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§ 43. Gregory IX. and Frederick II. 1227–1241.


An antagonist of different metal was Gregory IX., 1227–1241. Innocent III., whose nephew he was, seemed to have risen again from the grave in him. Although in years he was more than twice as old as the emperor,239239    His exact age is not known. M. Paris, Luard’s ed., IV. 162; Giles’s trans., I. 383, says that at the time of his death he was almost a centenarian (fere centenarius).untless bravery, and greatly his superior in moral purpose. In asserting the exorbitant claims of the papacy he was not excelled by any of the popes. He was famed for eloquence and was an expert in the canon law.

Setting aside Frederick’s spurious pretexts for delaying the crusade, Gregory in the first days of his pontificate insisted upon his fulfilling his double pledge made at his coronation in 1215 and his coronation as emperor in Rome, 1220.240240    Frederick had received the cross at his coronation in Rome from the hand of Gregory, then Cardinal Ugolino.sembled at Brindisi, and Frederick actually set off to sea accompanied by the pope’s prayers. Within three days of leaving port the expedition returned, driven back by an epidemic, as Frederick asserted, or by Frederick’s love of pleasure, as Gregory maintained.

The pope’s disappointment knew no bounds. He pronounced against Frederick the excommunication threatened by Honorius.241241    "The English chronicler," speaking of the pope’s act, uses his favorite expression, "that he might not be like a dog unable to bark" (ne canis videretur non valens latrare). Luard’s ed., M. Paris, III. 145; Giles’s trans. of Roger of Wendover, II. 499.ror’s going out into darkness. Gregory justified his action in a letter to the Christian princes, and spoke of Frederick as "one whom the Holy See had educated with much care, suckled at its breast, carried on its shoulders, and whom it has frequently rescued from the hands of those seeking his life, whom it has brought up to perfect manhood at much trouble and expense, exalted to the honors of kingly dignity, and finally advanced to the summit of the imperial station, trusting to have him as a wand of defence and the staff of our old age." He declared the plea of the epidemic a frivolous pretence and charged Frederick with evading his promises, casting aside all fear of God, having no respect for Jesus Christ. Heedless of the censures of the Church, and enticed away to the usual pleasures of his kingdom, he had abandoned the Christian army and left the Holy Land exposed to the infidels.242242    Luard’s ed., M. Paris, III. 145 sq. See Registres, p. 107.

In a vigorous counter appeal to Christendom, Frederick made a bold protest against the unbearable assumption of the papacy, and pointed to the case of John of England as a warning to princes of what they might expect. "She who calls herself my mother," he wrote, "treats me like a stepmother." He denounced the secularization of the Church, and called upon the bishops and clergy to cultivate the self-denial of the Apostles.

In 1228 the excommunication was repeated and places put under the interdict where the emperor might be. Gregory was not without his own troubles at Rome, from which he was compelled to flee and seek refuse at Perugia.

The same year, as if to show his independence of papal dictation and at the same time the sincerity of his crusading purpose, the emperor actually started upon a crusade, usually called the Fifth Crusade. On being informed of the expedition, the pope excommunicated, him for the third time and inhibited the patriarch of Jerusalem and the Military Orders from giving him aid. The expedition was successful in spite of the papal malediction, and entering Jerusalem Frederick crowned himself king in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Thus we have the singular spectacle of the chief monarch of Christendom conducting a crusade in fulfillment of a vow to two popes while resting under the solemn ban of a third. Yea, the second crusader who entered the Holy City as a conqueror, and the last one to do so, was at the time not only resting under a triple ban, but was excommunicated a fourth time on his return from his expedition to Europe. He was excommunicated for not going, he was excommunicated for going, and he was excommunicated on coming back, though it was not in disgrace but in triumph.

The emperor’s troops bearing the cross were met on their return to Europe by the papal army whose banners were inscribed with the keys. Frederick’s army was victorious. Diplomacy, however, prevailed, and emperor and pope dined together at Anagni (Sept. 1, 1230) and arranged a treaty.

The truce lasted four years, Gregory in the meantime composing, with the emperor’s help, his difficulties with the municipality of Rome. Again he addressed Frederick as "his beloved son in Christ." But formal terms of endearment did not prevent the renewal of the conflict, this time over Frederick’s resolution to force his authority upon the Lombard cities. This struggle engaged him in war with the papacy from this time forward to his death, 1235–1250. After crushing the rebellion of his son Henry in the North, and seeing his second son Conrad crowned, the emperor hastened south to subdue Lombardy.243243    Henry died in an Italian prison. Conrad, whose mother was Iolanthe, was nine years old at the time of his coronation. In 1235 Frederick married for the third time Isabella, sister of Henry III. of England. This marriage explains Frederick’s repeated appeals to the clergy and people of England.ests, 1236, "Italy is my heritage, as all the world well knows." His arms seemed to be completely successful by the battle of Cortenuova, 1237. But Gregory abated none of his opposition. "Priests are fathers and masters of kings and princes," he wrote, "and to them is given authority over men’s bodies as well as over their souls." It was his policy to thwart at all hazards Frederick’s designs upon upper Italy, which he wanted to keep independent of Sicily as a protection to the papal state. The accession of the emperor’s favorite son Enzio to the throne of Sardinia, through his marriage with the princess Adelasia, was a new cause of offence to Gregory.244244    Potthast, p. 952; Huillard-Bréholles, VI. 1, 136.ng to the marriage. And so for the fifth time, in 1239, Gregory pronounced upon the emperor the anathema.245245    In view of these repeated fulminations it is no wonder that the papal legate, Albert of Bohemia., wrote from Bavaria that the clergy did not care a bean (faba) for the sentence of excommunication. Huillard-Bréholles, V. 1032; Potthast, 908.he Ghibelline and Guelf parties, with seizing territory belonging to the Holy See, and with violence towards prelates and benefices.246246    The document is given in full in M. Paris, Luard’s ed., III. 553 sq.

