DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     May 5, 1998     vol. 9, no. 87


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          If only there had been more saintly men like Saint Louis IX, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Bonaventure possibly the papacy would have been better able to cope with the ambition of monarchs who sought their own agenda and placated the Holy See, using the Pope to advance their own cause. This handcuffed Pope Clement IV, successor to Pope Urban IV, who was embroiled between the bitter fighting in Italy between the Ghibellines - the faction of Italians and Sicilians who opposed the Pope, and the Guelfs - those loyal to Rome. Add to this the power mongering by Conradin, last in the line of the dreaded German House of the Hohenstaufens who had been excommunicated numerously by previous popes, and the "foreigner" - Charles of Angiou who had become king of Sicily and Naples. Caught in the grip of these two men it was a lose-lose situation for Clement. Charles came out the victor and, despite the pleas of Clement for mercy, had Conradin beheaded, thus bringing an end to the Hohenstaufen dynasty that had plagued Rome for nearly a century. But the threat of Charles power crippled the papacy from carrying out spiritual goals advocated by the saints. It was a time that tried men's souls for there were many souls who were thristing for the truth, but their pontiff was handcuffed by political ploys.
Installment Sixty-six

Pope Clement IV and the end of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty

         Picking up where we left off three installments ago after detailing powerful and influential Saint Louis IX, King of France and Saint Thomas Aquinas, among others, we return to the succession of supreme pontiffs. When last we left off we had left the Perugia grave of Pope Urban IV, known as the "Corpus Christi" Pope who worked closely with Thomas. By now the French-Italian rivalry was heating up and it took four months to finally elect the next Vicar of Christ. The French held court and elected Cardinal Guy Foulques. He had been a compromise candidate and had not even been at the conclave from the beginning of the process. Because of hostilities in Perugia and the surrounding regions of northern Italy, Foulques had come disguised as a monk and few recognized him. He left the same way while the cardinals were still dickering over a successor to Urban. What he didn't realize was that the cardinals chose him for his no-nonsense policies and his well-rounded lifestyle, which they felt, would serve him well with the faithful since Foulques had a family himself. He was widowed and then became a priest and quickly accelerated up the latter to archdeachon, bishop, archbishop and cardinal. Now he was chosen to accept the highest rank of the Church. Contacted on his way back to France, he agreed and returned to Perugia and became Pope Clement IV, the one-hundred and eighty-third successor of Peter on February 15, 1265. Because of the upheaval in Rome, Perugia continued to be the headquarters for the Holy See during these times, though a few years later he would move to Viturbo where the setting was calmer.

         Taking up the cause Urban had fought so bravely and yet so frustratingly, Clement was beset immediately with the problems in Sicily and beseeched his countryman Charles of Angiou to hasten to his aid for he was afraid Manfred, illegitimate son of Frederick II Hohenstaufen, would take control. Charles and the rest of France were well aware of the infamous Manfred for Urban had ordered crusades be preached against Manfred. Charles responded to Clement by gathering his troops and heading for Italy, but had to take evasive measures to evade the Sicilian ramparts set up on the Tiber. With cunning and perseverance Charles and his men successfully reached Rome on May 23, 1265. The pro-papal state leaders and its people were elated and Charles was crowned monarch of Naples and Sicily in early 1266. Less than six weeks later Charles defeated and killed Manfred at the Battle of Benevento on February 26, 1266. While this might seem to be the end of the problems, it wasn't. For the son of Conrad IV, legitimate son of Frederick II, had a son who was ready to take the reins. He was "little Conrad" or Conradin and when French occupation stirred the Italians to revolt, Conradin moved into Sicily to wrest the Sicilian crown. Brash because of his teen years, Conradin mounted an army against the rest of Italy and the prize: Rome. Clement, just as pontiffs before him, warned Conradin of the consequences and the latter, like his father and grandfather, ignored the threats. Thus Clement had little choice but to excommunicate the last of the Hohenstaufens. This did not faze Conradin who captured Rome in July 1268 amidst tumultous applause from the Ghibellines or anti-papal state factions, but their glory was shortlived. At the Battle of Tagliacozzo in the province of L'Aquila, on August 23, 1268, Conradin bit off more than he could chew by daring to overpower Charles' army which had retreated outside of Rome and regrouped. There, Conradin was taken prisoner and dragged back into Rome, kicking and screaming. Charles ordered him to be beheaded. Ever the holy man, Clement intervened for mercy, but Charles, having been appointed by Clement as imperial vicar of Tuscany on April 17 which gave him legal power for executions, realized the only way to stop the upheaval was to put an end to Conradin. With the mighty swing of the axe the line of Hohenstaufens ended forever!

         What Clement didn't realize was that, though he had eliminated one threat in Conradin, he had created a "monster" in the growing power of Charles of Angiou, who, because of his French blood, became more of an enemy to the Italians. Add to that his mounting ambition to taste more power and Clement was running into problems. Clement had been corresponding with the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus in hopes of reconciling East and West, but Michael, who had taken Constantinople from the Latins, was playing his trump card and, worried that Charles would advance on his city to try to regain control, strung the Pope along. This frustrated Clement throughout his papacy and he died at Viturbo on November 29, 1268 with the weight of not having accomplished all he had wanted to for his beloved Church and the people of God. As the College of Cardinals convened in that cold wintry December, few realized they would be there for three years as the Italian-French angst would stalemate the papal chair until late March, 1272 when they would finally, in desperation, elect a simple, humble, holy Italian priest who would rescue Holy Mother Church. He was Pope Blessed Gregory X who we shall cover in our sixty-seventh installment: Pope Blessed Gregory X: Restoring the peace and unity with the Greeks at the 14th Ecumenical Council.

May 5, 1998       volume 9, no. 87


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