni in 1161. After a course of much distinction at Paris, Bologna, and Rome, he was made cardinal; and eventually, in 1198, was elected, at the unprecedented early age of thirty-seven, a successor of pope Celestine III. While at the high schools of Rome, Paris, and Bologna, he had greatly distinguished himself in the studies of philosophy, theology, and the canon law, and also by several written compositions, especially by his treatise De Miseria Conditionis Humance. "The gloomy ascetic views which he took in this work of the world and of human nature show a mind filled with contempt for all worldly motives of action, and not likely to be restrained in forwarding what he considered to be his paramount duty by any of the common feelings of leniency, conciliation, or concession, which to a man in his situation must have appeared sinful weaknesses. His ambition and haughtiness were apparently not personal. His interest seems to have been totally merged in what he considered the sacred right of his see, 'universal supremacy,' and the sincerity of his conviction is shown by the steady, uncompromising tenor of his conduct, and by a like uniformity of sentiments and tone throughout his writings, and especially his numerous letters." The external circumstances of his time also furthered Innocent's views, and enabled him to make his pontificate the most marked in the annals of Rome; the culminating point of the temporal as well as the spiritual supremacy of the Roman see. "The emperor Henry VI, king of Italy, and also of Sicily, had lately died, and rival candidates were disputing for the crown of Germany, while Constance of Sicily, Henry's widow, was left regent of Sicily and Apulia in the name of her infant son Frederick II Innocent, asserting his claim of suzerainty over the kingdom of Sicily, confirmed the regency to Constance, but at the same time obtained from her a surrender of all disputed points concerning the pontifical pretensions over those fine territories. Constance dying shortly after, Innocent himself assumed the regency during, Frederick's minority. At Rome, availing himself of the vacancy of the imperial throne, he bestowed the investiture on the prefect of Rome, whom he made to swear allegiance to himself, thus putting an end to the former, though often eluded claim of the imperial authority over that city. In like manner, being favored by the people, ever jealous of the dominion of foreigners, he drove away the imperial feudatories, Such as Conrad, duke of Spoleti and count of Assisi, and Marcualdus, marquis of Ancona, and took possession of those provinces in the name of the Roman see." He likewise claimed the exarchate of Ravenna; but the archbishop of that city asserted his own prior rights, and Innocent, says the anonymous biographer, 'prudently deferred the enforcement of his claims to a more fitting opportunity.' The towns of Tuscany, with the exception of Pisa, threw off their allegiance to the empire, and formed a league with Innocent for their mutual support. It was on this occasion that Innocent wrote that famous letter in which he asserts that, 'as God created two luminaries, one superior for the day, and the other inferior for the night, which last owes its splendor entirely to the first, so he has disposed that the regal dignity should be but a reflection of the splendor of the papal authority, and entirely subordinate to it." It was in the affairs of Germany, however, that Innocent's position most clearly manifested the greatness of the papal power over the destinies of the world. Setting himself up as supreme arbitrator between the two claimants who were contending for the imperial crown, he decided (in 1201) in favor of Otho because he descended from "a race (welf) devoted to the Church," with the condition that the disputed-concession of the countess Mathilda be wholly resigned to the decisions of the holy see; and, as a- natural consequence, he proceeded at the same time to excommunicate Otho's rival, Philip. In spite of a determined resistance of Philip and his friends, which for a time seemed almost to prove successful, but which finally ended in the assassination of Philip, Innocent's triumph in Germany was complete, and his vassal emperor Otho was made temporal lord of the West. But a further triumph crowned the efforts of Innocent in Germany only a short time after. Otho, incurring the displeasure of the pope by his estrangement from the papal see, was excommunicated and deposed in 1210, and Innocent's own ward, Frederick of Sicily, was brought forward as a candidate for the vacated throne, and finally crowned emperor at Aix- la-Chapelle, with the approval of the fourth Lateran Council (A.D. 1215). "For the second time Innocent was triumphant in Germany. Twice he had decided an imperial election. Against one of the emperors whom he supported he had made his sentence of excommunication and deposition valid; the other he had put forward, intending him to be a mere puppet and instrument in his own hands" (Reichel). But, if Innocent proved himself a great statesman, it must be conceded also that he was very much unlike many of his predecessors, very strict and uncompromising in his notions of discipline and morality. Irregularity and venality were repressed everywhere as soon as discovered. Thus he excommunicated Philip Augustus of France because he had repudiated his wife Ingerburga of Denmark, and had married Agnes de Meranie. "The interdict was laid on