Sources: Innocentii III. Opp. omnia, in Migne, 4 vols. 214-217; three vols. contain Innocent’s official letters; a 4th, his sermons, the de contemptu mundi, and other works. — S. Baluzius: Epistolarum Inn. III. libri undecim, 2 vols. Paris, 1682. — Böhmer: Regesta imperii 1198-1254, new ed. by J. Ficker, Innsbruck, 1881. — Potthast: Regesta, pp. 1-467, 2041-2056 — Gesta Innoc. III. auctore anonymo sed coaevo (a contemporary Life, about 1220), in Migne, 214, pp. xvii-ccxxviii, and Baluzius. — Mansi, XXII. — Mirbt: Quellen, 125-136, gives some of the characteristic passages. For the older edd. of Inn.’s letters and other works, see Potthast, Bibliotheca med. aevi, I. 520, 650.
Modern Works: Friedrich von Hurter (1787-1886): Geschichte Papst Innocenz des Dritten und seiner Zeitgenossen, 2 vols. Hamburg, 1833-1835; 3d ed. 4 vols. 1841-1844 (trans. into French and Italian). The last two volumes are devoted to the monastic orders and the Eccles. and social conditions of the thirteenth century. An exhaustive work full of enthusiastic admiration for Innocent and his age. Hurter wrote it while antistes or pastor of the Reformed Church in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and was led by his studies to enter, with his family, the Roman Catholic communion in 1844 and became imperial counsellor and historiographer of Austria. Gfrörer, likewise a Protestant, dazzled by the splendor of the Gregorian papacy in the preparation of his Life of Gregory VII., was also led to join the Roman communion. — Jorry: Hist. du pape Inn. III.; Paris, 1853. — F. F. Reinlein: Papst Inn. III. und seine Schrift de contemptu mundi, Erlangen, 1871; also Inn. III nach s. Beziehung zur Unfehlbarkeitsfrage, Erlangen, 1872. — H. Elkan: Die Gesta Inn. III. im Verhaeltniss zu d. Regesten desselben Papstes, Heidelberg, 1876. — Fr. Deutsch: Papst Inn. III. und s. Einfluss auf d. Kirche, Bresl., 1876. — Leop. Delisle: Mémoire sur les actes d’Inn. III, suivi de l’itinéraire de ce pontife, Paris, 1877. — J. N. Brischar, Roman Catholic: Papst Inn. III. und s. Zeit, Freib. im Br. 1883. — J. Langen: Gesch. d. röm. Kirche von Gregor. VII. bis Inn. III., Bonn, 1893; also Hefele-Knöpfler, vol. V. — the Works on the Hohenstaufen and the Crusades. — Ranke: Weltgesch., VIII. 274 sqq. — the Histories of Rome by Reumont, Bryce, and Gregorovius, — Hauck: Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, IV. 658-745. — T. F. Tout: The Empire and the Papacy, 918-1272, N. Y. 1898. — H. Fisher: The Med. Empire, 2 vols. London, 1898. — For fuller lit., see Chevalier; Répertoire, pp. 1114 sq. and Suppl. 2659, and art. Inn. III., by Zöpffel-Mirbt, in Herzog, IX. 112-122.
36. Innocent’s Training and Election
The brilliant pontificate of Innocent III., 1198-1216, lasted as long as the combined and uneventful reigns of his five predecessors: Lucius III., 1181-1185; Urban III., 1185-1187; Gregory VIII. less than two months, 1187; Clement III., 1187-1191; Coelestin III., 1191-1198. It marks the golden age of the medieval papacy and one of the most important eras in the history of the Catholic Church. No other mortal has before or since wielded such extensive power. As the spiritual sovereign of Latin Christendom, he had no rival. At the same time he was the acknowledged arbiter of the political destinies of Europe from Constantinople to Scotland. He successfully carried into execution the highest theory of the papal theocracy and anticipated the Vatican dogmas of papal absolutism and infallibility. To the papal title “vicar of Christ,” Innocent added for the first time the title “vicar of God.” He set aside the decisions of bishops and provincial councils, and lifted up and cast down kings. He summoned and guided one of the most important of the councils of the Western Church, the Fourth Lateran, 1215, whose acts established the Inquisition and fixed transubstantiation as a dogma. He set on foot the Fourth Crusade, and died making preparation for another. On the other hand he set Christian against Christian, and by undertaking to extirpate religious dissent by force drenched parts of Europe in Christian blood.
Lothario, Innocent’s baptismal name, was born about 1160 at Anagni, a favorite summer resort of the popes. He was the son of Count Trasmondo of the house of the Conti de Segni, one of the ruling families of the Latium. It furnished nine popes, of whom Innocent XIII. was the last. He studied theology and canon law at Paris and Bologna, and became proficient in scholastic learning. Through the influence of three uncles, who were cardinals, he was rapidly promoted, and in 1190, at the age of twenty-nine, was appointed cardinal-deacon by one of them, Pope Clement III. Though the youngest member of the curia, he was at once assigned a place of responsibility.
