A History of the Popes
by Joseph McCabe
Excerpts from: A History of the Popes by Joseph McCabe,
formerly a Romish priest and author of more than fifty historical works.

12th  and  13th  Century

1 – The Intellectual Awakening    3 – Frederic II and the Papacy
2 – The Popes React With Massacre and Inquisition
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The Intellectual Awakening

Much more important is the question of the relation of the Papacy to the new mental vitality of Europe which began in the eleventh century. The artist may indignantly protest that you cannot fill with beauty the world in which people live without a notable result in the refinement of their sentiments and character. But, if we prefer our history written in terms of fact, we must admit that the medieval artistic movement had not that effect. Men and women of the noble class began, after centuries of incredible filthiness, to wear washable under-linen, to have baths, to substitute carpets for the straw, fouled by man and dog, with which they had strewn their dining-halls, and so on; but after what we have seen about their sentiments and character we shall hardly admit, except in a very small class, any refinement of these. The intellectual awakening, on the other hand, was destined to lead, after centuries of struggle, to two results which are among the vital elements of our modern civilization: science and universal education.

If we ask what share the Papacy had in this recovery of mental vitality, we must again distinguish between the personal action of the Popes and the work of their provincial representatives. When writers attribute to the Papacy a very important part in the restoration of civilization, their readers naturally conclude that the Popes must at least have encouraged, if they did not inspire, the new system of schools, universities, and critical inquiry; and Roman Catholics often assert this. It is wholly and flagrantly false, Europe surged into the fierce intellectual activity of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries without the assistance of the Popes. We shall find these so entirely absorbed in quarrels about their territory with the Germans, the Normans, and the Romans themselves that they never even notice the new development; except when a heretic is important enough to have his heresy explained to them. If we here resume the story of the individual Popes, we shall see that a claim that they promoted the mental awakening of Europe is a particularly bold misrepresentation of the facts.

We suspended that story at the point when, in the year 1118, Pope Paschal II wearily laid down his burden, after nearly twenty years of futile struggle against Henry V. His successor, Gelasius II (1118-1119), was even less disposed to consider the new school-movement. He was an aged and sickly monk whom the cardinals brought furtively from the abbey of Monte Cassino and secretly elected in a Benedictine monastery at Rome. As soon as the news spread, the Frangipani, the most powerful family of baron-bandits and staunch imperialists, rushed from their towers and invaded the church. Their leader, Cencius, caught the Pope by the throat and threw him to the floor. He is said to have trampled upon the old man. He, at all events, dragged him from the church and chained him in one of his towers and, when the Romans released him, sent word to the Emperor.

The Pope and cardinals took ship in the Tiber to escape by night, the pro-Germans following them with arrows and stones, the vessel rolling and pitching in a storm. When they reached a port down the coast a cardinal had to carry the Lord of the World on his back from the ship. But when Gelasius heard that Henry V had declared his election void and had set up an anti-Pope, Gregory VIII, he stole back into Rome and was locked away in the tower-fortress of a supporter. One day he foolishly ventured to visit a chapel in the Frangipani District, and their men broke into it and desecrated it with a murderous fight. Somebody put the Pope on a horse at the back door, and, vestments flying, he made off alone; and in the evening some women found him wandering dejectedly in a field in the suburbs. He was shipped to France, where he died in a few months.

Our only quarrel with Gregorovius when he says that the next Pope, Calixtus II (1119-1124), another strict monk, “found Rome sunk in a state of barbarism that must have moved him to despair” is that Calixtus did not know Rome at the time of his election, and he was not the type of man to despair. Since the cardinals were in France, they had elected a French monk-noble who, on becoming Pope, adopted the tone of a prince. He at once summoned a great Council at Rheims, where he sat on a throne at the door of the cathedral before a vast crowd which included the French King and court, and they passed the usual ineffectual resolutions that there was to be no more simony and no more clerical unchastity, and that the Truce of God — a periodical holiday from fighting — must be observed. He went to the frontier to meet Henry V, and their representatives agreed upon the terms of a reconciliation. For some reason Henry disavowed them, and the Pope, excommunicating him and declaring his subjects free to rebel against him, made a triumphal journey across France and Italy to Rome. The anti-Pope fled, but Calixtus himself went with the troops under the command of a cardinal to seize him. The next page rather mitigates our feeling that the monk-Pope was a man of serene spiritual dignity. He stooped to the vulgarity of compelling the anti-Pope to ride on a camel, his face to the tail, dressed in a goatskin and with kitchen utensils hung about him, in his triumphal procession through Rome, Gregory was imprisoned and cruelly treated until he died.

Calixtus brought to a close the long quarrel about investitures which had been the chief pretext of the deadly and demoralizing feud of the Popes and Emperors. Since the appointment (or investment) of bishops and archbishops by the secular monarch was one of the chief reasons why so many prelates were nobles or courtiers of very unedifying life, it was inevitable that reforming Popes should make a stern fight to abolish the practice. But there was another side of the matter. These prelates had, and the Popes insisted that they should have, as large a share as other nobles in the secular administration and the royal council. It was a clear case for compromise, and all Christendom now demanded that a compromise should be found. In the Concordat of Worms (1122) the struggle, which had brought appalling misery upon Italy, ended in this fashion. The Emperor surrendered the right of investiture, but the election of a bishop must take place in the presence of his representatives, so that he had a power of veto. Three out of the five years of the pontificate of Calixtus had now passed; and we need add only that he spent the remaining two years in attempting to restore order in Rome.

Papal historians tell with pride how he destroyed many of the fortresses, how he won over (by gold) many of the hostile barons and exiled others, but in fact passion flamed out worse than ever when he died, and Rome passed into another long period of barbarism. Again we notice the fallacy of those who argue that apart from a few “bad Popes,” whose antics may now be forgotten, the Papacy means a series of men of rare power and exalted ideals who must have had a beneficent influence upon the life of Europe. It is only by concealing the actual historical record that these things can be said; and such periods as that which we now cover explain the futility of the “good Popes.” All the Popes who occupied the chair from the middle of the eleventh to the end of the thirteenth century were pious men of regular life, yet the city of Rome made almost no progress socially, intellectually, or economically while nearly the whole of the rest of Christendom moved to a higher level.

The writer who throws the blame for this upon the Roman barons or people is in effect asking us to believe that the Popes “curbed the passions” of men everywhere except under their own noses. The broad explanation — we shall see special reasons in the case of the more powerful Popes like Innocent III — is that the spiritual influence which they might have exerted was paralysed by their preoccupation with their fraudulent claims of Temporal Power. The long and disastrous struggle over investiture, which was also a quarrel about territory, was succeeded by an even longer and more disastrous fight for the secular rule of Rome and the Papal possessions in Italy.

The factions in Rome marshalled their forces while Pope Galixtus lay dying. The Frangipani had their candidate in the wings, their opponents a rival candidate; but the latter did not like the alarming prospect and he withdrew. Honorius II (1124-1130) then held the office during five or six relatively peaceful years, since his powerful patrons dominated the city. All that need be recorded of him is that he launched many brave anathemas against men who held Papal territory, and they took no notice.

The electors prepared for a sterner struggle when the news spread, in 1130, that he was dying. Some chroniclers say that they did not wait until he was dead; others that they buried his body before it was cold and rushed to the election. The cardinals were divided. Sixteen of them, in alliance with the Frangipani, elected Innocent II (1130-1143). But there was a formidable rival in a son of the wealthy Pierleoni family whose gold flowed more freely than that of the Frangipani — some of these, in fact, were won over — and thirty-two cardinals made him Pope Anacletus II. In the dust of the passionate struggle which followed we do not clearly see the character of either man. According to Innocent, his rival had Jewish blood in his veins — this seems to be true — and had been so unscrupulous in acquiring a fortune to buy the Papacy that he had melted down the gold and silver vessels of the churches. Innocent’s supporters added that Pope Anacletus raped nuns, had a prostitute for a mistress, and had incestuous relations with his sister and other relatives. What we do know is that the supporters of Anacletus broke open the doors of St.Peter’s, the Lateran, and Sta. Maria Maggiore and handed out treasure to their followers. Rome rallied to Anacletus, and Innocent fled to France.

Here the historical background again becomes important. While Rome remained semi-barbarous — of the sixteen Popes of the twelfth century only four were Romans, so scarce were decent candidates — France was now lit from end to end by a spirited school-life, with thousands of wandering scholars, and the artistic gaiety of the troubadour movement. Among the crowd of prelates and abbots who greeted Innocent in France was the famous Abelard, who was already near the end of his brilliant career; and it illustrates the Pope’s indifference to intellectual matters that, although Abelard had already been condemned for heresy, he was received with distinction by Innocent and his cardinals. From the beginning of the century thousands of gay students had attended the schools of Paris, and a network of schools of every grade covered the country. Two other great figures were just approaching the beginning of their public career. One was Arnold of Brescia, pupil of Abelard, who, though strictly orthodox in doctrine and an ascetic in life, was soon to alarm the higher clergy and incur the hatred of the Popes by demanding that the clergy should surrender all wealth and power to the laity, and that the pomp and tyranny of princes and nobles should be abolished. The other figure was the stern monk Bernard of Clairvaux, the fierce opponent of both Abelard and Arnold — though he agreed that the Popes ought not to have a Temporal Power — and far more powerful than any Pope of the century. He espoused the cause of Innocent, and eventually secured his triumph.

Anacletus (the Anti-Pope) had in the meantime turned to Roger of Sicily. The Normans were now masters of the island and of a large part of South Italy which the Popes claimed as their territory. I earlier contrasted the high civilization of Saracen Sicily with the barbarism of Rome, and the contrast was now greater than ever. Rome was little if at all changed, but the Normans had taken over and promoted the advanced culture of the Saracens, and the cities were almost as brilliant as those of Spain. It was a Sicilian-Arab architect of this period who built the noble tower, the Giralda, which rises above Seville to-day.

Roger had adopted the title of Duke, and coveted the title of King, of Sicily. This title Anacletus conferred upon him in 1130 as the price of alliance. The alliance was not devoid of cynicism. The adventures of his completely unscrupulous mother and the lessons of his own Moslem tutors had made Roger a sceptic. He was, says Count von Schach (“Die Normannen in Sicilien”), “the greatest man of his age”; a fine statesman, a distinguished patron and student of science and philosophy, and head of the richest, most luxurious, and most learned court in Europe. It was, we shall see, one of the chief sources of the resuscitation of art and culture in Italy. But Roger preferred the ethic of the more liberal Moslem to that of the Pope. He had several large and choice harems; and once, when he heard that an abbot of great virtue sourly complained of his ways, he sent one of the most beautiful of his mistresses to seduce the man. Such was the reigning Pope’s new ally; and the list of the spiritual as well as secular distinctions which Anacletus conferred upon him is amusing.

