INTRODUCTION:With the death of yet another pope, the Roman patrician families plotted to put their hand-picked man on the throne of Peter. But the crafty, seasoned right-hand man of both Popes Calixtus II and Honorius II the highly influential Cardinal Aimeric knew that the only way to keep the reforms of Pope Saint Gregory VII alive, he had to act quickly or the late Pope's rival family the Pierleoni faction would push through their own flesh and blood Pietro Pierleoni. He did and they also did. The result was the rightful heir to the keys of the kingdom - Pope Innocent II and the antipope Pope Anecletus II who was elected by a majority of cardinals who had been bribed by the Pierleoni clan. This forced Innocent into exile in France where the holiness and influence of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and the holy Saint Norbert took over and helped ensconse Innocent as the true Pope through all of Europe. Politics and intrigue played their hands during an eight year schism that culminated with the Second Lateran Council in which the schism was ended and the cherished reforms of Gregory perpetuated. Still the Roman populace was uneasy for it was not the most innocent of times, though Innocent strove to clear the guilt from his name that had been unfairly besmirched.

chapter forty two

Pope Innocent II: The only innocent one in a sea of guilt

         The death of Pope Honorius II, the choice of the Frangipani family, opened the door for the rival patrician family Pierleoni to foist their own flesh and blood on the papacy in the person of Cardinal Pietro Pierleoni, who though a man of the cloth, exhibited none of the virtues. The College of Cardinals, realizing the railroad job being pulled rallied behind Honorius' right-hand man Cardinal Aimeric and at his strong persuasion, quickly and secretly elected, at the church of Santa Maria Nuova, the primate of St. Angelo Cardinal Gregorio Papareschi, himself a member of another patrician family, as the one hundred sixty fourth successor to Peter on February 23, 1130. He selected the name Pope Innocent II, following in the footsteps of his predecessor who chose the name of an early pope. Ironically it was Pope Saint Innocent I who persuaded the Roman emperor Honorius to prohibit gladiatorial contests in the arenas. His namesake Innocent II was not as persuasive. With their own man spurned, the Pierleoni rose up violently to prevent Innocent from being recognized, proclaiming their relative Pietro as Pope Anacletus II. Once again the Church was thrown into turmoil and schism. Facing imminent death, Innocent was forced to flee to France where he was warmly welcomed by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Norbert, founder of the Premonstratensians Order who had worked closely with the Holy See in the Concordat of Worms.

Meanwhile, back in Rome, the powerful coffers of the Pierleoni family had succeeded in hoisting Petro onto the throne of Peter, buying off a great number of the cardinals who, because of the bribes, had declined Aimeric's hopes for a unified election of Innocent II. Therefore, with these cardinals in Anacletus II's hip-pocket, and the support of the Norman ruler Roger II, he wielded a strong sense of power in Rome itself. But outside of Rome and southern Italy the world was loyal to the exiled Innocent II. Through the powerful political influence of Aimeric and the reputation of St. Bernard and St. Norbert, all of Europe rallied behind Innocent II. From France Innocent II ruled the Church, a sign of things to come in future centuries, specifically the Avignon Exile period. In March 1131 Innocent II and Henry V's successor to the German crown Lothair (Lothario of Saxony) reached an agreement that the latter would fight for the Pope. However this agreement did not come without a price. Lothair sought to reinstitute the emperor's right of investiture and Innocent, desperate to regain his rightful seat in Rome, agreed. Two years later Lothair's troops marched on Rome but could not get to Anacletus, secure in the impenetrable fortress of St. Peter's. Thus Lothair had to use the Lateran for Innocent II to crown him emperor. The story goes that Lothair humbled himself by holding the bridle of the Pope's mule on which Innocent rode back into Rome triumphantly on and publicly kissing the Holy Father's feet out of a show of obedience to the pontiff. However the obedience fizzled when the issue of investiture raised its ugly head again. Innocent backtracked and told Lothair all he was willing to grant is that the German bishops should pay homage to the emperor. To appease Lothair, Innocent granted him numerous estates in Tuscany through the generosity of the Countess Matilda. Lothair returned to Germany somewhat disgruntled and almost immediately Innocent was a marked man again. He retreated to Pisa in northern Italy and there called together a synod where he formally excommunicated Anacletus and Roger of Sicily. With St. Bernard's influence, Milan embraced Innocent as the true Pope in 1136 and shortly after that Lothair returned at Innocent's request to settle the score with the schism makers in Italy. However his heart wasn't in it and Lothair's own loyalty to Innocent began to weaken since Lothair was still upset over the flip-flop the Pope had seemingly done over investiture. A stalemate ensued and Lothair, who had grown increasingly ill, decided he'd had enough. The illness and bitter cold of the Alps took its toll on the return to Germany where the emperor died enroute on December 4, 1137. Meanwhile St. Bernard had already made overtures to Roger to bring about peace and to convince the Sicilian ruler of his error in supporting Anacletus. After over seven and a half years of a split, the bishops representing both Innocent and Anacletus met in Salerno before Roger to argue their cases. Because of Bernard's holiness and eloquence he won over numerous supporters of Anacletus to Innocent's side. Realizing his support had almost totally waned in favor of Innocent II, and losing the military clout of Roger, Anacletus holed up within the walls of the Vatican and there died a lonely, disullusioned man on January 25, 1138. Within weeks the Pierleoni, seeking to regain the edge, gained an accord with Roger to elect Cardinal Gregorio Conti as Anacletus' successor Victor IV. However Victor could see the handwriting on the wall and acceded the papal throne to the rightful pontiff on May 29 of 1138. The Pierleoni family, who had played their trump card and lost, also threw themselves on the mercy of the rightful supreme pontiff and pleaded for leniency by acknowledging Innocent as the true pope.

Innocent called together the Tenth Ecumenical Council (Second Lateran Council) in April 1139 to bring the schism officially to a close and to reinforce and put into motion all of the reforms by Pope Saint Gregory VII by issuing numerous displinary decrees. Roger did not like the direction or tone of the council, not to mention him being denied Capua. Thus the Sicilian ruler baited the pope and his troops into a battle in a region called the Garigliano in which the papal contingent was badly defeated. Roger took Innocent and his men as prisoners in July 1139 and Innocent was forced to acknowledge Roger as King of Sicily in the Treaty of Migniano on July 25, 1139. With this agreed to Roger allowed Innocent to return to Rome where for the final four years of his pontificate, Innocent provided a streamlined governing process, initiating a number of construction projects which included many churches within the city of Rome. Though Innocent did much to strengthen the Church, he met with opposition from an unlikely source - King Louis VII of France whom St. Bernard had brought into alliance with him early in the decade of the thirties. A dispute arose over an appointment to the see of Bourges and Louis was so upset he issued a ban in 1141 from allowing Innocent to ever set foot inside France again. It was an omen of what was to come for two years later the citizens of Rome rebelled, opting to establish a republic in direct oppostion to Innocent's wishes. Innocent was forced into exile within the Vatican where he languished in grief for the state of affairs and there, on September 24, 1143, died a lonely death. It was a shame his thirteen year papacy ended the way it did for he did much in furthering the ideals of Holy Mother Church and putting into action the needed reforms of Gregory VII via the tenth ecumenical council. In the next installment we shall cover the brief papacy of Innocent's successor Pope Celestine II.

September 15, 1997 volume 8, no. 18         History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church