Pope Innocent III
Overview
 
Pope Innocent III should not be confused with Antipope Innocent III
Antipope Innocent III
Innocent III was an antipope during 1179 to 1180.Innocent III sprang from a noble Lombard family. Opponents of Pope Alexander III tried to make him Pope in September 1179. Alexander, however, bribed his partisans to give him up, and imprisoned him in the cloister of La Cava in January...

.


Pope Innocent III (1160 or 1161 – 16 July 1216) was Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni.
Pope Innocent was one of the most powerful and influential popes in the history of the papacy, who exerted a wide influence over the Christian regimes of Europe, claiming supremacy over all of Europe's kings.
Encyclopedia
Pope Innocent III should not be confused with Antipope Innocent III
Antipope Innocent III
Innocent III was an antipope during 1179 to 1180.Innocent III sprang from a noble Lombard family. Opponents of Pope Alexander III tried to make him Pope in September 1179. Alexander, however, bribed his partisans to give him up, and imprisoned him in the cloister of La Cava in January...

.


Pope Innocent III (1160 or 1161 – 16 July 1216) was Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni.
Pope Innocent was one of the most powerful and influential popes in the history of the papacy, who exerted a wide influence over the Christian regimes of Europe, claiming supremacy over all of Europe's kings. Pope Innocent was central in supporting the Catholic Church's reforms of ecclesiastical affairs through his decretals and the Fourth Lateran Council. This resulted in a considerable increase in the Western canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

. Pope Innocent is notable for using interdict
Interdict
The term Interdict may refer to:* Court order enforcing or prohibiting a certain action* Injunction, such as a restraining order...

 and other censures to compel princes to obey his decisions, although these measures were not uniformly successful. The pope called for crusades against militant heretics like the Cathars, as well as Muslims. One of Pope Innocent's most critical decisions was in calling upon Christian forces to begin The Fourth Crusade. Although the Crusades were, in part, originally intended to support the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 at Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 from attack by Turkish
Turkish people
Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

 invaders, the Fourth Crusade resulted in the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, which greatly upset Pope Innocent.

Early life and election to the Papacy

Lotario de' Conti was born in Gavignano
Gavignano
Gavignano is a hill top town of 1,982 inhabitants in the Province of Rome, Lazio, central Italy. Gavignano is approximately 50 km south east of Rome in the lepini hills and can be easily reached by local train service. The nearest train station being located in the town of Colleferro...

, near Anagni
Anagni
Anagni is an ancient town and comune in Latium, central Italy, in the hills east-southeast of Rome. It is a historical center in Ciociaria.-Geography:...

. His father was Count Trasimund of Segni and was a member of a famous house, Conti, which produced nine Popes, including Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX, born Ugolino di Conti, was pope from March 19, 1227 to August 22, 1241.The successor of Pope Honorius III , he fully inherited the traditions of Pope Gregory VII and of his uncle Pope Innocent III , and zealously continued their policy of Papal supremacy.-Early life:Ugolino was...

 (1227–1241), Pope Alexander IV
Pope Alexander IV
Pope Alexander IV was Pope from 1254 until his death.Born as Rinaldo di Jenne, in Jenne , he was, on his mother's side, a member of the de' Conti di Segni family, the counts of Segni, like Pope Innocent III and Pope Gregory IX...

 (1254–1261) and Pope Innocent XIII
Pope Innocent XIII
Pope Innocent XIII was pope from 1721 until his death.He was born Michelangelo Conti in Poli, near Rome. Like Pope Innocent III , Pope Gregory IX and Pope Alexander IV , he was a member of the family of the Conti, counts and dukes of Segni...

 (1721–1724). Although Lotario is commonly identified as the nephew of Pope Clement III
Pope Clement III
Pope Clement III , born Paulino Scolari, was elected Pope on December 19, 1187 and reigned until his death.-Cardinal:...

 (1187–1191), that error arises from the similarity between Clement's family name, Scolari, with that of Scotti, the noble Roman family of Lotario's mother, Clarice.

