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§ 44. The First Council of Lyons and the Close of Frederick’s Career. 1241–1250.


Additional Literature.—Mansi, XXIII. 605 sqq.; Hefele, V. 105 sqq.— C. Rodenberg: Inn. IV. und das Königreich Sicilien, Halle, 1892.—H. Weber: Der Kampf zwischen Inn. IV. und Fried. II. Berlin, 1900.—P. Aldinger: Die Neubesetzung der deutschen Bisthümer unter Papst Inn. IV., Leipzig, 1900.—J. Maulbach: Die Kardinäle und ihre Politikum die Mitte des XIII. Jahrhunderts, 1243–1268, Bonn, 1902.


Gregory’s successor, Coelestin IV., survived his election less than three weeks. A papal vacancy followed, lasting the unprecedented period of twenty months. The next pope, Innocent IV., a Genoese, was an expert in the canon law and proved himself to be more than the equal of Frederick in shrewdness and quickness of action. At his election the emperor is reported to have exclaimed that among the cardinals he had lost a friend and in the pope gained an enemy. Frederick refused to enter into negotiations looking to an agreement of peace until he should be released from the ban. Innocent was prepared to take up Gregory’s conflict with great energy. All the weapons at the command of the papacy were brought into requisition: excommunication, the decree of a general council, deposition, the election of a rival emperor, and the active fomenting of rebellion in Frederick’s dominions. Under this accumulation of burdens Frederick, like a giant, attempted to bear up, but in vain.255255    M. Paris says he had never heard of such bitter hatred as the hatred between Innocent IV. and Frederick. Luard’s ed., V. 193cent’s first move was to out-general his antagonist by secretly leaving Rome. Alexander III. had set the precedent of delivering himself by flight. In the garb of a knight he reached Civita Vecchia, and there met by a Genoese galley proceeded to Genoa, where he was received with the ringing of bells and the acclamation, "Our soul is escaped like a bird out of the snare of the fowler." Joined by cardinals, he continued his journey to Lyons, which, though nominally a city of the empire, was by reason of its proximity to France a place of safe retreat.

The pope’s policy proved to be a master stroke. A deep impression in his favor was made upon the Christian world by the sight of the supreme pontiff in exile.256256    M. Paris, heretofore inclining to the side of Frederick, at this point distinctly changes his tone. See, for example, Luard’s ed., IV. 478. method which a priest of Paris resorted to in publishing Innocent’s sentence of excommunication against the emperor. "I am not ignorant," he said, "of the serious controversy and unquenchable hatred that has arisen between the emperor and the pope. I also know that one has done harm to the other, but which is the offender I do not know. Him, however, as far as my authority goes, I denounce and excommunicate, that is, the one who harms the other, whichever of the two it be, and I absolve the one which suffers under the injury which is so hurtful to the cause of Christendom."

Innocent was now free to convoke again the council which Frederick’s forcible measures had prevented from assembling in Rome. It is known as the First Council of Lyons, or the Thirteenth Oecumenical Council, and met in Lyons, 1245. The measures the papal letter mentioned as calling for action were the provision of relief for the Holy Land and of resistance to the Mongols whose ravages had extended to Hungary, and the settlement of matters in dispute between the Apostolic see and the emperor. One hundred and forty prelates were present. With the exception of a few representatives from England and one or two bishops from Germany, the attendance was confined to ecclesiastics from Southern Europe.257257    Two German bishops seem to have been present. Hefele, V. 982 sq. Catholic historians have been concerned to increase the number of attending prelates from the north.

Thaddeus promised for his master to restore Greece to the Roman communion and proceed to the Holy Land in person. Innocent rejected the promises as intended to deceive and to break up the council. The axe, he said, was laid at the root, and the stroke was not to be delayed. When Thaddeus offered the kings of England and France as sureties that the emperor would keep his promise, the pope sagaciously replied that in that case he would be in danger of having three princes to antagonize. Innocent was plainly master of the situation. The council was in sympathy with him. Many of its members had a grudge against Frederick for having been subjected to the outrage of capture and imprisonment by him.

At one of the first sessions the pope delivered a sermon from the text, "See, ye who pass this way, was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?" He dwelt upon five sorrows of the Church corresponding to the five wounds of Christ: the savage cruelty of the Mongols or Tartars, the schism of the Greeks, the growth of heresy, the desolation of Jerusalem, and the active persecution of the Church by the emperor. The charges against Frederick were sacrilege and heresy. As for the charge of heresy, Thaddeus maintained that it could be answered only by Frederick in person, and a delay of two weeks was granted that he might have time to appear. When he failed to appear, Innocent pronounced upon him the ban and declared him deposed from his throne. The deliverance set forth four grave offences; namely, the violation of his oath to keep peace with the Church, sacrilege in seizing the prelates on their way to the council, heresy, and withholding the tribute due from Sicily, a papal fief. Among the grounds for the charge of heresy were Frederick’s contempt of the pope’s prerogative of the keys, his treaty with the Sultan on his crusade, allowing the name of Mohammed to be publicly proclaimed day and night in the temple, having intercourse with Saracens, keeping eunuchs over his women, and giving his daughter in marriage to Battacius, an excommunicated prince. The words of the fell sentence ran as follows: —