During the pontificate of Coelestin III., a member of the house of the Orsini which was unfriendly to the Conti, Lothario withdrew into retirement and devoted himself to literature. The chief fruit of this seclusion is the work entitled The Contempt of the World or the Misery of the Mortal Estate. It might well have been followed, as the author says in the prologue, by a second treatise on the dignity of man’s estate. To this time belongs also a work on the sacrifice of the mass. After his elevation to the papal throne, Innocent composed an Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms. While pope he preached often both in Rome and on his journeys. His sermons abound in mystical and allegorical figures. Of his letters more than five hundred are preserved.
The Contempt of the World is an ascetic plaint over the sinfulness and woes of this present life. It proceeds upon the basis of Augustine’s theory of total depravity. The misery of man is described from the helplessness of infancy to the decrepitude of age and the sufferings of the future estate. Pessimistic passages are quoted from Jeremiah, Ecclesiastes, and Job, and also from Horace, Ovid, and Juvenal. Three master passions are constantly tormenting man, — avarice, lust, and ambition, — to which are added the innumerable ailments of the body and troubles of the soul. The author deplores the fate of masters and servants, of the married and the unmarried, of the good and the bad, the rich and the poor. “It is just and natural that the wicked should suffer; but are the righteous one whit better off? Here below is their prison, not their home or their final destiny. As soon as a man rises to a station of dignity, cares and trouble increase, fasting is abridged, night watches are prolonged, nature’s constitution is undermined, sleep and appetite flee, the vigor of the body gives way to weakness, and a sorrowful end is the close of a sorrowful life.” In the case of the impenitent, eternal damnation perpetuates the woes of time. With a description of these woes the work closes, reminding the reader of the solemn cadences of the Dies Irae of Thomas of Celano and Dante’s Inferno.
Called forth from retirement to the chief office in Christendom, Innocent had an opportunity to show his contempt of the world by ruling it with a strong and iron hand. The careers of the best of the popes of the Middle Ages, as well as of ecclesiastics like Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas of Canterbury, reveal the intimate connection between the hierarchical and ascetic tendencies. Innocent likewise displayed these two tendencies. In his treatise on the mass he anticipated the haughty assumption of the papacy, based on the rock-foundation of Peter’s primacy, which as pope he afterwards displayed.
On the very day of Coelestin’s burial, the college of cardinals unanimously chose Lothario pope. Like Gregory I., Gregory VII., Alexander III., and other popes, he made a show of yielding reluctantly to the election. He was ordained priest, and the next day, February 22, was consecrated bishop and formally ascended the throne in St. Peter’s.
The coronation ceremonies were on a splendid scale. But the size of Rome, whose population at this time may not have exceeded thirty-five thousand, must be taken into account when we compare them with the pageants of the ancient city. At the enthronization in St. Peter’s, the tiara was used which Constantine is said to have presented to Sylvester, and the words were said, “Take the tiara and know that thou art the father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world, the vicar on earth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, whose honor and glory shall endure throughout all eternity.” Then followed the procession through the city to the Lateran. The pope sat on a white palfrey and was accompanied by the prefect of the city, the senators and other municipal officials, the nobility, the cardinals, archbishops, and other church dignitaries, the lesser clergy and the popular throng — all amidst the ringing of bells, the chanting of psalms, and the acclamations of the people. Along the route a singular scene was presented at the Ghetto by a group of Jews, the rabbi at their head carrying a roll of the Pentateuch, who bowed low as they saluted their new ruler upon whose favor or frown depended their protection from the populace, yea, their very life. Arrived at the Lateran, the pope threw out handfuls of copper coins among the people with the words, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.” The silver key of the palace and the golden key of the basilica were then put into his hands, and the senate did him homage. A banquet followed, the pope sitting at a table alone. Upon such pomp and show of worldly power the Apostles, whose lot was poverty, would have looked with wonder, if they had been told that the central figure of it all was the chief personality in the Christian world.
When he ascended the fisherman’s throne, Innocent was only thirty-seven years old, the youngest in the line of popes up to that time. Walter von der Vogelweide gave expression to the fear which his youth awakened when he wrote, O wê der bâbest ist ze june, hilf hêrre diner kristenheit. “Alas! the pope is so young. Help, Lord, thy Christian world.” The new pontiff was well formed, medium in stature, temperate in his habits, clear in perception, resolute in will, and fearless in action. He was a born ruler of men, a keen judge of human nature, demanding unconditional submission to his will, yet considerate in the use of power after submission was once given, — an imperial personality towering high above the contemporary sovereigns in moral force and in magnificent aims of world-wide dominion.
37. Innocent’s Theory of the Papacy
The pope with whom Innocent is naturally brought into comparison is Hildebrand. They were equally distinguished for moral force, intellectual energy, and proud assertion of prelatic prerogative. Innocent was Hildebrand’s superior in learning, diplomatic tact, and success of administration, but in creative genius and heroic character he was below his predecessor. He stands related to his great predecessor as Augustus to Julius. He was heir to the astounding programme of Hildebrand’s scheme and enjoyed the fruits of his struggles. Their personal fortunes were widely different. Gregory was driven from Rome and died in exile. To Innocent’s good fortune there seemed to be no end, and he closed his pontificate in undisputed possession of authority.
