Pope Innocent III

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Nov 5, 2023

Table of Content


Ince III (Gavignano, 23 November 1160 - Perugia, 16 July 1216) was the 176th Pope in the history of the Catholic Church. He was unanimously considered by historians to be the most powerful pope of the Middle Ages, and under his pontificate the Catholic Church reached the height of its power. He succeeded in getting all the princes and monarchs of Europe to recognise the primacy of the Pope, and he succeeded in securing it within the universal Church. The eighteen-year reign of the young head of the Church redrew the boundaries of the papal state, but also the political map of the continent. He plunged into all the major power struggles of his time, and his excellent diplomatic skills rarely failed to deliver. For this reason, several chronicles mention that it was not his saintly life that made Ince great, but his political career.

Lotario de'Conti di Segni was born into the family of the Count of Segni in Gavignano, near Anagni. When he lived around 1160-1161, his father Trasimund (c.1130 - ?) was the head of a county near Rome, while his mother Claricia Scotti was a descendant of an influential noble family in central Italy. The family played a prominent role in the history of the papacy, taking up arms on behalf of the Church on several occasions and giving no fewer than nine heads of churches to the Catholic Church.

For the family loyal to the Pope, there was no question of entrusting Lotario's education to the Church. The child was helped by no less a relative than the future Pope Clement III, Lotario's uncle. With his help, he was able to study in the finest schools of his time. After his studies in Rome, he studied theology in Paris under the guidance of Peter de Corbeil. He then went to Bologna, where he studied law. His knowledge of the latter is given prominence during his pontificate. Ince is often called the father of canon law.

He finished his studies shortly after the death of Pope Alexander III. He then returned to Rome and entered the service of the papal curia. During the brief pontificates of Lucius III, Orban III, Gregory VIII and Clement III, he held various offices in the papal court. He was ordained subdeacon by Gregory VIII, and during the reign of Clement he became deacon-cardinal of the church of St George in Velabro, before being transferred to the church of St Sergius and Bacchus in Rome in 1190. He later became cardinal of the church of St. Prudentiana, with the rank of presbyter. During the difficult years of the Church, he rendered excellent service to the popes, but had to retire after the accession of Pope Celestine III, who was a member of the Orsini family, sworn enemies of the Contis. To avoid hostilities, Cardinal Lotario retired from the papal court, probably to Anagni. He spent his time in prayer and writing treatises until Celestine died on 8 January 1198. The conclave met on the same day to elect a successor to the Pope, who had already wanted to nominate a successor to his throne during his pontificate in Giovanni di Colonna. But the College of Cardinals unanimously chose Lotario de'Conti.

So on 8 January 1198, the College of Cardinals, meeting in the ancient Septizodium building, elected Lotario to the throne of Saint Peter. At the age of just thirty-seven, he assumed the supreme office of the Church and took the imperial name of Ince III.

State of Ince

Although Ince took the throne as one of the youngest popes in the history of the Church, contemporary chroniclers and politicians say that his confidence in the path he set out on never wavered. He built up the stages of his pontificate with excellent political acumen. Recognising the political opportunities in Europe, he wanted to assert the universal authority of the Church. Church leaders since Pope Gregory VII had sought to do this, but none had dared to speak out as forcefully as Ince. Of course, the fact that the great adversary, the German-Roman Empire, had not found itself since the death of Emperor Henry VI in 1197, and that a strong central power could not be established, also played into the Pope's hands.

The new Pope saw all this perfectly well and set about building the Church's position as a world power with a strong hand. First, he put his own house in order. As a lawyer, he brought in a number of reforms, but more importantly, he believed that he could only have real weight in European politics if he had a feudal state behind him. And he began to strengthen the papal state by breaking with Rome, which had been in turmoil for decades.

