The election of Pope Paschal II on August 13, 1099 as the 160th in the line of Peter signaled the transition from the old to the new century. Yet, his papacy would be hindered by the gnawing presence of two antipopes, following in the notoriety of their successor Clement III who tormented Paschal's predecessors Pope Saint Gregory VII, Pope Blessed Victor III, and Pope Blessed Urban II. Pascal was born Rainerius in Bieda de Galeata in Ravenna and became a monk. He was made abbot of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura by Pope Gregory VII who elevated him to cardinal at San Clemente in 1078. Blessed Urban II dispatched Cardinal Rainerius to Spain in the 90's and his experience with papal matters served him well in the eyes of the College of Cardinals conclave upon Urban's death. He chose the name Paschal, following in the tradition of taking a name rarely used. Though many considered Pascal II to be a compromise choice who could be intimidated, he was staunch in carry on the reforms of Gregory and the policies of Urban II. His first action was, thanks to the Norman coffers, to rid Rome of Clement III by buying off the antipope. It proved fruitless for Clement, already in ill health, died a year later on September 8, 1100. But that wasn't the end of the antipopes. Already Henry IV, an ally of Clement, was dead set against Paschal and manipulated three more antipopes to antagonize the true line of pontiffs. The emperor's first appointment was Theodoric who he chose immediately after Clement's death. Theodoric had been a cardinal in Albano and sided against reform, thus becoming the logical choice to oppose Paschal, but he only lasted a year. That didn't deter Henry who immediately elevated Albert, the cardinal of San Rufina, another Clementine bishop in the investiture issue which the reform popes greatly opposed. This was the central focal point of the clash between Rome and the empire, headquartered in Germany. Yet Paschal wanted to ease tensions and sought a reconciliation with Henry IV who vehemently opposed such a move. One would think this was fruitless, but Henry's son Henry V saw the wisdom of Paschal's offer and kept close contact with the Holy Father. In 1105, the son tired totally of Henry's growing tyranny and led a rebellion against his father. Paschal saw it as a chance for reconciliation with the empire and the papacy but alas the son was of the same mind-frame regarding lay investiture. Nevertheless, Paschal still went along with a truce. With the death of Henry IV in 1106, Henry V was in charge. Through the next five years Paschal held numerous synods reasserting the investiture issue, which Henry was surprisingly silent on. In 1111 at the Synod in Sutri on February 9, the Pope set forth a proposal that seemed radical to all. He set forth a decree that the emperor would renounce investiture and grant free elections. Furthermore Paschal mandated in his concordat that all property and privileges of the Church be returned by the Germans to Rome with the former keeping only warranted tithings. To everyone's amazement, Henry V went along with it and traveled to Rome to be crowned emperor. His arrival was met with great resistance and the people rebelled when this concordat was announced by Paschal at the coronation ceremonies in St. Peter's on February 12. The people stormed the altar preventing the coronation from taking place. Henry V retaliated by disavowing the concordat and had Paschal thrown in prison along with the reform cardinals and elevated the antipope Silvester IV For two months they languished in prison outside Rome, until Henry summoned Paschal with a proposal to reinstate the Pope if he went along with all Henry V asked. To counter any refusal by Paschal, Henry threatened to permanently install Silvester and depose Paschal. Beaten, Paschal was forced to accede to Henry's proposal which the Pope signed on April 12, 111 outside Tivoli in the "Privilege of Ponte Mammolo." The concessions by Rome were monumental, giving the king power to invest bishops and abbots - something Paschal had so fervently fought - and a promise from the Pope that he could never excommunicate Henry V. With this accomplished, Henry agreed to be crowned the next day in St. Peter's despite the throngs protesting outside. With no more need of Silvester, Henry forced the former to denounce the papacy and pledge allegiance to Paschal as the true pope. Paschal's concessions did not sit well with the people of Rome nor the diehard reformers who felt he had sold them out. They lobbied hard for Paschal to rescind his agreement which Paschal did weakly in 1116. It was a no-win situation for Paschal. Go against all his principals and gain the favor of the emperor but suffer the wrath of his compadres and the faithful of Rome, or stay the course and incur the retaliation of the powerful German king. To offset this, Paschal turned his attention to the crusades. The First Crusade had returned triumphantly to Rome and stirred new fervor