"Seeing that we, unworthy as we are, hold on earth the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said to us in the person of St. Peter, ’whatsoever ye shall bind on earth,’ etc., do hereby declare Frederick, who has rendered himself unworthy of the honors of sovereignty and for his crimes has been deposed from his throne by God, to be bound by his sins and cast off by the Lord and we do hereby sentence and depose him; and all who are in any way bound to him by an oath of allegiance we forever release and absolve from that oath; and by our apostolic authority, we strictly forbid any one obeying him. We decree that any who gives aid to him as emperor or king shall be excommunicated; and those in the empire on whom the selection of an emperor devolves, have full liberty to elect a successor in his place."258258    Mansi, XXIII. 612 sqq., 638; Luard’s ed. of M. Paris, IV. 445-456. Gregorovius calls this decree "one of the most ominous events in universal history," V. 244.

Thaddeus appealed from the decision to another council.259259    Bréholles, VI. 318.ake a plea for the emperor, finding, as the English chronicler said, "but very little of that humility which he had hoped for in that servant of the servants of God." Frederick’s manifesto in reply to the council’s act was addressed to the king of England and other princes, and reminded them of the low birth of the prelates who set themselves up against lawful sovereigns, and denied the pope’s temporal authority. He warned them that his fate was likely to be theirs and announced it as his purpose to fight against his oppressors. It had been his aim to recall the clergy from lives of luxury and the use of arms to apostolic simplicity of manners. When this summons was heeded, the world might expect again to see miracles as of old. True as these principles were, and bold and powerful as was their advocate, the time had not yet come for Europe to espouse them, and the character of Frederick was altogether too vulnerable to give moral weight to his words.260260    Too much credit must not be given to Frederick for a far-seeing policy based upon a love of truth or a perception of permanent principles. The rights of conscience he nowhere hints at, and probably did not dream of.

The council’s discussions of measures looking to a new crusade did not have any immediate result. The clergy, besides being called upon to give a twentieth for three years, were instructed to see to it that wills contained bequests for the holy enterprise.

One of the interesting figures at the council was Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, who protected against ecclesiastical abuses in England, such as the appointment of unworthy foreigners to benefices, and the exorbitant exactions for the papal exchequer. The pope gave no relief, and the English bishops were commanded to affix their seals confirming King John’s charter of tribute.261261    M. Paris, Luard’s ed., IV. 478.ssertion of the most extravagant claims. The bishop of Rome was intrusted with authority to judge kings. If, in the Old Testament, priests deposed unworthy monarchs, how much more right had the vicar of Christ so to do. Innocent stirred up the flames of rebellion in Sicily and through the mendicant orders fanned the fires of discontent in Germany. Papal legates practically usurped the government of the German Church from 1246 to 1254. In the conflict over the election of bishops to German dioceses, Innocent usually gained his point, and in the year 1247–1248 thirteen of his nominees were elected.262262    See Aldinger..

In Italy civil war broke out. Here the mendicant orders were also against him. He met the elements of revolt in the South and subdued them. Turning to the North, success was at first on his side but soon left him. One fatality followed another. Thaddeus of Suessa fell, 1248. Peter de Vinea, another shrewd counsellor, had abandoned his master. Enzio, the emperor’s favorite son, was in prison.263263    The tragic career of this gifted man and consummate flower of chivalry is deeply engraven in the romance and architecture of Bologna.s enough, Innocent, in 1247, had once more launched the anathema against him. Frederick’s career was at an end. He retired to Southern Italy, a broken man, and died near Lucera, an old Samnite town, Dec. 13, 1250. His tomb is at the side of the tomb of his parents in the cathedral of Palermo. He died absolved by the archbishop of Palermo and clothed in the garb of the Cistercians.264264    This is the, more credible narrative. Villani, an. 1250, tells the story that Manfred bribed Frederick’s chamberlain, and stifled the dying man with a wet cloth.

Stupor mundi, the Wonder of the World—this is the title which Matthew Paris applies to Frederick II.265265    Principum mundi maximus, stupor quoque mundi et immutator mirabilis, "greatest of the princes of the earth, the wonder of the world and the marvellous regulating genius [innovator] in its affairs." Luard’s M. Paris, V. 190, 196. In his letters Frederick styled himself Fredericus Dei gratia Romanorum imperator et semper augustus, Jerusalem et Siciliae rex.is equal as a ruler since the days of Charlemagne. For his wide outlook, the diversity of his gifts, and the vigor and versatility of his statecraft he is justly compared to the great rulers.266266    Kington, I. 475 sqq.k surpassed him in intellectual breadth and culture. He is the most conspicuous political figure of his own age and the most cosmopolitan of the Middle Ages. He was warrior, legislator, statesman, man of letters. He won concessions in the East and was the last Christian king of Jerusalem to enter his realm. He brought order out of confusion in Sicily and Southern Italy and substituted the uniform legislation of the Sicilian Constitutions for the irresponsible jurisdiction of ecclesiastical court and baron. It has been said he founded the system of centralized government267267   Gregorovius, V. 271. This view is not discredited by the decentralizing charters Frederick gave to German cities on which Fisher, Mediaeval Empire, lays so much stress. See his good chapter on "Imperial Legislation in Italy" (XI). and Mohammedan.

