The Papacy: The Second Crusade and An English Pope (1144-1159)

Ten years came and went, and in this decade there were no less than four popes –Celestine II, Lucius II, Eugenius (“Eugene”) III, and Anastasius IV. It was an era marked by constant infighting between the two chief ruling families of Rome (Frangipani and Pierleoni) as well as the continual rise of King Roger II in Sicily. Lucius II was publicly stoned to death (perhaps by accident) after allowing the Senate to be reinstated in Rome, while Eugenius was a gentle soul who was easily driven from Rome amidst the heat of battle. However, abroad the Crescent was now conquering the Cross, as Edessa in present-day Turkey fell to an Arab army under Imad ed-Din Zengi. Thus Pope Eugenius sought the help of Louis VII of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine to raise a Frankish army (Louis and Eleanor were soon to separate on grounds of sanguinity before she became Queen to one of England’s greatest kings and mother to two of England’s worst kings).

Per John Julius Norwich: “The Second Crusade was to turn out an ignominious fiasco. First, the Crusaders decided to attack Damascus –the only Arab state in the whole Levant hostile to Imad ed-Din and his son Nur ed-Din, who had by now succeeded him. As such, it could and should have been an invaluable ally of the Franks; by attacking it, they drove it straight into the arms of their enemy. Second, they pitched their camp along the eastern section of the walls, devoid alike of shade and water. Third, they lost their nerve. On July 28, 1148, just five days after the opening of the campaign, they gave the order for retreat” (140-141).

Meanwhile in Rome, there was a growing republican movement thanks to the teachings of Arnold of Brescia, an Augustinian monk from Lombardy. Naturally, the papacy fought this movement with all the vigor of the vicar. The pope was mostly barred from even entering Rome so he was forced to seek military aid from the Germans under the cousin of King Conrad, Frederick I (or “Frederick Barbarossa”), a man who “never forgot that he was the successor of Charlemagne and Otto the Great, and he made no secret of his determination to restore the empire to its former glory” (Norwich, 144). They came to an agreement, a papal military in exchange for the coronation of a new Holy Roman Emperor, however Eugenius died in 1153. He was succeeded by the elderly Anastius IV who also died about eighteen months later.

Anastasius IV was followed by an energetic yet disciplined Englishman named Nicholas Breakspar who assumed the title of Hadrian IV (sometimes Adrian IV) when he was made pope. He was a formidable man with no tolerance of Arnold of Brescia’s praise of anti-theocratic republicans, and so mere weeks into his tenure as the Holy See, Pope Hadrian IV did the unthinkable. He closed down all churches in Rome until the rioters, many of whom relied on church festivals for food, stormed the Senate and sent Arnold away in flight. Following this, Hadrian managed to earn the respect of Frederick Barbarossa, despite an uneasy relationship between the papacy and the German empire, but seeing as how the proponents of republicanism were mutual enemies of both the Germans and the establishment in Rome, Frederick was rather hastily crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope causing shockwaves throughout the city. Once again, the pope was driven out of Rome so he sought refuge among the Curia (the chief papal cabinet).

He proffered a delicate peace agreement with Sicily known as the Treaty of Benevento which needless to say outraged Barbarossa and his minions but it held the Byzantine Empire at bay. It was a fragile balance of relations between Germany, France, England, Sicily, and the Byzantines, and soon the aged pope was at his wits end. By 1159, he gave up the ghost under the immense pressure of his office.

I close this chapter with the following summary by John Julius Norwich: “Hadrian’s pontificate is hard to assess. He certainly towers over the string of mediocrities who occupied the Throne of St. Peter during the first half of the century, just as he himself is overshadowed by his magnificent successor. He left the Papacy stronger and more generally respected than he found it, but much of this success was due to its identification with the Lombard League; and he failed utterly to subdue the Roman Senate. He was pope for less than five years, but those years were hard and of vital importance to the Papacy, and the strain told on him. Before long his health had begun to fail, and with it his morale. He died embittered and disappointed –as all too many of predecessors had before him” (154).

For this reading I used John Julius Norwich’s 2011 single volume history of the papacy Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy and Diarmaid MacCulloch’s 2009 work of popular history, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.

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