in the crusade campaign. This spawned the next crusade where he backed Bohemond I in his campaign against the Muslims. Paschal's naievity betrayed him for the campaign was not really a crusade but rather an attempt to conquer the eastern empire and a self-serving theater for Bohemond's ambitions. Everything backfired for Paschal when, in 1112, he and the Greek leader Alexius I sought a reconciliation between the two Churches. Paschal asked for too much in insisting that both Churches recognize him as the supreme ruler over all. Though he was the supreme pontiff, the Eastern leaders did not take kindly to his tactics and remembered that it was Paschal who backed Bohemond's mad march through Turkey. They roundly rejected any proposals by Paschal. Rejected in the East and West and thrown into chaos at home by rioting, Paschal fled the city in 1116 after his change of mind decision on investiture. He sought refuge in Benevento and promptly excommunicated the man who had crowned Henry as king and Matilda as queen that year without papal approval. That man was Archbishop Maurice of Braga who would go on to become another of Henry's antipopes - Gregory from 1118 to 1121. Beaten and battered in heart and soul, Paschal made one last attempt in early January of 1118 to wrest the papacy back, but he was too weak and ill and the continued strife of rebellion forced him into solitary at Castel Sant'Angelo where he died on January 21, 1118. The Church that Blessed Urban II had left in fairly good shape at the end of the eleventh century had taken a nosedive in just two decades into the twelfth century. It was left to Paschal's successors to try to right the ship.
This was not an easy task as strife between reformers and the Romans continued within the city. Add to this the tension and intense dislike for the German Empire and the conclave of cardinals had to walk a fine line, meeting quietly to quickly appoint Paschal's successor - Pope Gelasius II, a cardinal from Gaeta who had also been a monk at Monte Cassino and had actually retired, working within the chancery at Rome. Gelasius, loyal to Paschal, had been imprisoned with the latter though he suffered greatly from old-age ailments. Nevertheless, he was the logical choice of the conclave who chose him at Santa Maria on the Palatine Hill in Rome. Almost immediately the faction of Roman patricians, who had driven Paschal out, stirred up another revolt and captured Gelasius, subjecting him to humiliating torture. When the Roman people heard of the patricians vile behavior they, too, revolted against the upper crust families, forcing the patrician leader Cencius Frangipani to release Gelasius. But for the new Pope it was out of the frying pan into the fire as Henry V blew into town incensed on March 1, 1118. Gelasius fled back to Gaeta where he was sheltered by his own townsfolk. Henry demanded that Gelasius return so that the investiture issue could be settled once and for all. But Gelasius, fearing for his life, refused. Henry retaliated by placing on the papal throne another antipope - the archbishop Paschal had excommunicated - Gregory, who took the number VIII. To loyal reformers it was an outright affront to their beloved Saint Gregory VII who had crusaded so valiantly for reform. They convinced Gelasius to excommunicate both Henry and Gregory. Through a well-oiled network of reformers throughout Europe, Gelasius' decree reached across the land quickly, killing all hopes Gregory VIII might have had of being accepted as legitimate. After months of occupation, Henry finally left Rome to return to Germany. With the coast clear, Gelasius returned to Rome but all of the Vatican was occupied by Gregory and his cohorts. To make matters worse, while Gelasius was celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at Santa Prassede's church, the patrician Frangipani attacked. Thanks to the fact that a group of Genoese sailors had been in attendance, they fended off his attackers and stole him away to safety in the port city of Marseilles, France in the fall of 1118. There, through the assistance of Saint Norbert founder of the Premonstratensians he was able to rule the Church, granting permissions to various missionaries to spread the gospel. Longing for Rome, Gelasius decided on one more attempt to return. Dressed as a pilgrim, he went back to the eternal city but could not gain a foothold and retreated to Cluny in France. There he drew up viable plans to settle the investiture issue between the Church and empire by convening a landmark council, but he was not able to complete this endeavor for God called him home on January 28, 1119 after just a few days over a year as Pope. Those who knew him mourned his death, but many were impervious to the events for the Church had lost considerable clout through the manipulations and ruthlessness of the German emperor. In the next installment we shall cover more turbulence within the papacy beginning with the pontificate of Gelasius' successor Pope Callistus II.