Pope Alexander III (1159-81): The Art of Survival

Pope Alexander III (1159-81): The Art of Survival

Pope Alexander III (1159-81): The Art of Survival

Pope Alexander III (1159-81): The Art of Survival

Synopsis

Alexander III was one of the most important popes of the Middle Ages and his papacy (1159-81) marked a significant watershed in the history of the Western Church and society. This book provides a long overdue reassessment of his papacy and his achievements, bringing together thirteen essays which review existing scholarship and present the latest research and new perspectives. Individual chapters cover topics such as Alexander's many contributions to the law of the Church, which had a major impact upon Western society, notably on marriage, his relations with Byzantium, and the extension of papal authority at the peripheries of the West, in Spain, Northern Europe and the Holy Land. But dominant are the major clashes between secular and spiritual authority: the confrontation between Henry II of England and Thomas Becket after which Alexander eventually secured the king's co-operation and the pope's eighteen-year conflict with the German emperor, Frederick I. Both the papacy and the Western Church emerged as stronger institutions from this struggle, largely owing to Alexander's leadership and resilience: he truly mastered the art of survival.

Excerpt

The twelfth century marked a crucial watershed in the development of the medieval papacy. It witnessed a dramatic rise in appeals to Rome as the central court of the Western Church; the growth of canon law, which increasingly incorporated papal rescripts; the consolidation of papal control over Rome and surrounding territory, laying the foundations of the papal state; papal support for crusades and missions extending the boundaries of Western Christendom; and the papacy’s increasingly active spiritual leadership of the Latin West, often in response to the demands of prelates and religious orders, and sometimes with the co-operation of secular rulers but at others with their resistance. At the heart of these remarkable changes stands the twenty-two-year pontificate of Alexander III. The editors decided some time ago that his important papacy was ripe for scholarly reassessment. In 2005 Peter D. Clarke therefore organized four sessions on Alexander III at the Leeds International Medieval Congress; Anne J. Duggan was one of the speakers. The current volume largely arises from those sessions, and the editors are grateful to the Leeds IMC staff for hosting these sessions and to the participants who gave papers in them. We also thank those participants and others who contributed to the present volume, in particular for their patience and co-operation during a protracted editorial process. We are grateful too to our publisher John Smedley and his staff at Ashgate, and to Brenda Bolton for obtaining the frontispiece illustration and securing permission and funding for its reproduction. This illustration appears with the kind permission of the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) and generous financial support from the Isobel Thornley Bequest. It is a rare contemporary depiction of Alexander III.

30 August 2011 (830th anniversary of Alexander III’s death) Peter D. Clarke and Anne J. Duggan . . .

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