Innocent no sooner ascended the papal chair than he began to give expression to his conception of the papal dignity. Throughout his pontificate he forcibly and clearly expounded it in a tone of mingled official pride and personal humility. At his coronation he preached on the faithful and wise servant. “Ye see,” he said, “what manner of servant it is whom the Lord hath set over his people, no other than the viceregent of Christ, the successor of Peter. He stands in the midst between God and man; below God, above man; less than God, more than man. He judges all and is judged by none. But he, whom the pre-eminence of dignity exalts, is humbled by his vocation as a servant, that so humility may be exalted and pride be cast down; for God is against the high-minded, and to the lowly He shows mercy; and whoso exalteth himself shall be abased.”
Indeed, the papal theocracy was Innocent’s all-absorbing idea. He was fully convinced that it was established of God for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world. As God gave to Christ all power in heaven and on earth, so Christ delegated to Peter and his successors the same authority. Not man but God founded the Apostolic see. In his famous letter to the patriarch of Constantinople, Nov. 12, 1199, he gave an elaborate exposition of the commission to Peter. To him alone the command had been given, “Feed my sheep.” On him alone it had been declared, “I will build my church.” The pope is the vicar of Christ, yea of God himself. Not only is he intrusted with the dominion of the Church, but also with the rule of the whole world. Like Melchizedek, he is at once king and priest. All things in heaven and earth and in hell are subject to Christ. So are they also to his vicar. He can depose princes and absolve subjects from the oath of allegiance. He may enforce submission by placing whole nations under the interdict. Peter alone went to Jesus on the water and by so doing he gave illustration of the unique privilege of the papacy to govern the whole earth. For the other disciples stayed in the ship and so to them was given rule only over single provinces. And as the waters were many on which Peter walked, so over the many congregations and nations, which the waters represent, was Peter given authority — yea over all nations whatsoever (universos populos). In this letter he also clearly teaches papal infallibility and declares that Peter’s successor can never in any way depart from the Catholic faith.
Gregory VII.’s illustration, likening the priestly estate (sacerdotium) to the sun, and the civil estate (regnum or imperium) to the moon, Innocent amplified and emphasized. Two great lights, Innocent said, were placed by God in the firmament of heaven, and to these correspond the “pontifical authority and the regal authority,” the one to rule over souls as the sun rules over the day, the other to rule over the bodies of men as the moon rules over the night. And as the moon gets its light from the sun, and as it is also less than the sun both in quality and in size, and in the effect produced, so the regal power gets its dignity and splendor from the pontifical authority which has in it more inherent virtue. The priest anoints the king, not the king the priest, and superior is he that anoints to the anointed. Princes have authority in separate lands; the pontiff over all lands. The priesthood came by divine creation; the kingly power by man’s manipulation and violence. “As in the ark of God,” so he wrote to John of England, “the rod and the manna lay beside the tables of the law, so at the side of the knowledge of the law, in the breast of the pope, are lodged the terrible power of destruction and the genial mildness of grace.” Innocent reminded John that if he did not lift his foot from off the Church, nothing would check his punishment and fall. Monarchs throughout Europe listened to Innocent’s exposition and obeyed. His correspondence abounds with letters to the emperor, the kings of Hungary, Bohemia, Sicily, France, England, the Danes, Aragon, and to other princes, teaching them their duty and demanding their submission.
Under Innocent’s rule, the subjection of the entire Christian world to the Roman pontiff seemed to be near realization. But the measures of force which were employed in the Latin conquest of Constantinople, 1204, had the opposite effect from what was intended. The overthrow of the Byzantine empire and the establishment of a Latin empire in its stead and the creation of a new hierarchy of Constantinople only completed the final alienation of the Greek and Latin churches. To Innocent III. may not be denied deep concern in the extension of Christendom. But the rigorous system of the Inquisition which he set on foot begat bitterness and war of churchman against Christian dissenter and of Christian against Mohammedan. More blood was shed at the hand of the Church during the pontificate of Innocent, and under his immediate successors carrying out his policy, than in any other age except during the papal counter-Reformation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The audacious papal claim to imperialism corrected itself by the policy employed by Innocent and his successors to establish the claim over the souls and bodies of men and the governments of the earth.
38. Innocent and the German Empire
Additional Literature. — Ed. Winkelmann: Philip von Schwaben und Otto IV. von Braunschweig, 2 vols. Leipzig, 1873-1878. — R. Schwemer: Innocent III. und d. deutsche Kirche während des Thronstreites von 1198-1208, Strassburg, 1882.
The political condition of Europe was favorable to Innocent’s assertion of power. With the sudden death of Henry VI., Sept. 28, 1197, at the early age of thirty-two, the German empire was left without a ruler. Frederick, the Emperor’s only son, was a helpless child. Throughout Italy a reaction set in against Henry’s hard and oppressive rule. The spirit of national freedom was showing itself, and a general effort was begun to expel the German princes and counts from Italian soil.