The noble opposition, supported by the Emperor, could simply be broken by the internal German-Roman conflicts. Rallying the armies of the papal estates, he pressed the city's prefect, who stood at the head of Rome as the emperor's agent, to take his vows of fealty. He then forced the head of the Senate, which represented the people of Rome, to do the same, and when he refused to swear an oath to the Pope, he forcibly removed him from the Senate and put his own man at the head of the will of the people. He conciliated the nobility with money, and put them on his side.

Ince's greatness was therefore already evident in the first few years of his reign. But a strong backstate, according to his ideas, did not extend only to Rome. With a new administrative system, he tightened the relationship between the Patrimonium Petri and the Apostolic See, and then sought to extend his power to the rest of Italy. He also tried to take over the territories of Ancona and Romagna, which were nominally under papal rule. He tried to play on the anti-Germanism of the Italians for his own ends, and succeeded in Ancona. The city and the surrounding territory of the Marche province submitted to the Pope's rule rather than accept another German occupation. The lord of Romagna, however, had to be cursed by the papal envoys, and then the effective intervention of the papal army was needed to ensure that the territory finally became the territory of the tiara. However, the Patrimonium Petri with Rome fell far from Romagna and Ancona on the Adriatic coast, and Ince conquered the intervening territories in order to unite the papal territories. The Duchy of Spoleto, with the territories of Assisi and Sora, which lay between the two territories, came under the rule of Conrad of Urslingen. The papal curse and the papal army, composed largely of anti-German Italians, brought this territory under the rule of Rome. The ecclesiastical state reached its greatest extent under Pope Ince, even if the Matilda estates, which had been the subject of so much controversy in the past, were not finally brought under papal authority. Later, Romagna and Tuscany also withdrew from the Pope's direct jurisdiction, but they remained Ince's vassals throughout.

The death of the German-Roman Emperor Henry VI brought a crisis of power not only in the German territories, but also in Henry's other throne, Sicily. There, his legitimate successor, the only four-year-old Frederick II, was placed on the throne. Instead of the child monarch, his mother, Queen Constance, ruled and defended her child's power against the Norman barons and counts. The kingdom did not take kindly to having a German on the throne again. Constance was alarmed by the growing opposition and turned to the Regent Queen Inche for help and reassurance. The Pope imposed severe conditions on the Regent Queen in return for her support. Firstly, the Kingdom of Sicily was made a fief of the Pope, and then Constance had to revoke the so-called Four Chapters, in which William I forced various privileges on Adorjean IV.

After clarifying all this, Ince confirmed the throne of Frederick in his bull of November 1198. Soon after the bull was issued, Constance died and in her will appointed the Pope as guardian of her crowned child and protector of the orphaned king's throne. Ince reigned over the Kingdom of Sicily for nine years, and very selflessly guarded the power of Frederick. In 1209, in order to strengthen the child's position, he asked Frederick to marry Constance, widow of Imre, King of Hungary.

The Holy Empire and Ince

Having succeeded in consolidating the power of the Church in Italy, the time had come for the German-Roman Empire, the eternal enemy of the papacy and at the same time its secular supporter, to submit to the power of the popes. The political situation provided the Pope with a truly excellent opportunity to do so, as after the death of Emperor Henry VI, the electors elected two German kings to head the empire. Philip of Swabia was elected by the Ghibellines on 6 March 1198 and the crown was placed on his head in Mainz on 8 September. The Guelphs elected Otto IV king in April of the same year and crowned him in Aachen on 12 July. Ince was well aware that papal recognition was vital for the warring factions, so he was able to dictate to the emperors.