In his conflict with the pope, he was governed, not by animosity to the spiritual power, but by the determination to keep it within its own realm. In genuine ideal opposition to the hierarchy he went farther than any of his predecessors.268268    Ranke, VIII. 369 sqq. Döllinger pronounced him the greatest and most dangerous foe the papacy ever had.269269    Akademische Vorträge, III. 213.n anti-pope.270270    Cardinal Rainer’s letter as given by M. Paris, Luard’s ed., V. 61-67; Giles’s trans., II. 298 sqq. Peter the Lombard, writing to one of his presbyters, says ecclesia Romana totis viribus contra imperatorem et ad ejus destructionem, Bréholles, V. 1226.

It has been surmised that Frederick was not a Christian. Gregory charged him specifically with blasphemy. But Frederick as specifically disavowed the charge of making Christ an impostor, and swore fealty to the orthodox faith.271271    For the charge, that he denied the incarnation by the Virgin Mary and other charges, see above and Bréholles, V. 459 sq.; M. Paris, Luard’s ed., III. 521.272272    The statement was floating about in the air. It is traced to Simon Tornacensis, a professor of theology in Paris, d. 1201, as well as to Frederick. A book under the title De tribus impostoribus can be traced into the sixteenth century. It produced the extermination of the Canaanites and other arguments against the revealed character of the Bible and relegated the incarnation to the category of the myths of the gods. See Herzog, Enc. IX. 72-75; and F. W. Genthe,De impostura religionum, etc., Leipzig, 1833; Benrath’s art. in Herzog, IX. 72-75; Reuter. Gesch. der Aufklärung im M. A., II. 275 sqq.losser withholds from him all religious and moral faith. Ranke and Freeman leave the question of his religious faith an open one. Hergenröther makes the distinction that as a man he was an unbeliever, as a monarch a strict Catholic. Gregorovius holds that he cherished convictions as sincerely catholic as those professed by the Ghibelline Dante. Fisher emphasizes his singular detachment from the current superstitious of his day.273273    Med. Emp., II. 163. to usurp the sovereign pontificate and found a lay papacy and to combine in himself royalty and papal functions.

Frederick was highly educated, a friend of art and learning. He was familiar with Greek, Latin, German, French, and Arabic, as well as Italian. He founded the University of Naples. He was a precursor of the Renaissance and was himself given to rhyming. He wrote a book on falconry.274274    Ranke calls it one of the best treatments of the Middle Ages on the subject. For Frederick’s influence on culture and literature, see Bréholles, I. ch. 9. Also Fisher’s Med. Emp., II. ch. 14, "The Empire and Culture." concerning his forests and household concerns, thus reminding us of Napoleon and his care for his capital while on his Russian and other campaigns. Like other men of the age, he cultivated astrology. Michael Scott was his favorite astrologer. To these worthy traits, Frederick added the luxurious habits and apparently the cruelty of an Oriental despot. Inheriting the island of which the Saracens had once been masters, he showed them favor and did not hesitate to appropriate some of their customs. He surrounded himself with a Saracenic bodyguard275275    This bodyguard was with him on his last campaign and before Parma.276276    Of his cruelty and unrestrained morals, priestly chroniclers could not say enough. See Kington, II. 474 sqq. He was legally married four times; Amari, in his History of the Mohammedans in Sicily, calls him a "baptized sultan." For Frederick’s relation to the Mohammedans, see Bréholles, I. 325-375.

Freeman’s judgment must be regarded as extravagant when he says that "in mere genius, in mere accomplishments, Frederick was surely the greatest prince that ever wore a crown."277277    Hist. Essays, I. 286. He says again, p. 283, "It is probable there never lived a human being endowed with greater natural gifts." We may agree with Freeman’s statement that in Frederick’s career "are found some of the most wonderful chapters in European history," p. 313.es him "one of the greatest personages in history."278278    Holy Rom. Emp., ch. XIII.. When the news of his death reached Innocent IV., that pontiff wrote to the Sicilians that heaven and hell rejoiced at it. A juster feeling was expressed by the Freiburger Chronicle when it said, "If he had loved his soul, who would have been his equal?"279279    Herbert Fisher says, "Of all the mediaeval emperors, Frederick II. alone seems to have the true temper of the legislator."Med. Emp., II. 167. Equal to his best generalizations is Gibbon’s characterization of Frederick’s career, as "successively the pupil, the enemy, and the victim of the Church," ch. LIX.



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