But Bernard won most of Christendom for his rival, Innocent, and the German King Lothar brought an army to Italy, on the customary bribe of an offer of the imperial crown. Five years of warfare followed, but Lothar died in 1137 and Anacletus in the following year. St, Bernard came to Rome, and between his pious exhortations and the Pope’s gold the opposition was destroyed, and the Church united in the Lateran Council of 1139. This success prompted Innocent to make a foolish move. He led an army against the Sicilians, and they captured him and induced him to recognize Roger. This surrender of the Papal estates in South Italy angered the Romans, and they seized the occasion, in 1141, of some unpopular act of the Pope, to declare that henceforward they would rule their own city. When Innocent died, they secured the election of a pupil of Abelard and friend of Arnold of Brescia. Pope Celestine II (1143-1144) was the only Pope of any real culture and liberality in that century, but he died in five months, and the story of the Papacy passed into a peculiar phase.

Writers who praise the tranquil docility of the Middle Ages and assure us how deeply the people were attached to their autocratic institutions, spiritual and secular, do not mention the fact that for the next fifty years — indeed, in some form the struggle lasted nearly two centuries — the Roman people fought their Popes, with whom most of the nobles were now allied, in an effort to secure independence and democracy. Arnold of Brescia had not yet reached Rome, but the cities of North Italy were winning or exacting charters of self-government, and the Romans followed their example. They declared Rome a republic and drafted a new civic constitution; and they demanded that the new Pope, Lucius II (1144-1145), should surrender his claims to territory. He refused, and in leading his Papal militia in an attack upon the republican stronghold, in the second year of his pontificate, he was struck by a stone, and died a few days later.

The Papacy had been so impoverished by its loss of territory and its incessant troubles that there was no longer a fight for the prize. It was awarded to a monk-follower of St. Bernard: a man of so low a grade of intelligence that Bernard himself was astonished. When, however, Eugenius III (1145-1153) went in procession to St.Peter’s for his consecration, the Senators refused to let him pass until he recognized the republic. He fled to the provinces, where he remained eight months. A division in the popular party permitted him to return, and he compromised with the leaders of the people; but he soon had to fly again, and he remained in France two years. Some day an historian may count for us the number of times in two centuries the Romans expelled their Holy Fathers, and how many years they spent in exile. With the support of the Emperor, of French gold, and of the eloquence of St. Bernard, Eugenius was again admitted to Rome, and again expelled. He did not even die there, though the last six months of his eight years’ pontificate were spent in the comparatively peaceful discharge of his duties; and all that need be said about his successor, Anastasius IV (1153-1154), is that he also spent some fifteen months in the technical activities which do not interest us.

Very few Romans, as I said, were found fit for the Papal office, and the choice next fell upon an Englishman, Nicholas Breakspear, who became Adrian IV (1154-1159). He had begun life as a barefooted beggar-boy, and had by his ability and energy won a distinguished place among the churchmen of his time. But he is hardly a great figure in English biography. His two most notable acts were that he sanctioned the wanton British conquest of Ireland, alleging that it was a Papal fief, and that he was virtually the murderer of Arnold of Brescia.

The Romans demanded that he should confine himself and his court to the Leonine City across the Tiber, and they still held the whole of Rome. Adrian retorted that they must expel Arnold, and, taking advantage of the assassination of a cardinal, he, for the first time in history, laid an interdict upon the city. Under this awful suspension of all their religious life the democrats soon yielded; especially as the new German King, the ferocious Frederic Barbarossa, was marching upon Italy with an army. Arnold fled and the Pope begged the King to capture and deliver him. Frederic brought him to Rome, where the reformer, in character one of the greatest men of his age, was condemned by the clergy and handed over to the secular arm. He was hanged, and his body was burned so that the Romans might not even pay respect to his remains. He had been the most consistent Christian in Christendom, the one man who told the Popes, more plainly than St. Bernard did, why they had so much power yet so little influence for good; and they had slain him and treated his body as if he were a diseased hog.

Adrian, like most of his predecessors, got little profit by his arrogant and truculent policy. “Would that I had never left my native land,” he said to John of Salisbury. When he crowned Barbarossa Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter’s, he forbade the Romans to cross the river or come near the church. They came in arms, and they fought the German army so valiantly that a thousand of them were killed, and the sacred area was once more red with blood. Yet the Emperor reduced neither the Romans nor the Sicilians for him; and when the Pope, in despair, made peace with the Sicilians, against whom he had solemnly sworn a pact with Frederic, the Emperor angrily denounced the Papacy to all Europe for its greed and treachery, and he marched upon Rome. Adrian escaped his vengeance by dying, but his policy had once more demoralized the Papal Court with an acrid feud of Imperialists and anti-Imperialists. Italy entered upon forty further years of suffering, and was racked with a savagery equal to any that had been perpetrated in the Dark Age.

It is not my purpose here to amuse the reader with picturesque details about the medieval Popes, but to show that they not only did not, but were totally unfitted to, contribute to the restoration of civilization in Europe. The thirteenth century we shall consider later, but the intellectual vitality which began in the eleventh century was, in so far as it was a sound human development, almost at its height by the end of the twelfth century. Yet we shall find the Popes during the remainder of the century absorbed in a more violent struggle for their material “rights” than ever. We shall further see that the very real progress which Europe made in art, culture, economic prosperity, and social reform (the independence of cities, emancipation of the serfs, growth of a middle class, etc.) did not include the one form of improvement which Papal influence ought to effect: moral improvement. We shall find the German Emperors more savage and more treacherous than ever; and this new infection, of Italy is one of the reasons why a quite barbaric callousness and cruelty lingered in the country through all the artistic and cultural splendour of the Renaissance. We shall find the Romans themselves as barbarous as at any period of the Dark Age, and the greed of the Papal Court, which was already a byword in Europe, worse than ever.

When in 1120 Abelard proposed to appeal to Rome for justice, Frior Pulques disdainfully wrote him: “Hast thou never heard of the avarice and impurity of Rome? Who is wealthy enough to satisfy that devouring whirlpool of harlotry?” Abbot Suger of St. Denis tells us of the astonishment of the monks when Paschal II visited them and “expressed no affection, contrary to the Roman custom, for the gold, silver, and precious pearls of the monastery.”

Pope Alexander III (1159-1181), who succeeded the Englishman, had the second longest pontificate since the establishment of the Roman bishopric, and he is esteemed even by so neutral an historian as Gregorovius “one of the greatest of the Popes.” This may seem a strange introduction to a period of demoralization, but of his twenty-two years Alexander spent eighteen in a bitter struggle with the Emperor, and fifteen of these years were passed in exile. Indeed, he died in exile, and, when his body was brought to Rome, the citizens stoned the coffin and it had to be buried secretly. It is therefore hardly likely that he did much to promote the enlightenment and progress of Rome and Europe. His Papal career began in violence and, however religious his intention may have been, in bribery; for no historian doubts that he and his supporters paid out much French, English, and Sicilian gold to outweigh that of the opposing faction. “Whenever a buyer appeared, Rome showed itself venal,” says his contemporary biographer and admirer, the Cardinal of Aragon.

At the death of Adrian the cardinals had met in St.Peter’s for the election. The majority were anti-Imperialists, but Rome dreaded the choice of a man who would defy the terrible Barbarossa, and they wrangled for three days. The great majority nevertheless voted for Cardinal Roland, an anti-Imperialist who took the name of Alexander. When he murmured the usual formula that he was unworthy, one of the opposing cardinals, a man of handsome presence and very popular in Rome for his liberality, proposed to take him at his word. He and his friends had another cope, or purple mantle, ready, and they hastily put this upon him: so hastily that they put it on back to front, and there was a roar of laughter. Troops with drawn swords then entered the church and escorted the anti-Pope, Victor IV, as he called himself, to the waiting crowd in the city. And Alexander the Unworthy at once began a most spirited fight for the Papal throne. St.Peter’s was at this time not the shrine of gentle piety which many imagine, but a heavily fortified building with catapults on the roof. There they sustained a siege for ten days, Victor leading an armed body against them, while the women and children lined the route and filled the city with ribald cries. This was a hundred and ten years after “the reform of the Papacy.” The Emperor proposed that the matter should be settled by a Council, and, when Alexander refused, Victor was declared the legitimate Pope. Alexander was driven from Rome and, after scattering a shower of anathemas, he went to France.

It is claimed for Alexander that he raised the prestige of the Papacy by bringing the fiery Barbarossa to his knees and compelling the equally fiery King of England to do penance. I have carefully read the hundred eulogistic pages which Mgr. Mann devotes to Alexander, and it is clear that we may without injustice confine ourselves to these achievements of the Pope. There was no spiritual triumph in either case, and in both cases the apparent triumph was followed by worse evils. Dean Milman devotes a hundred pages of his History of Latin Christianity (Vol. V) to the quarrel of Henry II with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket, and he shows that, as “the gold of England was the strength of Alexander,” that Pope vacillated shamelessly, and what support he gave to the archbishop was “in exact measure to his own prosperity or danger.” The Cambridge Medieval History (V, ch. XVII) and all authorities support this. When the archbishop was murdered the Pope professed to accept Henry’s oath of innocence, and the penance he imposed — for the whole of Christendom was shocked — was ridiculously light. To the moral condition of the English clergy, who were, both higher and lower, astonishingly corrupt, he paid no attention, and he did not dare to rebuke the notorious vices of the King. In sexual conduct Henry was totally unrestrained: his rages were such that he used to roll on the floor and bite; and he used to “curse God in wild frenzies of blasphemy.” The Pope vitally needed his support, and reserved his moral indignation for hours of quarrel. It must not be forgotten that the King of England then ruled not only that country, but even more of France than the French King did.