Lotario received his early education in Rome, studied theology in Paris, and (possibly) jurisprudence in Bologna. As Pope, Lotario was to play a major role in the shaping of canon law through conciliar canons and decretal letters. He became one of the greatest legislators of his time.

Shortly after the death of Alexander III
Pope Alexander III
Pope Alexander III , born Rolando of Siena, was Pope from 1159 to 1181. He is noted in history for laying the foundation stone for the Notre Dame de Paris.-Church career:...

 (30 August 1181) Lotario returned to Rome and held various ecclesiastical offices during the short reigns of Lucius III
Pope Lucius III
Pope Lucius III , born Ubaldo, was pope from 1 September 1181 to his death.A native of the independent republic of Lucca, he was born ca. 1100 as Ubaldo, son of Orlando. He is commonly referred to as a member of the aristocratic family of Allucingoli, but this is not proven...

, Urban III
Pope Urban III
Pope Urban III , born Uberto Crivelli, was Pope from 1185 to 1187. He was made cardinal and archbishop of Milan by Pope Lucius III, whom he succeeded on November 25, 1185...

, Gregory VIII
Pope Gregory VIII
Pope Gregory VIII , born Alberto di Morra, was Pope from October 25, 1187 until his death.-Early life:...

, and Clement III, reaching the rank of Cardinal-Deacon in 1190. He subscribed the papal bulls between 7 December 1190 and 4 November 1197.

As a cardinal, Lotario wrote De miseria humanae conditionis [On the Misery of the Human Condition]. The work was very popular for centuries, surviving in more than 700 manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s. Although he never returned to the complementary work he intended to write, On the Dignity of Human Nature, Bartolomeo Facio
Bartolomeo Facio
Bartolomeo Facio was an Italian historian, writer and humanist.Facio was born into a wealthy family of La Spezia, Liguria. He studied in Verona, Florence and Genoa and was a notary in Lucca and Genoa...

 took up the task writing De excellentia ac praestantia hominis.

Celestine III died on January 8, 1198. Before his death he had urged the College of Cardinals
College of Cardinals
The College of Cardinals is the body of all cardinals of the Catholic Church.A function of the college is to advise the pope about church matters when he summons them to an ordinary consistory. It also convenes on the death or abdication of a pope as a papal conclave to elect a successor...

 to elect Giovanni di San Paolo
Giovanni di San Paolo
Giovanni di San Paolo was a Benedictine monk at San Paolo fuori le Muri in Rome. He was made Cardinal-Deacon on February 20, 1193, then Cardinal Priest of Santa Prisca in May 1193 and finally Cardinal Bishop of Sabina at the end of 1204...

 as his successor; but Lotario de' Conti was elected pope, at Rome, on the very day on which Celestine III died. He accepted the tiara with reluctance and took the name of Innocent III. He was only thirty-seven years old at the time.

Reassertion of Papal power

As pope, Innocent III began with a very wide sense of his responsibility and of his authority. The Muslim recapture of Jerusalem in 1187 was to him a divine judgment on the moral lapses of Christian princes. He was also determined to protect what he called "the liberty of the Church" from inroads by secular
Secularity
Secularity is the state of being separate from religion.For instance, eating and bathing may be regarded as examples of secular activities, because there may not be anything inherently religious about them...

 princes. This determination meant, among other things, that princes should not be involved in the selection of bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s, and it was focused especially on the "patrimonium" of the papacy, the section of central Italy claimed by the popes and later called the Papal State. The patrimonium was routinely threatened by Hohenstaufen German kings who, as Roman emperors, claimed it for themselves. The emperor Henry VI
Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry VI was King of Germany from 1190 to 1197, Holy Roman Emperor from 1191 to 1197 and King of Sicily from 1194 to 1197.-Early years:Born in Nijmegen,...

 expected to be succeeded by his infant son Frederick
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 as king of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, king of the Germans, and Roman Emperor, a combination that would have brought Germany, Italy, and Sicily under a single ruler and left the patrimonium exceedingly vulnerable.

The early death of Henry VI left his 4 year old son, Frederick II the king. Henry VI’s widow, Frederick's mother, Constance of Sicily
Constance of Sicily
Constance of Hauteville was the heiress of the Norman kings of Sicily and the wife of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor...

