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English gainsayer, whose memory was branded after a solemn trial, and his shrine destroyed with elaborate thoroughness. When the pope became a foreign usurper, St. Thomas of Canterbury sank into the traitor Becket. The rifled shrine and the scattered relics of the great sacerdotal champion were not unmeet accompaniments of those statutes which broke the papal yoke and struck down the power of the priesthood in England.
THE POPEDOM IN FULL STRENGTH AND SPLENDOUR.
Raptores orbis .. auferre, trucidare, rapere falsis nominibus imperium. TACITUS, Agricola, cap. xxx. Usurpers of the world, they practise spoliation, they perpetrate massacre, they grasp at empire under false pretences.'
It was in a season of mingled glory and peril for the popedom that the papal throne received its mightiest occupant in Innocent III. (1198).' It was just the period to try a master-spirit. Circumstances were at once full of promise and full of threatening—were not so purely auspicious as to need no effort, nor so utterly unfavourable as to defy all endeavour. The papacy had grown, but hostile powers had grown by its side-its triumphs had been manifold and marvellous, but formidable trials were awaiting it. The time offered great helps and set great hindrances in its path, and Innocent was the very man to make the most of the former and to sweep away the latter. The empire lay not in his way; the lull in the strife between the papal power and the imperial power, since the humiliation of Frederick Redbeard, still continued. The heir of the House of Hohenstaufen, the grandson and namesake of Frederick, the son of Henry the Stern and Constance the Norman, Frederick king of Sicily, was the infant ward and vassal of the pontiff. There was, it is true, a contest for the imperial crown between a Guelf candidate, Otho of Brunswick, son of Henry the Lion, and a Ghibelin candidate, Philip of Suabia, son of Redbeard; but this was a battle of houses rather than of principles, and both competitors solicited papal support.
1 Raynaldus, Annales Ecclesiastici, an. 1198, n. 7 et seq. The great papal annalist, Cardinal Cæsar Baronius, who pursued his laborious undertaking amidst the stir of the conflict between the Roman Church and the Reformation-a conflict wherein he and his brother Cardinal Bellarmine were the most illustrious intellectual combatants on the Roman side-brought his work as far as the accession of Innocent III., and has found a congenial continuer in Ordericus Raynaldus.
The papacy, of course, sided with the house of Guelf; but Innocent mingled in the fray as an auxiliary rather than as a principal, and spoke and demeaned himself throughout as the patron rather than the opponent of imperial power.2 A statesman and a soldier sate on the throne of France; a dastard and a tyrant had just replaced the hero and ideal man of the age upon the throne of England. Philip Augustus was no longer confronted by Richard Lionheart, but by John Lackland; and both capable Capet and recreant Plantagenet were to be encountered and overcome by Innocent III. The crusading spirit, which was in some measure the creature and handmaid of the papacy, and which rewarded the encouragement of the pontiffs by making the chief business of Christendom one on which they had to be consulted and over which they in a manner presided, though extinguished in royalty by the departure of the lionhearted antagonist of Saladin, still dwelt strong and active among the princes and barons of Europe, and offered rich material for the ambition and genius of Innocent to work upon.1
But there was another spirit, potent and prevailing, which threatened the existence, instead of feeding the power, of the popedom. The spirit of religious and intellectual life, which so stirred and brightened the twelfth century, had triumphs to record and trophies to show at its close, possessed a realm, wielded a language, and inspired a literature. Throughout that age of manifold light and life, spiritual teachers of all kinds, disciples of Abelard and descendants of the Paulicians, refined speculators and simple believers, followers of Peter des Bruys and followers of Peter Waldo, were at work in the south and south-east of France, and were all more or less at work against the priesthood and the popedom. St. Bernard had watched and warned, but to very little purpose; quarrels with the Romans and contests with the Empire half-blinded the papal eye to the peril across the Alps, and slackened the papal arm when raised to put it down. While the Lombard League was combating for Alexander III. against Frederick Redbeard, while Becket was fighting the battle of the Roman Church against
2 Raynaldus, an. 1199, n. 28–38; an. 1200, n. 35; an. 1201, n. 1 et seq. Otho de S. Blasio, lib. i. cap. 64-8.
3 Innocent spoke somewhat imperiously to Richard, who was killed in the second year of his pontificate (Epistolæ, lib. i. pp. 134, 150).
Innocentii Epistolæ, lib. i. pp. 180, 211, 217.