The quarrel with the Emperor, though a quarrel was inevitable since Frederic supported the anti-Pope and gave him two successors during the pontificate of Alexander, was scarcely more honouring to the Pope. Anti-Pope Victor IV died in 1164, and, though his place was taken by Paschal III, the man had not the impressiveness of Victor, and Alexander’s representative won a large part of Rome from him by the use of the French and English gold which the Pope sent from France. Alexander returned to Rome, and, since the Romans, who still ruled their city, were as hostile to the Emperor as he, there were three comparatively peaceful years.

Then the Emperor, who had reduced Northern Italy with terrible severity, reached Rome. Barbarossa (Red Beard) was by no means the worst of his line. Contemporaries observe with praise that when he took a town he allowed the women and children to leave before he burned it down (with the men inside), and that, if a town surrendered on a promise that he would spare them all, he kept his word. That is almost the nearest approach to chivalry in the Age of Chivalry. But he had to spend thirty of the forty years of his reign crushing revolts in Italy and Germany — where there was not even a rudimentary sense of honour in the great nobles — and he perpetrated the same barbarities as other commanders.

Frederic reached Rome in 1167, and occupied the Leonine City, or the Vatican extension of the old city. St.Peter’s was so strongly fortified that it held out for eight days against the German army, and its garrison ceased to fight only when it was threatened with fire. The Germans then cut down the doors with axes and hewed their way to the altar through the Papal troops. Next day, when the mounds of corpses and pools of blood had been removed, Frederic installed his second anti-Pope with great pomp. He again invited the Popes — quite illegitimately of course — to submit their rival claims to a Council, and, when Alexander refused, the Romans themselves begged him to abdicate or leave.

He began his second long exile; and even when the plague so decimated the German army that Frederic had to retire, the Romans still contemptuously refused to receive him. They laughed at both Popes, and governed the city themselves until, ten years later, Frederic was defeated by the cities of North Italy and, on that account alone, they made peace with Alexander and permitted him to settle in Rome. Within a year the Romans again expelled him, and he spent his last two years in exile; and they pelted with mud and stones the coffin containing the body of “one of the greatest of the Popes” when it was brought to Rome. There was no public funeral.

The five Popes who fill the remainder of the twelfth century were men of no distinction and little interest. Indeed, only two of them lived in Rome. The Romans had a long-standing feud with the neighbouring town of Tusculum, once the firmest support of the Popes, and still their first refuge when they were expelled from Rome. They again savagely attacked it, and those who fancy the Popes as stern, uncompromising moralists would be interested to read the character of the ally whom Pope Lucius III (1181-1185) summoned to assist the Tusculans. He was one of the many German fighting and roystering archbishops of the time. Though Archbishop of Mainz, he was a hard-drinking soldier who kept a harem of beautiful girls. The Romans took Tusculum and spread devastatingly over the Papal States. In one place they captured twenty-five priests. They cut out the eyes of twentyfour, put cardinals’ hats on their heads, and ordered the one uninjured priest — though some chronicles say they put out one of his eyes — whom they labelled “Lucius III Traitor,” to lead them to the Pope.

Urban III (1185-1187) never reached Rome; and when he wanted to excommunicate Frederic, the citizens of Verona, where he lived, threatened to turn him out if he did so. Gregory VIII (1187) lasted three months. Clement III (1187-1191) made peace with the Roman democracy and spent two years in the innocent technical duties of a pontiff. Celestine III (1191-1198) was forced, much against his will, to crown Henry VI, the half-savage son of Barbarossa (who was drowned), and when the Romans refused to permit the ceremony unless Tusculum was handed to them for complete annihilation, Pope and Emperor basely consented to the outrage. Celestine, for reasons of policy, refused to condemn the treacherous capture and disgraceful imprisonment of Richard the Lion Heart, for which Richard’s mother, Queen Eleanor, wrote him the most scorching letters that any woman, if not any man, ever addressed to a Pope; and he did not excommunicate Henry until, in an orgy of savagery in Sicily, he included bishops and archbishops among his victims. He died in 1198, last of the long series of Popes who by their obstinate struggle for temporal power and possessions kept Rome in a state of barbarism while the new life animated more fortunate provinces of Christendom.

If we now retrace our steps and consider the intellectual awakening of Europe in the countries where far from Rome it actually occurred, we recognize that it was predominantly a secular development. The historian who is too lenient to the Papacy represents the movement as an expansion of the system of episcopal and monastic schools. It was the obvious duty of the Church to insist that there should be schools in connection with the residences of bishops and the larger abbeys if the priests and monks were to be able at least to read ritual and religious books. The vast majority, however, neglected this. The decrees of Charlemagne emphatically state this in the ninth century, and all historians of education agree that his order was evaded during his life and ignored after his death. Until the eleventh century the situation remained the same, and to quote the schools of a few exceptional abbeys — Monte Cassino, Bec, Cluny, Fulda, etc. — in which the sons of princes as well as monks and priests were educated, is most misleading. More representative is the abbey in Brittany of which Abelard became abbot. He tells us that he found the monks — all married, half a century after the Hildebrand reform — sensual and illiterate, and, when he reproved them, they tried to murder him.

Where we first find a real expansion of the school system is in the south of France. In the second half of the eleventh century, as I found in studying the career of William of Aquitaine, the western half of Southern France had numerous schools in its thriving towns, But the eastern half, Provence, was so clearly the source of this culture, art, and prosperity that today a hundred people know the name of Provence for one who ever heard of medieval Aquitaine. This more advanced life of Southern France about the year 1100 can be traced to an earlier period, and at the same time we very clearly perceive its source.

We saw that Pope Silvester II (Gerbert) was the only Pope in a thousand years with any other than ecclesiastical learning. Gerbert was the son of a French serf and had received a primary education in an abbey near his home in Southern France. The abbot had got his own learning from Barcelona, and the boy was sent there to study. At this time Barcelona was considered part of France and was Christian, but it was within easy distance of and in constant communication with Valencia and other great Arab cities. Cordova was then, about the middle of the ninth century, in its prime, and its fame for learning had spread over Europe. Even a nun in a convent in Saxony refers at this period to “the splendid city of Cordova.” Its colleges were renowned, especially for the study of science; the education was free; and, as the Arabs were tolerant and sceptical except when Moorish fanatics from Africa obtained power, Christian visitors were freely admitted.

That the more successful pioneers of the twelfth century got their ideas from Spain Professor Haskins freely admits. Here we have, even in the tenth century, an easy channel for culture from Spain to South-eastern France, and it was along this open channel that, in the eleventh century, the love of art, of music and song, also found its way and started the troubadour movement. Andalusia had enjoyed a very high culture and a splendid civilization since the middle of the ninth century. The Jews took Arab products, even scientific instruments, all over Europe. Professor Haskins shows that the Frior of Malvern Abbey, in the centre of England, had an astronomical instrument from Arab Spain in the eleventh century and had learned a little astronomy from a travelling Jew. A century before Roger Bacon learned Arab science in the little school of Bishop Grosseteste, a number of Englishmen, as well as Germans and Italians, had gone to Spain to study science.

The Arabs of Sicily had the same culture as those of Spain and, in spite of the massive barrier of ignorance and prejudice which the Popes flung across Centra] Italy, they contributed to the awakening. The first science to be cultivated in Christendom, since it was so obviously useful and so desperately needed, was medical science; and the first two great schools of medicine were Salerno, under Jewish-Sicilian influence, in Southern Italy, and Montpellier, in the south of France, where there was a large colony of Spanish Jews.

But I am here concerned rather with the mental stimulation which, from the middle of the eleventh century, spread from the south over France and from there to England and Germany. The element of primary social importance in this was, not the enlargement of the episcopal schools for teaching theology, but the immense growth of free schools with lay teachers. There had, as I said, been a few important episcopal or monastic schools in each century, but the most learned men they produced — Hincmar, Lanfranc, Scotus Erigena, Berengar, etc. — had, as a rule, little beyond ecclesiastical learning, and are generally known to us as heretics. In the second half of the eleventh century there was an enormous growth of free schools. Any teacher who had ability attracted hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pupils; though most of the abler men took at least minor orders, since otherwise they had no chance of a chair in the chief schools, which the Church controlled.

Europe was awake once more. There were even schools for girls and women. The famous Heloise reveals in her letters to Abelard a brilliant and informed mind and a cold challenge of the Church’s ethic, even as abbess writing to abbot, which shows an extraordinary rapidity of advance. The Popes were throughout the twelfth century too narrowly educated themselves and too absorbed in their secular ambitions to perceive how the first result of this freedom of discussion and inquiry was a ringing challenge of their authority. How they reacted in the thirteenth century by ordering the massacre of the largest body of rebels, creating the Inquisition and converting the new intellectual vitality into a sterile Scholastic movement, we shall see next.

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The Popes React With Massacre and Inquisition

We arrive at the thirteenth century, which even so informed a Catholic writer as Mr, Belloc considers the greatest in history, and at the age of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), whom most Catholics exalt above all others and regard as one of the chief constructive forces in the development of European civilization. Here, if ever, we must proceed with severe discrimination. It is possible to paint a picture of the thirteenth century in the style of one of Dore’s illustrations of the Inferno or in the mood of one of Watteau’s pleasant and graceful scenes; and both will be true.

The darker features of thirteenth-century life are not in dispute amongst authoritative historians. Those terrible generalizations about the character of the nobles, knights, and ladies which I quoted in the second chapter refer particularly to the thirteenth century. Torture, mutilation, and licence in war were as barbarous as in the tenth century, or more barbarous. Law and the administration of justice remained below the civilized level. Prostitution was never more flagrant or more naive in any age of history; the monasteries and nunneries were as corrupt as ever; and the life of the new bourgeois was amazingly free and coarse. The vast new wealth and the emancipation of the serfs had left four-fifths of the population, the peasants, at the animal level; for, as Thorold Rogers has shown, they worked from sunrise to sunset on more than three hundred days a year for a poor and monotonous diet in filthy hovels. The intellectual life was sterilized, and the advance of civilization was retarded for several centuries by the extinction of the spirit of scientific inquiry which the Arabs had inspired. And in addition to these old evils and the appalling ravages of disease, the Popes had ordered the massacre of almost the entire population of one of the most progressive provinces of Europe, had given a vastly greater range to the practice of torturing and slaying men for honest opinions, and had set up the most scandalous of quasi-legal tribunals, the Inquisition.