, ruled over Sicily for her young son before he reached the age of majority. She was as eager to remove German power from the kingdom of Sicily as was Innocent III. Before her death in 1198, she named Innocent as guardian of the young Frederick until he reached his majority. In exchange, Innocent was also able to recover papal rights in Sicily that had been surrendered decades earlier to William I of Sicily
William I of Sicily
William I , called the Bad or the Wicked, was the second king of Sicily, ruling from his father's death in 1154 to his own...

 by Pope Adrian IV
Pope Adrian IV
Pope Adrian IV , born Nicholas Breakspear or Breakspeare, was Pope from 1154 to 1159.Adrian IV is the only Englishman who has occupied the papal chair...

 (1154–59). The Pope invested the young Frederick II as King of Sicily in November 1198. He also later induced Frederick II to marry the widow of King Emeric of Hungary
Emeric of Hungary
Emeric I , , King of Hungary and Croatia . He was crowned during his father's lifetime, but after his father's death he had to fight against his brother, Andrew, who forced Emeric to assign the government of Croatia and Dalmatia to him...

 in 1209.

Involvement in Imperial elections

Papal power was based on more than scriptures. The popes acquired large amounts of land and bishops and clergy were, in theory, agents of papal programs. Pope Innocent III’s increased involvement in Imperial elections took historically documented form when he called the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 during which time he beckoned around 1200 bishops, abbot
Abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

s and nobles from around Europe to assist in either tweaking current laws or creating new ones to further influence the masses in supporting the Pope as the universal authority of the empire.

In order to define fundamental doctrines, the council reviewed the nature of the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, the ordered annual confession of sins, and prescribed detailed procedures for the election of bishops. The council also mandated a strict lifestyle for clergy, banning their participation in judicial procedures involving extremely painful punishments by which the accused would either atone for their sins or prove themselves innocent of often frivolous charges. One doctrine that confirmed the “power over the spirit” theory was the implementation by the council mandating that Jews wear special identifying markings on their clothing – a sign of the increased hostility felt by Christians towards Jews in the region.

Another tool Innocent III used to attempt to gain universal authority and have more involvement in Imperial elections was letters he wrote to power brokers in the region. While the content of the letters was subtle in their inferred goal of securing his authority, when read in total, his goal becomes more obvious:

Papal Authority: Letter to the prefect Acerbius and the nobles of Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

, 1198,

Just as the founder of the universe established two great lights in the firmament
Firmament
The firmament is the vault or expanse of the sky. According to Genesis, God created the firmament to separate the oceans from other waters above.-Etymology:...

 of heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night, so too He set two great dignities in the firmament of the universal church..., the greater on to rule the day, that is, souls, and the lesser to rule the night, that is, bodies. These dignities are the papal authority and the royal power. Now just as the moon derives its light from the sun and is indeed lower than it in quantity and quality, in position and in power, so too the royal power derives the splendor of its dignity from the pontifical authority.....


Other letters that Innocent III sent during this attempt to mandate and secure the papal proprietor as the universal authority by demeaning and attempting to minimize the authority of the emperors were written under the title “Papal Policies”:
  • "On Heresy: Letter to the Archbishop of Auch, 1198
  • "On Usury: Letter to the French bishops, 1198
  • "On Church Independence/Tithes: Letter to a bishop, 1198
  • "On the crusade and Trade with Saracens: Letter to the Venetians, 1198
  • "On Jews: Decree of 1199”


One of the most direct public notices of the universal authority of the pope came in Innocent III’s “Papal Decree on the choice of a German King, 1201". It was his opportunity to force the acceptance of his decree amidst a chaotic election of three men for emperor:

It is the business of the pope to look after the interests of the Roman empire, since the empire derives its origin and its final authority from the papacy; its origin, because it was originally transferred from Greece by and for the sake of the papacy...its final authority, because the emperor is raised to his position by the pope who blesses him, crowns him and invests him with the empire....Therefore, since three persons have lately been elected king by different parties, namely the youth [Frederick, son of Henry VI], Philip [of Hohenstaufen, brother of Henry VI], and Otto [of Brunswick, of the Welf family], so also three things must be taken into account in regard to each one, namely: the legality, the suitability and the expediency of his election......Far be it from us that we should defer to man rather than to God, or that we should fear the countenance of the powerful....On the foregoing grounds, then, we decide that the youth should not at present be given the empire; we utterly reject Philip for his manifest unfitness and we order his usurpation to be resisted by all....since Otto is not only himself devoted to the church, but comes from devout ancestors on both sides.....therefore we decree that he ought to be accepted and supported as king, and ought to be given the crown of empire, after the rights of the Roman church have been secured.