France: the dead lay unburied the living were deprived of the services of religion. Against an antagonist armed with such weapons, even Philip Augustus, brave and firm though he 'was, was not a match. The idea of the papal power had too firmly taken hold of men's minds; the French would gladly have remained true to their king; they dared not disobey the vicar of Christ. Besides, as in the case of Nicholas I's intervention with Lothair, Innocent's power was exercised on behalf of morality. Philip was obliged- to take back his divorced wife, not yielding, as one of his predecessors, Robert I of France (996-1031), had done, to a feeble superstition; not subdued, like 'Henry IV, by internal dissensions, but vanquished in open fight with an opponent stronger than himself." As we have already said, the external circumstances of that day seem to have favored Innocent, and enabled him "to assert without concealment the idea of papal theocracy;" that the pope was "the vicegerent of God upon earth;" that to him "was entrusted by St. Peter the government not only of the whole Church, but of the whole world." "Next to God, he was to be so honored by princes that their claim to rule was lost if they failed to serve him; princes might have power on earth, but priests had power in heaven; the claim of princes to rule rested 'on human might, that of priests on divine ordinance.' In short, all the prerogatives which had once attached to the emperors were wrested from them, and transferred, with additions, to the popes" (Reichel). The same fate that had befallen Philip Augustus threatened king Leon of Spain for a marriage of his own cousin, the daughter of the king of Portugal. Not willing to submit to the pope's decision against such a marriage, and supported in his resolution by his father-in-law, excommunication was first resorted to, followed by an interdict on both kingdoms. Not more successful, though engaged in a much better cause, was John, king of England. John having appointed John de Gray, bishop of Norwich, to the vacant see of Canterbury, Innocent would not approve the selection, and bestowed the canonical investiture upon Stephen Langton; and the monks of Canterbury, of course, could and would receive no other archbishop. E In a fit of rage, John drove away the monks and seized their property, for which the whole kingdom was laid under an interdict; and, as John continued refractory, the pope pronounced his deposition, released his vassals from their oath of allegiance, and called upon all Christian princes and barons to invade England and dethrone the impious tyrant, promising them the remission of their sins. By the consequent preparation of Philip Augustus of France to carry out the pope's invitation, John was not only forced to yield the point in dispute, agreeing to submit to the pope's will and pay damages to the banished clergy, but he even took an oath of fealty to the Roman see, and at the same time delivered to the papal envoy a charter testifying that he surrendered to pope Innocent and his successors forever the kingdom of England and lordship of Ireland, to be held as fiefs of the holy see by John and his successors, on condition of their paying an annual tribute of 700 marks of silver for England and 300 for Ireland. Nor were England and Sicily the only countries over which. Innocent acquired the rights of a feudal suzerain. "In order to make his crown independent of his powerful vassals, and to baffle the claim to supremacy of the king of Castile, Peter II of Aragon voluntarily made himself tributary to the pope, binding himself and his successors to the annual payment' of 200 pieces of gold. In return, he was crowned by Innocent at Rome, and took an oath to the pope as his feudal suzerain. From innocent, too, as his liege lord, John, duke of Bavaria, accepted the kingly crown. Denmark looked to him, and obtained from him justice and redress for the injury inflicted on her royal daughter; and his legate was dispatched to Iceland, to warn the inhabitants not to submit to the excommunicated and apostate priest Severo. Perhaps it was well that in those ages there should be some recognized tribunal and fountain for royal honor; and in times of turbulence princes probably gained more than they lost by becoming the vassals of the pontiffs. Still, such power vested in the hands of an ecclesiastic was a new thing in the Church, and placed beyond dispute the greatness which the papal power had reached" (Reichel). If, as we have seen, Innocent III would admit of no compromises with immorality and irregularity, he was certainly stern and even more unflinching in his dealings with all those who separated themselves from the body of the Romish Church. "To him, every offence against religion was a crime against society, and, in his ideal Christian republic, every heresy was a rebellion which it was the duty of the rulers to resist and repress." To extirpate this, "the deadliest of sins," he sent two legates, with the title of inquisitors, to France. One of them, Castelnau, having become odious by his severities, was murdered near Toulouse, upon which Innocent ordered a crusade against the Albigenses (q.v.), excommunicated Raymond, count of Toulouse, for abetting them, and bestowed his domains on Simon, count of Montfort. He addressed himself to all the faithful, exhorting them "to fight strenuously against the ministers of the old serpent,' and promising them the kingdom of heaven in reward.