Immediately after his accession, he sent a papal legate to Germany. The bishop of Sutri and the abbot of the monastery of Sant'Anastasio arrived with a papal order to Philip of Swabia to free him from the papal curse imposed by Pope Celestine III, on condition that Philip would give his Tuscan estates to the Church and release a relative of the Sicilian monarch. Philip merely made a verbal promise to the Bishop of Sutri, who then lifted the curse. Philip and soon afterwards Otto wrote to Ince asking him to crown them emperors. While the Pope tried to extort promises from the parties, Philip and Otto launched a war against each other. Rome's position only became clear later, when Ince condemned the action of the Bishop of Sutri and demanded that Philip keep his verbal promise. Philip refused to do so and, in addition, sent an insulting letter to the Lateran saying that Ince was interfering in the affairs of the empire on Otto's behalf, something the popes had no right to do. Ince then wrote to Philip informing him that, since the emperor would receive the crown from the pope, the church had the right to interfere in the election. And in 1201 the head of the Church openly sided with Otto. On 3 July, the papal legate of the empire, Cardinal Palestrina, informed the German princes in Cologne that Otto IV of Ince had been recognised as King of Germany and that anyone who did not respect this would be cursed by the Church.

In addition, in May 1202, Ince sent his decree Venerabilem to the Duke of Zähringen, in which the Pope described to the German princes the relationship between the Church and the Empire. The famous work was later elevated to canon law. The Decree summarised Ince's ideas in five points, which express the whole philosophy of the Pope's pontificate.

Ince's decree was accepted by most of the princes, as Otto's power had by then not only won the support of the Church, but also won over most of the princes. By 1203, however, this had changed completely. Otto's aggressive personality and inconsistent policies led even some of his closest friends to side with Philip. The Church was also offended, and Ince defected to Philip's camp. In 1207, the Pope sent a legate to Otto to ask him to abdicate the throne in favour of Philip. However, on 21 June 1208, Otto Wittelsbach assassinated Philip, and the contest for power was settled. On 11 November, at the Imperial Assembly in Frankfurt, the dukes unanimously elected Otto King of Germany, and Ince invited him to Rome to place the imperial crown on his head.

On 4 October 1209, Otto was crowned emperor in St Peter's Basilica, but the ceremony was preceded by lengthy negotiations in the Lateran. Ince imposed heavy conditions on Otto in exchange for the crown. Firstly, the future emperor had to give up his possessions of Spoleto, Ancona and the Matilda estates for good. Otto had to promise that he would not claim the throne of Sicily as his own and would help the Pope to govern the kingdom. He also had to guarantee the free election of churchmen and recognise the rights and hierarchical position of the Pope. In addition, Otto renounced the Italian regalia and the jus spolii, i.e. the confiscation of the estates of clerics who died intestate. He also promised the Pope to exterminate heretics.

But when the bells of the coronation mass had barely fallen silent in Rome, Otto immediately organised an army and took Ancona, Spoleto and the Matilda estates, which he divided among his friends and allies. Among the latter were the enemies of King Frederick II, which prepared the way for Otto's campaign in Sicily. In the war, the Emperor wanted to dethrone Frederick and to end Ince's feudal tenure. The Pope vehemently attacked Otto's policy, but the Emperor ignored his words. So on 18 November 1210 he imposed an ecclesiastical curse on him, which he proclaimed at the Synod of Rome on 31 March 1211. Ince then appealed to King Philip II Augustus of France and the German princes, with whom he acknowledged the legitimacy of the ecclesiastical curse. This also meant that the imperial nobility and one of Europe's most powerful rulers recognised Otto's dethronement. In September 1211, the imperial assembly at Nuremberg declared the throne vacant and voted Frederick II to it. The election was repeated at the assembly convened in Frankfurt on 2 December 1212, at which King Philip Augustus was present.

On 12 July 1215, the imperial crown came to Frederick's head at Aachen, before which Ince imposed the same conditions on Frederick as on Otto. Here, however, the prohibition of the unification of the Sicilian and German thrones was more pronounced. When Otto IV received news of the imperial assembly at Nuremberg, he immediately travelled home, but only a few of the princes sided with him. Deposed from his throne, Otto used his family connections to ally himself with King John of England, and declared war on the France of Philip Augustus, who had recognised the election. The fighting ended with Otto's defeat at the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214. The fallen emperor was forced to recognise Ince's power and, losing all influence, died in 1218. The throne was thus firmly in the hands of the Pope's ward, Frederick II.

