Popes in a Year
#182 - Pope Urban IV
Pope from August 29, 1261 - October 2, 1264
Lived: c. 1195 - October 2, 1264
Birth name: Jacques Pantaléon
Who was this guy before he was pope?
The son of a French cobbler, Jacques Pantaléon from a young age became known for being vigorously active, well-educated, and yet still pious and holy. He was serving as the Archdeacon of Liège (Belgium) when he caught the eye of Pope Innocent IV at the Council of Lyons in 1245. From there, he was sent as papal legate to Poland, Prussia, and Germany, all in a period of six years. He was briefly assigned as Bishop of Verdun, but was named Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1255, and served there until his election.
Give me the scoop on Urban IV.
Pope Urban IV was chosen after being in the right place at the right time. He was visiting Rome on official business in 1261, when the cardinal electors (there were only seven left) realized that his great skill in diplomacy and statesmanship, not to mention his healthy dislike for the Hohenstaufen (the imperial family in Germany), would make him a solid pope. He was elected and consecrated on August 29 of that year, likely choosing the name “Urban” as a tip o’ the cap to Urban II, a fellow Frenchman. He was elected at Viterbo, but spent most of his papacy in Orvieto. Near the time of his death, Urban was travelling to Assisi when he fell ill. He was taken to Perugia, where he died on October 2, 1264.
What was he known for?
Urban was best known for quickly and effectively undoing much of the damage against both papal authority in Rome and Church property throughout Italy. He started by balancing the papal checkbook and paying Alexander’s debts. Urban then frustrated the Ghibellines (the anti-papal faction in Rome) with savvy knowledge of the law, while building up the Guelphs (pro-pope folks) and helping appoint Charles I as King of Sicily and eventually senator in Rome. Historians are unsure if Urban convened a committee to find new names for the rival groups, though.
The pope also remained close with King St. Louis IX of France, while holding two consistories (cardinal-naming parties, basically) and increasing the number of Red Hats from seven to 21, making sure to further protect papal elections from abuse.
Pope Urban IV is who we can thank for the Feast of Corpus Christi, the annual day celebrating the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Urban published a papal bull,
, to make it official in 1264,
“We should celebrate continuously the memory of this memorial, because the more frequently his gift and favor are looked upon, so much the more firmly are they kept in memory. Therefore, although this memorial Sacrament is frequented in the daily solemnities of the Mass, we nevertheless think suitable and worthy that, at least once a year – especially to confound the lack of faith and the infamy of heretics – a more solemn and honorable memory of this Sacrament be held.”
Pope Urban IV, on the Feast of Corpus Christi
What else was going on in the world at the time?
In June of 1264, the first known meeting of the Irish legislature was held. It was at Castledermot in County Kildare that the Parliament of Ireland met.
Coming tomorrow...Pope Clement 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 Urban IV -
Pope Urban IV -
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Sent by Matthew Sewell on Tuesday, September 5 at 2:00AM