A conflict with the pen followed which has a unique place in the history of the papacy. Both parties made appeal to public opinion, a thing which was novel up to that time. The pope compared247247    Bréholles, V. 327-340; Paris, III. 590-608. other parts, opens its mouth in blasphemies against God’s name, his dwelling place, and the saints in heaven. This beast strives to grind everything to pieces with his claws and teeth of iron and to trample with his feet on the universal world." He accused Frederick of lies and perjuries, and called him "the son of lies, heaping falsehood on falsehood, robber, blasphemer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the dragon emitting waters of persecution from his mouth like a river." He made the famous declaration that "as the king of pestilence, Frederick had openly asserted that the world had been deceived by three impostors,248248    The charge is made in an encyclical of Gregory sent forth between May 21 and July 1, 1239.ibility of God’s becoming incarnate of a virgin."249249    Iste rex pestilentiae a tribus barotoribus, ut ejus verbis utamur, scilicet Christo Jesu, Moyse et Mohameto totum mundum fuisse deceptum, et duobus eorum in gloria mortuis, ipsum Jesum in ligno suspensum manifeste proponens, etc.

This extensive document is, no doubt, one of the most vehement personal fulminations which has ever proceeded from Rome. Epithets could go no further. It is a proof of the great influence of Frederick’s personality and the growing spirit of democracy in the Italian cities that the emperor was not wholly shunned by all men and crushed under the dead weight of such fearful condemnations.

In his retort,250250    Bréholles, V. 348 sqq.nd his antagonist in Scripture quotations, Frederick compared Gregory to the rider on the red horse who destroyed peace on the earth. As the pope had called him a beast, bestia, so he would call him a wild beast, belua, antichrist, a second Balaam, who used the prerogative of blessing and cursing for money. He declared that, as God had placed the greater and lesser lights in the heavens, so he had placed the priesthood, sacerdotium, and the empire, imperium, on the earth. But the pope had sought to put the second light into eclipse by denying the purity of Frederick’s faith and comparing him to the beast rising out of the sea. Indignantly denying the accusation of the three impostors, he declared his faith in the "only Son of God as coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, begotten from the beginning of all worlds. Mohammed’s body is suspended in the air, but his soul is given over to the torments of hell."

Gregory went further than words and offered to the count of Artois the imperial crown, which at the instance of his brother, Louis IX. of France, the count declined. The German bishops espoused Frederick’s cause. On the other hand, the mendicant friars proved true allies of the pope. The emperor drove the papal army behind the walls of Rome. In spite of enemies within the city, the aged pontiff went forth from the Lateran in solemn procession, supplicating deliverance and accompanied by all the clergy, carrying the heads of the Apostles Peter and Paul.251251    Bréholles, V. 777 sqq.y had been delivered by a miracle. However untenable we may regard the assumptions of the Apostolic see, we cannot withhold admiration from the brave old pope.

Only one source of possible relief was left to Gregory, a council of the whole Church, and this he summoned to meet in Rome in 1241. Frederick was equal to the emergency, and with the aid of his son Enzio checkmated the pope by a manoeuvre which, serious as it was for Gregory, cannot fail to appeal to the sense of the ludicrous. The Genoese fleet conveying the prelates to Rome, most of them from France, Northern Italy, and Spain, was captured by Enzio, and the would-be councillors, numbering nearly one hundred and including Cardinal Otto, a papal legate, were taken to Naples and held in prison.252252    M. Paris with his usual vivacity says, "They were heaped together like pigs." his letter of condolence to the imprisoned dignitaries the pope represents them as awaiting their sentence from the new Pharaoh.253253    Bréholles, V. 1120-1138; G. C. Macaulay gives a lively account of the proceeding in art. Capture of a General Council, Engl. Hist. Rev., 1891, pp. l-17 upon the prelates was at a later time made a chief charge against him.

Gregory died in the summer of 1241, at an age greater than the age of Leo XIII. at that pope’s death. But he died, as it were, with his armor on and with his face turned towards his imperial antagonist, whose army at the time lay within a few hours of the city. He had fought one of the most strenuous conflicts of the Middle Ages. To the last moment his intrepid courage remained unabated. A few weeks before his death he wrote, in sublime confidence in the papal prerogative: "Ye faithful, have trust in God and hear his dispensations with patience. The ship of Peter will for a while be driven through storms and between rocks, but soon, and at a time unexpected, it will rise again above the foaming billows and sail on unharmed, over the placid surface."

The Roman communion owes to Gregory IX. the collection of decretals which became a part of its statute book.254254    See section on The Canon Law.f Rome. He accorded the honors of canonization to the founders of the mendicant orders, St. Francis of Assisi and Dominic of Spain.



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