September 24 – “There is nothing so sublime as the papacy nor so exalted as the imperial throne”

September 22, 2014

Pope Innocent II

(Gregorio Papereschi)

Elected 14 Feb., 1130; died 24 Sept., 1143. He was a native of Rome and belonged to the ancient family of the Guidoni. His father’s name is given as John.

Pope Innocent IIThe youthful Gregory became canon of the Lateran and later Abbot of Sts. Nicholas and Primitivus. He was made Cardinal-Deacon of the Title of S. Angelo by Paschal II, and as such shared the exile of Gelasius II in France, together with his later rival, the Cardinal-Deacon Pierleone. Under Callistus II Gregory was sent to Germany (1119) with the legate Lambert, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia. Both were engaged in drawing up the Concordat of Worms in 1122. In the following year he was sent to France.

On 14 Feb., 1130, the morning following the death of Honorius II, the cardinal-bishops held an election and Gregory was chosen as his successor, taking the name of Innocent II; three hours later Pietro Pierleone was elected by the other cardinals and took the name of Anacletus II. Both received episcopal consecration 23 Feb.; Innocent at Santa Maria Nuova and Anacletus at St. Peter’s. Finding the influential family of the Frangipani had deserted his cause, Innocent at first retired into the stronghold belonging to his family in Trastevere, then went to France by way of Pisa and Genoa. There he secured the support of Louis VI, and in a synod at Etampes the assembled bishops, influenced by the eloquence of Suger of St-Denis, acknowledged his authority. This was also done by other bishops gathered at Puy-en-Velay through St. Hugh of Grenoble. The pope went to the Abbey of Cluny, then attended another meeting of bishops, November, 1130, at Clermont; they also promised obedience and enacted a number of disciplinary canons.

stained glass of Pope Innocent II in Notre-Dame-du-Fort in Étampes, France. Photo taken by GFreihalter.

Stained glass of Pope Innocent II in Notre-Dame-du-Fort in Étampes, France. Photo taken by GFreihalter.

Through the activity of St. Norbert of Magdeburg, Conrad of Salzburg, and the papal legates, the election of Innocent was ratified at a synod assembled at Würzburg at the request of the German king, and here the king and his princes promised allegiance. A personal meeting of pope and king took place 22 March, 1131, at Liège, where a week later Innocent solemnly crowned King Lothair and Queen Richenza in the church of St. Lambert. He celebrated Easter, 1131, at St-Denis in Paris, and 18 October opened the great synod at Reims, and crowned the young prince of France, later Louis VII. At this synod England, Castile, and Aragon were represented; St. Bernard and St. Norbert attended and several salutary canons were enacted. Pentecost, 1132, the pope held a synod at Piacenza. The following year he again entered Rome, and on 4 June crowned Lothair emperor at the Lateran. In 1134 the pope, at the request of the emperor, ordered that Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the island of Greenland should remain under the jurisdiction of Hamburg (Weiss, “Weltgeschichte”, V, 21). On the departure of the emperor, innocent also left and went to Pisa, since the antipope still held sway in Rome. At Pisa a great synod was held in 1135 (Hefele, “Conciliengeschichte”, V, 425) at which were present bishops of Spain, England, France, Germany, Hungary, etc. In the spring of 1137 Emperor Lothair, in answer to the repeated entreaties of the pope, began his march to Rome. The papal and imperial troops met at Bari, 30 May, 1137, and the pope was again conducted into Rome. Anacletus still held a part of the city, but died 25 Jan., 1138. Another antipope was chosen, who called himself Victor IV, but he, urged especially by the prayers of St. Bernard, soon submitted, and Innocent found himself in undisturbed possession of the city and of the papacy.