Stages of European domination

Ince saw himself not only as the head of the Lateran and the Church, but also as the responsible lord of all Christendom. And he sought to fulfil this office by keeping an eye on the Catholic monarchs as representatives of the people of their country, and by intervening in their politics when he saw the need. There was hardly a European state with which Ince was not in contact. When he was ordained to office, he immediately wrote a letter to the two belligerent powers of Western Europe, King Philip Augustus and Richard the Lionhearted, the English monarch, asking them to make peace or at least a five-year truce. The Pope said it was unacceptable for Christians to shed each other's blood. To make the point, he sent Peter, Cardinal of Capua, to France to personally request peace between the two rulers, or else both their countries would be interdicted by the Pope. Eventually, under the influence of the letter and Peter, Philip Augustus II and Richard concluded a truce between Vernon and the city of Andalusia in January 1198.

When the war was over, Philip Augustus looked for other entertainment, which also stirred up the church. The French monarch had disowned his lawful wife, Ingeburga, Princess of Denmark, and had seduced the daughter of the Duke of Merania, Agnes. Peter, legate of Ince, again threatened the monarch with interdict if he did not return to his wife within a month. Philip ignored the Pope's warning and on 12 December 1199 he carried out his threat, placing all of France under interdict. For nine months, the monarch stubbornly clung to Agnes, but the barons and the French people began to foment against him, and Philip finally abdicated his concubine on 7 September 1200. The success was not complete, however, as it took Inge another thirteen years before Philip finally reconciled with Ingeburga.

England, which was rising in the 13th century, also became the focus of Ince's attention when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Hubert, died in 1205. The monks of Christ Church wanted to have the sole right to fill the archbishopric, but neither the monarch nor the bishops wanted to accept the monks' right, as both parties had an interest in filling the see. So the monks decided in secret, and in the dead of night they elected their own prior, Reginald, as Archbishop of Canterbury. The election was illegitimate, as neither the bishops nor the king had given their blessing to Reginald, yet the monks sent their chosen one on his way to Rome to win the support of the pope. The monks did not want to make a big issue of their candidate standing alone before the throne of Ince, so they stipulated that Reginald should only announce his election in Rome. However, the archbishop-designate let his secret slip on the way, and the outraged bishops and the king forced the monks to re-elect him. Under pressure from King John, the archbishop's nomination went to John de Grey, who also travelled to Rome to win Ince's favour.

But the Pope rejected both candidates. Reginald because he was elected illegally, and Grey because he was elected after Reginald, against a candidate. John offered the Pope 3000 gold marks if he chose de Grey. De Ince could not be bribed, so the Pope, gathering the Canterbury monks in Rome, elected his own candidate for Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton. On 17 June 1207, Ince personally consecrated Langton in Viterbo, and then wrote a letter to King John to accept the new archbishop. But the king refused to accept his failure and refused to let Langton into his kingdom, and took revenge on the monks of Christ Church, seizing all their possessions. In response, Ince placed the whole of England under interdict on 24 March 1208. John then turned against the clergy and stripped several ecclesiastics of their offices and property. The Pope then excommunicated John from the Church in 1209 and dethroned him in 1212, leaving King Philip Augustus to collect the sentence. Landless John eventually realised that French armies were on the borders of his country and lost the support of the lords and clergy. John then went to Pandulph, the papal legate of Ince, and promised to accept Langton's appointment, return the goods and dignities he had taken to the clergy, and pay compensation to the Church of England. In fact, on 13 May 1213, John gave his whole kingdom to Inchee as a vassal, and committed himself to pay a tax of 1000 marks a year. The Pope lifted the curse on John and, having fulfilled all his promises, annulled the interdict in 1214.

