A Bluffers Guide to the Medieval Papacy

30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

By Dr Rebecca Rist, Associate Professor in Medieval History

For some reason my students often find it difficult to remember their medieval popes. I can’t think why. So in the spirit of 1066 and All That here, in chronological order, is an aide-mémoire to my top ten medieval popes – a sort of papal Premier League.  Somehow by hook – or should I say by crook? – these luminaries managed to steer the barque of St Peter through the stormy political and religious issues of their day. All you need to do is memorise the following facts about your favourite pontiff and then be sure to drop his name into the conversation at your next dinner party. No-one else will know who he was or what he did so your erudition will be assured. Just make sure the wine you serve is Châteauneuf-du-Pape (what else?) and remember the old adage, ‘God writes straight with crooked pens’ (eventually…).

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(1) Leo IX (1049-1054) (Bruno of Egisheim-Dagsburg)

Highlights: led a papal army against the Normans

Lowlights: defeated by the Normans

Likes: morality; purity in the Church

Dislikes: corruption; the Normans

Hobbies: touring Europe and ranting about Reform

Be sure to mention:  Simony; Nicolaism

Take a position on (it doesn’t matter what position):  the East-West Schism

Famous for: reforming synods

30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(2) Gregory VII (1073-1085) (Hildebrand of Sovana)

Highlights: Canossa

Lowlights: died in exile at Salerno hated by just about everyone

Likes: Mathilda of Tuscany; political theatre

Dislikes:  Henry IV of Germany

Hobbies: excommunicating Henry IV; promoting papal power

Be sure to mention: the Dictatus papae; the Investiture Contest

Take a position on: papal election by acclamation; the pope as ‘Vicarius Sancti Petri’

Famous for: ‘I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile’ (epitaph on sarcophagus)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(3) Alexander III (1159-1181) (Roland of Siena)

Highlights: length of pontificate

Lowlights:  getting chased out of Rome (continually)

Likes: bureaucracy; law

Dislikes: Frederick I Barbarossa; the Roman Republic

Hobbies: canonising saints: Edward the Confessor; Thomas Becket

Be sure to mention: anti-popes: Victor IV (Ottaviano of Monticelli); Paschal III (Guido of Crema); Calixtus III (Giovanni of Struma); Innocent III (Lando of Sezze)

Take a position on:  the authorship of the Summa Rolandi

Famous for: legal brain

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(4) Innocent III (1198-1216) (Lotario dei Conti di Segni)

Highlights: Lateran IV – the medieval equivalent of Vatican II

Lowlights: the Fourth Crusade; the Albigensian Crusade

Likes: asceticism; St Francis (eventually)

Dislikes: Cathars

Hobbies: interfering in royal elections; crusades

Be sure to mention: De miseria humanae conditionis

Take a position on: the pope as ‘Vicarius Christi’; the Sun and Moon allegory; the papal states

Famous for: telling St Francis to go and wallow with the pigs; declaring Magna Carta ‘null and void’;   ‘Lesser than God, Higher than Man’ (attributed quote about the pope’s position)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(5) John XXI (1276-1277) (Peter Juliani)

Highlights: the Summulae Logicales  

Lowlights: killed when his papal apartment (where he studied science) collapsed

Likes: Aristotle; logic

Dislikes: Cardinal Orsini (later Pope Nicholas III)

Hobbies: science; medicine; pharmacology

Be sure to mention: the rumour he was a necromancer

Take a position on: the Holy Land

Famous for: bagging a place in Dante’s Paradiso

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(6) Boniface VIII (1294-1303) (Benedetto Caetani)

Highlights: the Jubilee Year (1300); founding La Sapienza University (Rome)

Lowlights: the ‘Agnani Slap’

Likes: papal monarchy; Giotto

Dislikes: Philip IV of France; the Colonna

Hobbies: promoting cardinals; climbing the career ladder

Be sure to mention: the Liber Sextus; ‘Unam Sanctam’

Take a position on: his predecessor the hermit-pope Celestine V

Famous for: being confined to the Eighth Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(7) Clement V (1305-1314) (Raymond Bertrand de Got)

Highlights: moved the papacy to Avignon for some peace and quiet

Lowlights: bullied by Philip IV of France to shut down the Templars

Likes: Mongols

Dislikes: Venetians; Dulcinians

Hobbies: keeping in with Philip IV

Be sure to mention: the Clementine Constitutions

Take a position on: the Avignon Exile; the Templars

Famous for: the ‘Babylonian Captivity’ (Petrarch)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(8) John XXII (1316-1334) (Jacques Duèze)

Highlights: bureaucratic genius

Lowlights: the Beatific Vision controversy

Likes: Thomas Aquinas

Dislikes: Spirituals

Hobbies: attacking the Franciscan understanding of the poverty of Christ

Be sure to mention: his pontificate forms the backdrop to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose

Take a position on: William of Ockham; Master Eckhart; Marsilius of Padua

Famous for:  the prayer ‘Anima Christi’ (modern hymn ‘Soul of my Saviour’)

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(9) Gregory XI (1370-1378) (Pierre Roger de Beaufort)

Highlights: moved the papacy back to Rome for more bread and circuses

Lowlights: the Great Schism

Likes: St Catherine of Siena

Dislikes: corrupt monastic orders; false relics; Lollards; Florence

Hobbies: condemning John Wycliffe

Be sure to mention:  the ‘War of the Eight Saints’

Take a position on: the papal succession crisis

Famous for: being the most recent French pope

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(10) Martin V (1417-1431) (Otto Colonna)

Highlights: elected by the Council of Constance; ended the Great Schism

Lowlights: died of apoplexy

Likes: Florence

Dislikes: Hussites; Ottomans

Hobbies: reconstructing Rome

Be sure to mention: the ‘Roman Renaissance’

Take a position on:  slavery and the New World

Famous for: ending the Conciliar Movement

 30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

(*Dinner Party Bonus Point) Alexander VI (1492-1503) (Roderigo Borgias)  

Highlights: the Jubilee (1500); founding the Universities of Aberdeen and Valencia

Lowlights: mysterious death of son Giovanni (duke of Gandia)

Likes: mistresses: Vanozza (Giovanna dei Cattanei); Julia Farnese; daughter: Lucretia Borgia

Dislikes: the Orsini; the Colonna

Hobbies: producing ‘nephews’; bullfighting

Be sure to mention: Girolamo Savonarola; Jeremy Irons in The Borgias (2011-2013)

Take a position on: nepotism; poison; the Banquet of Chestnuts

Famous for: ‘Who are we to trust if not our family?’ (attributed quote)

30.05.16 Bluffers Guide to the Papacy - Emblem_of_the_Papacy

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