#161 - Pope Gelasius II
Pope from January 24, 1118 - January 29, 1119
Died: January 29, 1119
Birth name: John of Gaeta
Give me the scoop on Gelasius II.
Born in Gaeta, Italy, Pope Gelasius II first served as a monk at Monte Cassino, but was soon brought to Rome as a subdeacon by Blessed Pope Urban II. He was ordained a deacon in 1088 and was appointed the chancellor of the Holy Roman Church in 1089, thanks to a strong education and savvy knowledge of Latin. He’d serve in that capacity until he was elected pope in 1118. Gelasius was a protector of the papacy before he himself was elected, supposedly being jailed with Pope Paschal II and defending him against charges of heresy.
Gelasius was unanimously chosen to succeed Paschal on January 24. The emperor’s henchmen immediately seized him, but his Roman compatriots said (probably), “Not in our house!” He was liberated soon thereafter. Gelasius served a short and incredibly intense pontificate, dying at the monastery in Cluny, barely a year after his election, on January 29, 1119.
What was he known for?
Gelasius was best known, while he was pope, for enduring what’s been called “one long martyrdom” in the Church’s effort to put the Investiture Controversy -- the spat where kings wanted to appoint bishops without Church interference -- out to pasture once and for all. Emperor Henry V was still peeved that Pope Paschal II had revoked his (coerced) permission to invest new bishops, so the emperor tried strong-arming Gelasius instead. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. Gelasius fled to his hometown of Gaeta, then not only ignored Henry’s demands that he come back to Rome, but gave him the papal boot when the the emperor elevated an antipope (Gregory VIII) in retaliation. Eric John writes that Gelasius’ service was the “last sacrifice in the struggle against lay investiture.”
Because of Henry V’s bad attitude and tyrannical tendencies, it’s thought that Gelasius II chose his name to slight the unruly emperor. St. Gelasius I, six centuries earlier, had proposed a theory known as
(“two swords”) where ‘royal power’ lay with the emperor and ‘priestly power’ was a right of the pope. Who knows if Henry got the message.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
The great St. Thomas Becket, English martyr and Archbishop of Canterbury, was born December 21, 1118. He was elevated to the archbishop’s chair in 1162 and was martyred by cronies of King Henry II, four days after Christmas, in 1170.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Callixtus II
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
Guruge, A. (2010). The Next Pope. New Hampshire: WOWNH
Pope Gelasius II -
Pope Gelasius II -
Archbishop St. Thomas Becket -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 2:00AM