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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XV GUELF AND GHIBELLINE. (II)

The Church And The Empire by D. J. Medley

CHAPTER XV GUELF AND GHIBELLINE. (II)

[Sidenote: Honorius III (1216-27) and the Crusade.]

The bull of summons to the Lateran Council of 1215 mentions as the two great desires of the Pope's heart the recovery of the Holy Land and the reformation of the Church Universal; and it is made clear that the various measures of reform to be placed before the General Council are intended to bring Christian princes and peoples, both clergy and laity, into the frame of mind for sending aid to Palestine. Moreover, at the Council it was agreed that an expedition should start from Brindisi or Messina on June 1, 1216. In any case Innocent's death would probably have caused a delay. His successor, Honorius III, was a noble Roman of mild and gentle character, who, during Frederick's youth, had been his tutor and the guardian of the kingdom of Sicily. No less than his predecessor was he bent on carrying out the project of a crusade, and immediately on his accession he appealed to all Christians in the West to lay aside their enmities, and refused to allow any excuse for not setting out to those who had taken the crusading vow. But the apathy was general, and since Frederick could not leave Europe so long as his rival Otto was alive, the expedition was robbed of its natural chief. A crusade, however, did go, and in accordance with the plan agreed upon at the Council the attack was directed against Egypt. Damietta was taken (1219), but then a long pause was made in the expectation of Frederick's coming. In 1221 arrived a German contingent under Frederick's friend Herman von Salza; but the crusaders were now defeated and could only secure their retreat by the surrender of Damietta.

[Sidenote: Frederick II.]

For despite the death of Otto in 1218 Frederick had been detained in Europe. Before leaving he was anxious to secure the election of his son Henry as King of Germany. This he did not accomplish until 1220, and then only by the surrender to the German princes of many important royal rights, especially the right of spoils. It was necessary also to reassure the Pope, who feared the continued union of Sicily and Germany. Honorius accepted Frederick's assurances and even crowned him Emperor in St. Peter's (November, 1220); and Frederick again took the cross. But he found that the royal rights in the kingdom of Sicily had been much impoverished during his minority and his subsequent absence. His efforts to recover them caused a further delay in his promised crusade and brought him into conflict with papal claims. Honorius was very long-suffering. In 1223 he agreed to a postponement of two years on condition that Frederick should affiance himself to Iolanthe, the daughter and heiress of John of Brienne, who in right of his wife bore the title of King of Jerusalem. In 1225 Frederick not only married Iolanthe but followed the example of his father-in-law by taking the title of King of Jerusalem in right of his wife, who since her mother's death was lawfully Queen. On the strength of this act of self-committal he obtained another delay of two years until August, 1227, agreeing that if he did not then start he should be ipso facto excommunicate.

But lapse of time did not make it any easier for him to leave his dominions. In 1226 the Lombards, fearing that Frederick's success in the recovery of royal rights in the South was merely a prelude to his renewal of imperial claims in North Italy, revived the old Lombard League. Frederick put them to the ban of the Empire. But the Pope had approved the League; and when both parties agreed to refer the quarrel to him he naturally proposed an arrangement favourable to the Lombards. A breach with Frederick was only averted by Honorius' death (March, 1227).

[Sidenote: Gregory IX (1227-41).]

His successor was Gregory IX, a relative of Innocent III who had made him a Cardinal and employed him on important embassies. He has been described as a man |of strong passions and an iron strength of will.| He is said to have been more than eighty years of age at his accession; but he was vigorous and alert in mind and body, a man of blameless life and ardent faith, eloquent and learned, especially in law. Hitherto he had been friendly to Frederick. But he held views even more advanced than those of Innocent regarding the power of the Papacy. Hence, while to Honorius the Crusade was the end towards which his whole policy was directed, Gregory only desired to use the crusading vow taken by temporal rulers as a weapon for the assertion of the papal power against them. It was Gregory who as Cardinal Ugolino had placed the cross in Frederick's hand at his imperial coronation. As Pope he now demanded the immediate fulfilment of Frederick's promise; and despite his reluctance to go and the outbreak of an epidemic in his army, Frederick embarked at Brindisi on September 18th, 1227. But three days later under the plea of sickness he turned back. Gregory never hesitated. On September 29th in the cathedral of Anagni in fulfilment of the terms agreed to by Frederick himself, he excommunicated the Emperor with the accompaniment of every kind of impressive ceremonial. There seems little doubt that the cause of Gregory's determination to exact from Frederick the utmost penalty for his failure to carry out the agreement lay in Frederick's Italian policy. Frederick had postponed the crusade in order to build up a power in Sicily, which he was now trying to extend to North Italy by crushing the Lombard League. This was a fatal bar to the policy of a papal state in Central Italy, inaugurated by Innocent III. No less imminent was the danger from the success of Frederick in baffling the papal schemes for the separation of the Sicilian and German crowns. It was becoming apparent that only by the extinction of the Hohenstaufen line could the papal policy be carried out.