But if you think these things trivial, or your readers know nothing about them, you can use the light and tender colouring of a Raphael. See the noble cathedrals rising all over Europe and the thousands of students surging to the universities. Admire the barefooted friars who follow the lead of Francis and Dominic, the velvets and gold and picturesque timbered houses of the burghers, the processions of the guilds of workers with silk banners waving in the breeze, the crusaders piously sweeping the infidel out of Spain, the great Pope Innocent watching and directing the beautiful new theocracy. Massacre of the Albigensians? Oh, those were dangerous heretics whose tenets — even Mr. Belloc stoops to repeat this — were injurious to the fabric of civilization. Burning of rebels against the Church? That was demanded by princes and peoples in the white-hot fervour of their faith. Wholesale murder and robbery of Jews? The Popes did their best to protect them. Let your mind dwell rather on the profound thinkers, like Thomas Aquinas, who laid down for all time the sane principles of social life — even, American Catholics outrageously say, of our modern democracy and freedom — and the men who, like Roger Bacon and Albert, laid the foundations of modern science.

Few readers will ask me to examine at any length these Catholic estimates or descriptions of the thirteenth century. We have seen enough of the sophistry and untruthfulness of the Catholic historians upon which they are based. It is significant that while Positivist writers have, under the influence of Comte, made very mischievous concessions to the Catholic Church, the only Positivist historian who has made a serious study of the thirteenth century scorns the idea that it was a Golden Age and pronounces it “an age of violence, fraud, and impurity such as can hardly be conceived now.” As to the new American historians who profess to find that we had libelled the Middle Ages — one notices that they never mention our standard work, the Cambridge Medieval History, which makes a mockery in advance of their apologies — not only have they not discovered a single feature of medieval life which we had overlooked, but their work at once arouses the suspicion of any thoughtful reader, even if he does not know the extent of the influence of the Roman Church in America.

It will, for instance, at once occur to such a reader that they do not explain why a Church which had obtained such despotic power over Europe by the middle of the fifth century that it could put its critics to death permitted it to sink into barbarism and remain barbaric for six or seven centuries. It will further occur to him, if he has any acquaintance with the literature of the subject, that they do not explain why, if European civilization rose to such a height in the thirteenth century, it sank again in the fourteenth and fifteenth, and the world had to wait six further centuries for a civilization that got back to the level of the Roman Empire in the days of Hadrian. They do not seem even to know that Mr. Belloc and the Catholic historians whom they fancy they are supporting make the glorious period and the Age of Chivalry end in complete demoralization in the first decade of the fourteenth century. They do not pay the least attention to the verdict on the general character of the upper class (clergy, nobles, and ladies) of those leading authorities on each country in the Middle Ages whom I quoted already. They make the thirteenth a “glorious century” by such means as this:

No other country can produce a list of men to match Innocent III, Frederic II, St. Francis, Ezzelino da Romano, Thomas Aquinas, Niccolo Pisano, Giotto, and Dante.
He later observes that the name of Ezzelino has become a synonym for cruelty: Frederic was not an Italian (his father was a German and his mother a Norman), and his culture was Arab; and, as to the three monks and three artists who remain in this list which “no other country could produce,” Germany in as short a period produced Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Frederic the Great, Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, and Kant, though it was then considered a backward country.

Let us get back to real history. The darker, even half-savage, features of life in the thirteenth century which I summarized are not disputed, as general features of life, by any historical expert on any country during that century. Of the brighter features the one indisputable virtue, which catches every eye and so irradiates the century that many look no farther into it, was the superb art: of which, however, there was none at Rome, since the Popes were indifferent or hostile to it. But we have already discussed medieval art. The school-life of the twelfth century we admire and esteem, but, however much it expanded, it ceased in the thirteenth century to be of social value. The free schools and independent masters were suppressed, and dogma was substituted for inquiry. The crowded universities — Rashall showed forty years ago in his Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages that the numbers are greatly exaggerated — were for the most part full of monklings and priestlings listening meekly to theological subtleties which nobody reads today; while those who, like Roger Bacon, tried to introduce Arab science were driven into silence. To this point we will return later.

The guilds were, as I said, not inspired by the Church but brought under its influence when it failed to suppress them, and within two centuries they would be abandoned by the workers themselves on the ground that they were inimical to their interests. As to the Orders of mendicant friars, our age may or may not admire the self-starvation of Francis of Assisi and the zeal of Dominic to destroy freedom of discussion, but the writer who represents that they filled the thirteenth century with swarms of holy and austere men deludes his reader. It has to be admitted even in the ablest history of the Franciscan Order by a Franciscan monk, that the body was corrupt within five years of the death of Francis and got steadily worse. Who has not read the moving account of the arrival of the demure, barefooted friars in England? Father Holzappel admits that before die end of the thirteenth century these English Franciscans tried to bribe the Pope with 20,000 (or five times as much in modern money) to permit them to hold property. He — we shall see that this last Pope of the beautiful century was an adept in every vice — took the money and decided against them. After that date their virtue was the joke of Europe, as it is a joke in Catholic Germany today. The Dominican order also speedily became corrupt.

Pope Innocent III was a Roman of noble birth, and had been educated at the universities of Paris and Bologna. His culture, in other words, consisted of theology and Church law, and he had no respect for any other culture; as he shows in his book On Contempt of the World. He almost transcended Gregory VII in his idea of the Pope’s office. In one letter he placidly observes that earthly empire compares with that of the Papacy as the feeble moon compares with the sun. So when he became Pope, in 1198, Rome and Europe knew what to expect. He sent out five hundred letters in the first year of his pontificate, more than five thousand in his eighteen years of rule, and there is, therefore, no room for controversy about his views and actions. No one has ever questioned that he was a profoundly religious man of austere life and considerable ability.

He began by demanding an oath of allegiance to himself, as Pope, from the Prefect, who was supposed to represent the Emperor, and the Senator, who represented the Roman people; and he next discharged a large number of corrupt lay officials in the Papal service and carried out a considerable reform of ecclesiastical and civic life in Rome. In order to check the nobles he gave great power and wealth to his brother, but this nepotism and his despotic conduct aroused increasing anger, and in 1203 the Romans flew to arms once more and drove out Innocent and his brother. For a year the city was disturbed by the most murderous faction-fights, every tower-castle again becoming a fort, and Innocent fostered the feuds from the provinces. He at length got back to Rome and heavily fortified the old Vatican Palace.

He had won Rome and had virtually suppressed its democracy, though this would revive in later years; and he had in the meantime started upon the work of winning Italy. The Donation of Constantine was not enough for him; and, as we saw, many provinces of Italy which were not included in that fraudulent document had in one way or other become fiefs of the Papacy. All Italy must be induced to follow the same path. We need not consider in detail how he encouraged or bribed cities and provinces to rebel against the nobles who governed them in the name of the German Emperor. It will be enough to examine how he made Sicily and Southern Italy — the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies — a fief of the Papacy. He proceeded with all the ruthlessness which is characteristic of “great” Popes. To the appalling bloodshed which he caused he and his successors were indifferent, and he repeatedly ignored the principles of justice and honour. The end justified the means. Almost more clearly than any other of the great Popes he lets us see the reason of their futility; for he unquestionably made no permanent improvement of any sort in the life of Europe.

The Emperor Henry VI had subdued Sicily with horrible brutality, but he had died in 1197, leaving his widow Constance, a Norman princess, with a boy of four years. This boy, Frederic, came to be known to his contemporaries, hostile or friendly, as “The Wonder of the World.” In the next chapter I will tell of the circumstances which thwarted the genius of Frederic, but the action of Innocent, which he would learn when he came to maturity, helped to make him cynical. Constance, a feeble and lachrymose woman, turned to the Pope for support. He gave a promise of it on the usurious terms that she was to sacrifice the independence of the kingdom by acknowledging it a fief of the Papacy. She died soon afterwards, making the Pope guardian of her son, with the handsome remuneration of thirty thousand gold pieces a year. German troops were trying to get South Italy, and Innocent financed a French adventurer, Walter de Brienne, who had married a Sicilian princess and claimed to inherit through her, to take the field against the Germans. Some chronicles say that the Pope had arranged this man’s marriage. However that may be, all historians recognize that the kingdom of Frederic was greatly endangered by this policy of the Pope, but it was saved by the death of both the French and German commanders.

The struggle had brought grave disorder upon Sicily, and the policy of the Pope aggravated it. As part of his bargain with Constance he had exacted privileges for the higher clergy which no adult male monarch would have granted, and these prelates, yielding to the contagious luxury and gaiety of Sicilian life — it still had a more prosperous civilization than it has today — wrung enormous sums from the people to maintain their voluptuous courts. When the Pope went on to compel Frederic, at the age of fourteen, to marry an unattractive Spanish princess of twenty-four, the boy began to reflect upon his situation. Three years later, however, he was summoned to Germany to occupy his father’s throne in that country, and after an amazing journey through rebellious North Italy, and making further concessions to the Pope for his permission to wear the Crown of both Sicily and Germany, he reached Frankfort and, to the great joy of the German people, was crowned. Here the Pope’s behaviour had been even more scandalous than in Sicily.

The one plausible ground for claiming that these great Popes contributed to civilization is that they are understood to have insisted sternly upon sexual virtue and justice. I will not here quote the very many letters in which Innocent rebuked royal vice, or inquire how far he was moved by a consciousness of power, because whatever effect he produced was ephemeral. It is one of the most notorious of historical facts that the morals of princes, especially in Italy, became steadily worse in the course of the Middle Ages, until the Papal Court itself joined in the general licence. Nor will any man of modern sentiment fail to see that a Pope who forbids mistresses and is silent about acts of sheer savagery is not a promoter of real civilization. The Germans had, in subduing Sicily, perpetrated revolting outrages. Nuns were stripped, smeared with honey, decorated with feathers, and taken on horseback, face to tail, through jeering lines of soldiers. Princes and nobles were castrated or had their eyes burned out. Others were compelled to sit, nude, on chairs of heated iron. These horrors had been transferred to Germany itself, and Innocent was in large part responsible. He never shrank from injustice when the interests of the Church seemed to demand it.

