The History of Medieval Europe

By Lynn Thorndike; James T. Shotwell | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXIII
THE CHURCH UNDER INNOCENT III

WHILE towns, industries, and trade developed, while learning, literature, and art blossomed forth, although these new forces had their secular side, yet, as the cathedrals suggest, the Church continued its growth too, and with Innocent III, at the opening of the thirteenth century ( 1198-1216), the Papacy reached its height. Lotario de Segni was the son of an Italian noble, and was handsome in appearance and commanding in manner, though slight in stature. Although he was the youngest of the cardinals, his colleagues promptly elected him pope on the same day that the preceding pontiff died. Thus, at the unusually early age of thirty-seven he entered upon the arduous duties and responsibilities of that high office with all the unabated energy and enthusiasm of the prime of manhood. He was already known for his eloquence and legal and theological knowledge acquired at Bologna and Paris, and as pope he granted the University of Paris some of its earliest privileges and filled his curia with canonists and jurists from Bologna. But he knew men as well as books, and it was more probably the ability as an administrator and man of affairs which he had displayed in the papal court for the past ten years that procured him his election. Once pope, he took control with a master-hand, and in the very first year of his pontificate made himself felt all over Europe. His letters, which constitute the best source for his reign, show how vigorously and incisively and sensibly he dealt with every situation and problem.

Western Christian Europe at that time was still a chaos of contending feudal principalities and warring communes. The Church The one thing that united men was the Church universal to which they all belonged. There were English, Welsh, Irish, Flemings, Bretons, Gascons, Castilians,

The Church universal

-434-

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