1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Innocent/Innocent IV
Innocent IV. (Sinibaldo Fiesco), pope 1243–1254, belonged to the noble Genoese family of the counts of Lavagna. Born at Genoa, he was educated under the care of his uncle Opizo, bishop of Parma. After taking orders at Parma, when he was made canon of the cathedral, he studied jurisprudence at Bologna. His first recorded appearance in political affairs was in 1218–1219, when he was associated with Cardinal Hugolinus (afterwards Gregory IX.) in negotiating a peace between Genoa and Pisa. This led to his rapid promotion. In 1223 Pope Honorius III. gave him a benefice in Parma, and in 1226 he was established at the curia as auditor contradictarum literarum of the pope, a post he held also under Gregory IX., until promoted (1227) to be vice-chancellor of the Roman Church. In September of the same year he was created cardinal priest of San Lorenzo in Lucina. He was papal rector (governor) of the March of Ancona from 1235 to 1240. On the 25th of June 1243 he was elected pope by the cardinals assembled at Anagni.
Innocent was raised to the Holy See when it was at deadly feud with the emperor Frederick II., who lay under excommunication. Frederick at first greeted the elevation of a member of an imperialist family with joy; but it was soon clear that Innocent intended to carry on the traditions of his predecessors. Embassies and courtesies were, indeed, interchanged, and on the 31st of March 1244 a treaty was signed at Rome, whereby the emperor undertook to satisfy the pope’s claims in return for his own absolution from the ban. Neither side, however, was prepared to take the first steps to carry out the agreement, and Innocent, who had ventured back to Rome, began to feel unsafe in the city, where the imperial partisans had the ascendancy. Fearing a plan to kidnap him, he left Rome, ostensibly to meet the emperor, and from Sutri fled by night on horseback, pursued by 300 of the emperor’s cavalry, to Civitavecchia, whence he took ship for Genoa and thence proceeded across the Alps to Lyons, at that time a merely nominal dependence of the Empire. Thence he wrote to the French king, Louis IX., asking for an asylum in France; but this Louis cautiously refused. Innocent, therefore, remained at Lyons, whence he issued a summons to a general council, before which he cited Frederick to appear in person, or by deputy. The council, which met on the 5th of June 1245, was attended only by those prepared to support the pope’s cause; and though Frederick condescended to be represented by his justiciar, Thaddeus of Suessa, the judgment was a foregone conclusion. On the 17th of July Innocent formally renewed the sentence of excommunication on the emperor, and declared him deposed from the imperial throne and that of Naples. Frederick retorted by announcing his intention of reducing “ the clergy, especially the highest, to a state of apostolic poverty,” and by ordaining the severest punishments for those priests who should obey the papal sentence. Innocent thereupon proclaimed a crusade against the emperor and armed his ubiquitous agents, the Franciscan and Dominican friars, with special indulgences for all those who should take up the cross against the imperial heretic. At the same time he did all in his power to undermine Frederick’s authority in Germany and Italy. In Naples he fomented a conspiracy among the feudal lords, who were discontented with the centralized government established under the auspices of Frederick’s chancellor, Piero della Vigna. In Germany, at his instigation, the archbishops with a few of the secular nobles in 1246 elected Henry Raspe, landgrave of Thuringia, German king; but the “ priests’ king,” as he was contemptuously called, died in the following year, William II., count of Holland, being after some delay elected by the papal party in his stead.
Innocent’s relentless war against Frederick was not supported by the lay opinion of his time. In Germany, where it wrought havoc and misery, it increased the already bitter resentment against the priests. From England the pope’s legate was driven by threats of personal violence. In France not even the saintly King Louis IX., who made several vain attempts to mediate, approved the pope’s attitude; and the failure of the crusade which, in 1248, he led against the Mussulmans in Egypt, was, with reason, ascribed to the deflection of money and arms from this purpose to the war against the emperor. Even the clergy were by no means altogether on Innocent’s side; the council of Lyons was attended by but 150 bishops, mainly French and Spanish, and the deputation from England, headed by Robert Grossetête of Lincoln and Roger Bigod, came mainly in order to obtain the canonization of Edmund of Canterbury and to protest against papal exactions. Yet, for better or for worse, Innocent triumphed. His financial position was from the outset strong, for not only had he the revenue from the accustomed papal dues but he had also the support of the powerful religious orders; e.g. in November 1245 he visited the abbey of Cluny and was presented by the abbot with gifts, the value of which surprised even the papal officials. At first the war went in Frederick’s favour; then came the capture of the strategically important city of Parma by papal partisans (June 16th, 1247). From this moment fortune changed. On the 18th of February 1248 Frederick’s camp before Parma (the temporary town of Vittoria) was taken and sacked, the imperial insignia—of vast significance in those days—being captured. From this blow the emperor never recovered; and when on the 13th of December 1250 he died Innocent greeted the news by quoting from Psalm xcvi. II, “Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad.”
