Popes in a Year
#181 - Pope Alexander IV
Pope from December 12, 1254 - May 25, 1261
Lived: 1199 - May 25, 1261
Birth name: Rinaldo Conti
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Rinaldo Conti, on his mother’s side, was related to both Innocent III and Gregory IX, two of the Church’s most notable pontiffs from the Middle Ages. In fact, Uncle Gregory gave Rinaldo his start, naming the virtuous young churchman Cardinal-deacon in 1227, then Bishop of Ostia in 1241. In addition, Rinaldo was assigned as the protector of the Franciscan Order, having become close with many of the monks, and eventually served as papal chamberlain and dean of the College of Cardinals, to boot.
Give me the scoop on Alexander IV.
Though he was getting on in years (by 13th-Century standards), Alexander’s brother cardinals unanimously elected him pope five days after Pope Innocent IV’s death. If Innocent was a savvy diplomat, Alexander turned out to be exactly the opposite. He struggled to match wits with Manfred of Sicily, essentially Frederick II’s heir, then was faced with Henry III of England not being able to pay the amount he promised the pope as homage for crowning him king. Alexander was even driven from Rome in 1257 after a new Roman leader and dictator, Brancaleone, had come to power. Alexander IV died on May 25, 1261 in Viterbo, and was buried there soon afterward.
What was he known for?
Pope Alexander IV is most notable for his connections with St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi. In addition to his special affection for the Franciscans and Poor Clares, it was Alexander who canonized the saintly Clare on September 26, 1255. Clare, besides being generally awesome in all things (
patron saint of television
, anyone?), was known particularly for repelling the forces of Frederick II three decades earlier by simply holding the exposed Eucharist before them.
Barely a month after the canonization, Alexander confirmed the legitimacy of St. Francis’
-- the physical wounds of Christ -- which he was known to have bore during his life. In fact, St. Bonaventure attests to the pope recounting in a sermon that he had witnessed the wounds with his own eyes.
About three years into his papacy, Alexander IV issued a papal bull that may come as a surprise to some. With the Inquisition -- basically the Church’s court system to combat heresy -- being relatively new, questions had arisen as to who specifically ought to be investigated by it. Enter Alexander, who, in the bull
, declared that alleged witchcraft should
be investigated by Inquisitors, but should be left to local authorities.
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In 1259, King St. Louis IX of France and King Henry III of England signed the Treaty of Paris. In it, Henry agreed to stop playing finders keepers with French territory on continental Europe, while Louis vowed to stop supporting English rebels.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Urban IV
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 Alexander IV -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Monday, September 4 at 2:00AM