Innocent III. has been called by Ranke Henry’s real successor. Taking advantage of the rising feeling of Italian nationality, the pope made it his policy to separate middle and lower Italy from the empire, and, in fact, he became the deliverer of the peninsula from foreign agents and mercenaries. He began his reign by abolishing the last vestiges of the authority of the empire in the city of Rome. The city prefect, who had represented the emperor, took the oath of allegiance to the pope, and Innocent invested him with a mantle and silver cup. The senator likewise acknowledged Innocent’s authority and swore to protect the Roman see and the regalia of St. Peter.
The pope quickly pushed his authority beyond the walls of Rome. Spoleto, which for six centuries had been ruled by a line of German dukes, Assisi, Perugia, and other cities, submitted. Mark of Anweiler, the fierce soldier of Henry VI., could not withstand the fortunate diplomacy and arms of Innocent, and the Romagna, with Ravenna as its centre, yielded. A Tuscan league was formed which was favorably disposed to the papal authority. Florence, Siena, Pisa, and other cities, while refusing to renounce their civic freedom, granted privileges to the pope. Everywhere Innocent had his legates. Such full exercise of papal power over the State of the Church had not before been known.
To confirm her son Frederick’s title to the crown of Sicily, his mother delivered the kingdom over to the pope as a papal fief. She survived her imperial consort only a year, and left a will appointing Innocent the guardian of her child. The intellectual training and political destinies of the heir of the Hohenstaufen were thus intrusted to the hereditary foe of that august house. Innocent was left a free hand to prosecute his trust as he chose.
In Germany, Innocent became the umpire of the imperial election. The electors were divided between two aspirants to the throne, Philip of Swabia, the brother of Henry VI., who was crowned at Mainz, and Otto, the son of Henry the Lion, who was crowned at Aachen by Adolf, archbishop of Cologne. Otto was the nephew of Richard Coeur de Lion and John of England, who supported his claims with their gold and diplomacy. Both parties made their appeal to Rome, and it is not a matter of surprise that Innocent’s sympathies were with the Guelf, Otto, rather than with the Hohenstaufen. Moreover, Philip had given offence by occupying, as duke of Tuscany, the estates of Matilda.
Innocent made the high claim that the German throne depended for its occupant “from the beginning and ultimately” upon the decision of the papal see. Had not the Church transferred the empire from the East to the West? And had not the Church itself conferred the imperial crown, passing by the claims of Frederick and pronouncing Philip “unworthy of empire?” Innocent decided in 1201 in favor of Otto, “his dearest son in Christ who was himself devoted to the Church and on both sides was descended from devout stock.” The decision inured to Rome’s advantage. By the stipulation of Neuss, subsequently repeated at Spires, 1209, Otto promised obedience to the pope and renounced all claim to dominion in the State of the Church and also to Naples and Sicily. This written document was a dangerous ratification of the real or pretended territorial rights and privileges of the papacy from Constantine and Pepin down.
Civil war broke out, and when the tide of success turned in Philip’s favor, the pope released him from the sentence of excommunication and was about to acknowledge him as emperor when the murderous sword of Otto of Wittelsbach, in 1208, brought Philip’s career to a tragic end. The year following Otto was crowned in St. Peter’s, but he forgot his promises and proceeded to act out the independent policy of the rival house of the Hohenstaufen. He laid heavy hand upon Central Italy, distributing rich estates and provinces among his vassals and sequestrating the revenues of the clergy. He then marched to Southern Italy, the territory of Frederick, and received the surrender of Naples.
All that Innocent had gained seemed in danger of being lost. Prompt measures showed him equal to the emergency. He wrote that the stone he had erected to be the head of the corner had become a rock of offence. Like Rachel he mourned over his son whom he lamented to have made king. Otto was excommunicated and a meeting of magnates at Nürnberg, 1211, declared him deposed, and, pronouncing in favor of Frederick, sent envoys to Palermo to convey to him the intelligence. Otto crossed the Alps to reclaim his power, but it was too late. Frederick started north, stopping at Rome, where Innocent saw him for the first and last time, April, 1212. He was elected and crowned king at Frankfurt, December, 1212, and was recognized by nearly all the princes at Eger the year following. Before setting out from Italy he had again recognized Sicily as a fief of Rome. At Eger he disavowed all imperial right to the State of the Church.
Otto joined in league with John of England and the Flemish princes against Philip Augustus of France; but his hopes were dashed to the ground on the battlefield of Bouvines, Belgium, 1415. His authority was thenceforth confined to his ancestral estate. He died 1218. Innocent had gained the day. His successors were to be defied by the young king, Frederick, for nearly half a century.
With equal spirit and decision, Innocent mingled in the affairs of the other states of Europe. In France, the controversy was over the sanctity of the marriage vow. Philip Augustus put away his second wife, a Danish princess, a few months after their marriage, and took the fair Agnes of Meran in her stead. The French bishops, on the plea of remote consanguinity, justified the divorce. But Innocent, listening to the appeals of Ingeborg, and placing France under the interdict, forced the king to take her back.
The Christian states of the Spanish peninsula felt the pontiff’s strong hand. The kingdom of Leon was kept under the interdict five years till Alfonso IX. consented to dismiss his wife on account of blood relationship. Pedro, king of Aragon, a model of Spanish chivalry, received his crown at Rome in 1204 and made his realm a fief of the Apostolic see. Sancho, king of the newly risen kingdom of Portugal, was defeated in his effort to break away from the pope’s suzerainty.
