Popes in a Year
#176 - Pope Innocent III
Pope from January 8, 1198 - July 16, 1216
Lived: c. 1160 - July 16, 1216
Birth name: Lotario de Conti
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Lotario de Conti was born into a pope-rich family, the Contis, around the year 1160. His uncle was Pope Clement III, and he was distantly related to Gregory IX, Alexander IV, and Innocent XIII. Lotario was incredibly well-educated, having studied theology in Paris and jurisprudence in Bologna, and went on to become known as one of the greatest legal scholars of his era. Though he had retired to live a life of contemplation by the time Celestine III (his predecessor) was in office, Lotario served in different capacities under the four popes prior to Celestine.
Give me the scoop on Innocent III.
A sign of a good and virtuous pope, Innocent III was reluctantly consecrated pope on January 8, 1198. He was just 37 years old. Despite having one of the longer papacies to date, Innocent was no couch potato pontiff, and has gone down as one of the most influential and powerful popes in Church history. His incredible knowledge of the law made him a force to be reckoned with politically, so he was able to begin restoring papal supremacy in Rome and throughout Italy with few headaches (pretty uncommon at that time). Germany, who could never seem to cool its jets, was the exception. The nation had been split by rival claimants to the throne there -- Otto IV and Philip of Swabia -- neither of whom was the rightful heir, four-year-old Frederick II. It would take more than a decade for the dust to settle there.
Innocent III ushered in crusading efforts -- arguably his most controversial acts as pope -- to Spain and the Holy Land. The former worked out alright, but the latter went terribly wrong (
read here for more
) and soured the Western Church’s relationship with the East even further, despite Innocent’s best efforts. The pope died suddenly on July 16, 1216 and was buried at Perugia until being moved to the Lateran by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.
What was he known for?
Pope Innocent III was best known for being a reformer who sent ripples throughout the Church which can still be seen today. He organized the suppression of the Albigensian heresy in France, which taught (among other things) a Star Wars-esque belief of forces of both good and evil existing and battling against each other in the universe. Innocent also convened the
Fourth Lateran Council
in 1215, which issued 70 decrees. Chief among them was the infallible declaration and detailed description of transubstantiation (Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist).
One of his most well-known acts was welcoming St. Francis of Assisi to the Vatican, where the young monk fulfilled a vision Innocent had received depicting a poor man holding up the crumbling Lateran Basilica. He also hosted St. Dominic at a different time, and rubber-stamped the creation of both the Dominican and Franciscan orders to fight the perpetual scourges of luxury and laziness, which had infected both clergy and laity of late.
The material world didn’t see the last of Innocent III when he died in 1216. Soon after his death,
to St. Lutgardis of Aywières of Belgium, a saint who was known for her mystical visions and remarkable holiness. In the apparition, Innocent thanked Lutgardis for her prayers during his lifetime, but exhorted her to continue. He was in purgatory and needed prayers to be purified from three specific faults committed during his lifetime:
“Alas! It is terrible; and will last for centuries if you do not come to my assistance. In the name of Mary, who has obtained for me the favor of appealing to you, help me!”
Pope Innocent III, in an apparition to St. Lutgardis
What else was going on in the world at the time?
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
in Spain, which still stands to this day, was completed in 1211 and consecrated by King Alfonso IX of Leon.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Honorius 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 Innocent III -
Pope Innocent III -
The Real Story of the Fourth Crusade -
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 2:00AM