Gregory IX, Pope
GREGORY IX, POPE
Pontificate: March 19, 1227, to Aug. 22, 1241; b. Hugo[lino] at Anagni, c. 1170; d. Rome. Hugolino was a member of the family of the counts of Segni. His father was a certain Mathias, who died prior to 1192, and his brother Adenulphus served as rector of Anagni. Hugolino was educated in Paris. There is no contemporary evidence that he studied in the law schools of Bologna, despite later tradition.
He was named cardinal deacon of St. Eustachius in 1198 and emerged as one of the leading cardinals in the reign of Innocent III, to whom he was closely related. He served in the negotiations with Markward of Anweiler in the kingdom of Sicily, and, in 1206, he became cardinal bishop of Ostia and was recognized as a leading figure in the papal curia. Under Honorius III, his influence increased. He was papal legate in Liguria and Tuscany in 1217 and remained Honorius's chief representative in this region and in his negotiations with the young emperor, frederick ii, whose confidence he enjoyed through most of Honorius's pontificate. Hugolino worked tirelessly to bring about peace among the warring factions in the communes of northern Italy and to recruit contingents for the crusade.
Following the death of Cardinal John of St. Paul, who had been one of St. francis of assisi's key supporters in the curia, in 1220, Hugolino became the first cardinal protector of the Franciscan order. He assisted Francis in the composition of the Franciscan rule, the regula bullata of 1223. He was also a supporter of St. Dominic and the Dominicans.
On the death of Honorius III, he was immediately elected pope. It was a critical period. The last years of Honorius's reign had seen not merely the defeat of the crusader army at Damietta, but the continued frustration of the papal effort to persuade Frederick II to fulfill his vow to undertake a crusade. The emperor delayed past the August 1227 deadline for his departure, using illness in the army as his excuse. His explanation may have been true, since there was illness in the army, but this delay triggered his automatic excommunication under the terms to which he had agreed in 1225. The excommunication was renewed in early 1228, while he was involved in delicate negotiations with the Egyptian Sultan, al-Kāmil, that were aimed at reviving the sultan's offer, made during the Fifth Crusade, to surrender Jerusalem and other holy places in return for a truce. The excommunicated emperor had little choice but to go to the Holy Land to attempt to reach an agreement with al-Kāmil and to rescue his reputation in the West. It was only after the re-fortification of Jaffa and a show of force that Frederick succeeded in getting an agreement with the sultan. Despite the propaganda efforts of both sides, there was no denying that it was a flawed treaty. Moreover, Frederick, who was regent of the kingdom of Jerusalem for his son, was unpopular with many in the kingdom, both because of his intervention in Cyprus before his arrival in the Latin Kingdom, and for his strained relations with many of the nobles, as well as with the Templars and Hospitalers. In the meantime, trouble erupted in Italy, where Gregory claimed that Count Rainald of Spoleto, who represented Frederick, was invading the Patrimony of St. Peter. Leaving a bailli in the Latin Kingdom, Frederick returned to Italy and quickly defeated the papal forces under John of Brienne and entered into negotiations with the pope, which resulted in the Treaty of Ceprano in 1230.
For the most part, Gregory and Frederick cooperated during the 1230s. Among the most notable accomplishments of this period was the promulgation of the Liber Extra (vagantium), compiled by Raymond of Peñafort in 1234. The Decretales, as it was called, was the most important collection of canon law down to modern times. It established the central role of the papacy in the legal structure of the Roman Catholic Church, marking the completion of the work begun by Gratian in the mid-twelfth century. In this connection, it was formerly thought that the promulgation of the Decretales represented Gregory's reaction to Frederick II's promulgation of the Constitutions of Melfi for the Kingdom of Sicily in 1231, but that was not the case. In fact, Frederick came to the aid of the pope in 1234 when the Romans rebelled, and Gregory supported Frederick's effort to re-assert imperial authority in northern Italy.
Inevitably papal and imperial interests clashed. Only after imperial forces invaded Sardinia, over which the papacy claimed feudal overlordship, however, did the rupture become permanent. The ensuing propaganda war brought out some of the strongest letters of condemnation from both sides. Frederick himself was excommunicated on March 20, 1239. Behind the rhetoric lay the influence of some members of the mendicant orders, particularly the Dominicans, who were quite influential at the papal court. Brother Elias, the deposed minister general of the Franciscans, sided with Frederick, but seems not to have had a direct role in the propaganda war. The correspondence on both sides, however, reflects some Joachimite imagery that was beginning to be felt in the mendicant orders. It should not be surprising that both Gregory and Frederick, as well as their chanceries, adopted some of the current strands of thought.