To remove the remnants and evil consequences of the schism, Innocent II called the Tenth Ecumenical Council, the Second of the Lateran. It began its sessions on 4 April, 1139 (not 8 April, as Hefele writes, V, 438). One thousand bishops and other prelates are said to have been present. The official acts of Anacletus II were declared null and void, the bishops and priests ordained by him were with few exceptions deposed, the heretical tenets of Pierre de Bruys were condemned. Thirty canons were made against simony, incontinence, extravagance in dress among the clergy, etc. Sentence of excommunication was pronounced upon Roger, who styled himself King of Sicily, and who after the departure of the emperor had invaded the lands granted to Rainulph. In 1139 St. Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, left Ireland to visit the shrine of the Apostles. Innocent received him with great honours and made him papal legate for all Ireland, but would not grant him permission to resign his see in order to join the community of St. Bernard at Clairvaux (Bellesheim, “Ireland”, I, 356). In the East, Innocent II curbed the pretension to independence on the part of William, Patriarch of Jerusalem and of Raoul, Patriarch of Antioch (Hergenröther, II, 410).

Pope Innocent IIAfter the death of Alberic, Archbishop of Bourges, in 1141, Louis VII of France wanted to secure the nomination of a man of his own choice whom the chapter did not consider the fit person, and they chose Pierre de La Châtre, whereupon Louis refused to ratify the election. The bishop-elect in person brought the matter to Rome, and Innocent, finding after due examination that the election had been made according to the requirements of ecclesiastical law, Confirmed it and himself gave the episcopal consecration. When Pierre returned to France, Louis would not allow him to enter his diocese. After useless negotiations Innocent placed France under interdict. Only during the reign of the next pope was the interdict removed and peace restored.

In the trouble between Alfonso of Spain and Alfonso Henríquez who was making Portugal an independent monarchy and had placed his kingdom under the protection of the Holy See, Innocent acted as mediator (Aschbach, “Gesch. Span. u. Port.”, 1833, 304, 458). Ramiro II, a monk, had been elected King of Aragon. Innocent II is said to have given him dispensation from his vows, though others claim that this is a calumny spread by the enemies of the pope (Damberger, “Weltgeschichte “, VIII, 202).


Several minor synods were held during the last few years of the life of Innocent, one at Sens in 1140, at Vienne in 1141 and in the same year at Vienne and Reims; in 1142 at Lagny, in which Ralph, the Duke of Vermandois is said to have been excommunicated by the legate Yvo of Chartres for having repudiated his lawful wife and married another (Hefele, V, 488). A synod was held under the presidency of the papal legate 7 April, 1141, at Winchester; and 7 Dec., 1141, at Westminster. During his pontificate Innocent II enrolled among the Canonized saints of the Church: at Reims in 1133, St. Godehard, Archbishop of Reims; at Pisa in 1134, St. Hugo, Bishop of Grenoble, who had died in 1132, and had been a zealous defender of the rights of Innocent; at the Lateran in 1139, St. Sturmius, Abbot of Fulda (Ann. Pont. Cath., 1903, 412). To St. Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensians, he granted in 1131 a document authorizing him to introduce his rule at the cathedral of Magdeburg (Heimbucher, “Die Orden u. Congr.”, II, Paderborn, 1907, 55); to St. Bernard he in 1140 gave the church of Sts. Vincent and Anastasius near Rome (ibid., 1, 428); he also granted many privileges to others. His letters and privileges are given in Migne (P. L., CLXXIX). According to the “Liber Pontificalis” (ed. Duchesne, II, 379) he ordained eighteen deacons, twenty priests, and seventy bishops.

Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome.

Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome.

He was buried in St. John Lateran, but seven years later was transferred to Santa Maria in Trastevere. Innocent II is praised by all, especially by St. Bernard, as a man of irreproachable character. His motto was: “Adjuva nos, Deus salutaris noster”. The policy of Innocent is characterized in one of his letters: “If the sacred authority of the popes and the imperial power are imbued with mutual love, we must thank God in all humility, since then only can peace and harmony exist among Christian peoples. For there is nothing so sublime as the papacy nor so exalted as the imperial throne” (Weiss, V, 25).

BRISCHAR in Kirchenlex., s. v.; DENZINGER, Enchiridion (10th ed., Freiburg, 1907), 167. See also under ANACLETUS II.

FRANCIS MERSHMAN (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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