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Hints and Allegations: The Charge of Infidelity in Papal and Imperial Propaganda, 1239–1245

  • John Phillip Lomax
Chapter
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Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

The lifelong relationship between Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen and the papacy was frequently troubled, but in the main both parties strove to manage this relationship productively. In 1227, 1239, and 1245, however, tensions between Frederick and the popes escalated into open conflict. They became adversaries and adopted adversarial tactics. Among these were political manifestoes that circulated widely throughout Christendom. Frederick and the popes built their cases against one another around a hard core of legal argument. Since most of these conflicts occurred (metaphorically) on papal turf, canon law took the lead, but Roman law, feudal customs, and contemporary jurisprudence contributed to their arguments. The decrees and political encyclicals of Frederick II and the popes illustrate the high medieval ius commune in action. It is not possible to understand properly the political programs of the popes or the emperor—at peace or at war—without attending to the legal arguments on which they rested their claims.

Keywords

Papal Office Thirteenth Century Legal Argument General Council Catholic Faith 
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Notes

  1. 3.
    Ad apostolicae dignitatis, First Council of Lyons (1245), a.c.1 (= VI 2.14.2). See Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. Giuseppe Alberigo et. al., 3rd ed. (Bologna: Istituto per le scienze religiose, 1973) (hereafter COD3);Google Scholar
  2. reprinted with translation in Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman B. Tanner, 2 vols. (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1990), 1:279–81.Google Scholar
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    See G. C. Macaulay, “The Capture of a General Council, 1241,” English Historical Review 21 (1891): 1–17, which remains the standard account;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. cf. David Abulafia, Frederick II, A Medieval Emperor (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1988), 340–74, esp. 346–7. Many chronicles noted the capture of the churchmen. The most complete account appears in Richard of San Germano,Google Scholar
  5. Ryccardi de Sancto Germano nortarii Chronica, ed. C. A. Garufi, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, new ed. [= RIS2], 7,2 (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1937), 208–9 and nn. Reports first reached Gregory IX from a company of prelates who had escaped capture in Dolentes referimus (10 May 1241), MGH Epist. saec. XIII 1:713–4, no. 812, and from the podestà of Genoa in Tacti sumus dolore (May 10, 1241?), ibid., 1:714–6, no. 813, who greatly exaggerates the performance of the Genoese fleet. Frederick celebrated the capture of the prelates and the city of Faenza in Hilari affection recipimus (May 18, 1241), Historia diplomatica Friderici Secundi [= H-B], 6 vols. (Paris: Plon, 1859), 5,2:1123–5, to Henry III of England, and in Adaucta nobis continue (late May 1241?), ibid., 1126–8, an encyclical letter to princes and nobles. Gregory dispatched a defiant account of the capture of the prelates in Existens in mari (May 18, 1241), MGH Epist. saec. XIII 1:716–7, no. 815. Innocent IV remarked on the Frederick’s call for a council in Ad apostolicae dignitatis. Under the charge of sacrilege Innocent notes that Frederick himself had petitioned Gregory IX for a council to prove his innocence and then had blocked it by capturing the council fathers who were en route to Rome; see COD3, 281.Google Scholar
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    See Laurie Shepard, Courting Power: Persuasion and Politics in the Early Thirteenth Century, Garland Studies in Medieval Literature, 17 (New York: Garland, 1999), 67–9, 123–30, 189–207, for an analysis of the rhetorical turn from reconciliation to belligerence in papal-imperial relations between 1236 and 1239.Google Scholar
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    Richard of San Germano, RIS2 7, 2:90. For an account of these inquests, see H. J. Pybus, “Frederick II and the Sicilian Church,” The Cambridge Journal of History 3 (1931): 137–41. Frederick wrote to Honorius III in March 1221 to calm the pope’s agitation over these inquests by assuring him that they did not violate the privilege that he had recently granted to the Roman church. Frederick asserted that the inquests were meant only to identify false charters, false seals, and illicitly detained portions of the royal demesne. H-B, 2,1:139–40.Google Scholar