The English overlords, however, were not impressed by John's vows, but were most vocal against the king's excesses and unjust government. The discontent, which culminated in rebellion, eventually led to the publication of the Magna Charta libertatum. Pandulph begged the monarch at length not to sign the charter, as it would break his vow as a vassal. After John was forced to accept the Charter, Ince declared the document null and void. Not because the Charter guaranteed too many liberties to the lords and people of England, but because it had been imposed by force.

Ince's policies have spread throughout the Christian world. He corresponded with all rulers and intervened in most political conflicts. This was the case in 1204, when he imposed an ecclesiastical curse on King Alfonso IX of Castile for marrying his close relative Berengaria. The Church declared the marriage to be incestuous and soon after the papal curse, the Castilian ruling couple were separated. In 1208, a similar incident took place at the Portuguese court when Alfonso, heir to the Portuguese throne, wanted to marry his niece Urraca. Here again, Ince succeeded in having the marriage annulled. Peter II, King of Aragon, offered his country as a fief to the Pope, which Ince accepted with open arms, and crowned Peter in Rome in 1204. In the Iberian Peninsula, however, the Pope also took an active part in the campaigns against the Moors. He rallied the Christian rulers of former Spain and declared a crusade against the Muslim Moors. In 1212, at the battle of Navas de Tolosa, this campaign was a success, with the Christian armies succeeding in breaking the Moorish domination.

In the north, the church leader sought to protect the people of Norway from King Sverre, who ruled with tyrannical power. After the death of the cruel ruler, he intervened in the struggle for the throne, and eventually helped King Inge II to the throne. In Sweden, he sought to strengthen the ecclesiastical order, persuaded King Erik X to accept the crown sent by the Pope, and after Erik's death intervened in the Swedish throne dispute. In 1209, he supported the work of a Cistercian monk, Friar Christian, as a convert among the pagan Prussians. He later raised Christian to the rank of bishop.

He used his influence in Hungary on several occasions to settle the dispute between King Imre and his brother Prince Andrew. The Pope tried to persuade Andrew to launch a crusade. Otto I, one of the commissioners of the King of Bohemia, placed the kingdom in the hands of the papacy as a fiefdom. Iceni had to use his personal influence to settle the jurisdictional dispute among the Polish clergy.

Relations with the Eastern Churches were of paramount importance in Ince's pontificate. One of the most important milestones in this was the crowning of Kaloyan, the ruler and Tsar of Bulgaria, as king in 1204 through his papal legate, Cardinal Leo. The Bulgarian monarch had been a member of the Roman Catholic Church for several years. The Pope was determined to reunite the Byzantine and Western rite Christian worlds, which had split after the Great Schism, under Rome. Negotiations also brought considerable success for the papal court, but later an abortive crusade finally brought Ince's dream to fruition.

Heretics and crusaders

Ince the most influential church leader in medieval history, Ince was known worldwide for his zeal for the faith, and the mainstay of his pontificate was the defence of the pure Catholic faith, whether it meant fighting heretics or crusading in the Middle East. A strong papal state in the early 13th century did all it could to cut the heretical threads. With Ince's approval, Hungarian armies were launched against parts of Serbia and Bulgaria, as the Pope expected them to suppress the Bogomil heresy. He also repeatedly supported action against the Manichaeans, but there was one heresy that was gaining ground more than any other in Europe, and most notably in the southern French province of Languedoc. These were the Cathars ('purists'), also known as Albigensians (from the town of Albi). The Cathars followed dualistic beliefs similar to Gnosticism. They believed that the material world was evil, not created by God, but by an evil force in constant warfare with God. They believed that Jesus did not live on earth as a material being, but merely as a spirit, so his death and resurrection were not real, nor were they significant, but his teachings were. The leaders of the Cathars were the "perfect" who had to obey very strict rules that were not binding on the common people.

