Biography of Papa Inocencio III (1198-1216)

Roman Pontiff, whose secular name was Lotario dei Segni, born in 1160 at Anagni and died July 16, 1216 at Perugia. Raised in the bosom of a family of the Roman nobility, because he/she was the son of count Trasimondo and Claricia Scotti, it is one of the most important figures in the history of the medieval church.

Innocent III.

To the death of a nonagenarian Celestine III in 1198, Lotario was elected Pope with the name of Pope Innocent III. "A father too young! Help, Lord, your Christianity", moaned the German poet Walter von der Vogelweide to have news of the event. The elected youth was not close, however, with a solid background. Cardinal by his uncle Pope Lucius III, Lothair of Segni appointment acquired a solid legal training in Paris and Bologna; Here, at the side of Hugh, the most important canonist of the moment. The figure of the Pope Innocent III jurist overshadows the man of spirit that contributed to Christian thought works as the De contemptu mundi, a small book that addresses a characteristic theme of Christian asceticism: the physical and moral misery of the human condition with extraordinary harshness. Other considered titles of limited theological value are also in literario-espiritual having of the Pope: Mysteriorum legis evangelicae et sacramenti Eucharistiae libri sex or quadripartita nuptiarum specie.

European Christianity at the head of which was Pope Innocent III was riddled with shadows: Islam in the Holy Land, and in Spain, Cathar heresy pressure spreading in the South of France, monarchs of the West frequently faced each other, the Pontifical authority challenged in their own States, a reform of the Church which, despite the achievements of previous pontiffsIt was far from satisfactory... Time, in the frescoes of the basilica of Assisi, Giotto paint the dream of the Pope who watched with horror the cracking of the basilica of San Juan de Letran, symbol of the power of the Church of Rome. The Pontiff addressed the problems with a mixture of power and dialogue, the latter extended to people of very different signs which were, in any case, expressions of the society at the time: since the brutal Knight cross Simon de Montfort to the seraphic Francisco de Asís.

The foundations of the Papal power, as innocent III, conceived it were similar to the sustained by their ancestor Gregory VII, although to act show a greater ductility. The Pope, which goes from "Vicar of Pedro" to "Vicar of Christ", exerts its immediate jurisdiction over various ecclesiastical authorities by the privilege granted by Christ to San Pedro that makes Rome's Foundation of all other churches. This conception Ecclesiological is condensed in the letter sent to the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople in 1199 and widely developed in its relations with metropolitans and bishops.

As for the temporal powers, the papacy Act (plenitudo potestatis) full sovereignty according to the superiority of the spiritual (whose symbols are the Sun or the soul) on the temporal, symbolized by the Moon or the body. That power is exercised as a sort of global arbitration, especially in those cases (ratione pecati) in which the faith at risk. Not even the Empire was free of this media since it was considered an occasional historical institution whose only owner acquired legitimacy thanks to the recognition of the Church. The action of Pope Innocent III in all corners of Christendom would leave little room to doubt.

In the Papal dominions, managed to restore much of the lost authority; both in the capital, where the Pope achieved compliance with the Mayor and the Senate, and in the lands of Pentapolis, Ravenna and Spoleto. Various European monarchs saw their political fortunes conditioned by the performance of the Pontiff. As well, the young Federico, son of the deceased Emperor Henry VI, managed to stay in Sicily and later to assert their rights to the German throne against his rival Otto of Brunswick thanks to the protection of the Holy See. Family and political position of the King of France Felipe Augusto was frequently mediated by papal admonitions. Something similar will happen with the inept Juan without Tierracuyas relations with the Church of England were very turbulent; only its subjection to the vassalage of the pontificate in 1213 would allow him some respite. The papal interference in the Iberian kingdoms were also frequent; one of his biggest hits would be the infeudation of the Kingdom of Aragon in 1204. Young Christian States as the Baltic kingdoms, Hungary, Bohemia and an old probizantinas proclivities Bulgaria not escaped to the surveillance of the Pontiff.

Innocent III would, in addition, the great defender of the record of the crusade as a weapon not only against Muslims but also against schismatics and heretics. Against the first, and at the request of the Archbishop of Toledo Don Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, will promote a major operation; to the dessert would be almost exclusively Hispanic and culminated with the victory over the Almohads in the Navas de Tolosa (1212). Before the schismatics, the papal action was more equivocal. Innocent III was the driver of the Fourth Crusade, in principle, directed against the Muslims of East and eventually "diverted" against Constantinople. Venetian financial interests ended up giving priority on the ideals of a Pope who reproached the assault and sacking of the Byzantine capital by the Western Knights in 1204. However, the installation in it of an empire and a patriarchy Latino allowed hope (frustrated with the passing of the years) of a religious reunification between Rome and Constantinople. Against the heretics of the Languedoc, after unsuccessful talks between Catholics and dissenters, innocent III will promote a major cruzadista campaign from 1209. The Midi was flooded in a bloodbath which, in the years immediately following, went provisionally with the expulsion of their fiefdoms of the Viscount of Carcassonne and the count of Toulouse, considered makers of Catharism. Simon de Montfort, leader of the crusade, would be the big beneficiary of this operation.

After fifteen years of Government, Pope Innocent III called a great Council by the bull Vineam Domini Sabaoth: the Lateran IV. Began its sessions in November 1215 to address two recurring themes of ecclesiastical politics: the reform of the Church and the liberation of the Holy land.

Seventy decrees covered the areas first. The condemnation of heresies in his set of specific theological mistakes joined: the writings of Pedro Lombardoreviews of Joachim of Fiore . A whole battery of measures recalled metropolitans, bishops, and priests often neglected obligations: meeting of provincial councils, maintenance of chastity, prohibition of participating in judicial duels, conservation of sacred objects and relics, etc. Against the proliferation of religious foundations, the pontificate imposed any new community to adjust their standard of life to any of the existing rules. The laity is directed in particular Decree utriusque sexus which forced to confess and receive Holy Communion at least once a year. Prohibiting the exercise of public office to Jews and Muslims and distinctive signs in the clothing are imposed on them. The Decree seventy-one, finally, put up a crusade to the Holy Land; its spiritual benefits would take part all those who, directly or indirectly, collaborate in the operation.

A few months after the close of the Lateran Council IV (July 16, 1216) dying Pope Innocent III. By then, the Islamic danger had been conjured, at least in the Iberian peninsula; the expansion of the heresy had slowed by military operations and a research system that will pave the way to institutionalize the Inquisition; interventions (direct ones, simple mediation other) in the political affairs of States had resulted from a generally favourable to papal interests.

For some, Pope Innocent III has been the biggest Pope history. It was certainly one of the most skilled. By their nature, more dynamic to that fascinating, a current historian has been able to assert that, unlike other popes, he/she woke up more admiration than love.


FOREVILLE, r.: Lateran IV. Ed. Eset. Vitoria 1973.

LUCHAIRE, a.: Inocent III. Hachette, 6 vols. Paris 1903-1908.

PACAUT, M.: The theocratie. L´Eglise et le pouvoir au Moyen âge. Aubier. Paris 1957.

SAYERS, j.: Inocent III. Leader of Europe.1198-1216. London 1994.

Emilio Mitre Fernandezuniversidad Complutense of Madrid