[Sidenote: Frederick's crusade.]

The age of the Crusades was indeed over. Frederick, in justifying his action to the princes of Europe, pointed to the conduct of the Papacy to Raymond of Toulouse and John of England as a warning to secular princes, and attributed the papal hostility not to a desire for the promotion of a crusade, but to greed. Gregory's conduct seemed to bear out this interpretation of his motives. Despite the excommunication Frederick once more set sail in June, 1228. But an expedition under such circumstances was an independent act subversive of all ecclesiastical discipline. Consequently, instead of his departure being the signal for the removal of his sentence, Frederick was followed to Palestine by the anathema of the Church. The Pope having got Frederick into his power intended to keep him there. Thus when Frederick reached Palestine the Templars and Hospitallers held aloof, while the Mendicant Orders preached against him; and when, in accordance with his treaty with the Sultan, he entered Jerusalem, the city and all the holy places were laid under an interdict. But Frederick was not daunted. Since no ecclesiastic would crown him he took the crown himself off the altar and placed it on his head. For as in the case of the Pope, so with Frederick, it was from no religious motives that he persisted in the crusade. It was a purely political expedition. He put the Pope in the wrong in the eyes of European princes by refuting the charge of the Roman supporters that he never seriously intended to go on crusade. But, more important still, his own attitude and act were a manifesto on behalf of the Empire against the claim put forward by Innocent III for the Papacy as the head and leader of Christendom. But the very means of his success added to his enormities. It was nothing that he had gained for Christendom without fighting more than had been won since the First Crusade. For he had dealt with the Sultan of Egypt as an equal, and in the treaty which gave him Jerusalem and several other places he had undertaken to enforce certain articles favourable to the Sultan, even in the event of opposition from Christian Princes. Thus it is not astonishing that while Frederick was winning this success in Palestine Pope Gregory was using papal emissaries, in the shape of the lately founded Orders of mendicant friars, to denounce the Emperor in every country of Western Europe, and even let loose on Frederick's Sicilian territories an army of so-called crusaders under John of Brienne, who resented the adoption of the title of King of Jerusalem by his imperial son-in-law. This monstrous attack upon a successful crusader turned the sentiment of Europe against the Pope. Frederick returned in June, 1229, and by the help of his Saracen troops drove out the invaders. In return for peace with the Church Frederick was willing to give to the Pope almost extravagantly generous terms, and a treaty was arranged at San Germano in August, 1230, by which Frederick surrendered his claim over the Sicilian clergy and obtained in return the removal of the excommunication, which carried with it a tacit recognition of his crusade.

[Sidenote: The Pope and Roman claims.]

It was nine years before the struggle was openly renewed. There were many causes of difference in the interval, but Pope and Emperor found two occasions for common action. In the first place Gregory imitated the policy of his great relative in using every method for extending the immediate suzerainty of the Pope over the towns and barons within the Roman duchy. But despite Innocent's civic victory the Roman Commune desired to place themselves on a level with the other free cities of Italy such as Milan and Florence, and claimed jurisdiction over the whole district. Twice already had the Romans expelled Gregory and recalled him before they demanded from him, in 1234, the surrender of sovereign rights within the duchy. Gregory fled and appealed for help to Christendom; and Frederick supplied the troops which restored the Pope for the third time and forced the Romans to withdraw their claims.

[Sidenote: Frederick and heresy.]