He sent two legates to attend the crusade, and their letters or reports to him are contained in the collection of his "Epistles" (especially Epistola 108 of B. 12, in which the legate Anmaldus relates the taking of Beziers, and the massacre of 30,000 individuals of every age, sex, and condition). Innocent, however, who did not live to see the end of-the conflagration he had kindled, can hardly be held responsible for the fearful excesses into which it ran. In 1215 he convened a general council at the Lateran, in which he inculcated the necessity of a new crusade, which he regarded not merely as lawful, but even a most glorious undertaking in behalf of religion and piety. He also launched fresh anathemas against heretics, determined several points of doctrine and discipline, especially concerning auricular confession, and sanctioned the establishment of the two great mendicant monastic orders, the Dominicans and Franciscans, the former to extirpate heresy, and the latter to preach sound doctrines; and to assist the parochial clergy in the execution of their duties. For if ever watchfulness was required by the clergy, it was at this time. "It was in this very century that the darkness of the Middle Ages began to disappear. It was during this very reign of Innocent III that the gray dawn of twilight gave the first promise of modern intelligence and modern independence. Nothing could be more evident than that this spirit of independence, that was everywhere raising its menacing front… if not either subjugated or controlled, would revolutionize the whole structure of society, both feudal and ecclesiastical. To control or subjugate the new spirit was therefore the great problem presented to the Church of the 13th century" (Prof. C. K. Adanis, in the New-Englander, July, 1870, p. 376). But if, by establishing these mendicant orders, Innocent III had provided himself with willing minions to spread over Europe, and to purify the Church from "modern intelligence" and "modern independence," he had certainly, at the same time, created for himself an opposition which afterwards became a still greater danger to the hierarchy itself, by the opposition which these mendicant orders created among the laity against the parochial clergy (compare Reichel, p. 576 sq.). It remains for us only to add one of the greatest achievements of Innocent's day, undertaken by him, no doubt, that nothing might be wanting to the completeness of his authority throughout the then known world, viz. the establishment of the Latin kingdom at Jerusalem, and the Latin conquest of Constantinople, which Ffoulkes (Christendoms's Divisions, 2, 226), while yet a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church, does not hesitate to pronounce "one of the foulest acts ever perpetrated under the garb of religion in Christian times; a sorry connection, unquestionably, for one of his high position and commanding abilities." At the very commencement of his pontificate, Innocent began writing epistles (209 of B. 11) to the patriarch of Constantinople, and other letters to the emperor Alexius, with the view of inducing the former to acknowledge the supremacy of the see of Rome; and although he failed in-this, he had, soon after, by an unexpected turn of events, the satisfaction of consecrating a prelate of the Western Church as patriarch of Constantinople; but this by no means resulted, as Innocent most probably desired, in a reunion of churches or Christians; it was only followed by an increase of Church revenues. The Crusaders, whom Innocent had sent forth, as he thought, for the re-conquest of the Holy Land, after taking Zara from the king of Hungary, for which they were severely censured by the pope, proceeded to attack Constantinople, and overthrew the Greek empire. All this was done without Innocent's sanction; but when Baldwin wrote to him acquainting him with the full success of the expedition, Innocent, in his answer to the marquis of Montferrat, forgave the Crusaders in consideration of the triumph which they had secured to the holy Church over the Eastern empire. Innocent sent also legates to Calo Johannes, prince of the Bulgarians, who acknowledged his allegiance to the Roman see (Innocentii III Epistolce). One year after the Lateran Council, "one of the latest acts, and by far the most momentous in the pontificate of Innocent," he was seized with a fatal illness, and died July 16,1216, in the very prime of life, broken down by overwork, for "the work of the whole world was upon him, as may be seen from his letters, not one of which exhibits the impress of any other mind than his own." In Innocent III the Romish Church lost one of the most extraordinary characters, and in several respects the most illustrious, as he was certainly one of the most ambitious she has ever honored with the pontifical dignity. His pontificate may be fairly considered to have been the period of the highest power of the Roman see. At his death, "England and France, Germany and Italy, Norway and Hungary, all felt the power of Innocent; Navarre, Castile, and Portugal acknowledged. his sway; even Constantinople owned his supremacy, and owned it to her cost" (Reichel 247; compare Hallam, Middle Ages, vol. 2, pt. 1, ch. 7:p. 199). His works, consisting principally of letters and sermons, and the remarkable treatise On the Misery of the Condition of Man, above alluded to, were published in two vols. folio (Par. 1682). See Baronius, Annales; Pagi, Breviarium Histor. — criticum; Lannes, Histoire du Pontificat du Pope Innoc. III (Paris, 1741, 12mo); Fabricius, Bibl. Lat. med. et inf. alt. 4, 93 sq.; History

Definition of innocent

of the Christ. Church, in Encyclop. Metrop. vol. 3:ch. 1; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. cent. 12:pt. 2, chap. 2; Neander, History of the Christian Religion and Church, 4,-.43, 75, 173, 199, 207, 268, 269, 270, 272, 306, etc.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé. 25:890; Bohringer, Kirche Christi in Biographien, 2, 2, 321; Reichel, See of Rome in the Middle Ages (Lond. 1870, 8vo), p. 242 sq.; Milman, Lat. Christ. (see Index); Bower, History of the Popes, 6:183 sq.; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 5, 631 sq.; English Cyclopedia, s.v.; Chambers, Cyclopedia, s.v.; Hurter, Geschichte Inn. III u. seiner Zeitgenossen (Hamburg, 1834-42,4 vols.; 3rd ed. 1845 sq.).

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