INTRODUCTION: The renewal of the patrician Roman families' quest for control signaled the papacy of Pope Honorius II elected at sword point. Honorius' six year reign proved successful in Germany, France and England, but in his own homeland of Italy the alliance of Sicily and Southern Italy brings a chink in the Holy See's armour as the battle continues within between liberal and conservative prelates, filtering down to the monasteries where insurrections interrupt the pontificate of Honorius II.

chapter forty one

Honorius II: A Pope with honor except in his own country

         Pope Calixtus II's death on December 14, 1124 threw the Church into confusion because they had grown so comfortable under this confident pontiff who, though only reigning for five years, had effected the landmark Concordat of Worms and brought the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V back in line with Rome. The Holy See had gained greatly in prestige throughout all of Europe. Now with Calixtus gone, the plotting Roman families who once ruled the city and the popes, saw their opportunity to regain control of the Vatican. A large contingent of cardinals, controlled by one of the most powerful of families - the Pierleoni clan, placed the name of Cardinal Saxo of San Stefano. To offset this the equally powerful rival Frangipani family pushed for Cardinal Lamberto Scannabecchi of Ostia. Though Saxo was the popular choice of oddsmakers, the Pierleoni's feared they would not be able to control him in their battle with the Frangipani's. Thus they conceived a backup plan - compromise choice who would slip through. Through the manipulation of their man inside Cardinal deacon Jonathan, the cardinals were persuaded to drop Saxo and accept the Pierleoni choice - the cardinal priest Theobaldo Buccapecu. Suddenly one by one, the support for Saxo waned and Theobaldo was elected on the third ballot. He chose the name Pope Celestine II. While he was being clothed in the red mantle and the cardinals began singing the Te Deum a great commotion took place as the head of the Frangipani family Roberto, incensed their candidate Lamberto had been snubbed, launched an armed assault on the College of Cardinals shouting "Papa Lamberto, Papa Lamberto!" This had been effected by their man on the inside the influential chancellor Aimeric. Their rage carried over to Celestine whom they bruised and beat, grabbing their man Lamberto out of the ranks and acclaiming him the new Pope. They stripped Celestine of the red mantle and placed it on the reluctant Lamberto. He did not want controversy and resigned immediately, but the cardinals, realizing that Celestine would probably not live through the week and tiring of the whole process, convinced Lamberto to accept the throne. Thus he accepted, being installed a few days later as Pope Honorius II on December 21, 1124. The ruthlessness Frangipani's troops had exhibited on Celestine took its toll and the aging Teobaldo lay dying. Not a man of ambition but inclined more towards humility, Celestine conceded the papacy to Honorius and died shortly after his assault. To prevent a retaliation by the Pierleoni family, another brother Leo Frangipani cajoled and bribed the Pierleoni's. With this accomplished they felt they could now control their man in the Vatican Pope Honorius II, but they were wrong.

Honorius was a good man who did not want conflict. He was also a man of God who placed the Almighty's Will before man's agenda. Though the Roman patrician families had fought tooth and nail throughout the centuries for control, the underlying crux of the divisions was, in actuality, among the cardinals who were divided into two factions. One was the older block who had been loyal to Calixtus and represented the old-school Gregorians. They were in the majority, but they were being threatened by the younger group of red hats who sought inner reform within the Church and felt the older cardinals were an obstacle to their liberal agenda. This is not unlike today when there are many cardinals and bishops with an even more liberal bent who oppose the conservative prelates and Pope John Paul II. The only difference seems to be their method of retaliation.

Honorius, who had played an important role in laying the groundwork on bringing lay investure to a closure with Pope Gelasius II and then aiding Calixtus in his concordat with Henry, sought to follow the platform of his predecessor. But Henry V was not overly cooperative. With the stern Calixtus gone, Henry felt it was open season again, the concordat be damned. But He died shortly after Honorius' election, bringing to an end the long reign of the Salian dynasty in Germany. A struggle for the crown ensued with Honorius backing Count Lothair III of Supplinburg who eventually won out. Lothair promised to adhere strictly to the concordat and even requested the Pope formally confirm his election. To strengthen this union, Honorius declared Archbishop Anselm of Milan's coronation of Lothair's chief rival Conrad as king of the Lombards an anathema. In addition, Honorius threw all his support behind Lothair in his struggles with Henry's rebellious nephew Frederick of Hohenstauffen. By strengthening his influence in Germany, Honorius also gained an ally in King Louis VI of France who settled with the hierarchy in his country despite the vociferous opposition of Bernard of Clairvaux. Honorius also gained a foothold in Britain where he was able to reach an accord by which he would send papal legates to England. However, in his own homeland Honorious wasn't as fortunate. In 1127 the Count of Sicily Roger II was in the process of taking over South Italy. Honorius dispatched troops as well as threats of excommunication to stop Roger, but the count would not be stopped and in April 1128 Honorius had no choice but to accede, recognizing the union of Sicily and South Italy as a Norman kingdom and proclaiming Roger the Duke of Apulia. For this, Roger pledged his undying loyalty to the Holy See. Honorius compromised because he realized it was fruitless to pursue the inevitable and also he had other problems such as ecclesial insurrections in some of the monasteries such as Cluny and the renowned Monte Cassino. He called not only upon his own papal troops but on the order of Knights Templar and Saint Norbert's Premonstratensian Order to help reinstall peace. In return for their services he made a solemn confirmation of the Order which had been approved by Calixtus as well as making official the organization of military monks known as the Knights Templar. The insurrection in the abbeys stemmed from the same problems within the ranks of the cardinals - the younger liberals trying to wrest control from the older conservatives.

Speaking of older, the experiences Honorius faced aged him greatly and in 1130 he fell gravely ill. Knowing his death would signal the clarion of family strife once again, his right hand man Aimeric convinced the pontiff to retire to the the monastery of San Gregario on the Caelian Hill which was a territory under the protection of the Frangipani family. This would also allow Aimeric to prepare for the next election by handpicking Honorius' successor. The Pierleone family waited impatiently for their chance to counter with their own flesh and blood Cardinal Pietro Pierleoni who openly campaigned for the position. In the next installment we shall cover the further intrigue as both families elected their own man. Who would win out? Stay tuned.