Popes in a Year
#175 - Pope Celestine III
Pope from March 30, 1191 - January 8, 1198
Lived: 1106 - January 8, 1198
Birth name: Giacinto Bobone
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Giacinto Bobone was born into Roman nobility in 1106, and was known well for his education, holiness, and eloquence. In 1144, Pope Celestine II elevated Giacinto to cardinal-deacon and assigned him to the Roman basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. He was considered by his brothers in the Roman Curia as an expert on Spain, having been sent on missions there as papal legate from 1154-1155 and 1172-1175.
Give me the scoop on Celestine III.
Considering he’d been a cardinal for nearly
by his 1191 election, it was about time for Celestine III to get a new job. He was elevated to the papacy at the spry age of 85, 10 days after Clement III’s death, and took the name “Celestine III” perhaps as a nod to the man who had given him the red hat over four decades prior. Celestine excommunicated the kidnappers of King Richard the Lionheart of England in 1193. He staunchly defended the Church’s laws on marriage when Alfonso IX of Portugal wanted to marry his cousin, Theresa, while also (probably) saying, “Besides, that’s gross.” Celestine died January 8, 1198, having reigned six years, nine months, and nine days.
What was he known for?
Pope Celestine III continued the wrestling match left to him by Clement III, that being the drama over who should rule Germany and Sicily, two of the bigger sources of papal gray hairs in those days. With Henry VI of Germany on his way to Rome when Clement died, Celestine III made sure that one of his first acts as pope was to crown the German as Holy Roman Emperor to succeed Barbarossa (his father). Celestine, however, wasn’t about to let Henry rule Sicily too, so he followed Clement’s lead and recognized Tancred as king there.
With the drama far from over, Celestine must have prayed hard for some relief. What happened next was (almost comically) miraculous. In 1194, Tancred died and was succeeded by a toddler, his son William III. Henry tried to use that opportunity to build his own empire, but himself died just three years later, leaving
kingdom to a toddler as well, his sole heir, Frederick II. Lucky for Celestine, fifty years of imperial threats and papal stress had disappeared almost overnight.
Celestine III formally canonized four saints during his time as pope: St. Malachy of Armagh, St. Bernward of Hildesheim, St. John Gualbert, and St. Ubaldus of Gubbio. Say those five times fast.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 1191, the monks of Glastonbury Abbey in England reported the discovery of two graves: that of a large knight and a blonde woman. According to legend, they believed the pair to be the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. A contemporary testimony two years later -- though not an eyewitness account -- reported that with the bodies was a leaden cross bearing a Latin inscription:
“Here lies interred the famous King Arthur on the Isle of Avalon.”
Coming Monday...Pope Innocent III
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 Celestine III -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Friday, August 25 at 2:00AM