At the death of Henry VI his brother Philip had, on the pretext that Frederic was too young, seized the crown. Otto of Brunswick then made a fantastic claim to it, and years of very brutal civil war ensued. Otto begged the Pope’s support, with the usual promise that he would be a loyal subject of the Papacy. For some time the war went against Otto, and the Pope was silent. The rights of Frederic, the real heir to the throne and his ward, he ignored. His letters at first merely complained that, since he was the Lord of the World, he ought to be asked to decide; at which even the loyal clergy in Germany jeered. At length, in 1201, he sent a Legate to Germany with a Bull in which he denounced Philip and released all Germans from their oath (taken before the death of Henry VI) of fidelity to Frederic, on the amazing ground that an oath of loyalty to an unbaptized infant was not binding. He awarded the crown to Otto, whose claim is regarded by all historians as fraudulent. He then ordered the prelates of Germany to recognize Otto. Hardly any of them obeyed him, and the savage war continued for seven years, when Otto was defeated. Philip, however, was murdered, and, with the Pope’s approval, Otto took the crown; and he at once disavowed his promises to the Pope, told him bluntly to mind his own spiritual business, and set out to recover Italy. It was at this juncture that the German clergy and people summoned Frederic from Sicily, and we are not much edified to learn that the Pope now agreed.

The same mood of compromise with justice when the interests of the Church are at stake is detected throughout Innocent’s career. He got more money from England than from any other country, and overlooked the scandalous morals of the clergy. He was blind to the perfidy and vices of King John, made no indiscreet inquiry into the murder of Prince Arthur, and for John’s shameful seduction of the fiancee of the Count de la Marche he imposed only the ridiculously light penance of equipping a hundred knights for the Crusade. When Philip of France captured Normandy he told the Norman clergy when they consulted him that he did not understand the matter, and they must judge for themselves (Ep. VIII, 7). It is true that he declared John deposed and laid an interdict upon his kingdom in the quarrel about Langton, but that was a virtual invitation to Philip of France, who was only too eager, to invade England. When John submitted and promised to pay vassalage, Innocent ruined all the repute he had won in England. He excommunicated the barons for their “nefarious presumption” in rebelling against his vassal, King John, and he described the Magna Charta, the mildness of which now amuses historians, as a document “inspired by the devil.” When the barons offered the crown to Louis, son of Philip of France, he excommunicated both father and son. The quarrel continued on these pitiful lines until the last year of the Pope’s life.

There was not a country in Europe in which his “stern sense of justice” did not show a similar wavering according to political circumstances and the varying interests of the Papacy. Nor was it necessary for Christendom to await his death to see how superficial his influence was. With great difficulty he organized the Fourth Crusade, although very little of Palestine now remained in the hands of Christians. It is interesting to note that in order to raise the very large sum of money with which he tempted a reluctant Europe to answer his call, he sanctioned a practice which became one of the most flagrant abuses of the medieval Church. The penance imposed upon sinners after confession was to take the form of a money contribution. The bulas of indulgence which were still sold in Spain in the 20th century — I have a full set, bought over the counter in Madrid, dated 1911 — were officially titled “Bulas of the Crusade,” thus directly connecting with the greatest of their Popes a traffic which scandalized English Catholics when I exposed it.

But the behaviour of the Crusaders, whom Baldwin of Flanders at length led across Europe, shows how shallow was the Pope’s influence on his own age. Catholic and popular accounts of the Crusades are now recognized to be on the historical level of a recent film which was based upon them. But even the historians who profess to recognize a considerable influence of the Crusades in the improvement of Europe greatly exaggerate. From the East through Venice and from Spain and Sicily stimulating artistic objects had reached Europe and opened the eyes of men to a greater civilization all through the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In fact, the suggestion that large bodies of knights and men returned to Europe to tell of the wonders they had seen runs counter to the most notorious facts. Comparatively few of the millions lived to return, and many of their ablest leaders, whose motive had been loot and lust of fighting, gladly remained in Syria and adopted its vicious luxury. The conduct of Innocent’s Crusaders was typical enough.

When, twenty-three thousand strong, they reached Venice, the Venetians bribed them, with an offer of free transport, to take for Venice the Hungarian and Christian city of Zara in Dalmatia. Innocent, whose threats when he heard of the offer they ignored, excommunicated all of them, then lifted the ban from all but the Venetians, who never heeded such immaterial penalties. The Crusaders, being invited to intervene in a dispute of the Greek imperial family, next stormed Constantinople and sacked it with the utmost brutality. Not only were the jewels and gold and silver of the churches as well as the palaces stolen, but even the cathedral of St. Sophia was coarsely desecrated, the soldiers of the Cross carousing before its altars with the prostitutes of the city. The nunneries suffered the usual fate, and nearly half the city was burned down. In his letters to them Innocent expressed a mild resentment of these outrages, though the Greeks, he added, had merited them by heresy and schism. The full current of his indignation is because they and the Venetians had taken over Constantinople and not exacted a recognition of his supremacy from the Greek clergy! It is a pity that we have not the reflections of Saladin, the one real noble of the age, on the Crusaders. Innocent vainly implored them for several years to lay aside their greed and proceed to the East.

If we accepted the conventional belief that the Crusaders were men who in a mood of deep religious sentiment had set out to redeem the shrines of Jerusalem, this complete failure of the most powerful Pope to curb their ruffianly impulses would give us a measure of his influence on the general population. No modern historian does accept that belief, but this repulsive page of the history of the time nevertheless puts in a singular light the claim that he was a great force for civilization. And the irony deepens when we study that other great enterprise of his later years, the Crusade against the Albigensians.

No reliable and adequate history of what is called the Massacre of the Albigensians has ever been written, and it is very difficult to estimate from contemporary writers the full extent of that awful massacre and the loss to civilization. What we do know is that an army of two hundred thousand of the truculent soldiers of France and England, with twenty thousand mail-clad knights, did not succeed in destroying the heretics after two years of savage fighting, and a new army of a hundred thousand had to be sent against them. We read of the Crusaders killing forty thousand men, women, and children in a single town which they took. It is therefore certain that Pope Innocent III caused and directed the massacre of several hundred thousand men, women, and children for heresy in a few years. A contemporary Catholic poet says five hundred thousand.

And the way in which Catholic writers now make light of this appalling Papal outrage is nauseous. Our generally admirable Dictionary of Ethics and Religion, following the modern practice of trusting Catholic writers, allowed Canon Vacandard to write its article on the Albigensians, and we read in it such passages as this:

From the twelfth century onward the repression of heresy was the great business of Church and State. The distress caused, particularly in the north of Italy and the south of France, by the Cathari or Manichaeans, whose doctrine wrought destruction to society as well as to faith, appalled the leaders of Christianity. On several occasions, in various places, people and rulers at first sought justice in summary conviction and execution; culprits were either outlawed or put to death. The Church for a long time opposed these rigorous measures. . . . The death-penalty was never included in any system of repressions.
I have never seen in any standard work of reference, and rarely even in a Catholic work by a priest of any importance, such a clotted mass of untruth. Since this French canon is supposed to be an expert on these matters, he is surely aware that, as we saw in an earlier chapter, Pope Leo I inaugurated this murderous policy of the Papacy in the fifth century, declaring that “ecclesiastical mildness shrinks from blood-punishment, but it is aided by the severe decrees of Christian princes.” Indeed, before that time, we saw, the Popes (and other bishops) had induced the Emperor Theodosius and his successors to decree the penalty of death against pagans and heretics. Innocent III, we shall see, expressly took his stand on the words of Leo when he ordered the secular powers to proceed against heretics.

We shall further see, in the next chapter, that the subterfuge of throwing the guilt upon the State or “the princes and peoples” is as false as it is mean and ignoble. The people never called for such a policy: the princes not until the Church commanded them to do so, generally under severe penalties. That the Church for a long time opposed the policy is a sheer fabrication. It was at the very first known case of the burning of a heretic, the Spaniard Priscillian, that Pope Leo, in 447, when a few humane bishops dissented, laid down the principle I have quoted.

But the meanest and boldest untruth in the passage I quoted from Canon Vacandard — and it is repeated by most of our modern Catholic writers — is that the tenets of the Albigensians “wrought destruction to society.” Vacandard himself, when he comes to describe their principles of conduct, prudently refrains from repeating that they were dangerous to society. Readers who are unfamiliar with these matters will, indeed, be amazed to learn that their code was exactly that code of life which the Church itself declared to be the ideal fulfilment of the moral teaching of the Gospels; the code which some hundreds of thousands of priests, monks, and nuns professed at the time to observe: the code, in fine, which Pope Innocent himself took pride in observing! It was just the austere monastic code of complete chastity, voluntary poverty, disdain of all wordly things, and severe fasting. If to these we add strict vegetarianism and pacifism — they denounced the legal death-sentence as well as war — we see the full enormity of the common Catholic trick of justifying the great massacre on social grounds. There is a case in the literature of the time of a Roman who was brought before the Inquisition and charged with the same heresy (Catharism or Manichaeanism) and protesting that he certainly did not share that heresy because he lied and cursed and had a wife and family.

It is enough to say that the genuine Manichaean communities, which formed a rival Church with bishops and (according some) a Pope, were centres of crystallization for the rapidly spreading discontent with or rebellion against the Papacy and the clergy. The sordid hypocrisy of the Church system disgusted alike the men and women of decent life and the frivolous.

This was particularly true in the towns of Southern France, with the city of Albi as the centre of the revolt. Here the vast majority of the rebels against Rome were just ordinary folk who saw that in practice the Papal system was false. Instead of being a menace to society, they made the southern provinces of France, which had, as I said, been the first to learn enlightenment from the Spanish Arabs, the most prosperous and the happiest in Europe. Contemporary writers assure us that the Cathari were particularly skilful workers. In an unguarded moment Canon Vacandard says that they “threatened the Roman pontificate itself with overthrow.” That was their real and only menace. That there were hypocrites among them no one will be eager to contest. The Puritan body of New England and the Calvinists of Scotland have a heavy record of scandals. Every ascetic body has. But the specific charge of vice rests upon such wild attacks as that of the twelfth-century German abbess Hildegard, who, a nun, shrieked about their “contempt of the divine command to increase and multiply,” and stupidly added that they were “lean with fasting but full of lust.” Nuns are usually told that fasting extinguishes lust.

Fifty years of preaching had made not the least impression upon this immense body of heretics. Even Bernard of Clairvaux could not move them, for their indictment of the Church was unanswerable. Frivolous princes, the Duke of Aquitaine and the Count of Toulouse, protected them, for they were good taxpayers and good anti-clericals. So Innocent decided to pick a quarrel with Raymond of Toulouse, and as early as 1207 he ordered the French King, the Duke of Burgundy, and other princes to prepare for a crusade against Raymond and his heretics.

