Thursday, March 22, 2007

One Hundred Sixty-fourth Pope: Innocent II - 1 comments

Innocent II spent most of his thirteen years as pope fighting for supremacy against Antipope Anacletus II, who by any legal standard had the appropriate authority to claim the papacy. Anacletus was elected by the usual means, while Innocent was elected by a group of eight men selected by Honorius II, his predecessor. The dispute was only resolved by Anacletus' death in 1138; the rest of Innocent's life was spent mostly clearing up this dispute.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

One Hundred Sixty-third Pope: Honorius II - 0 comments

Honorius had six years of smooth sailing, thanks to his predecessor's political manuevering. He reigned from 1124-1130.

One Hundred Sixty-second Pope: Callixtus II - 0 comments

Callixtus II is very important in this point in history, mainly because he eased the political tensions between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. I haven't gotten into details about this much, but it would serve us well to take a brief overview.

The focus of the struggle revolves around the Investiture Controversy, which basically was about who has the power to appoint church officials.* Before say, the middle of the 11th century, the Pope shared this power with the Holy Roman Empire; but Gregory VII tried to pull that permission back to Rome. This weakened the HRE's hold over its people, which you'll remember at this point consists of a big chunk of Europe, most of it in modern-day Germany. It caused no end of trouble to both sides for about fifty years, until Callixtus II managed to settle it with HRE Henry V at the Concordat of Worms. He managed a fairly peacful term after that, dying in 1124.

Now, the Concordat doesn't fix their problems for good; afterall, the papacy and the HRE have been inextricably intertwined ever since Pope Leo III and Charlemagne set up the Empire. A King of the Christians to wield political power, and the Pope in Rome to wield religious power . . . it seemed like such a good idea back in 800AD.

*Interestingly, this is exactly the same approach that China is taking right now, in 2007, to assert its power over the Catholic Church - consecrating bishops without papal approval.

One Hundred Sixty-first Pope: Gelasisus II - 0 comments

Gelasius II had a turbulent one year term. He was elected unanimously, and began to set up institutional structures around the papacy - clerks, offices, things like that - but was pulled into the political struggles with HRE Henry V. He was arrested by the emperors emissaries, and then freed by a popular uprising of the local Romans. Then Henry chased him from the city and installed an anti-pope; Gelasius fled to his hometown of Gaeta, took orders as a priest and promptly excommunicated Henry. He returned to Rome under french protection a few months later, but was chased back into France, where he died.

Whew! That's a busy year for a pope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One Hundred Sixtieth Pope: Paschal II - 0 comments

Paschal II had two long decades as Pope, from 1099 to 1118. He had numerous political struggles, most of them fighting for the power of the church against national monarchs: Henry I of England, Philip I of France, and especially Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.

Henry V demanded that the church give up all its land and titles received since the time of Charlegmagne, eventually marching on Rome with his army. He captured Paschal, and and held him in prison until he promised to fulfill Henry's demands, and promised no retribution would follow. Henry's men went back into Germany, and Pachal and the church promptly took back all they had given up, and excommunicated Henry V to boot.

One Hundred Fifty-ninth Pope: Urban II - 0 comments

Urban II's big claim to fame is that he authorized the First Crusade, a call for European Christians to take back the Holy Land from the Seljuk Turks.* At the time, the Seljuk Empire was apparently making a lot of trouble for the Eastern church, based in Byzantium. Wikipedia asserts that one of his speeches cajoling the West was the SINGLE MOST EFFECTIVE SPEECH IN EUROPEAN HISTORY, which sounds like there should be statues and gold medals involved. Here's his big quote:

I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.
Not bad, huh? It worked, too - Urban II oversaw most of the First Crusade, dying just after Jerusalem had been captured in 1099. (That's another 12-year reign, for those of you keeping score).

*By the way, can anybody recommend a good book about the Seljuk Empire? I've been looking for histories about the Middle East from say, 500-1500AD**, but can't seem anything that looks promising.

**I know, I know! I'm such a dork.

One Hundred Fifty-eighth Pope: Victor III - 0 comments

Victor's original name was Dauferius, which I think pretty much guarantees that he would be a bad guy. The Nefarious Dauferius! Luckily for us all, he realized this too, and changed his name to Desiderius when he became a monk. Apparently, fighting fate worked out well for him - he ended up as Pope thirty years later, from 1086 until his death the following year.

One Hundred Fifty-seventh Pope: Gregory VII - 0 comments

Gregory VII worked to reform the church (especially pushing celibacy for all clergy), and to establish greater political control against the Emperor. He excommunicated HRE Henry IV twice during his papal reign from 1073-1085.