In the North, Sweden accepted Innocent’s decision in favor of the house of Schwerker, and the Danish king, who was attempting to reduce the tribes along the Baltic to Christianity, was protected by the pope’s threat of interdict upon all molesting his realm. The king of England was humbled to the dust by Innocent’s word. To the king of Scotland a legate was sent and a valuable sword. Even Iceland is said to have been the subject of Innocent’s thought and action.
In the Southeast, Johannitius of Bulgaria received from Innocent his crown after bowing before his rebuke for having ventured to accept it from Philip of Swabia. Ottoker, prince of Bohemia, was anointed by the papal legate, and Emmeric of Hungary made a vow to lead a crusade, which his brother Andrew executed. Thus all the states of Europe west of Russia were made to feel the supremacy of the papal power. The conquest of Constantinople and the Holy Land, as we shall see, occupied an equal share of attention from this tireless and masterful ruler, and the establishment of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, 1205, was regarded as a signal triumph for the papal policy.
39. Innocent and King John of England
“This royal throne of kings, this sceptr’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise;
This fortress, built by nature for herself,
Against infection, and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear’d by their breed, and famous by their birth.”
— Shakespeare, Richard II., Act II. Sc. 1.
Additional Literature. — The Chronicle of Roger of Wendover (the first of the St. Alban annalists) and the revision and continuation of the same by Matthew Paris (a monk of St. Alban’s, the last and greatest of the monastic historians of England), ed. by H. R. Luard in Rolls Series, 7 vols. London, 1872-1883, vol. II. Engl. vol. II. trans. of Wendover by J. A. Giles, Bohn’s Lib. 2 vols. London, 1849; of M. Paris by Giles, 3 vols. London, 1852-1854. — Memorials of Walter of Coventry, ed. by Stubbs, 2 vols. 1872 sq. — Radulph of Coggeshall: Chronicon Anglicanum, ed. by J. Stevenson, 1875. The Annals of Waverley, Dunstable, and Burton, all in the Rolls Series. — W. Stubbs: The Constitutional Hist. of England, 6th ed. 3 vols. Oxford, 1897, and Select Charters, etc., 8th ed. Oxford, 1900, pp. 270-306. — Gee and Hardy: Documents, London, 1896. — R. Gneist: Hist. of the Engl. Court, Engl. trans. 2 vols. London, 1886, vol. I. 294-332. — E. Gütschow: Innocent III. und England, Munich, 1904, pp. 198. — The Histories of Lingard (R. C.), Green, Milman, Freeman (Norman Conquest, vol. V.). — For Stephen Langton, Dean Hook: Lives of the Abp. of Canterbury, and art. Langton, in Dict. of Natl. Biog. — Also W. Hunt, art. John, in Dict. of Natl. Biog. XXIX. 402-417. — Sir James H. Ramsey: The Angevin Empire, 1154-1216, London, 1903. He calls John a brutal tyrant, hopelessly depraved, without ability in war or politics.
Under Innocent, England comes, if possible, into greater prominence in the history of the papacy than during the controversy in the reign of Alexander III., a generation before. Then the English actors were Henry II. and Thomas à Becket. Now they are Henry’s son John and Becket’s successor Stephen Langton. The pope was victorious, inflicting the deepest humiliation upon the English king; but he afterwards lost the advantage he had gained by supporting John against his barons and denouncing the Magna Charta of English popular rights. The controversy forms one of the most interesting episodes of English history.
John, surnamed Sansterre or Lackland, 1167-1216, succeeded his brother Richard I. on the throne, 1199. A man of decided ability and rapid in action but of ignoble spirit, low morals, and despotic temper, he brought upon his realm such disgrace as England before or since has not suffered. His reign was a succession of wrongs and insults to the English people and the English church.
John had joined Richard in a revolt against their father, sought to displace his brother on the throne during his captivity after the Third Crusade, and was generally believed by contemporaries to have put to death his brother Geoffrey’s son, Arthur of Brittany, who would have been Richard’s successor if the law of primogeniture had been followed. He lost Normandy, Anjou, Maine, and Aquitaine to the English. Perjury was no barrier to the accomplishment of his plans. He set aside one wife and was faithless to another. No woman was too well born to be safe against his advances. He plundered churches and convents to pay his debts and satisfy his avarice, and yet he never undertook a journey without hanging charms around his neck.
Innocent came into collision with John over the selection of a successor to Archbishop Hubert of Canterbury, who died 1205. The monks of Canterbury, exercising an ancient privilege, chose Reginald one of their number. With the king’s support, a minority proceeded to another election and chose the king’s nominee, John de Grey, bishop of Norwich. John was recognized by the suffragan-bishops and put into possession by the king.