Raymond knew that Philip of France coveted his province, and he began to negotiate. In the midst of the negotiations the Pope’s Legate was murdered, and, though there is not the least reason to make Raymond responsible, the Pope, without inquiry, declared him guilty and ordered the attack. He addressed (Ep. XI, 28} Philip, a man of notorious licence whom he had a few years earlier heavily denounced, as “exalted among all others by God”; but Philip was restrained in his cupidity by fear of the English. However, a vast army of twenty thousand knights and two hundred thousand foot assembled for the “crusade.” Readers may remember the description of the French knights and nobles which I quoted from Professor Luchaire in an earlier chapter. It is the knights and nobles of the time of Philip, the Pope’s crusaders, whom he is describing. Do Catholics imagine that the Pope did not know their character?

Innocent’s action at this stage shows us how little he cared. Raymond humbled himself before the Pope and his arrogant Legates. He surrendered seven castles as hostages and accepted the order to lead his own troops against his people. The Pope was embarrassed. Catholic writers say that he was now powerless to stay the avalanche, but they never refer to the letter (XI, 232, in the Migne collection) in which he quotes to his Legates the words of Paul (II Corinthians, xii, 16), “Being crafty, I caught you with guile,” and explains that they must pretend to accept Raymond’s submission and, “deceiving him by prudent dissimulation, pass to the extirpation of the other heretics.” A great Pope: the greatest of them all. The ferocious Cistercian monk Arnold, the Pope’s chief Legate, took his words so literally that the Pope was for a time shocked by the injustice, and promised Raymond a fair trial. He never got it. Impossible conditions were laid upon him, and he was excommunicated and his province thrown open to the robbers, on condition that the Papacy got its tithe. Its new ruler was to squeeze a large annual sum for the Papacy out of the stricken province.

Two years of butchery, torture, pillage, and rape by two hundred and twenty thousand expert soldiers did not extinguish the heresy: yet Catholic writers protest that we exaggerate when we say that the heretics, who had few knights and no trained armies — they relied chiefly upon fortified towns — must have numbered something like the poet’s half-million. The Spanish King, Pedro of Aragon, wrote some plain Latin to the Pope about the butchery, and he hesitated. He wrote his legates, who revelled in the bloodshed, and Simon de Montfort, the military leader, who revelled in the loot, to say that they had done enough. Indeed, the crusaders, loaded with loot, cared little whether or no the heresy was extinct and were returning home. The Pope now recalled in his letters that Raymond had never had a trial, but he presently yielded to the demands of the monk and de Montfort, and a new Crusade of a hundred thousand men was required to annihilate the heretics.

To the end Innocent was haunted by the spectre of the horrors he had caused, He saw the leaders of the Crusade, the monk and de Montfort, fall into a violent quarrel about the spoils, just at the time when Frederic was creating a mighty power in Germany and the Crusaders were mocking him in Constantinople. At the Lateran Council he weakly pleaded for justice to the untried Raymond and his heirs, and then he allowed the truculent monks to dismiss the prince with a pension of four hundred marks a year. He did not live to see Raymond recover a large part of his dominions and a new spread of heresy. He died in 1216. Europe sighed with relief, and resumed its vicious ways exactly as if Pope Innocent had never existed. His one permanent monument was the Inquisition, which, we shall see, was based upon his words and conduct.

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Frederic II and the Papacy

The story of the next four Popes is almost entirely the record of a struggle with Frederic II: a struggle which at some stages was so unjust, so patently inspired by sheer hatred, that it disgusted Christendom and disgusts every non-Catholic historian. Some day, when the writing of history has become wholly free and impartial the world may learn exactly what the cost was, in terms of soldiers slain, homes ruined, and demoralization of the Popes themselves, of the hundred-year conflict of the Papacy with the Holy Roman Empire which it had created. That conflict was inevitable from the time of Hildebrand. It is often ascribed to the greed of the Hohenstaufen dynasty of Emperors (1138-1254), for the complete extinction of which the Popes of this period fought. But it was inevitable on the Papal side. Gregory VII, in restoring the strength of the Papacy, restored also and enlarged the claim of a temporal dominion. This claim grew until the Pope aspired to be the feudal monarch of the whole of Italy, if not all Europe; and the northern part of Italy was subject to the Emperor. Pope Innocent made the clash of ambitions more bitter than ever when he induced a weak and nervous woman, the Norman wife of a German Emperor, to make Sicily and South Italy a fief of the Papacy, and thus defraud her son, Frederic, of his heritage.

If great Popes had one-half the serene vision and statesmanship with which so many writers endow them, Innocent must have foreseen that when the child grew to manhood he would, if he were only at the average level of his age, fight for his rights. Naturally he could not foresee that the son of the anaemic Constantia would become the greatest monarch in a thousand years of European history. So sober and distinguished an historian as Professor Freeman says of Frederic:

The most gifted of the sons of men: by nature the more than peer of Alexander, of Constantine, and of Charlemagne: in mere genius, in mere accomplishment, the greatest prince who ever wore a crown. . . . Frederic belongs to no age: intellectually he is above his age and above every age; morally it can hardly be denied that he was below his age: but in nothing was he of his age.
Frederic’s modern biographer, Allshorn, finds this praise excessive, yet says that “in genius Frederic has had no superior among the princes of the world.” It is more important to correct the second sentence I quoted from Freeman. To say that Frederic was morally below his age is, after what we have seen about that age, absurd. Freeman was prejudiced by his religious antipathy to Frederic’s harems and Arab mistresses. He does not seem to have reflected how singular it is, on his view of life, that so immoral a monarch accomplished more, as he says, than any other. The fact is that in regard to the vices that matter — cruelty, treachery, and injustice — he was far above his age, even above the two Popes who wrecked his splendid work; though in such a struggle he inevitably slipped at times into the common practices. Educated in the science and the genial philosophy of Arab-Sicily, he would have lifted his Empire up to its level of civilization; and, although the Popes seemed to ruin him and his work, the more rapid advance in culture of North Italy than the rest of Europe was in large part due to him. Pope Innocent’s one lasting monument was the Inquisition; Frederic’s, the intellectual advance of the Italian cities — always excepting Rome — which led the recovery of Europe.

On the otker hand, let us say, in some mitigation of the truculence of the Popes, that Frederic did not believe the Christianity which he formally professed. His Norman-Sicilian ancestors had a tradition of scepticism. It was widely believed at the time that he wrote a work entitled The Three Impostors (Moses, Christ, and Mohammed) which was much read; and Frederic’s palace in Sicily was just the place in which one would write such a book. He did not believe in immortality, and his general philosophy was probably that of the liberal Arab and Persian thinkers: a not very profound or serious Pantheism based upon Aristotle. This does not excuse the conduct of the Popes, but it helped to make the conflict inevitable and the constructive work of Frederic more difficult.

The Pope, Honorius III (1216-1227), who succeeded Innocent, is described as a quiet old man who wanted no quarrel with anybody. It is clear that Innocent had left the world in such a turmoil that the cardinals felt it advisable to elect a moderate man. Rome gave him little trouble. It was still nominally a Republic (or Commune), but all power was in the hands of the Senator (Mayor or Governor) who was elected by the Popes.

Gentle Honorius may have been, within limits, but he was not simple. When Frederic, after a few years spent in the improvement of his German kingdom, wanted to be crowned Emperor at Rome and to leave his son in Germany, the Pope angrily complained that he had been deceived. The crowns of Germany and Sicily (with Rome like a nut between the crackers) were not to be united in one man. It does seem that Frederic lied a small matter in that age to get the Pope’s consent, but Honorius struck a hard bargain. The Papacy must be confirmed in all its temporal possessions, and all who henceforward seize ecclesiastical property or legislate against the clergy must be deemed heretics. Frederic must make it a law of the Empire that heretics shall be outlawed, and all magistrates shall be compelled to search them out and punish them. This is the first step in the legal establishment of the Inquisition, which means “searching-out”; and the Catholic writers who tell how Frederic himself established it in this primitive form are careful not to explain the circumstances. Frederic was crowned in St. Peter’s in 1220, and he went south to put in order his long-neglected kingdom of Sicily. This was so arduous that he declined to go on the Crusade, as he had promised, until his work was accomplished. This, and renewed friction with the Romans, who once more expelled their Pope, broke the peace, but Honorius died in 1227, and left the problem to his successor.

Gregory IX (1227-1241), though seventy-seven years old at the time of his election, had observed with anger what he called the weakness of Honorius. He was of the same noble family as Innocent III, and less inclined to compromise. Three days after his coronation he ordered Frederic to sail for Palestine. The Emperor set sail from Brindisi; and shortly afterwards the Pope, a man of fiery temper, heard that he was back in Italy, pleading illness. Without troubling to make careful inquiry, though there was an epidemic of fever at Brindisi, Gregory solemnly excommunicated Frederic and denounced him to the whole of Christendom. The truth is that for some years the Pope had been outraged by stories about Frederic’s Saracen harems, his favour to infidels, and his disdainful violation of the unjust privileges which Innocent had extorted from his mother for the higher clergy. All this, suitably embroidered, was put into the Pope’s message to the world, and Frederic retorted with a counter-manifesto on the arrogance and greed of the Popes. This was read to a cheering crowd on the Capitol at Rome, and, when the Pope again excommunicated the Emperor in St. Peter’s, the worshippers became so threatening that Gregory fled from the church. The city turned out in arms, and once more a Pope retreated to the provinces.

Plainly there was up to this point much to be said on both sides; it was with the next step that the disreputable campaign of the Popes began. Not only were the people of Europe weary of calls to Crusades and demands of money — in England the Pope’s Bulls were trodden underfoot — but Frederic believed that he could get free access for Christians to the shrines of Jerusalem without adding further to the hundreds of thousands of lives which had been sacrificed. He was friendly with the Sultan of Egypt, who then controlled Palestine, and he went to see him and, offering to help him against a rival Sultan, got from him the city of Jerusalem, on condition that the Moslem should be free to visit their own shrines there. This humane victory the Pope denounced as “a deal with the devil,” and he again excommunicated Frederic. He even violated one of the most sacred conditions which the Popes themselves had laid down for the Crusades. Any prince who invaded the domains of another who had gone on Crusade was to be excommunicated. Gregory summoned Europe to a Crusade against Frederic’s Kingdom while he was in Jerusalem, and actually sent a small army to take it. The whole world now saw that what the Pope really wanted was territory, and the outcry was so great that Gregory had to retract and lift the ban.