Monday, March 19, 2007

One Hundred Fifty-sixth Pope: Alexander II - 0 comments

Alexander II had a comfortable twelve-year reign, from 1061-1073. He fought against simony, and also against forced conversion of Jews.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

One Hundred Fifty-fifth Pope: Nicholas II - 0 comments

After the better part of a year when Anti-Pope Benedict X held the seat, Nicholas II was installed in early 1059. He was again helped by powerful women, this time by Agnes of Poitou (who was acting as HRE Regent for Henry IV). He held the seat until his death in the summer of 1061.

Oh, by the way - Nicholas II's portrait here is from a very small, very cracked fresco. Not much detail to be had!

One Hundred Fifty-fourth Pope: Stephen IX - 0 comments

Stephen IX held the seat for a little less than a year, dying in early 1058. Because there was still confusion about the ordering of Stephens (see earlier Popes Stephen), he would explicitly claim his ninth position - signing his name "Stephanus Nonus Papa."

One Hundred Fifty-third Pope: Victor II - 0 comments

Victor II was close with HRE Henry III, and helped solidify the papacy's power with the Empire. He adopted Henry IV after III's death, and acted somewhat like a regent until his own death in 1057.

One Hundred Fifty-second Pope: Leo IX - 0 comments

Leo IX was originally named Bruno of Eguisheim-Dagsburg, and was a Count in Alsace, modern-day France. He wisely demanded that his election be ratified by the church and the local Romans, ensuring himself a semi-peaceful five-year reign. His lasting legacy is probably the excommunication of the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054, who in turn excommunicated the entire Western Church - this pretty much formalized the split between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

One Hundred Fifty-first Pope: Damasus II - 2 comments

Poppo of Brixen (yes, that's his real name) ultimately drove the Triple-Pope Benedict IX out for the final time, and was elected Pope with the local Italian support. His reign was short-lived, however. Poppo took the name Damasus II, and promptly went on vacation to Palestrina, about 20 miles outside of Rome. He caught malaria and died there, after only 24 days as Pope, the 7th shortest reign so far.

Monday, March 12, 2007

One Hundred Fiftieth Pope: Benedict IX - 0 comments

He's back!

Actually, Benedict came back earlier, right after his godfather Gregory abdicated the papacy. Benedict set himself up as a rival during Clement II's term, and competed with him for validity. When Clement died, Benedict took over the Lateran, and his official third 'term' is considered to have started then, in late 1047.

He was driven out of Rome again by dissidents in the summer of 1048, and never returned. The church excommunicated him shortly thereafter, but the modern church considers all three of his terms as pope valid. It's not clear where or when he died, but he was only 36 when he left the papacy for the final time.

One Hundred Forty-ninth Pope: Clement II - 0 comments

Clement took over the papacy with the support of the German King Henry III; Pope Clement in turn made Henry the Holy Roman Emperor. This did not please the people, but both were allowed to maintain their positions.

Here's a great tidbit, straight from Wikipedia:
A recent toxicologic examination of his remains confirmed centuries old rumors that the Pope had been poisoned with lead sugar. It is, however, not clear whether he was assassinated or not, as lead sugar in those times was often used as a cure for venereal diseases.

One Hundred Forty-eighth Pope: Gregory VI - 0 comments

Gregory VI was actually Benedict IX's godfather. Benedict - who was only in his twenties at this time - vacated the seat to go be married, and sold the papacy to Gregory on his way out. Gregory appeared to make an honest effort to straighten out the church at this point, but he was dealing with corrupt clergy and was still under enormous political pressure from the Roman nobility. He held the chair for about 18 months.

In late 1046, he was accused of purchasing the papacy - which he admitted - but argued that this wasn't a crime as he did it with pure motives, to release the extremely young and unsuitable pope before him. This excuse didn't fly with the church, and so he stepped down.

One Hundred Forty-seventh Pope: Benedict IX - 0 comments

Benedict left the papacy back in 1044 for uncertain reasons (it's rumoured that he sold the seat), but came back to claim it again in 1045. He ousted Sylvester III, but only held onto his seat for about a month.

Throughout his three terms as Pope (and after), Benedict was accused of the worst kinds of papal corruption. He is variously described as "feasting on immorality" and "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest."

One Hundred Forty-sixth Pope: Sylvester III - 0 comments

Sylvester was another member of the Crescenti family; he ruled for five months in 1045.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

One Hundred Forty-fifth Pope: Benedict IX - 0 comments

Benedict IX had three separate reigns as pope. Here's his first, from 1032-1044. Although entirely orthodox in his papal doctrine, he is remembered for his extremely sinful personal life. We'll get into more details later.