After flourishing for nearly two centuries, the Cathars, who defined the resurrection as a rebirth, first faced the increased papal power in 1206. Ince was determined to lead the Cathar adherents, who had reached proportions unseen in the history of the Church for nearly nine hundred years, astray. The Pope first used peaceful methods, sending convert priests - first Cistercians and then, after their failure, Dominican monks who lived modestly, as the Albigensians did - to the south of France, then the richest and most prosperous region of the Christian world. The converts were not successful, however, as there was considerable support from the local nobility as well as the common people, and it soon became clear that the bishops of Languedoc were not opposed either. The Pope had already dismissed the southern bishops in 1204 and replaced them with papal envoys. When peaceful conversion failed, Ince enlisted the help of the nobles to curb heretical ideas. However, the local nobility did not take Ince's side even when he threatened them with an ecclesiastical curse. In 1207, he excommunicated the most powerful southern lord, Rajmund VI, Count of Toulouse, from the Church. Desperate to achieve his goal, Ince turned to King Philip Augustus II for help. When the king refused to help, the Pope sent envoys to Languedoc again. The head of the embassy was Pierre de Castelnau, who met with King William VI, but his terms led to a serious conflict between the legate and the southern nobility. The next day of the meeting, Cardinal Castelnau was assassinated. On hearing of the murder, Ince decided to take a tougher line against the Cathars.

In 1209, Ince declared a crusade against the Albigensians, proclaiming that the heretics were to be burnt out of the body of believing Christians with fire and iron. Nearly 10,000 troops gathered in Lyon at the Pope's call, and from there, heading south, the cruel campaign began, which lasted for twenty years.

The decision to launch the campaign was one of the most controversial of Ince's and the entire medieval papacy's decisions. In addition to the destruction of heretical doctrines, the campaign had a strong economic and political dimension. The chroniclers of the time attributed to the Church the fact that it was Ince who had condemned the wars against Christians and then unleashed the most brutal massacre of his time on Christian territory. The crusade, led by Simon de Montfort, soon won the support of the French king, Philip II, who realised that he could finally put the south of France under his throne. Until then, the economic power of Languedoc had made this impossible. The fierce fighting lasted until 1229 and led to the extermination of the Cathars and the total collapse and impoverishment of the Mediterranean territories. Not to mention the fact that power over the territory was acquired by lords loyal to the king.

An integral part of the history of the Church in the Middle Ages is the emergence of various new trends, which probably developed because the formerly pro-people Church became very distant from the common people in the power struggles. The clergy living in luxurious palaces were not necessarily authentic to the common people. That is why movements labelled heretical, such as the Cathars or the Valdens, appeared, but also why the mendicant orders appeared. It was under Ince's pontificate that St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, began to preach, giving up his wealth to explain and interpret the Bible to the people in their mother tongue. He also performed many social functions with his followers. The most curious feature of the story of St Francis is that his teachings were very similar to those preached by the Waldenses. Yet Francis succeeded in justifying to the Church that his followers were spreading among the people an idea that respected and recognised the Church and its teachings.

A large part of the clergy distrusted Francis' request for the Church to take over their activities. The wealthy clergy compared them to heretics, and they feared the rebellion of the poorer classes. But Ince understood the political benefits of Francis' mission. He saw that only a preaching order that was visibly close to the common man could be truly effective in a Christian world infested with heretics. In 1210, Ince not only assured Francis of his support, but also listed the Franciscans among the orders of the Catholic Church.

St Domonkos also appeared at the same time. Recognizing the spiritual needs of the common people, he came to the same realization independently of St. Francis of Assisi. His followers gave up all their possessions and educated and healed the poor. The order supported itself by begging. The nascent Order of St. Dominic, like the Franciscans, also gained the support of Ince, but only later, under Honorius III, did they receive papal recognition.