Pope and Emperor also pursued a common policy against heretics. The Lateran Council of 1215 issued a series of ordinances against heretics, making it the duty of the secular power to punish them under pain of excommunication. But each country and even each city issued its own regulations for giving effect to the injunctions of the Council. Only gradually in the second quarter of the century was the old episcopal jurisdiction over heresy superseded by the establishment of the papal Inquisition. Meanwhile, in 1220 at his imperial coronation Frederick put out in his own name an edict for the secular suppression of heresy, which had been dictated to him from Rome. In 1231 this edict was enforced in Rome itself when Gregory IX established the Inquisition there and made it the business of the Senator, the head of the civic commune, to execute the sentences of the Inquisitor. The regulations now drawn up for the conduct of the secular power in such cases, were sent over all Europe with orders for their enforcement. In the same year Frederick renewed his attack upon heretics in his Sicilian Constitutions, and in the course of the next eight years he issued |a complete and pitiless code| of |fiendish legislation,| placing the whole of the machinery of state at the disposal of the Inquisitor. But Gregory was not deceived. Rather he complained that Frederick's orthodoxy took the form of the punishment of his personal enemies, of whom many were good Catholics. Certainly Frederick's anti-heretical edicts were not prompted by religious zeal. He was more detached than any ruler of the Middle Ages from the current ideas of the time. He seems to have been, if it is possible, utterly non-religious.

[Sidenote: Legislation of Emperor and Pope.]

Moreover, his regulations against heresy were part of his general code of law for the government of the diverse races in his kingdom of Sicily, and in this code issued in 1231, although their temporalities were secured to the clergy, as a class they were subjected to taxation and to the secular jurisdiction of the State. Pope Gregory's counter-blast to this policy is contained in his addition to the Canon Law known as his Decretals (1234). By these the clergy were declared entirely exempt from secular taxation and jurisdiction, on the ground that all secular law was subordinate to the law of the Church, and that the duty of the secular power was to carry out the commands of the Church.

[Sidenote: The second contest.]

Thus each side was maintaining its pretensions until the opportunity should come for asserting them. This was found for the second time in the affairs of Lombardy. The Lombard cities still feared the designs of Frederick. In 1235 they renewed their League. Again the Pope was accepted as arbiter, and again Frederick complained with justice that he was too favourable to the cities. In 1236 Frederick declared war against the League. His pretext of punishing heresy which was rife in Lombardy, deceived no one; while his declaration, when Gregory desired him to turn his arms to Palestine, that |Italy is my heritage, and this the whole world knows,| confirmed the worst apprehensions of the Pope and the Lombards. Moreover, Frederick's first move was entirely successful, and in 1237 he completely defeated the Lombards in battle at Corte Nuova, took the Milanese standard and sent it to be placed in the Capitol at Rome. The subjugation of the Lombards would mean the union of Italy under Frederick's rule, while, since the acquisition of Sicily by the Hohenstanfen, the Lombards remained the only allies of the Papacy in Italy. Gregory therefore declared himself, and in March, 1239, he excommunicated Frederick and released his subjects from their allegiance. Frederick issued a manifesto addressed to all Princes, in which he appealed to a General Council. Gregory's counter-manifesto was couched in terms of the most unrestrained violence. Frederick was described as the beast in the Apocalypse (Rev. xiii.1), which had upon its seven heads the name of blasphemy; and he is charged with saying that the world had been deceived by three impostors, Christ, Moses and Mohammed, of whom two had died in glory, while the third had been crucified.

This is not the place to investigate the interesting question of the truth of Gregory's charges against Frederick. The French sent a mission to Frederick to enquire as to the accusation of infidelity, and he thanked them warmly and denied it. The Duke of Bavaria told Gregory in 1241 that most of the German princes and prelates would shortly go to Frederick's aid. In fact, the papal exactions had caused intense disgust over all Western Europe, and no prince would allow himself to be set up as a rival to Frederick. Yet the papal condemnation caused many to hold aloof from the Emperor who, moreover, did not venture to set up an antipope. He contented himself with persecuting the friars who were the most active emissaries of Rome, and with confiscating the estates of the Church, until it was said at the papal Court that he had sworn to reduce the Pope to beggary and to stable his horses in St. Peter's.

[Sidenote: Innocent IV (1243-54).]

