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Nicholas II, Pope


Pontificate: Dec. 6 (?), 1058 (at Siena), to July 20, 1061 (at Florence); b. Gerard in French Burgundy, date uncertain. He became bishop of Florence before 1045 with the support of Duke Godfrey III the Bearded of Lorraine, husband of Beatrice of Tuscany who was the mother of Mathilda of Canossa and Tuscany. At the urging of Hildebrand (later Pope gregory vii) and peter damian, the cardinals who had fled to Siena elected Gerard to the papacy with the approval of the German imperial court. After the condemnation of Gerard's opponent benedict x at a synod at Sutri, the troops of Duke Godfrey escorted Nicholas to Rome where he was solemnly enthroned and crowned in January 1059. Outstanding events of his pontificate are 1) the Easter synod of 1059 held at the Lateran in Rome and 2) the council of Melfi held in August 1059, where the Norman leaders Robert Guiscard and Richard of Capua became vassals of the Roman Church. On the latter occasion Nicholas completely reversed papal attitudes toward the Normans in southern Italy. Instead of pursuing war against the invaders, he invested them as feudal suzerain with their earlier conquests, which were thus legitimized. Moreover, he enfeoffed Robert Guiscard with territories that were still in the hands of Byzantines or Saracens. The text of Robert's oath of fealty has been preserved in the canonical collection of Cardinal Deusdedit. Robert promised to protect the papacy, to aid in future elections, to abstain from further attacks on the lands of St. Peter and to make regular census payments.

The Lateran synod of April 1059 is famous for its decree regulating the procedures for papal elections in the future by way of sanctioning the unusual circumstances of the election of Nicholas II in retrospect. Future popes were to be determined by deliberations of the Cardinal-bishops who subsequently were to consult the other cardinals and Roman clergy and laity. The ill-defined rights of the German emperors were not abrogated. The decree embodies a significant reduction of the influence of the Roman clergy below the rank of bishop as well as of the laity, in particular of the old Roman nobility who had conspired in the election of Benedict X. Other decrees issued by the synod of 1059 promoted the aims of the reform: clerical celibacy, strict prohibition of the acquisition of ecclesiastical offices and property through payments (simony), and a common life for cathedral canons. The faithful were ordered to boycott the masses celebrated by unchaste priests, a revolutionary measure designed to enforce obedience to papal decrees.

The reputation of Nicholas II in the sources as well as in historical writings has always been overshadowed by that of his powerful contemporaries, Peter Damian, humbert of silva candida, and Hildebrand. It is therefore impossible to determine his personal share in the major events of his reign, but there can be no doubt about its far-reaching importance. His reign ended for unknown reasons with a serious disagreement with the German court overshadowing the minority of the later Emperor Henry IV and favoring the schism of Cadalus of Parma.

Bibliography: a. ambrosioni, "Niccolò II," Enciclopedia dei papi, ed. m. bray (Rome 2000) 172178. u.-r. blumenthal, "The Coronation of Pope Nicholas II," Life, Law and Letters: Miscelánea histórica en honor de Antonio García y García, ed. p. linehan (Studia Gratiana 28, 1998) 121132. h. e. j. cowdrey, "The Papacy, the Patarenes and the Church of Milan," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Series, 18 (1968) 2548; reprinted in Popes, Monks and Crusaders, no.V (London 1984). j. deÉr, Papsttum und Normannen: Untersuchungen zu ihren lehnsrechtlichen und kirchenpolitischen Beziehungen (Cologne-Vienna 1972). e. goez, Beatrix von Canossa und Tuszien: Eine Untersuchung zur Geschichte des 11. Jahrhunderts (Vorträge und Forschungen Sonderband 41, 1995). w. goez, "Reformpapsttum, Adel und monastische Erneuerung in der Toscana," Investiturstreit und Reichsverfassung, ed. j. fleckenstein (Vorträge und Forschungen 17, 1973) 205239. d. hÄgermann, "Zur Vorgeschichte des Pontifikats Nikolaus' II.," Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, 81 (1970) 352361. d. jasper, Das Papstwahldekret von 1059 (Sigmaringen 1986). h.-g. krause, Das Papstwahldekret von 1059 und seine Rolle im Investiturstreit (Rome 1960). j. laudage, Priesterbild und Reformpapsttum im 11. Jahrhundert (Cologne-Vienna 1984); "Nikolaus II," Lexikon der Päpste und des Papsttums (Freiburg 2001) 258. r. schieffer, Die Entstehung des päpstlichen Investiturverbots für den deutschen König (Stuttgart 1981); "Nikolaus II," Lexikon des Mittelalters 6 (1992) col. 1170. t. schmidt, "Nicolas II," Dictionnaire Historique de la Papauté, ed. p. h. levillain (Paris 1994) 1163. g. tellenbach, The Church in Western Europe from the Tenth to the Early Twelfth Century, tr. t. reuter (Cambridge, Eng. 1993). c. violante, "Il vescovo Gerardo-papa Niccolò II e le comunità canonicali nella diocesi di Firenze," Bollettino Storico Pisano 4041 (197172) 1722.

[u.-r. blumenthal]

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