On the 19th of April 1251 Innocent left Lyons, which had suffered severely from his presence, and returned to Italy. He continued the struggle vigorously with Frederick’s son and successor, Conrad IV., who in 1252 descended into Italy, reduced the rebellious cities and claimed the imperial crown. Innocent, determined that the Hohenstaufen should not again dominate Italy, offered the crown of Sicily in turn to Richard of Cornwall, Charles of Anjou, and Henry III. of England, the last of whom accepted the doubtful gift for his son Edmund. Even after Conrad’s capture of Naples Innocent remained inexorable; for he feared that Rome itself might fall into the hands of the German king. But fortune favoured him. On the 20th of May 1254 Conrad died, leaving his infant son Conradin, as Henry VI. had left Frederick II., under the pope’s guardianship. Innocent accepted the charge and posed as the champion of the infant king. He held, indeed, to his bargain with Henry III. and, with all too characteristic nepotism, exercised his rights over the Sicilian kingdom by nominating his own relations to its most important offices. Finally, when Manfred, who by Frederick’s will had been charged with the government of the two Sicilies, felt obliged to acknowledge the pope’s suzerainty, Innocent threw off the mask, ignored Conradin’s claims, and on the 24th of October formally asserted his own claims to Calabria and Sicily. He entered Naples on the 27th; but meanwhile Manfred had fled and had raised a considerable force; and the news of his initial successes against the papal troops reached Innocent as he lay sick and hastened his end. He died on the 7th of December 1254.
Innocent IV. is comparable to his greater predecessor Innocent III. mainly in the extreme assertion of the papal claims. “The emperor,” he wrote, “doubts and denies that all men and all things are subject to the See of Rome. As if we who are judges of angels are not to give sentence on earthly things. . . . The ignorant assert that Constantine first gave temporal power to the See of Rome; it was already bestowed by Christ Himself, the true King and Priest, as inalienable from its nature and absolutely unconditional. Christ established not only a pontifical but a royal sovereignty (principatus) and committed to blessed Peter and his successors the empire both of earth and heaven, as is sufficiently proved by the plurality of the keys” (Codex epist. Vatic. No. 4957, 49, quoted in Raumer, Hohenstaufen, iv. 78). But this language, which in the mouth of Innocent III. had been consecrated by the greatness of his character and aims, was less impressive when it served as a cloak for an unlimited personal ambition and a family pride which displayed itself in unblushing nepotism. Yet in some respects Innocent IV. carried on the high traditions of his great predecessors. Thus he admonished Sancho II. of Portugal to turn from his evil courses and, when the king disobeyed, absolved the Portuguese from their allegiance, bestowing the crown on his brother Alphonso. He also established an ecclesiastical organization in the newly converted provinces of Prussia, which he divided into four dioceses; but his attempt to govern the Baltic countries through a legate broke on the opposition of the Teutonic Order, whose rights in Prussia he had confirmed.
It was Innocent IV. who, at the council of Lyons, first bestowed the red hat on the Roman cardinals, as a symbol of their readiness to shed their blood in the cause of the church.
Innocent was a canon lawyer of some eminence. His small work De exceptionibus was probably written before he became pope; but the Apparatus in quinque libros decretalium, which displays both practical sense and a remarkable mastery of the available materials, was written at Lyons immediately after the council. His Apologeticus, a defence of the papal claims against the Empire, written—as is supposed—in refutation of Piero della Vigna’s argument in favour of the independence of the Empire, has been lost. Innocent was also a notable patron of learning; he encouraged Alexander of Hales to write his Summa universae theologiae, did much for the universities, notably the Sorbonne, and founded law schools at Rome and Piacenza.
(W. A. P.)