Feudal power over Europe

During the reign of Pope Innocent III, the papacy was at the height of its powers. He was considered to be the most powerful person in Europe at the time. His papacy asserted the absolute spiritual authority of his office, while still respecting the temporal authority of Kings.

After the death of Emperor Henry VI
Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry VI was King of Germany from 1190 to 1197, Holy Roman Emperor from 1191 to 1197 and King of Sicily from 1194 to 1197.-Early years:Born in Nijmegen,...

, who had recently also conquered the Kingdom of Sicily
Kingdom of Sicily
The Kingdom of Sicily was a state that existed in the south of Italy from its founding by Roger II in 1130 until 1816. It was a successor state of the County of Sicily, which had been founded in 1071 during the Norman conquest of southern Italy...

, the sucession became disputed: as Henry's son Frederick
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 was still a small child, the partisans of the Staufen
Hohenstaufen
The House of Hohenstaufen was a dynasty of German kings in the High Middle Ages, lasting from 1138 to 1254. Three of these kings were also crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In 1194 the Hohenstaufens also became Kings of Sicily...

 dynasty elected Henry’s brother, Philip, Duke of Swabia, king in March 1198, whereas the princes opposed Staufen dynasty elected Otto, Duke of Brunswick
Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto IV of Brunswick was one of two rival kings of the Holy Roman Empire from 1198 on, sole king from 1208 on, and emperor from 1209 on. The only king of the Welf dynasty, he incurred the wrath of Pope Innocent III and was excommunicated in 1215.-Early life:Otto was the third son of Henry the...

 of the House of Welf. Philip II of France
Philip II of France
Philip II Augustus was the King of France from 1180 until his death. A member of the House of Capet, Philip Augustus was born at Gonesse in the Val-d'Oise, the son of Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne...

 supported Philip's claim, whereas King Richard of England supported his nephew Otto.

Pope Innocent was determined to prevent the continued unification of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 under one monarch and seized the opportunity to extend his influence. In 1201, the pope openly espoused the side of Otto IV. whose family had always been opposed to the house of Hohenstaufen
Hohenstaufen
The House of Hohenstaufen was a dynasty of German kings in the High Middle Ages, lasting from 1138 to 1254. Three of these kings were also crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In 1194 the Hohenstaufens also became Kings of Sicily...

. Otto himself also seemed willing to grant any demands that Innocent would make. The confusion in the Empire allowed Innocent to drive out the imperial feudal lords from Ancona
Ancona
Ancona is a city and a seaport in the Marche region, in central Italy, with a population of 101,909 . Ancona is the capital of the province of Ancona and of the region....

, Spoleto
Spoleto
Spoleto is an ancient city in the Italian province of Perugia in east central Umbria on a foothill of the Apennines. It is S. of Trevi, N. of Terni, SE of Perugia; SE of Florence; and N of Rome.-History:...

 and Perugia
Perugia
Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the River Tiber, and the capital of the province of Perugia. The city is located about north of Rome. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area....

, who had been installed by Emperor Henry VI. On 3 July 1201, the papal legate, Cardinal-Bishop Guido of Palestrina, announced to the people, in the cathedral of Cologne, that Otto IV had been approved by the pope as Roman king and threatened with excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 all those who refused to acknowledge him. At the same time, Innocent encouraged the cities in Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

 to form a league, called the League of San Genesio against German imperial interests in Italy, and they placed themselves under Innocent’s protection.