Frederick had suggested the calling of a council, and Gregory summoned one to Rome. But Frederick had begun to reduce the Roman duchy and, anyhow, he did not want a council which would merely register the papal decrees. So when a number of bishops ignored his prohibition and met at Genoa in order to embark for Rome, the fleets of Pisa and Sicily met them off the island of Meloria and captured nearly the whole of the prospective Council. Frederick's attack upon Rome itself was only averted by the death of Gregory IX on August 21, 1241. The new Pope died seventeen days after his election, and then, for some reason, the Papacy was vacant for two years. The delay was attributed to Frederick; and the French actually declared to the Cardinals that if a new Pope were not chosen quickly, the French nation, in accordance with an ancient privilege given by Pope Clement to St. Denys, would set up a Pope of their own. At length, in June, 1243, Innocent IV was chosen; and Frederick, alluding to previous dealings with him, remarked that by this election he had lost a friend among the Cardinals, since no Pope could be a Ghibelline.

The truth of this was soon apparent. Innocent demanded the restoration of all Frederick's conquests in the States of the Church in return for peace; and although nothing was said about the time of the removal of the excommunication, Frederick accepted the terms. But when Frederick saw that there was no intention of absolving him, he refused to surrender the papal cities and thereby technically broke the treaty. Innocent intended to get a treaty which would carry an acknowledgment of the Emperor's failure, and then to reduce him to submission by a council held outside Italy. Negotiations continued until Innocent fled to Lyons, a practically independent city. France, England and Aragon, however, declined to receive him, and Innocent exclaimed that he must come to terms with the Emperor, |for when the dragon has been crushed or pacified, the little serpents will be quickly trodden underfoot.|

[Sidenote: First Council of Lyons.]

At Lyons there met in 1245 the General Council to which Frederick had appealed, and which is reckoned by the Romans as the thirteenth of the OEcumenical Assemblies of the Church; 140 archbishops and bishops, besides numerous lesser clergy, were present. Frederick was represented by a celebrated jurist, Thaddeus of Suessa, who pleaded the Emperor's cause. Several points were proposed for settlement; but all other matters were brushed aside, and Innocent hurried on the third and last session of the Council in which Frederick was declared deposed, his subjects were released from their allegiance, the German princes told to elect another King, and Sicily kept for disposal by the Pope in consultation with the Cardinals. All remonstrances were unavailing; even Louis IX quite failed to move the Pope. Frederick realised that it was a fight to a finish, and in a protest he called upon the other princes of the West to help him in depriving the clergy of the wealth which had choked their spiritual power. But this was interpreted as a design for the destruction of the Church, and despite the testimonies to Frederick's orthodoxy published by the Archbishop of Palermo, the papal charge of heresy against him gained wide belief. Innocent in his reply asserted among other things that the Pope was the Legate of Christ who had entrusted him with full powers to act as judge over the earth, and that the Emperor should take an oath of subjection to the Pope who, as overlord, gave him his title and crown. Thus the claims now made on behalf of the Papacy left no room for a belief in the balance of spiritual and secular authority.

[Sidenote: Death of Frederick.]

Both sides resorted to every kind of expedient. Frederick, aiming especially at the friars, ordered that any who spread or even received the papal letters of condemnation against him should be burnt! Innocent declared an actual crusade against Frederick, stirred up revolt in Sicily, and at length succeeded in raising a rival King in Germany. Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia, owed his election (1246) almost exclusively to the great prelates of the Rhine; but he died the next year and, although another King was put forward in the person of William Count of Holland, a young man of twenty, he made no progress so long as Frederick lived. Moreover, in Italy Frederick's cause was gaining ground, until the revolt of Parma and the failure of his efforts to retake it ended in the complete rout of his forces (1248). In 1250 Frederick himself died directing by his will that all the rights of the Church should be restored in so far as they did not conflict with the claims of the Empire, provided that the Church herself should recognise the imperial rights. Almost to the last Frederick had been quite willing to be reconciled to the Church, and he died unsubdued. But the Papacy was fighting for that supremacy which experience had shown to be the condition of its existence. Not that any Emperor ever cherished the thought of destroying the Papacy any more than the Pope dreamed of annihilating the Empire. Many passages have been cited to prove that Frederick contemplated the establishment of a Church of his own in Sicily. Here perhaps he did not aim at anything more than Henry VIII afterwards accomplished in England or the barons under Louis IX, as we have seen, threatened on one occasion in France. The language used by his followers was extravagant, even blasphemous, and he did not discourage it. How far he ever aimed as setting himself up as Pope is more doubtful. But in any case, and however much we may be inclined to sympathise with him, it must be allowed that there was abundant reason for the hostility of the Pope.