In the spring of the year 1230 devastating floods, with pestilence in their wake, roused the superstition of the Romans, and they implored the Pope to return. It is probable that he made it a condition that there should be drastic action against heretics, who were now very numerous in all the cities of Italy. Milan swarmed with them, and at Rome even many of the clergy were tainted. So the second step was taken in the establishment of the Inquisition. A tribunal was set up in front of the door of Sta. Maria Maggiore, and the cardinals, the judges, and the Senator sat there, the crowd of citizens looking on.

Because the records of the Roman Inquisition are still kept secret — the Catholic historian Pastor (XII, 507) found that when Leo XIII boldly opened to scholars the doors of the Secret Archives, these and other documents had been removed — Catholic writers often say that no heretics were put to death at Rome. The Chronicle of Richard of San Germano tells us that even in this first hour of the Roman Inquisition a number of heretics were burned alive, and the official life of Gregory IX boasts that he “condemned many priests and clerics, and lay people of both sexes.” From this date every Senator on taking office at Rome had to swear that he would execute all who were denounced to him by the Inquisition as heretics. Gregorovius quotes a document of the year 1266 which shows that a Franciscan friar, who was then the Inquisitor — in full, “the Searcher for Heretical Perversity” — condemned a noble for sheltering heretics. His relatives to the third degree were outlawed, and the bones of his father and his wife were dug up and burned.

From the start the Roman Inquisition was tainted with a vice which apologists never mention: half the condemned man’s property went to the informers. The rule in all countries was that at least a third of his property went to the informer, and, since few who were denounced ever escaped condemnation, the result can be imagined. Informers and witnesses, who remained anonymous, never had to confront the accused or his legal representative if he could induce any lawyer to face the risk of defending him and in every way the process was a caricature of justice. It is true that one Pope ordered that the name of the accuser should be given to the accused, so that he could say if there was personal enmity, but the Pope added that this must be done only when there was no danger to the accuser; and even Vacandard admits that the Inquisitors held that there always was such danger. In theory two such secret accusers were required: in practice one was considered enough. The accused could bring no witnesses, and a plea that he regularly attended church counted for nothing. Some Popes warned lawyers that if they defended suspects they laid themselves open to a suspicion of heresy. In short, what generally happened was that any man with property could be denounced secretly by a man who wanted half or a third of it; and he either pleaded guilty and was fined, or pleaded not guilty, even after torture, and was burned. “The Inquisition,” said a sixteenth-century Catholic writer, Segni, “was invented to rob the rich of their possessions.” We have the complaint of the Papal Legate Eymeric that the princes are relaxing in their zeal to persecute because “there are no more rich heretics.”

Such was the institution which the Catholic Encyclopedia describes as “a substantial advance in the contemporary administration of justice, and therefore in the general civilization of mankind.” That the people demanded the punishment of heresy is a wanton untruth; and that secular monarchs and other authorities pleaded for it, in spite of the profit they made out of it, is equally false. The Spanish Inquisition was, it is true, independent of Rome, but the Popes strained every nerve to get control of it, and the struggle was simply a rivalry for gain and power. Professor A.S. Turberville’s Medieval Heresy and the Inquisition (1920) shows in detail how it was forced upon reluctant nations and cities by the Popes. Lucius III had in 1183 urged the civic authorities to root out heretics. Innocent III, we saw, revived the murderous principle of Leo I. The “gentle” Honorius III had in 1220 compelled Frederic to make heresy a crime in civil law (for the whole of Italy and Germany). Gregory IX burned heretics and compelled the magistrates everywhere to search for them and the monarchs of all countries to adopt Frederic’s legislation. With the decrees of Innocent IV in 1245 and 1252, compelling all monarchs to take oath to prosecute heretics and all civil magistrates to set up a tribunal of friars to search for them, and sanctioning the use of torture to make the accused confess and denounce others, the Inquisition, the most distinctive fruit of the thirteenth century, was complete. As to the plea that the Inquisitors “recommended mercy” and the Church “shrank from the death-sentence” it is childish. I have shown elsewhere that in its Canon Law today the Church claims that it can and must put heretics to death.

Even bolder is the Catholic plea that heretics were a few rebels in a Europe which was profoundly attached to the Papacy, and too many historians accept this estimate without reflection. The record of persecution, which we cannot give here, shows that Christendom entered upon a most widespread rebellion against the Papacy as soon as the Dark Age ended. The modified Manichaean philosophy and ethic which spread over Italy, France, and Western Germany was only the core of a much wider revolt. In Switzerland and Italy there was an equally wide spread of the Waldensians, who were simply early Protestants or Evangelicals. In France there were similar bodies, and apart from all these and the Arnoldists were the immense numbers of men who had learned scepticism from the free school-life of the twelfth century, the ethical revolt of the Troubadour literature, and the spectacle of clerical and monastic corruption. We saw that Canon Vacandard admitted that by the year 1200 the very existence of the Papacy was threatened. He is right in the sense that, if a free development of the mind of Europe had been permitted, the revolt against Rome would have occurred at least two centuries before Luther, and the modern scientific age would have begun several centuries ago. The power of the Papacy has rested upon violence, upon that “right of the sword” which it emphatically claims today in its esoteric code of law, from the beginning of the thirteenth century to our own time.

How false it is to say that the people of Rome demanded action against heretics is clearly shown by Gregory’s experience after his retraction of the ban upon Frederic and the trial of heretics. They quarrelled with the Pope about temporal possessions and drove him from Rome. “The city of roaring beasts,” his cardinals called the Rome which he was supposed to have purified. They begged him to remain away from it, but he secured a return by bribery, and he was soon expelled for the third time in seven years. In addition to the demand for complete self-government, the citizens now decided that the whole region round Rome should belong to the city, the immunities of the clergy should be abolished, and the Pope should decree that sentence of excommunication should never again be passed upon a Roman. Gregory, from the provinces, retorted with an anathema, and the Romans raised an army to take away the Papal States from the Pope. Christian Europe soon had the amazing experience of the Pope solemnly demanding a Crusade against the Romans. He obtained a small army and defeated the Romans, but they remained so sullen that he spent two further years in exile.

His crusaders had been in great part supplied by Frederic, who had no sympathy with democracy, yet shortly afterwards the Pope was found to be intriguing with the cities of North Italy which were in rebellion against the Emperor. When Frederic resented this, he was again excommunicated, and every country received once more the heavy mutual indictments of Pope and Emperor. Frederic advanced upon Rome, and, when Gregory summoned a general Council, his fleet cynically captured more than a hundred prelates who were going to it. At this juncture Gregory died, more than ninety years old, and Pope Celestine IV (1241), who was elected, lived only seventeen days. During the two years of confusion that followed no election could be held, for the cardinals were scattered, many in heavily fortified castles in the country, and the state of Rome was chaotic. Frederic sincerely wanted peace with the Papacy, and was now making war upon the democratic Romans. At length the Emperor made it possible for the cardinals to meet, and they elected Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254), who was said to be conciliatory.

He, on the contrary, in the words of a neutral historian, “surpassed all his predecessors in the ferocity and unscrupulousness of his attacks upon the Emperor.” Some historians, while censuring the methods he used, count him the last great Pope of the school of Innocent III. They do not seem to have inquired closely why his death let loose in Christian Europe such a flood of disdainful epithets and stories. Matthew of Paris, speaking of his notorious nepotism, tells us a story which was then in circulation to the effect that, when Innocent lay dying and saw his weeping relatives round the bed he asked: “Why do you weep ? Haven’t I made you rich enough ?” Another story is that one of his cardinals saw in a dream what passed when the Pope reached the judgment-seat. He was charged with introducing the money-changers into the Temple and destroying the three pillars of the Church: faith, justice, and truth. It is at least clear that he was most severely censured throughout Christendom for nepotism and for pursuing his destructive campaign against Frederic out of personal hatred and desire of territory.

At first Frederic, who was not in a strong position at the time of the election, sought absolution by promising to return the Papal States. The Pope laid down conditions which no one expected Frederic to accept, and, when Frederic did agree to a treaty on those lines provided the text was kept secret, copies of the treaty were sold publicly in Rome for a few coppers. Frederic pressed for a personal interview, and the Pope left Rome to meet him. Then, by what one of Innocent’s chaplains calls “a wise and salutary fiction,” the Pope announced that he had discovered a plot of the Emperor to capture him. He fled to Lyons, and from there he appealed to the Kings of England, France, and Aragon to receive him. All refused. When he summoned a General Council of the Church at Lyons, only a hundred and forty bishops attended, and the debates were acrimonious; but the Pope again excommunicated Frederic and declared his crown forfeit. No monarch dare accept the Pope’s invitation, as the sentence really was, to invade Frederic’s territories, but Innocent is said to have spent 200,000 gold marks in formenting rebellion from Sicily to Germany. Swarms of friar-dervishes were sent among the people; just as such men preach a holy war in the more backward provinces of Islam today. Even money contributed for the Crusade in the East was used against Frederic. Several plots to murder him were inspired.

Frederic sent a remarkable appeal to the Christian monarchs of Europe to unite with him in putting an end to the scandal, but he made the fatal mistake of attacking the whole of the clergy as well as the Pope: “these priests,” he said, “who serve the world, who are intoxicated with sensuality, who despise God, because their religion has been drowned in the deluge of wealth.” Let kings unite with him and “deprive the clergy of all superfluity.” Royal fingers must have itched in every country, but although, quite apart from the heretics, men sang disdainful songs everywhere about the greed and sensuality of the clergy, any attempt to carry out such a plan would have brought unimaginable confusion upon Europe. Probably, too, the French, English, and Spanish kings did not fancy the sceptical Frederic, with his Moslem mistresses and black eunuchs, as a religious reformer. It is significant that they expressed no horror or surprise at the revolutionary proposal, but they left Frederic to wear himself out in crushing the revolts which the Pope inspired. He died in 1250; and at the news of his death Innocent broke into a wild and indecent rejoicing. “Herod is dead,” he wrote; “let the heavens and the earth rejoice.” The sober feeling of Christendom was expressed by the learned and orthodox Matthew of Paris:

Frederic, the greatest of earthly princes, the wonder of the world and the regulator of its proceedings, has departed this life.

He had done more for the thirteenth century than all its Popes.