In May 1202, Innocent issued the decree "Venerabilem", addressed to the Duke of Zähringen, in which he explained the relation he considered the empire to stand to the papacy. This decree, which has become famous, was afterwards embodied in the "Corpus Juris Canonici", contained the following major items:
  • The German princes have the right to elect the king, who is afterwards to become emperor. This right was given them by the Apostolic See
    Apostolic See
    In Christianity, an apostolic see is any episcopal see whose foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus.Out of the many such sees, five acquired special importance in Chalcedonian Christianity and became classified as the Pentarchy in Eastern Orthodox Christianity...

     when it transferred the imperial dignity from the Greeks to the Germans in the person of Charlemagne
    Charlemagne
    Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

    .
  • The right to investigate and decide whether a king thus elected is worthy of the imperial dignity belongs to the pope, whose office it is to anoint, consecrate, and crown him; otherwise it might happen that the pope would be obliged to anoint
    Anointing
    To anoint is to pour or smear with perfumed oil, milk, water, melted butter or other substances, a process employed ritually by many religions. People and things are anointed to symbolize the introduction of a sacramental or divine influence, a holy emanation, spirit, power or God...

    , consecrate
    Consecration
    Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

    , and Crown a king who was excommunicated, a heretic
    Heresy
    Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

    , or a pagan
    Paganism
    Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

    .
  • If the pope finds that the king who has been elected by the princes is unworthy of the imperial dignity, the princes must elect a new king or, if they refuse, the pope will confer the imperial dignity upon another king; for the Church stands in need of a patron and defender.
  • In case of a double election the pope must exhort the princes to come to an agreement. If after a due interval they have not reached an agreement they must ask the pope to arbitrate, failing which, he must of his own accord and by virtue of his office decide in favour of one of the claimants. The pope's decision need not be based on the greater or less legality of either election, but on the qualifications of the claimants.


Despite papal support, Otto could not oust his rival Philip until the latter was murdered in a private feud. His rule now undisputed, Otto reneged on his earlier promises and now set his sights on reestabilishing Imperial power in Italy and claiming even the Kingdom of Sicily. Given the papal interest to keep Germany and Sicily apart, Innocent now supported his ward, King Frederick of Sicily, to resist Otto's advances and restore the Staufen dynasty to the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick was duly elected by the Staufen partisans.

The conflict was decided by the Battle of Bouvines
Battle of Bouvines
The Battle of Bouvines, 27 July 1214, was a conclusive medieval battle ending the twelve year old Angevin-Flanders War that was important to the early development of both the French state by confirming the French crown's sovereignty over the Angevin lands of Brittany and Normandy.Philip Augustus of...

, on July 27, 1214, which pitted Otto, allied to King John of England
John of England
John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

 against Philip II Augustus. Otto was defeated by the French
and thereafter lost all influence. He died on May 19, 1218, leaving Frederick II the undisputed emperor. Meanwhile, King John was forced to acknowledge the Pope as his feudal lord and accept Stephen Langton
Stephen Langton
Stephen Langton was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1207 and his death in 1228 and was a central figure in the dispute between King John of England and Pope Innocent III, which ultimately led to the issuing of Magna Carta in 1215...

 as Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

.

Innocent III played further roles in the politics of France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Spain and England. In return for King John's submission to his authority, Pope Innocent III declared Magna Carta annulled, though many English Barons did not accept this action.

Innocent called the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

, which was diverted to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. The pope excommunicated the Crusaders who attacked Christian cities, but was unable to halt or overturn their actions. Erroneously, he felt that the Latin presence would bring about a reconciliation between the Eastern and Western Churches. Innocent also ordered a crusade against the Albigenses
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

, which successfully subdued the Cathar heresy in France.

Crusades and suppression of heresy

Innocent III was a vigorous opponent of heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, and undertook campaigns against it.

At the beginning of his pontificate
Pontiff
A pontiff was, in Roman antiquity, a member of the principal college of priests . The term "pontiff" was later applied to any high or chief priest and, in ecclesiastical usage, to a bishop and more particularly to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope or "Roman Pontiff".-Etymology:The English term derives...