Oh, and those shaky lines are due to a little bit of airline turbulence while flying over Siberia. Really.

One Hundred Forty-fourth Pope: John XIX - 0 comments

John XIX was his predecessor's brother! He had another long, fairly peaceful reign - eight years.

One Hundred Forty-third Pope: Benedict VIII - 1 comments

Benedict VIII had a good long reign as Pope (12 years!), and a pretty awesome birth name (Theophylactus).

One Hundred Forty-second Pope: Sergius IV - 0 comments

Sergius allegedly issued a papal bull calling for the removal of Islam from the Holy Land - but this turned out to be a fabrication used to justify the first Crusades.

One Hundred Forty-first Pope: John XVIII - 0 comments

John XVIII was another pope under the thumb of the Crescentii clan. He abdicated under political pressure in 1009, and retired to a monastery.

One Hundred Fortieth Pope: John XVII - 1 comments

John XVII was installed by Crescentius, leader of the Roman nobility. His reign saw the passing of the Millenium - from 999-1003.

One Hundred Thirty-ninth Pope: Sylvester II - 0 comments

Sylvester II is quite a character. He was a scientist named Gerbert before his election, which led some to accuse him of sorcery. He's shown here either consorting with, or confounding the devil.

One Hundred Thirty-eighth Pope: Gregory V - 0 comments

Gregory V was elected when only twenty-four years old, and died rather suspiciously in 999AD, three years later.

One Hundred Thirty-seventh Pope: John XV - 0 comments

John XV had some trouble with foreign rulers consecrating clergy without papal approval - a problem that the current pope is having with China.

One Hundred Thirty-sixth Pope: John XIV - 1 comments

John XIV's original name was Peter, but thought it unseemly to assume the name of The First Pope. He changed his name to John when installed as Pope - a rare practice at the time.

One Hundred Thirty-fifth Pope: Benedict VII - 0 comments

Benedict VII had a miraculously peaceful 9 years reign.

One Hundred Thirty-fourth Pope: Benedict VI - 0 comments

Benedict VI was another HRE Otto employee, and unpopular with the local Romans. When Otto died, the Roman nobles arranged his assassination.

One Hundred Thirty-third Pope: John XIII - 0 comments

John XIII was an unpopular pope with the Romans. At this time the office was wrapped up in local city politics, and John was installed by HRE Otto.

One Hundred Thirty-second Pope: Benedict V - 0 comments

Benedict had the tenth-shortest reign as Pope - clocking in for only 33 days.

One Hundred Thirty-first Pope: Leo VIII - 0 comments

Leo VII was pope for over a year, but he was anti-pope for a year before that - his electors had deposed his predecessor John XII without following all the rules, so his papacy didn't take effect until they could tidy that job up.

One Hundred Thirtieth Pope: John XII - 0 comments

John XII was the son of a noble Roman family, and constantly accused of impropriety. Here's a sampling, taken from the Patrologia Latina:

"Then, rising up, the cardinal priest Peter testified that he himself had seen [John XII] celebrate mass without taking communion. John, bishop of Narni, and John, a cardinal deacon, professed that they themselves saw that a deacon had been ordained in a horse stable, but were unsure of the time. Benedict, cardinal deacon, with other co-deacons and priests, said they knew that he had been paid for ordaining bishops, specifically that he had ordained a ten-year-old bishop in the city of Todi... They testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father's concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse. They said that he had gone hunting publicly; that he had blinded his confessor Benedict, and thereafter Benedict had died; that he had killed John, cardinal subdeacon, after castrating him; and that he had set fires, girded on a sword, and put on a helmet and cuirass. All, clerics as well as laymen, declared that he had toasted to the devil with wine. They said when playing at dice, he invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons. They even said he did not celebrate Matins and the canonical hours nor did he make the sign of the cross."

One Hundred Twenty-ninth Pope: Agapetus II - 0 comments

Agapetus worked to bring down the influence of the Pornocracy - specifically by inviting Otto the Great, Holy Roman Emperor, to attack and control Rome.

One Hundred Twenty-eighth Pope: Marinus II - 0 comments

Marinus II was one of the most unremarkable popes. Blah.

One Hundred Twenty-seventh Pope: Stephen VIII - 0 comments

Stephen ruled from 939-942, when he died. Interesting note: Stephen was one of the few popes of this era not installed by a loose confederation of powerful Roman women. This time period, which lasted about 60 years, is marked by especially corrupt Popes and is called the Pornocracy, or The Rule of the Harlots.