Pope Innocent had sworn that he would exterminate the “brood of vipers,” as he called the last representatives of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. There remained now only Conrad, a youth of twenty-two, Frederic’s sole legitimate son and heir to the Empire, and Manfred, an illegitimate son of fine character and great accomplishments. Manfred ruled the southern kingdom for Conrad, whom he now summoned from Germany, and the war continued. Innocent left Lyons, where he had been for seven years, and it was still two years before he was invited to Rome. In fact, the Romans were so offensive that he soon left the city once more. He excommunicated Conrad, who traversed Italy in triumph, and refused the most reasonable offers of reconcilation. He next, on the ground that Sicily was a fief of the Papacy, offered it to the French, who refused, and to the English king, who was not unwilling to accept it for his youngest son. But Conrad died in 1254, leaving as issue only a boy of two years, Conradin; and the Pope, cynically ignoring his engagement to the English king, who had paid him an immense sum of money, made peace with Manfred and appointed him Papal Vicar in Sicily. When, however, the Pope brought a swarm of hostile and avaricious followers to Naples, Manfred saw that he was to be duped and destroyed, and he left the city and gathered an army.

Innocent died at Naples soon afterwards, and the cardinals elected a fat and amiable man Alexander IV (1254-1261), who, as usual, is described as a pious man of God who above all things desired peace. He sought it by excommunicating Manfred and telling Henry III of England that his vow to go on Crusade would be fulfilled by sending an army, or the money to provide an army, to conquer Sicily for the Papacy; and he interpreted the Crusade-vow of the King of Norway in the same ingenious manner. But in seven years of this kind of diplomacy, disturbed by incessant quarrels with the Romans, who were as turbulent as ever, he accomplished nothing. At his death Manfred had all Sicily, and there seemed to be some prospect of his becoming King of Italy.

The son of a French shoemaker then became Pope Urban IV (1261-1264), and he swore to carry out Innocent’s plan to exterminate the brood of vipers, He turned to his native France and offered the crown of Sicily to Charles, the Count of Anjou, the younger brother of Louis IX: a prince who, since Louis is counted a saint, may by comparison be described as a devil. Louis objected that it was dishonourable to break the treaty with England, but the Pope overruled his scruples, and Charles accepted. Urban died before the war began, and, after a fierce struggle of cardinals who favoured peace with Manfred and their opponents, another Frenchman, Clement IV (1265-1268), obtained the tiara; and he at once set out to drain Christendom of money for the war. Louis IX’s vow to go on Crusade would be fulfilled, he assured him, by helping to exterminate “the poisonous brood of a dragon of poisonous race.”

What we may call the foreign policy of the Papacy during a thousand years not only brought an incalculable volume of savage warfare and misery upon Italy, but it can be relieved of the charge of stupidity only on the ground that the Popes were determined at any cost to have an earthly kingdom and its revenues. In pursuance of that purpose they wrecked one attempt after another to lift Italy out of its semi-barbarism, and they thus unquestionably retarded the restoration of civilization in Europe. They had destroyed the splendid early work of the Visigoths and the Lombards. They had then entered upon two centuries of devastating struggle with the Germans whom they had invited into Italy. Now, in blind indifference to the brutal character of the French prince whom they summoned and callous insensibility to the sufferings of Italy, they brought a new foreign dynasty to exploit the people and lead in a short time to barbarous scenes. These are facts of history — rather, condensed expressions of a thousand years of history — which make a mockery of the plea that because the Popes taught justice they must have helped in the recovery of decency in Europe. The all-but-universal disdain of the Papal gospel of chastity is not a more monumental disproof of their influence than is this responsibility for more than half the chronic warfare in Italy and much of it in Germany.

Manfred, the next most promising prince in Christendom after Frederic, and much more disposed to come to terms with the Pope, was slain in battle; and when the bishop of the district heard that the troops had buried him he — it is said with the Pope’s consent, but this is not clear — had the body dug up and desecrated. Charles of Anjou imposed a cruel imprisonment upon Manfred’s widow and young sons, while the savagery with which this champion and friend of the Pope encouraged his troops to ravage and exploit Sicily is proved by the appalling reaction which we shall see presently. The young Conradin in turn was captured and executed, and the Pope, who had made no protest, died a month later.

The record of Papal elections was surpassed when the eighteen cardinals now wrangled bitterly for three years, eleven of them demanding an Italian Pope and seven looking to France. Charles of Anjou (now of Naples) brought his court to Viterbo, where the cardinals fought, and it was the scandal of one of his nobles murdering an English prince in a church which forced a decision. Gregory X (1271-1276), whom they chose, was a worthy man, one of the few Popes we can respect in this Catholic “Golden Age,” but the four years of his pontificate were absorbed in healing wounds. From him dates the law regulating a Papal election and enjoining that the cardinals should be sealed in the election-room until at least two-thirds of them were agreed.

He made an honourable peace with the German Rudolph and promised to crown him Emperor and King of Italy, but he died before the appointed date, and his successor, Innocent V (1276) lasted only four months. The unscrupulous Charles now applied the election law in his own way. The cardinals were sealed up in a room with a poor supply of food for eight days; but those who supported his French candidate had better food and were able to keep him informed of the debates. The Italians angrily elected an Italian, Adrian V (1276), who died within three months without even becoming a priest, and they then chose a Portuguese, John XX (1276-1277) the most cultivated (or only cultivated) and enlightened Pope of the Middle Ages. He was the son of a medical man and was himself accomplished in Arab-Spanish science; and he despised all monks. He lasted eight months. (In 1276, after ordering a thorough search of the papal records, Pope John XX changed his title to John XXI in official recognition of Joan’s reign (853-855) as Pope John VIII.)

Nicholas III (1277-1280), who issued out of six months of violent electoral struggle, was the first Pope of the Renaissance type. While no sexual scandal attaches to his name, he was a vigorous, handsome, and very wealthy man of noble birth who loved comfort, and was the most scandalous nepotist that Rome had yet known. He gave the cardinal’s hat to three of his brothers and four other relatives, and he so wantonly appropriated estates and provinces for members of his family that it was rumoured that he proposed to divide Italy into kingdoms for them. To the new feud in the Papal Court and the city, the conflict of those who favoured and those who opposed France, he added the feud, of noble families which was to help in the corruption of the Papacy itself until the Reformation. Other noble families were bound to resent his glorification of his own family, the Orsini. Dante, who lived in the next generation, puts him in hell (Canto XIX) as “one who writhes himself, quivering more than all his fellows and sucked by ruddier flames.” His services in the cause of peace were outweighed in the mind of his contemporaries by the sight of his avarice, simony, and nepotism.

Apoplexy removed the epicure within three years, and the vicious fruit of his policy at once appeared. The nobles of the Anibaldi family rose against the Orsini, while Charles lavishly bribed the electors. They went to Viterbo, and the Anibaldi got the citizens to break into the episcopal palace and drag out two of the Orsini cardinals. Martin IV (1281-1285), the new Pope, was a French dummy, a puppet of Charles, who lived in the Pope’s palace and dreamed of using Papal influence to help him to become Emperor of the world. His dream was broken by a terrible revolt in Sicily. Pedro of Aragon had married Manfred’s daughter, and he entered into a long intrigue with the Sicilians, who hated the French. An insult to their women-folk on a festive day (Easter Tuesday, 1282) fired the smouldering passions, and “the Sicilian Vespers” which followed is still one of the reddest pages of Italian history. The French were exterminated. Sicilian girls and women whom they had violated were ripped open to rid the island of the last trace of the French, and French women and nuns suffered what the Italians had suffered since the Popes had brought the infamous Charles upon them. Martin — a “gentle” man who had shrunk from the Papacy, according to the apologists — announced a Crusade against the Sicilians and excommunicated Pedro, but the French were beaten, amid scenes of savagery, all over Italy, and in 1285 the Pope’s dying eyes looked upon a world in flames.

Honorius IV (1285-1287), who followed him, was aged and gouty, and he lasted a few months. A fiercer Conclave than ever, during which six cardinals died, dragged out for a year, and the tiara now fell to the General of the Franciscan Order, Nicholas IV (1288-1292). This monk has a fragrant memory in Franciscan literature and a malodorous reputation in history. While Italy flamed with just anger at the barbarities of the French, he espoused their cause and promoted it by an act which scandalized Europe. Charles II, son of the King of Sicily, had been captured by the Aragonese, but they were ready to release him if he surrendered his claim to Sicily. A treaty on those lines was drawn up by the Pope’s notaries, and in full reliance on the Pope’s honour the Spaniards released Charles. Yet Nicholas repudiated the agreement and crowned Charles King of Sicily and Naples. “This decree of Nicholas,” says Milman, “was the most monstrous exercise of the absolving power which had ever been advanced in the face of Christendom: it struck at the root of all chivalrous honour, at the faith of all treaties.” Nicholas saw France and England, which spurned his offer of mediation, enter upon the long war which ruined both countries. He saw the last Christian possessions in Palestine pass to the Moslem. He died within four years, execrated by all honourable men. It may seem ironic to say that his death closed a line of “good” Popes and an era of Papal respectability, but in fact the Papacy was now to enter upon a period of corruption even longer, and in some respects worse, than that of the Iron Age.

The excuse which Nicholas gave for his repudiation of the treaty is a good illustration of the kind of “learning” of which admirers of the thirteenth century boast. He said that since the Papacy had declared the war of Pedro against Charles I unjust, no treaty signed during such a war was binding. This was the sort of stuff which the Popes had substituted for the healthy free inquiry of the twelfth century and the science of the Arabs. In the year in which the friar-Pope died (1292), another friar, Roger Bacon, was released from his monastic prison in Paris and allowed to return to England to die. His English friends could not get his release until the “great Pope” died. Rome had suppressed the one scientific genius — for, although it is now acknowledged that Roger’s science was purely Arabian, he seems to have had something like a genius for scientific work — who appeared in Christendom during the thirteenth century; and it silenced by promotion to bishoprics others, like Robert Grosseteste in England and Albert in Germany, who enthusiastically recommended the study of science. From that time onward the few who were attracted to science had to work under the shadow of the Inquisition, and more than one suffered torture or death. Science, which has proved the most important element in the restoration of civilization, was excluded from the medieval universities, except in a few cities of Italy which defied the Popes, while crowds of youths, most of whom were destined for the clergy or the monasteries, listened to lectures which not one priest in a thousand, and no other person, reads today.