Emphasis on papal-imperial conflicts has distorted our view of Gregory's pontificate. To some extent, the same is true of his approach to the issue of heresy. He is regarded as the founder of the papal Inquisition, although both of his predecessors have received some credit or blame, and the full-blown Inquisition only developed after 1250. Gregory's views on heresy were deeply influenced by those of Innocent III that combined strong legal sanctions with a willingness to work for healing. To some degree he favored the rights of the counts of Toulouse, although they were regarded by many as supporters of heretics. On the other hand, he was very much caught up in the wave of religious enthusiasm that swept through Europe in the 1230s. One aspect of this, represented in the extreme anti-heretical activities of Conrad of Marburg and Robert le Bougre, received considerable support from the pope. He enlisted the Dominicans as preachers against heresy in Provence and was passionately involved in its suppression. This region, where the French monarchy was taking the lead in the suppression of heresy, at the same time integrating this with Capetian France, was a central focus of his concerns. There, as in other parts of Europe, it was often difficult to separate charges of heresy from political rivalries and personal quarrels. If some of those pursuing heretics went far beyond their authorization, Gregory's efforts were sometimes their justification. One difficult problem not easily dealt with is the degree to which concern over heresy was exaggerated by an intensification of religious zeal and the preaching of the friars. Perhaps Gregory more accurately reflected the attitudes of his time rather than attempting to moderate them.
The pope was also involved in the missionary efforts of his time, especially in the Baltic. These had been going on for many years, but were increasingly complicated by the political interests of secular rulers. Moreover, the military orders intended to maintain peace and security in the region, the Sword Brothers and the Teutonic Order, were themselves rivals and sources of conflict. The latter order would, in fact, emerge as a secular principality in the latter part of the thirteenth century. Gregory supported the dominicans as preachers and tried to protect converts from economic and political exploitation. His concerns were chiefly pastoral, but they had almost no long-term impact.
The major achievement of Gregory's pontificate was the firm backing he gave to the franciscans and Dominicans, as well as to other new religious orders. He was deeply imbued with the spirit of reform that motivated these communities. He issued privilege after privilege aimed at freeing them from episcopal jurisdiction, encouraging their preaching, and drawing on them for the work of the church. He was chiefly responsible for using them as a kind of special force in the employ of the papacy against heresy. He admired the educational attainments of the Dominicans and saw in them a way to educate and persuade those who might otherwise fall into heresy. He also participated in an abortive discussion with the Greek Church, but his adherence to the Latin position on the azymes and filioque questions resulted in disappointment. A man of strong and emotional character, he was more capable of flexibility than some have thought. For example, in spite of his breaks with Frederick, he was capable of recognizing specific imperial and royal rights.
Bibliography: Sources: l. auvray, Registre de Gregoire IX: recueil des bulles de ce pape publièes ou analysèes d'après les manuscrits originaux du Vatican, 4 v. (Paris 1890–1955). j. l. a. huillard-brÉholles, Historia Diplomatica Friderici II Romanorum imperatoris, 6 v. in 12 (Paris 1852–51). g. levi, Registri di Cardinali Ugolino d'Ostia e Ottaviano degli Ubaldini (Rome 1890). Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Leges, 2.1. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Epistolae, 1. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, 16:22. b. gui, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, III. (Life of Gregory by Bernard Gui). Secondary Works: p. balan, Storia di Gregorio IX e dei suoi tempi, 2 v. in l (Modena, 1872–73). j. felten, Papst Gregor IX (Freiburg 1886). h. k. mann, The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages from 590 to 1304 (London 1902–32) 13: 165–441. f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Munich 1956) 3: 411–52. j. haller, Das Papsttum (2d. rev. ed. Stuttgart 1950–53) 4:47–160. c. thouzellier, "La legation en Lombardie du cardinal Hugolin," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique, 45 (1950), 508–542. j. m. powell, Anatomy of a Crusade, 1213–1221 (Philadelphia delphia 1986). c. morris, The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250 (New York 1991). j. strayer, The Albigensian Crusades (Ann Arbor 1992). b. schimmelpfennig, The Papacy (New York 1992) 174–187. m. lambert, The Cathars (Oxford 1999). e. christiansen, The Northern Crusades (New York 1997).
[j. m. powell]