An appeal was made by both parties to Rome, Reginald appearing there in person. After a delay of a year, Innocent set aside both elections and ordered the Canterbury monks, present in Rome, to proceed to the choice of another candidate. The choice fell upon Stephen Langton, cardinal of Chrysogonus. Born on English soil, Stephen was a man of indisputable learning and moral worth. He had studied in Paris and won by his merits prebends in the cathedral churches of Paris and York. The metropolitan dignity could have been intrusted to no shoulders more worthy of wearing it. While he has no title to saintship like à Becket, or to theological genius like Anselm, Langton will always occupy a place among the foremost of England’s primates as a faithful administrator and the advocate of English popular liberties.
The new archbishop received consecration at the pope’s own hand, June 17, 1207, and held his office till his death, 1228. The English king met the notification with fierce resistance, confiscated the property of the Canterbury chapter, and expelled the monks as guilty of treason. Innocent replied with the threat of the interdict. The king swore by God’s teeth to follow the censure, if pronounced, with the mutilation of every Italian in the realm appointed by Innocent, and the expulsion of all the prelates and clergy. The sentence was published by the bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester, March 22, 1208. They then fled the kingdom.
The interdict at once took effect, casting a deep gloom over the nation. The church bells remained unrung. The church buildings were closed. The usual ministrations of the priesthood remained unperformed. The great doors of the monasteries were left unopened, and worshippers were only admitted by secret passages. Penance was inflicted upon the innocent as well as the erring. Women, after childbirth, presented themselves for purification outside the church walls. The dead were refused burial in consecrated ground, and the service of the priest was withheld.
John, although he had seen Philip Augustus bend under a similar censure, affected unconcern, and retaliated by confiscating the property of the higher clergy and convents and turning the inmates out of doors with little more than the clothes on their backs. The concubines of the priests were forcibly removed and purchased their ransom at heavy expense. A Welshman accused of murdering a priest was ordered by the king dismissed with the words, “Let him go, he has killed my enemy.” The relatives of the fugitive bishops were thrown into prison.
In 1209 Innocent added to the interdict the solemn sentence of the personal anathema against the king. The bishops who remained in England did not dare publish it, “becoming like dumb dogs not daring to bark.” John persisted in his defiant mood, continued to eke out his vengeance upon the innocent, and sought to divert the attention of his subjects by negotiations and wars with Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Geoffrey, archdeacon of Norwich, who had been in his service and now felt he could no longer so remain, was thrown into prison and there allowed to languish to death, covered from shoulders to feet with a cope of lead.
One more weapon lay in the pope’s power. In 1212 John was declared unworthy of his throne, and deposed. His subjects were absolved from the obligation of allegiance, and Christian princes were summoned to execute the sentence and take the crown. Gregory VII. had resorted to the same precarious measure with Henry IV. and been defeated. The bull was published at Soissons by Langton and the exiled bishops. Philip of France was quick to respond to the summons and collected an army. But the success of the English fleet checked the fear of an immediate invasion of the realm.
The nation’s suspense, however, was taxed almost beyond the point of endurance. The king’s arbitrary taxes and his amours with the wives and daughters of the barons aroused their determined hatred. Pressed from different sides, John suddenly had a meeting at Dover with the pope’s special envoy, the subdeacon Pandulf. The hermit, Peter of Wakefield, had predicted that within three days of Ascension Day the king would cease to reign. Perhaps not without dread of the prediction, and not without irony to checkmate the plans of the French monarch, John gave in his submission, and on May 15, 1213, on bended knee, delivered up to Pandulf his kingdom and consented to receive it back again as a papal fief. Five months later the act was renewed in the presence of Nicolas, cardinal-archbishop of Tusculum, who had been sent to England with legatine authority. In the document which John signed and swore to keep, he blasphemously represented himself as imitating him “who humbled himself for us even unto death.” This notorious paper ran as follows: —
“We do freely offer and grant to God and the holy Apostles Peter and Paul and the holy Roman Church, our mother, and to our Lord the pope Innocent and his Catholic successors, the whole realm of England and the whole realm of Ireland with all their rights and appurtenances for the remission of our sins and those of all our race, as well quick as dead; and from now receiving back and holding these, as a feudal dependent, from God and the Roman Church, do and swear fealty for them to our Lord the pope Innocent and his Catholic successors and the Roman Church.”
John bound himself and England for all time to pay, in addition to the usual Peter’s pence, 1000 marks annually to the Apostolic see, 700 for England and 300 for Ireland. The king’s signature was witnessed by the archbishop of Dublin, the bishop of Norwich, and eleven noblemen. John also promised to reimburse the outlawed bishops, the amount finally settled upon being 40,000 marks.
Rightly does Matthew Paris call this the “detestable and lamentable charter.” But although national abasement could scarcely further go, it is probable that the sense of shame with which after generations have regarded John’s act was only imperfectly felt by that generation of Englishmen. As a political measure it succeeded, bringing as it did keen disappointment to the warlike king of France. The interdict was revoked in 1214, after having been in force more than six years.
The victory of Innocent was complete. But in after years the remembrance of the dishonorable transaction encouraged steadfast resistance to the papal rule in England. The voice of Robert Grosseteste was lifted up against it, and Wyclif became champion of the king who refused to be bound by John’s pledge. Writing to one of John’s successors, the emperor Frederick II. called upon him to remember the humiliation of his predecessor John and with other Christian princes resist the intolerable encroachments of the Apostolic see.