, he focused on the Albigenses, also known as the Cathars, a sect that had become widespread in the area that is now southernwestern France, but which at that time was under the control of local princes, such as the Counts of Toulouse. The Cathars rejected the authority and the teachings of the Catholic Church, and what they viewed in it as corrupt.

In 1199, Innocent III condemned unauthorized translations of the Bible into French
Bible translations in the Middle Ages
Bible translations in the Middle Ages were rare, in contrast to Late Antiquity, when the Bibles available to most Christians were in the local vernacular...

. Two Cistercian monks were sent to dispute the teachings of the Cathars and to reassert Papal authority.

The 1208 murder of Pierre de Castelnau
Pierre de Castelnau
Pierre de Castelnau , French ecclesiastic, was born in the diocese of Montpellier.In 1199 he was archdeacon of Maguelonne, and was appointed by Pope Innocent III as one of the legates for the suppression of the Cathar heresy in Languedoc.In 1202, when a monk in the Cistercian abbey of Fontfroide,...

, a papal representative in Albigensian territory, changed Innocent's focus from words to weapons. Innocent called upon Louis IX of France to suppress the Albigenses. Under the leadership of Simon of Montfort
Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester
Simon IV de Montfort, Seigneur de Montfort-l'Amaury, 5th Earl of Leicester , also known as Simon de Montfort the elder, was a French nobleman who took part in the Fourth Crusade and was a prominent leader of the Albigensian Crusade...

 a campaign was launched. The Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

, which led to the brutal slaughter of approximately 20,000 men, women and children, Cathar and Catholic alike, essentially destroyed the previously flourishing civilization of Occitania and brought the region firmly under the control of the King of France.

The Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

 was a crusade declared by the Catholic Church against Christians that the Church deemed heretical:
the Capetian dynasty from north of France, Ile de France
Île-de-France (province)
The province of Île-de-France or Isle de France is an historical province of France, and the one at the centre of power during most of French history...

, led by Simon de Montfort
Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester
Simon IV de Montfort, Seigneur de Montfort-l'Amaury, 5th Earl of Leicester , also known as Simon de Montfort the elder, was a French nobleman who took part in the Fourth Crusade and was a prominent leader of the Albigensian Crusade...

, against the nobility of Toulouse, vassals of the Crown of Aragon
Crown of Aragon
The Crown of Aragon Corona d'Aragón Corona d'Aragó Corona Aragonum controlling a large portion of the present-day eastern Spain and southeastern France, as well as some of the major islands and mainland possessions stretching across the Mediterranean as far as Greece...

, with the king Peter II the Catholic
Peter II of Aragon
Peter II the Catholic was the King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona from 1196 to 1213.He was the son of Alfonso II of Aragon and Sancha of Castile...

, involved directly in the conflict, who was defeated and killed in the course of Battle of Muret
Battle of Muret
At the Battle of Muret on 12 September 1213 the Crusading army of Simon IV de Montfort defeated the Aragonese and Catalan forces of Peter II of Aragon, at Muret near Toulouse.-Background:...

 in 1213. The Albigensian Crusade culminated with the Treaty of Meaux-Paris in 1229, in which was agreed the integration of the Occitan territory in the French crown. Military action ceased in 1255.

Innocent also decreed the Fourth Crusade of 1198, intended to recapture the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

. The pope directed his call towards the knights and nobles of Europe rather than to the kings; he did not deliberately try to exclude kings, but Henry of Germany had just died, and Richard I of England
Richard I of England
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period...

 (1189–99) and Philip II of France were not anxious to resume the cross after just being at war.

Innocent III's call was generally ignored until November 1199, when a crusade was finally organized in Champagne
Champagne, France
Champagne is a historic province in the northeast of France, now best known for the sparkling white wine that bears its name.Formerly ruled by the counts of Champagne, its western edge is about 100 miles east of Paris. The cities of Troyes, Reims, and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area...

. The Crusaders were redirected to capture Zara
Zadar
Zadar is a city in Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. It is the centre of Zadar county and the wider northern Dalmatian region. Population of the city is 75,082 citizens...