However, the papacy also intended the Dominicans to play a role other than that of voluntary popular education and healing. Although it was under Ince that the Inquisition came into greater force, it was only later that the Dominicans were given the right to seek out and judge heretics. But it was Ince who first sought the helping hand of the secular authorities. Church interrogation played a prominent role in the suppression of Cathars and Waldenses, and the confiscation of property soon attracted the interest of the state. The foundations of the Inquisition, which became notorious and feared in later times, were laid by Ince, who had a reputation as an ecclesiastic.

Ince launched several crusades during his eighteen-year pontificate. The first was against the Moors, then he called the knights of Europe to arms to repel the Albigensians. Although he repeatedly called on rulers to help the Middle East and Byzantium, his words fell on deaf ears until 1200. But Ince was reluctant to call on dishonourable rulers to defend Christianity, as Richard, King of England, and Philip II of France were at war with each other, while the ruler of the German-Roman Empire was waiting on an uncertain throne for the Pope's support.

Ince therefore decided to address his sermon to the Knights, the Christian people of Europe. The appeal was finally successful and, starting from Champagne, the Fourth Crusade was finally organised. Thousands of knights and other adventurers signed up for the long journey, which, at Ince's persuasion, started from the Venetian Republic. In return for 85,000 marks, the Venetian ships were willing to transport the entire crusade to its destination in Egypt with enough food for nine months on board. But the crusaders, flocking to the thriving port on the Adriatic, could only pay a fraction of the fare to the Doge. Venice, which always put its own profit first, refused to set sail without adequate payment, and Ince argued in vain for the importance of service to the Christian faith. Finally, in 1202, the greatest Doge of the Republic, Enrico Dandolo, was forced to make a decision, as the mob of the huge army was threatening the city's safety. Enrico decided to send the crusaders away if they would take the city of Zadar from the Hungarian ruler as payment. Ince threatened the Doge with an ecclesiastical curse if he turned the army against the Christians, but this did not impress the knights, who dreamed of rich eastern treasures, or the Doge. In 1202, the army took Zara and, despite Ince's excommunication, continued its march towards the Mediterranean.

But the fleet wintering in Corfu received another tempting offer from Alexios Angelos, Byzantine prince. The prince asked Doge Dandolo to help restore his deposed father, Isaac II, to the throne in return for a handsome reward for the fleet, recognition of the Pope's authority over the Patriarch of Constantinople and a substantial fleet contribution to the Egyptian Crusade. This unexpected turn of events not only pleased the Doge and the Knights' leaders, but also secretly pleased Ince, who was finally able to bring about the reunification of the Greek and Latin Churches. In 1204, the Crusaders stormed Constantinople and enthroned Isaac, who abdicated his throne in favour of his child. However, Emperor Alexios IV could only satisfy the crusaders with unpopular taxes and the confiscation of gold from the churches. The rebellious people ousted him from the throne and replaced him as emperor with Alexios V. The crusaders, reneging on their fabled promise, laid siege to the city for a second time in their fury, and staged a brutal massacre within the walls of Byzantium that would become infamous for centuries. Although Ince excommunicated the rampaging crusader army and all of Venice, he was pleased that the Latin Empire, created by the Venetians, accepted his supremacy and once again placed at the head of Constantinople a patriarch who recognised Rome as superior. The Fourth Crusade, however, showed the age of Ince's pontificate, a perversion of ideas unworthy of the Holy See.

The most important moment of his pontificate in the history of the Church was the bull of 13 April 1213, which summoned all the high priests of the Christian world to the Lateran. The Fourth Universal Council of Lateran was both the summing up of the reign of the jurist Pope and the sanctioning of the work of Ince. The synod, which opened on 15 November 1215, has often been called the General Synod by chroniclers, as it brought together an unprecedented number of the church's various leaders. Seventy-one patriarchs (including those of Jerusalem and Constantinople) and metropolitans, 412 bishops and 900 abbots came to Rome for the synod.