40. Innocent and Magna Charta
An original manuscript of the Magna Charta, shrivelled with age and fire, but still showing the royal seal, is preserved in the British Museum. A facsimile is given in the official edition of the Statutes of the Realm. Stubbs gives the Latin text in Select Charters, etc., 296-306.
In his treatment of the Great Charter, the venerable instrument of English popular rights, Innocent, with monarchical instinct, turned to the side of John and against the cause of popular liberty. Stephen Langton, who had released John from the ban of excommunication, espoused the popular cause, thereby incurring the condemnation of the pope. The agreement into which the barons entered to resist the king’s despotism was treated by him with delay and subterfuge. Rebellion and civil war followed. As he had before been unscrupulous in his treatment of the Church, so now to win support he made fulsome religious promises he probably had no intention of keeping. To the clergy he granted freedom of election in the case of all prelates, greater and less. He also made a vow to lead a crusade. After the battle of Bouvines, John found himself forced to return to England, and was compelled by the organized strength of the barons to meet them at Runnymede, an island in the Thames near Windsor, where he signed and swore to keep the Magna Charta, June 15, 1215.
This document, with the Declaration of Independence, the most important contract in the civil history of the English-speaking peoples, meant defined law as against uncertain tradition and the arbitrary will of the monarch. It was the first act of the people, nobles, and Church in combination, a compact of Englishmen with the king. By it the sovereign agreed that justice should be denied or delayed to no one, and that trial should be by the peers of the accused. No taxes were to be levied without the vote of the common council of the realm, whose meetings were fixed by rule. The single clause bearing directly upon the Church confirmed the freedom of ecclesiastical elections.
After his first paroxysms of rage, when he gnawed sticks and straw like a madman, John called to his aid Innocent, on the ground that he had attached his seal under compulsion. In fact, he had yielded to the barons with no intention of keeping his oath. The pope made the fatal mistake of taking sides with perjured royalty against the reasonable demands of the nation. In two bulls he solemnly released John from his oath, declaring that “the enemy of the human race had, by his crafty arts, excited the barons against him.” He asserted that the “wicked audacity of the barons tended to the contempt of the Apostolic see, the detriment of kingly prerogative, the disgrace of the English nation, and the endangering of the cross.” He praised John for his Christian submission to the will of the supreme head of Christendom, and the pledge of annual tribute, and for his vow to lead a crusade. As for the document itself, he “utterly reprobated and condemned it” as “a low and base instrument, yea, truly wicked and deserving to be reprobated by all, especially because the king’s assent was secured by force.” Upon pain of excommunication he forbade its observance by the king, and pronounced it “null and void for all time.”
The sentence of excommunication which Innocent fulminated against the refractory barons, Langton refused to publish. For his disobedience the pope suspended him from his office, Nov. 4, 1215, and he was not allowed to resume it till 1219, when Innocent had been in his grave three years. London, which supported the popular cause, was placed under the interdict, and the prelates of England who took the popular side Innocent denounced “as worse than Saracens, worse than those open enemies of the cross.”
The barons, in self-defence, called upon the Dauphin of France to accept the crown. He landed in England, but was met by the papal ban. During the struggle Innocent died, but his policy was continued by his successor. Three months later, Oct. 19, 1216, John died at Newark, after suffering the loss of his goods in crossing the Wash. He was thrown into a fever, but the probable cause of his death was excess in eating and drinking. He was buried at his own request in Worcester cathedral. In his last moments he received the sacrament and commended his children to the protection of the pope, who had stood by him in his last conflict.
41. The Fourth Lateran Council, 1215
Literature. — Works of Innocent, Migne, 217. — Mansi, xxii. — Labbaeus, xi. — Potthast, Regesta, I. 437 sqq., gives a summary of the canons of the council. — Hefele-Knöpfler, V. 872 sqq. — Hurter, II. 538 sqq. — Lea: Hist. of the Inquisition, passim.
The Fourth Lateran, otherwise known as the Twelfth Ecumenical Council, was the closing act of Innocent’s pontificate, and marks the zenith of the papal theocracy. In his letter of convocation, the pope announced its object to be the reconquest of Palestine and the betterment of the Church. The council was held in the Lateran and had three sittings, Nov. 11, 20, 30, 1215. It was the most largely attended of the synods held up to that time in the west. The attendance included 412 bishops, 800 abbots and priors, and a large number of delegates representing absent prelates. There were also present representatives of the emperor Frederick II., the emperor Henry of Constantinople, and the kings of England, France, Aragon, Hungary, Jerusalem, and other crowned heads.
The sessions were opened with a sermon by the pope on Luk_22:15, “With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” It was a fanciful interpretation of the word “Passover,” to which a threefold sense was given: a physical sense referring to the passage of Jerusalem from a state of captivity to a state of liberty, a spiritual sense referring to the passage of the Church from one state to a better one, and a heavenly sense referring to the transition from the present life to the eternal glory. The deliverances are grouped under seventy beads, and a special decree bearing upon the recovery of Jerusalem. The headings concern matters of doctrine and ecclesiastical and moral practice. The council’s two most notable acts were the definition of the dogma of transubstantiation and the establishment of the institution of the Inquisition against heretics.