 (Zadar) in 1202 to pay the Venetians for ships and transport of the army over the sea. Constantinople would be captured for prince Alexius IV
Alexios IV Angelos
Alexios IV Angelos was Byzantine Emperor from August 1203 to January 1204. He was the son of emperor Isaac II Angelus and his first wife Irene. His paternal uncle was Emperor Alexius III Angelus....

 in 1204 in exchange for men, money, weapons and more ships. Innocent III was horrified by the attack on the Byzantines. By attacking Zara they had automatically been excommunicated according to Innocent's threats. Prior to the launching of the Crusade he had insisted that no Christian cities be attacked, even if they were, according to the Catholic Church, schismatic Christians
Schism
- Religion :* Schism , a division or a split, usually between people belonging to an organization or movement, most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body...


Fourth Council of the Lateran

On November 15, 1215 Innocent opened the convocation of the Fourth Lateran Council
Fourth Council of the Lateran
The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull of April 19, 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome's Lateran Palace beginning November 11, 1215. Due to the great length of time between the Council's convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity...

, considered the most important council of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. By its conclusion it issued seventy reformatory decrees. Among other things, it encouraged creating schools and holding clergy to a higher standard than the laity. It also forbade clergymen to participate in the practice of the judicial ordeal
Trial by ordeal
Trial by ordeal is a judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused is determined by subjecting them to an unpleasant, usually dangerous experience...

, effectively banning its use.

At the Fourth Lateran Council, Innocent III and his prelates legislated against subordination of Christians to Jews. Canon 69 forbade "that Jews be given preferment in public office since this offers them the pretext to vent their wrath against the Christians."

Death and legacy

The Council had set the beginning of the Fifth Crusade for 1217, under the direct leadership of the Church. After the Council, in the spring of 1216, Innocent moved to northern Italy in an attempt to reconcile the mariner cities of Pisa
Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

 and Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

, through removing the excommunication cast over Pisa by his predecessor Celestine III and a pact with Genoa, to imbue them of more religious and commercial motivations.

Innocent III, however, died suddenly at Perugia
Perugia
Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the River Tiber, and the capital of the province of Perugia. The city is located about north of Rome. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area....

 on July 16, 1216. He was buried in the cathedral of Perugia, where his body remained until Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...

 had it transferred to the Lateran
Lateran
Lateran and Laterano are the shared names of several architectural projects throughout Rome. The properties were once owned by the Lateranus family of the former Roman Empire...

 in December 1891.

Innocent III was believed to be in purgatory on the very day he died. He is said to have appeared to St. Lutgarda
Lutgardis
Saint Lutgardis was a Flemish saint. Born at Tongeren, she was admitted into a Benedictine monastery of St...

 in her monastery at Aywieres, in Brabant. Engulfed in flames, he declared to her, “I am Pope Innocent”. He continued to explain that he was in purgatory for three faults which had caused him to arrive in this state. Innocent asked St. Lutgarda
Lutgardis
Saint Lutgardis was a Flemish saint. Born at Tongeren, she was admitted into a Benedictine monastery of St...

 to come to his assistance, saying, “Alas! It is terrible; and will last for centuries if you do not come to my assistance. In the name of Mary, who has obtained for me the favor of appealing to you, help me!” At that moment he disappeared and St. Lutgarda
Lutgardis
Saint Lutgardis was a Flemish saint. Born at Tongeren, she was admitted into a Benedictine monastery of St...

 informed her sisters of what she had seen.

Innocent III is commemorated as one of the world's great lawmakers by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Works

His Latin works include De Miseria Humanae Conditionis, a tract on asceticism
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

 that Innocent III wrote before becoming pope, and De Sacro Altaris Mysterio, a description and exegesis
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

 of the liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

.

Further reading

  • Kendall, Keith. "'Mute Dogs, Unable to Bark': Innocent III’s Call to Combat Heresy." In Medieval Church Law and the Origins of the Western Legal Tradition: A Tribute to Kenneth Pennington, edited by Wolfgang P. Müller and Mary E. Sommar, 170–178. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006.
  • Kendall, Keith. "Sermons of Pope Innocent III: The 'Moral Theology' of a Pastor and Pope." PhD diss., University of Syracuse, 2003.

External links

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