Henry II., foes more formidable than the greatest of the Cæsars, than the first and not the least of the Plantagenets, quickeners of the mind and masters of the heart, skilful logicians, lively poets, and earnest preachers, were busy and successful in alienating from the Church of Rome the princes and the people of Southern France. The whole religious life of the age, however, had not broken into revolt against the papacy; everywhere there were teachers, preachers, and enthusiasts, some without any doctrinal or political opposition to the popedom, but many the open foes of the Romish faith and the papal monarchy.
Of this heaving, impatient, aspiring, and insurgent Christendom, Innocent III. manifested himself indeed the master. He took the whole age into his ken, and sought to hold it in his grasp. He forgot nothing; he overlooked nothing; he appeared everywhere; he attempted everything; he thoroughly mastered the age. crushed or conciliated its hostile powers, he magnified and multiplied its friendly influences. He took in hand rival emperors and contending kings, vigorous monarchs and weak tyrants, crusaders and reformers, religious enthusiasts and religious teachers, and converted them all into instruments or victims of the papal power. Set upon bringing the whole of life-personal, national, political, and spiritual, home, court, camp, and council-board-under the papal domination, upon making the Roman See omnipotent everywhere, over everything and everybody, he was intolerant of all dissent, divergence and disobedience in smallest as in greatest things; he let no deviation from its ways go unrebuked, no defiance of its authority pass unpunished. He was as severely watchful over the matrimonial engagements of monarchs as over the faith of nations, and was as prompt to annul an uncanonical marriage as to root out a flagrant heresy. He trampled upon the hearts of kings as ruthlessly as upon the souls of their subjects, and violated the sanctuary of love no less ruthlessly than that of conscience.5 No pontiff more frequently or so effectually hurled the thunderbolts of the Church. The excommunication of his uttering was in truth a curse. The interdict of his inflicting was indeed a calamity. The love-affairs of her king brought this
5 Alphonso of Leon, Pedro II. of Aragon, a king of Bohemia, and many others, as well as Philip of France, were called to account in matters matrimonial by Innocent, who, on more than one occasion, stood forth as the defender of a defenceless wife and the vindicator of the moral law, though too often the champion of mere canonical restriction. Raynaldus, an. 1199, n. 40–42.
calamity upon France for some months; the quarrel of her king with the court of Rome about episcopal appointments laid England beneath this plague for six years. Philip Augustus repudiated his wife, Ingeburga of Denmark, to whom he took a violent dislike on the wedding-day, and married Agnes of Meran. Innocent declared himself the champion of Ingeburga. Philip would not take her back, and France was smitten with an interdict. By way of punishment for the matrimonial irregularities of the monarch, matrimony was forbidden to the people; the churches were closed, public prayer and praise came to an end, the dead were left unburied. The nation shuddered; the sovereign yielded; the greatest of the early French kings, the doubler of the realm and the magnifier of the monarchy, found his master in the pontiff, put away the beloved Agnes, and nominally took again the detested Ingeburga. The resistance of the English king was fiercer and more protracted, but his defeat was far more signal and degrading.
John refused to receive Stephen Langton, whom the pope and the monks of St. Augustine between them had made archbishop of Canterbury without his consent (1207). Innocent visited this refusal of the king by an interdict on the kingdom (1208). John retorted the interdict upon the goods and persons of the clergy who observed it. Innocent replied next year by excommunication, thus smiting king as well as kingdom. For six years (1208-1214) England lay apart from Christendom, a land of shut-up churches, of silenced prayer and praise, of unsolemnised weddings and funerals. John stood forth a monster in the eye and a stench in the nostril of his age, an impious wretch, stricken and forsaken of Heaven. The accursed of the Church happened to be the abhorred of his people; the foe of Rome was the most cruel of oppressors and a craven no less than a tyrant; his resistance to papal encroachments flowed from no national feelings, from no enlightened political convictions, but from mere love of arbitrary power. It was the resistance not of a mighty English monarch, nor of a high-hearted English patriot, but of a weak and violent tyrant. As became such a personage, at first he chafed and raved, but in the end crouched and grovelled Raynaldus, an. 1198, n. 29-32; an. 1199, n. 42-44; an. 1200, n. 9-13. Innocentii III. Epistolæ, lib. i. pp. 102, 219, 220.
Matthew Paris, Historia, pp. 296 et seq., ed. 1571. I quote from an edition itself quite a monument of the Elizabethan age and an utterance of the Protestant spirit, garnished by a curious anti-papal preface, and expressly sent forth to deepen the anti-papal feeling of recently emancipated England.