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§ 42. The Papal Conflict with Frederick II Begun.

Between the death of Innocent III. and the election of Boniface VIII., a period of eighty years, sixteen popes sat on the throne, several of whom were worthy successors of the greatest of the pontiffs. The earlier half of the period, 1216–1250, was filled with the gigantic struggle between the papacy and Frederick II., emperor of Germany and king of Sicily. The latter half, 1250–1294, was marked by the establishment of peace between the papacy and empire, and the dominance of the French, or Norman, influence over the papacy.

Scarcely was Innocent in his grave when Frederick II. began to play his distinguished rôle, and to engage the papacy in its last great struggle with the empire—a desperate struggle, as it proved to be, in which the empire was at last completely humbled. The struggle kept Europe in turmoil for nearly forty years, and was waged with three popes,—Honorius III., Gregory IX., and Innocent IV., the last two, men of notable ability. During all this time Frederick was the most conspicuous figure in Christendom. The struggle was carried on not only in the usual ways of diplomacy and arms, but by written appeals to the court of European opinion.

Frederick II., the grandson of Frederick Barbarossa, was born near Ancona, 1194. His father, Henry VI., had joined Sicily to the empire by his marriage with the Norman princess Constance, through whom Frederick inherited the warm blood of the south. By preference and training, as well as birth, he was a thorough Italian. He tarried on German soil only long enough to insure his crown and to put down the rebellion of his son.234234    Ranke, VIII. 337, calls him a foreigner on German soil. child of Apulia," as Frederick was called, a boy then in his fourth year, passed under the guardian care of Innocent III. After Otto’s star had set, he was crowned king at Frankfurt, 1212, and at Aachen, 1215. Frederick was not twenty when Innocent’s career came to an end.

Honorius III., 1216–1227, was without the ambition or genius of his predecessor Innocent III. He confirmed the rules and witnessed the extraordinary growth of the two great mendicant orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic. He crowned Peter of Courtenay, emperor of Byzantium, the only Byzantine emperor to receive his crown in Rome.235235    The coronation took place outside the walls of the city. Peter died in prison on his way to Constantinople. coronation, in 1215, to lead a crusade, was the main effort of his pontificate. The year 1217, the date set for the crusade to start, passed by. Honorius fixed date after date with Frederick, but the emperor had other plans and found excuses for delay. In 1220 he and his wife Constantia received the imperial crown at the hands of the pope in Rome.236236    The coronation ceremonies passed off amidst the general good will of the Roman populace and were interrupted by a single disturbance, a dispute over a dog between the ambassadors of Florence and Pisa which ultimately involved the cities in war. Villani, VI. 2. suppress heresy, and exempting all churches and clerics from taxation. In the meantime his son Henry had been elected king of the Romans, and by that act and the pope’s subsequent ratification the very thing was accomplished which it had been Innocent’s shrewd policy to prevent; namely, the renewal of the union of the empire and the kingdom of Sicily in one hand. Frederick was pursuing his own course, but to appease Honorius he renewed the pledge whereby Sicily was to remain a fief of the papal see.

The fall of Damietta,237237    Damietta, an important harbor in Egypt, had been chosen by the crusaders as their base of operations against Jerusalem and the point from which Jerusalem was to be his zeal and hastening the departure of the crusade, Honorius encouraged the emperor’s marriage with Iolanthe, daughter of John of Brienne, king of Jerusalem, and heiress of the crown.238238    On the ground that Iolanthe was immediate heir to the crown through her mother. title of king of Jerusalem; but he continued to show no sign of making haste. His aggravating delays were enough to wear out a more amiable disposition than even Honorius possessed. A final agreement was made between them in 1225, which gave the emperor a respite of two years more, and he swore upon penalty of excommunication to set forth October, 1227. Four months before the date appointed for the crusade Honorius died.

The last year of Honorius’s reign, Frederick entered openly upon the policy which involved him in repeated wars with the papacy and the towns of Northern Italy. He renewed the imperial claims to the Lombard cities. Upon these claims the Apostolic see could not look with complacency, for, if realized, they would have made Frederick the sovereign of Italy and cramped the temporal power of the papacy within a limited and at best an uncertain area.

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