The Lateran Assembly gave priority to the organisation of a new crusade to express the Christian world's commitment to the Crusader kingdoms in Palestine. Ince, who presided over the synod, had the synod adopt seventy decrees, which included provisions covering all aspects of church life (this is why historians have called Ince the father of canon law.) Resolution 68 of the synod required Jews and Muslims in the Christian world to wear distinctive garments or signs. Ince reaffirmed the prohibition of lay investiture, which was reinforced by the prohibition of secular interference in the affairs of the Church. The adoption of measures against heretics, in connection with which the Order of St. Dominic and the Inquisition were also discussed, was the subject of a very heated debate, but was finally decided by Pope Honorius III. At the synod, the patriarchs present again recognised the primacy of Rome.

The synod therefore had two aims. On the one hand, it confirmed and canonised the results and reforms of Ince's pontificate, and on the other, it gave guidance for the future. The Fifth Crusade, worthy of the Holy See, was Ince's last great dream.

His work

Ince's energetic and eventful reign was also literarily prolific. Often used as a guide for later periods, these works have contributed greatly to historians' understanding of the steps of Ince's pontificate. On the other hand, they also provide a rich description of the church, society and political customs of the Middle Ages. The best-known work is the Registrum Innocentii III super negotio imperii (English: Summary of the Trials of Ince III and the Emperor), a collection of the Pope's letters and decrees, which often advised the church leaders in later times.

His first major work, De contemptu mundi, sive de miseria conditionis humanae libri III, or Three Books on Contempt of the World, or the Misery of Human Existence, was written when he retired to Anagni during the reign of Celestine III. This ascetic treatise testifies to Ince's knowledge of human nature and his deep faith. De sacro altaris mysterio libri VI provides valuable insights into the contemporary missal. The treatise, which records all the details of the liturgical order and its origins, is the only detailed account of the medieval Mass. The commentary De quadripartita specie nuptiarum is about the fourfold marriage bond of Scripture, which:

Of his seventy-nine surviving sermons, Desiderio desideravi is the most famous and the most often quoted. With this sermon he opened the Council of Lateran.

Death of

At the Council of Lateran, Ince had no idea that he would never see the beginning of the Fifth Crusade after its proclamation. The Pope, who had been active for many years, unexpectedly fell ill while planning the campaign and died in Perugia on 16 July 1216, aged just fifty-five. His body was laid to rest in Perugia Cathedral. After his death, historians criticised many aspects of his pontificate, often suggesting that he had acted unjustly or as a less than holy man, but all agreed that he was the most powerful political figure of his time, who succeeded in raising a struggling church to the pinnacle of its power.

In December 1891, Pope Leo XIII, a great admirer of Ince, decided to have the remains of the great Pope transferred from Perugia to the cathedral in Lateran.


  1. Pope Innocent III
  2. III. Ince pápa
  3. a b A pápaság története, 89. o.
  4. a b Innocent Iii | Encyclopedia.com. www.encyclopedia.com. (Hozzáférés: 2023. szeptember 27.)
  5. Innocent III | Pope & Leader of the Catholic Church | Britannica (angol nyelven). www.britannica.com. (Hozzáférés: 2023. szeptember 27.)
  6. a b c d e f g h i A pápaság története, 90. o.
  7. a b c d A pápaság története, 92. o.
  8. ^ "Pope Innocent III (Lotario dei conti di Segni) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  9. ^ Moore 2003, pp. 102–134.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ott, Michael (1910). "Pope Innocent III". Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 6 January 2021 – via New Advent.
  11. ^ Williams 1998, p. 25.
  12. For many reasons, the pontificate of Pope Innocent III has been taken as the central instance of the medieval confrontation of popes and Jews. […] the pontificate of Innocent III represents both a hardening of Church policy towards the Jews and a sharpening of anti-Jewish rhetoric[24].
  13. Jane Sayers, 'Innocent III: Leader of Europe 1199—1216' London 1994, p.16
  14. Jane Sayers, 'Innocent III: Leader of Europe 1199—1216' London 1994, p.17

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