[Sidenote: A papal candidate for Sicily.]

And the reasons which caused the Papacy to hound Frederick to death, also determined it not to rest until it had exterminated the whole |viper's brood.| Innocent IV expressed the most indecent joy at Frederick's death, and refused all offers of peace from his son and successor, Conrad IV. But being too weak to wrest Sicily from the Hohenstaufen he sought for some prince who would accept it as a papal fief. It was refused on behalf of Louis IX's brother, Charles of Anjou, and also by Henry III's brother, Richard Earl of Cornwall, who said that the Pope might as well offer him the moon. Henry III, however, accepted it for his second son Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, a boy of eight, promising to pay the expenses of the conquest. The Pope's action was utterly unscrupulous. In May, 1254, Conrad died in the twenty-sixth year of his age, and the only legitimate Hohenstaufen representative who remained, was his son, distinguished as Conradin, who was under the guardianship of Berthold Marquis of Hohenburg. Conrad's Regent in Italy had been his half-brother Manfred, the son of Frederick by an Italian lady, and the most brilliant of all Frederick's children. Berthold, alarmed at the difficulties, made way for Manfred, who found Innocent ready to come to terms. To Manfred was confirmed the principality of Tarento originally the gift of his father, and he was recognised as Papal Vicar for the greater part of the Sicilian kingdom. But the grant of Sicily was confirmed to Edmund of Lancaster, and the Pope determined to take possession of the kingdom in person. Manfred, now a vassal of the Church, held the bridle of the Pope's horse as he entered his new dominions. But Manfred soon found that the Pope's object was to reduce him to harmlessness and then to get rid of him. He therefore raised the standard of revolt and defeated the papal forces (December, 1254).

[Sidenote: Alexander IV (1254-61).]

At this juncture Innocent IV died at Naples. Matthew Paris relates the dream of a Cardinal who saw the Church accusing the Pope before the throne of God because he had enslaved the Church, had made her a table of money-changers and had shaken faith, abolished justice, and obscured truth. However necessary to the independence of the Papacy was this strenuous struggle, the utterly unscrupulous means employed and the almost complete identification of its spiritual power with its temporal interests is impossible to justify or even to excuse. The new Pope, Alexander IV, a nephew of Gregory IX, without Innocent's ability tried to follow the policy of his predecessor. In 1255 he ratified the grant of Sicily to the young English prince on severe conditions. Indeed, he surpassed his predecessors in the demands made on Henry III and the English Church; until in 1258 his claim for the repayment of the money which he alleged to have been expended in the prosecution of Edmund's cause, brought on a grave constitutional crisis in England and reduced Henry III to impotence.

[Sidenote: King Manfred.]

Meanwhile Manfred had regained all the dominions of the Sicilian crown in the name of Conradin, but in 1258 he quietly set aside his nephew and accepted the throne for himself. However necessary such a step might be, it divided Sicily from Germany. This was what the papal party desired: but Manfred, the son of an Italian mother, aimed, like his father, at an Italian monarchy. Consequently Alexander declared against him. In Italy, however, the cessation of supplies from England left Alexander almost powerless, and Manfred was accepted as the head of the Ghibellines in the peninsula.

[Sidenote: The rival Kings of the Romans.]

But before his death in May, 1261, Alexander had gained a distinct success in Germany. The young King, William of Holland, the destined Emperor, had been killed in 1256. The Pope forbade the choice of Conradin, and the votes of the German princes were divided between the Englishman, Richard Earl of Cornwall, and Alfonso the Wise, King of Castile and grandson of Philip of Suabia. Richard, wealthy and attracted by the imperial title, was crowned Emperor at Aachen in 1257 and bought himself a measure of support so long as he remained in Germany. Alfonso, on the other hand, did nothing to secure his new dominions. Alexander and his successors, by professing a judicial attitude, gradually established the impression in Germany that the decision in these matters rested with the Papacy.

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