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    See James. A. Brundage, Medieval Canon Law (London and New York: Longman, 1995), 91–6, 140–53. According to Brundage, jurists found one alternative to accusatorial procedure, the per notorium procedure for crimes that were alleged to be “widely known,” to be “a slippery, and hence potentially dangerous tool.” (p. 146) The claim of notorium was not difficult to defeat at trial and was thus rarely used. On the introduction of a new form of inquisitio near the beginning of the thirteenth century, Brundage states: “A further, and more widely employed type of criminal procedure appeared quite abruptly during the opening years of the pontificate of Pope Innocent III. As part of the continuing papal campaign against clerical concubinage, fornication, and simony, Innocent in a decretal of 1199 [X 5.3.31] authorized judges to use a new form of action per inquisitionem, besides the traditional ones. This novel form of action seems to have been Innocent III’s own creation. The pope described the new process more fully in a decretal of 1206 [X 5.1.17] and it was firmly established as a regular type of criminal procedure by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 [c.8, COD3, 1:237–339 = X 5.1.24].” (p. 147) At first, use of this form of per inquisitionem procedure was limited and localized, but it escalated through the thirteenth century, especially during the pontificate of Gregory IX (1227–41), and was widespread by the fourteenth century. Even so, Brundage notes that “William Durandus, the preeminent procedural authority among thirteenth-century canonists, insisted that full proof of guilt according to the prescriptions of the ordo iudiciarius was essential before a judge proceeding per inquisitionem could declare a defendant guilty.” (pp. 149–50) For more on the origins and development of the new inquisitorial procedure and the escalation of its use in the thirteenth century,Google Scholar
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  15. 42.
    Frederick legislated against heretics frequently and mercilessly. See MGH Const. 2:108–9, no. 85 (1221); 126–7, no. 100 (1224); 195–7, nos. 157–158 (1232); 281–5, nos. 209–11 (1238, 1239); see also The Liber Augustalis or Constitutions of Melfi, trans. James M. Powell (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1971), 7–10 (1.1–2). Powell based his translation on the Huillard-Bréholles edition, H-B 4,1:1–178. The antiheretical clauses of the imperial constitution that Frederick issued at his imperial coronation in 1220 were incorporated into Compilatio quinta at 5 Comp. 5.4.un. Gregory IX did not include this canon in the Decretales. Frederick reissued these sections separately at Ravenna in 1232. MGH Const. 2:195, no. 157. See also the corroborating decretal that Honorius III promulgated at Frederick’s coronation in 1220. 5 Comp. 1.1.1 (= X 5.39.49).Google Scholar
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    See F. Donald Logan, Excommunication and the Secular Arm in Medieval England: A Study in Legal Procedure from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Century, Studies and Texts, 15 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1968);Google Scholar
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  18. 61.
    See James M. Moynihan, Papal Immunity and Liability in the Writings of the Medieval Canonists, Analecta Gregoriana, 120: Series Facultatis Iuris Canonici, section B, no. 9 (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1961), 2–23. He argues that two separate traditions on papal immunity vied for predominance among canonists. Moynihan demonstrates that the tradition that claimed complete papal immunity rested on falsifications; the other, which established the exception of heresy, rested on authentic texts. Contemporary canonists, of course, accepted the canons from both traditions as authentic, which contributed to the controversy over papal immunity.Google Scholar
  19. 62.
    See Brian Tierney, “‘The Prince Is Not Bound by the Laws’: Accursius and the Origins of the Modern State,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 5 (1963): 378–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 65.
    Ibid., 42–138. See also Brian Tierney, “Pope and Council: Some New Decretist Texts,” Medieval Studies 19 (1957): 197–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 90.
    See Brian Tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: The Contributions of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism, new ed. (Leiden: Brill, 1998).Google Scholar

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© Karen Bollermann, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Cary J. Nederman 2014

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  • John Phillip Lomax

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