The doctrinal decisions, contained in the first two chapters, give a comprehensive statement of the orthodox faith as it concerns the nature of God, the Incarnation, the unity of the Church, and the two greater sacraments. Here transubstantiation is defined as the doctrine of the eucharist in the universal Church, “outside of which there is no possibility of salvation.”
The council expressly condemned the doctrine of Joachim of Flore, that the substance of the Father, Son, and Spirit is not a real entity, but a collective entity in the sense that a collection of men is called one people, and a collection of believers one Church. It approved the view of Peter the Lombard whom Joachim had opposed on the ground that his definition would substitute a quaternity for the trinity in the Godhead.
Amaury of Bena, a teacher in Paris accused of pantheistic teachings, was also condemned by name. He had been accused and appeared before the pope at Rome in 1204, and recalled his alleged heresy. He or his scholars taught that every one in whom the Spirit of God is, becomes united with the body of Christ and cannot sin.
The treatment of heretics received elaborate consideration in the important third decree. The ecclesiastical and moral regulations were the subject of sixty-seven decrees. The rank of the patriarchal sees is fixed, Rome having the first place. It was an opportune moment for an array of these dignitaries, as Innocent had established a Latin succession in the Eastern patriarchates which had not already been filled by his predecessors. To avoid the confusion arising from the diversity of monastic rules, the establishment of monastic orders was thenceforth forbidden.
The clergy are warned against intemperance and incontinence and forbidden the chase, hunting dogs and falcons, attendance upon theatrical entertainments, and executions, duelling, and frequenting inns. Prescriptions are given for their dress. Confession is made compulsory at least once a year, and imprisonment fixed as the punishment of priests revealing the secrets of the confessional. The tenure of more than one benefice is forbidden except by the pope’s dispensation. New relics are forbidden as objects of worship, except as they might receive the approbation of the pope. Physicians are bidden, upon threat of excommunication, to urge their patients first of all to summon a priest, as the well-being of the soul is of more value than the health of the body. Jews and Saracens are enjoined to wear a different dress from the Christians, lest unawares carnal intercourse be had between them. The Jews are bidden to keep within doors during passion week and excluded from holding civil office.
The appointment of a new crusade was the council’s last act, and it was set to start in 1217. Christians were commanded to refrain from all commercial dealings with the Saracens for four years. To all contributing to the crusade, as well as to those participating in it, full indulgence was promised, and added eternal bliss. Another important matter which was settled, as it were in a committee room of the council, was the appeal of Raymund VI., count of Toulouse, for redress from the rapacity of Simon de Montfort, the fierce leader of the crusade against the Albigenses in Southern France.
The doctrinal statements and ecclesiastical rules bear witness to the new conditions upon which the Church had entered, the Latin patriarchs being in possession in the East, and heresy threatening its unity in Southern France and other parts of the West.
Innocent III. survived the great council only a few months and died scarcely fifty-six years old, without having outlived his authority or his fame. He had been fortunate in all his undertakings. The acts of statecraft, which brought Europe to his feet, were crowned in the last scene at the Lateran Council by the pious concern of the priest. To his successors he bequeathed a continent united in allegiance to the Holy See and a Church strengthened in its doctrinal unity. Notwithstanding his great achievements combining mental force and moral purpose, the Church has found no place for Innocent among its canonized saints.
The following are a few testimonies to his greatness: —
Gregorovius declares that, although he was
“Not a creative genius like Gregory I. and Gregory VII., he was one of the most important figures of the Middle Ages, a man of earnest, sterling, austere intellect, a consummate ruler, a statesman of penetrating judgment, a high-minded priest filled with religious fervor, and at the same time with an unbounded ambition and appalling force of will, a true idealist on the papal throne, yet an entirely practical monarch and a cool-headed lawyer …. No pope has ever had so lofty and yet so real consciousness of his power as Innocent III., the creator and destroyer of emperors and kings.”
Ranke says: —
“A superstitious reverence such as Friedrich Hurter renders to him in his remarkable book I am not at all able to accord. Thus much, however, is certain. He stands in the foremost rank of popes, having world-wide significance. The task which he placed before himself he was thoroughly equal to. Leaving out a few dialectic subtleties, one will not find in him anything that is really small. In him was fulfilled the transition of the times.”
Baur gives this opinion: —
“With Innocent III. the papacy reached its height and in no other period of its long history did it enjoy such an undisturbed peace and such a glorious development of its power and splendor. He was distinguished as no other in this high place not only by all the qualities of the ruler but by personal virtues, by high birth and also by mind, culture, and learning.”
“Measured by the standard of the papacy, Innocent is beyond controversy the greatest of all the popes. Measured by the eternal law of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that which here seems great and mighty in the eyes of the world, seems little in the kingdom of heaven, and amongst those things which call forth wonder and admiration, only that will stand which the Spirit of God, who never wholly withdraws from the Church, wrought in his soul. How far such operation went on, and with what result, who but God can know? He alone is judge.”